“Ask an Indie Filmmaker” – Interview with Emily Lou, director of The Selling

A brilliant and totally badass duo if I do say so myself

I met a lot of amazing people during my time at SFSU. Sadly, Emily Lou was not one of them. Despite the fact that we have a number of mutual friends, neither of us can remember ever meeting the other. Thankfully, because of those mutual friends, we have become cyber pals via facebook, the Great and Terrible (quick, what book did I steal that line from??) Even before we met virtually I’d heard whispers about this fantastic lady named Emily, so when I found out that she’d directed a movie and wanted ME to watch and review it I was over the moon!  I reviewed The Selling last April and have been a huge fan of Emily Lou ever since.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1A2kT1rsuA]

I’ve grown to admire Emily so much over the past year. She’s a true Wonder Woman – Director, Business Woman, and Mom to an insanely smart, sweet, and debonair little boy. I’m so excited that we could connect for this “Ask a (fill in the blank)” interview. She did a great job answering my (and YOUR!) questions and I’m confident that, by the end of this post, you’ll adore her as much as I do.

FYI – The Selling has 5 days left to raise as much money as possible on Kickstarter for a theatrical release (a seriously BFD). If you’re interested in helping to make this happen, please feel free to click HERE

On to the interview!

* * * * *

HNG: Was The Selling your directorial debut?

EL: Feature Film debut, yes!  In the past I had directed lots of theater and a few shorts.

HNG: How long did it take to film The Selling?

EL: 14 days.

HNG: How did it feel to go to the premier of a movie you directed?

EL: Exciting and terrifying at the same time!  By the time I had seen it we had about 575 versions of the film.  Of course nothing is perfect and when you shoot in 14 days you will see things you do not like.  But then when the audience started laughing and genuinely having a great time, enjoying themselves?  It was pretty freaking great.

Barry Bostwick, Matthias Schubert, Emily Lou, Gareth Taylor, Gabriel Diani, Trevor Allen and Etta Devine

HNG: Describe winning your first award for The Selling.

EL: It was at the Friar’s Club Comedy Film Festival in NYC.  Gabe and I were together, which was rare. Because of limited funds we usually don’t both attend.  We watched the film with the audience and didn’t think they liked it at all.  We shrunk into our seats whispering our insecurities.   When they announced we had won we were shocked!  We just looked at each other, mouths gaping and then exhilarated ran up to the podium. It was crazy and so unexpected!  And then we won another one!  We won the Jury and Audience Awards!  It was such an honor, and to receive it at the Friar’s Club with all its history and it’s just a beautiful building.  It was a really special moment for both of us.

Gabriel Diani, Emily Lou, & Trevor Allen at the Friar’s Club Comedy Film Festival

HNG: Do you find it challenging to be a female director in a male dominated industry or have you not been affected by that?

EL: I have no “proof” that I’ve been affected but there have been many instances where I feel I would have been treated a little differently if I was a man, respect-wise.  That said, it could also be because of my personality, I can be a little bit of a softy sometimes. People can see that and can take advantage of it.  I’ve had a few people try pretty hard to walk all over me, but mostly, just respectful, cool people who only want to support me.

Emily Lou on the set of The Selling

HNG: You have an adorable son. How do you balance work and motherhood?

EL: Thank you. 🙂  It’s so hard, but I’m sure you would have guessed that.  I have another full-time job too, helping to run a family business.   I would love nothing more than to be a full-time, stay-at-home mom.  I also would love nothing more than to be a full-time director.  I would also love to eat 1 dozen freshly baked chocolate chip cookies for breakfast every morning.  I’m a lucky woman; I have a lot going on which is better than the alternative. But the guilty mom feeling is certainly my kryptonite.   He has seen you on facebook by the way, and is pretty smitten, even though he’s only 6.  😉 That’s my boy!

HNG: We’re both SF State Alumni (Go Gators!) How do you think the theatre department at SFSU prepared you as a director?

EL: Oh, in so many ways! I am really grateful to SFSU. The Brown Bag theater company is a little black box theater group that lets students try out directing.  As soon as I had the chance to direct, it felt instantly “right”.  “Ah ha! This is what I’m supposed to be doing! “ There were many great opportunities for students to try their hand at directing, design, technical work, writing, etc.  I’ve heard funds have been cut significantly which is very sad.  As soon as I can I’m gonna throw some green to the Gators.

HNG: Any favorite teachers who inspired you?

EL: Ms. O’Hara, who I’ve recently reconnected with on facebook.  She lives in NYC and was at the Friar’s Club screening!  She was my High-School Drama teacher. She inspired me to celebrate my differences instead of focusing on why I wasn’t fitting in.  I was constantly rejected (plays, music) in High-School and was pretty down about it and considered maybe this wasn’t for me.   I’ll never forget her sitting me down, that look in her eyes…she believed in me, she really did!  I’m totally tearing up just thinking about it.  I told you I was a softy.

HNG: Who inspires you on a daily basis?

EL: My husband inspires me.  John, my husband, has encouraged me every single day of our relationship to follow my dreams.  If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have made this movie.  He’s the guy that said, “hey, you want to make a movie?  make a movie!  I know you can do it!  Call Gabe and see if he wants to work with you on it!  It’ll be great!”…I love that guy, I really do.  I’m inspired to be the best mom, friend, person, and artist by him every day.

Emily Lou and her husband John at a Q&A in Wichita where The Selling won Audience Favorite at the Tall Grass Film Festival

HNG: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?

EL: Yes!  I have become very interested in photography.   After we shot The Selling, my love of photography really took off. Also I am blessed to have a few amazing photographer friends who have taken me under their wings.

HNG: A lot of projects have been using Kickstarter. Have you found it to be an effective fundraising tool for accomplishing your goal of a theatrical release?

EL: We’ll see!  Joking.  The opportunity that Kickstarter provides for independent artists is wonderful.  I know we’ll make our goal, however it is a bit of a nail-biter!

HNG: What does a theatrical release entail for an independent film?

EL: Almost always it means it’s self-funded which is what we’re doing.  You find areas you have a fan base, and put up a showing or two in a local theater.  For example I grew up in Yuba City and Northern Virginia and now live in the Bay Area and we’re hitting all of those places!  Also Los Angeles, Wichita and Chico!

HNG: What kind of equipment did you use to film The Selling?

EL: We shot on the RED camera which is just as spectacular as you may have heard.  Apparently it’s even better now!

HNG: Did you rent or buy the equipment?

EL: We rented it; I wish I owned that camera!

HNG: How do you know the film’s stars Gabriel Diani, Etta Devine, and Janet Varney?

EL: All SFSU Alumni!  Yay!

Gabriel Diani as Richard Scarry

HNG: Getting Barry Bostwick on board was an epic win. How did you get in touch with him? Did you have him audition? What was it like to work with a Horror-Comedy legend?

EL: He was amazing to work with, so prepared and hilarious.  He gave me a hug after he wrapped and said “You’re doing great, this film’s in good hands”.  So sweet!  I’ll never forget that moment!  We put down a “breakdown” for the role of Father Jimmy and got some great replies from Agents and he was one of them!  So we shot and we SCORED! He loved the script and has continued to be very supportive of the project.

Emily Lou and Barry Bostwick

HNG: You recently appeared on The Nerdist podcast. What was that like? Not gonna lie, I have a bit of a nerd crush on Nerdist Chris Hardwick. Was he as awesome as he seems?

EL: Unfortunately, the podcast is in L.A. and I’m in the Bay Area so I wasn’t able to be a part of it but Gabe and Etta were.  I don’t know him well but from what I know, he’s a really fantastic guy, and he really likes our movie!  He’s been very supportive of the film.

HNG: How did you get the invite to appear on his podcast?

EL: The lovely Janet Varney, “Mary Best” is good friends with him.

Janet Varney

HNG: Who’s your favorite superhero?

EL: Gotta go old school and say Captain America.

HNG: Do you enjoy acting or directing more?

EL: Directing definitely.  I acted for a few years and then had the opportunity to try out directing in College and that was it, slam dunk.

HNG: How did you choose the music? Was it hard to secure the rights?

EL: We had a fabulous composer Geoff Mann, he worked very hard and delivered an amazing score.  Besides that we had a few songs from a Bay Area Band “Chief Enablers.”

HNG: What is your favorite color and why?

EL: Red.  Exciting, and to my knowledge the only color that scientifically changes your blood pressure when you see it!  Right?  Or is that a myth?

HNG: Do you believe in ghosts and the supernatural? If yes, any personal experiences? If no, why not?

EL: I am of the mind that no one really knows what’s really out there.  I’m not an adamant “believer” or “non believer.”  I’ve felt things, thought maybe I’d seen things…but nothing for sure.  I certainly believe it’s possible.

Gabriel Diani and Dawn Didawick in The Selling

HNG: Any plans to direct another movie?

EL: Yes!  A great film called A Good Day To Die.  Cloris Leachman is attached and it’s an amazing script!  An assisted suicide comedy, stay tuned!

HNG: What’s next for The Selling?

EL: VOD and DVD launch!  We are working towards getting the best placement possible for these launches by doing a theatrical release.  Hence, Kickstarter 🙂  And always trying to get as much coverage as possible, which is why being on a popular blog/facebook page such  as say… HOT NERD GIRL is so important!  And thank you again!

HNG: How can people see The Selling if they’re not near a film festival or one of the theatres it will be showing at?

EL: Our site is being updated so that they can either purchase a digital download on August 21st or a DVD on October 23rd from the website.   Hopefully they can also select our film from their local Redbox or order it video on demand from their local cable network.

HNG: I think that it’s so important for women to support each other. What amazing women in your life lift you up and inspire you on a daily basis?

EL: I have a group of amazing female friends.   They are Doctors, Actors, Artists, Mothers, Teachers, Business Women…they are my family, my sisters, they know who they are, and I love them very much 🙂

HNG: I’m often asked how guys can meet an HNG of their very own. As a fellow HNG, what advice can you give them?

EL: Wow, thanks for the compliment.  Is it official?  I’m an HNG?, Yay!  OK, now what was the question?  OK, right.  It’s always great to meet people with the same interests.  Go to your next nerd location of choice and be open, have confidence, go up to an HNG and say “what up?” – be yourself! Girls like nice guys, really, they do.  And if they don’t, it’s because they’re still in that awkward “I want to date a-hole” phase of their life and they aren’t ready for you anyway.  But please, please stick around for a Nice HNG.  NHNG’s only.

* * * * *

Time for your questions! As usual, you asked some great ones! (and some funny and ridiculous ones too, but that’s why I love you so much).

Nichodemous B: Is there any way to make indie films suck less?

EL: Yes!  We did!  Work with amazing people who really believe in the project, and make sure you believe in it too.  Don’t begin production until you have a great script.  Not good, great.  Make sure other people besides you; your friends, family, and the writer think it’s great too.

Nate H: It’s so tough to strike the right balance between horror and comedy; what movies got it right? (what movies inspire you?)

EL: So many, to name a few favorites…Shaun of the Dead, The Evil Dead Trilogy, Ghostbusters, and Bubba Ho-Tep.

Daryle P: Where can we read your scripts?

EL: I don’t have a script to share but the next movie I’m directing has an amazing script I’m very excited about! A Good Day To Die.

Damon D: I’d like you to ask their name.

EL: Emily Lou.

Dan O: Did they get into indie horror because they like the genre, or lack the funds?

EL: I love the genre.  Admittedly, I scare very easily and can’t even look at a clown.  BUT, I love funny, dark, quirky, and weird.  I love to make people laugh.  Regarding funds, good question…the way that can play in, and it did for us a bit, is that “horror sells,” it just does!  So, besides liking horror comedy, it was a plus for sure that horror is a popular genre.

Dramos K: Thrill or gore? … one of the tough choices for horror it seems.

EL: Thrill!  I respect those who love their gore, but.not so much gore in our movie, a few great scares though…to hear the audience being scared, that’s pretty cool.

Damon D: Is it my buddy Rolfe? Mr. Nightmare Man himself? 🙂

EL: Not that I know of.

Neil C: Any general tips for people who want to get into film making?

EL: Oh, this will be a difficult question to be brief on.  Budget, budget, budget…budget for all aspects of post production including festivals, marketing, Insurance, everything…everything you think you need to budget for, budget some more.  Find someone who has MADE a movie, been through the festival circuit and has gotten distribution.  Make sure they’ve done this in the last couple of years because the industry is always changing. A business course will also help.  AND read “Think Outside the Box Office” by Jon Reiss.

Cinematographer Matthias Schubert and Director Emily Lou

Michael J: Can I get your number? Can I get it?

EL: I’m assuming you mean Hot Nerd Girl, and I’m afraid I can’t give it out…

Esteban V: I’m attempting to make a prime rib for dinner tomorrow and I’m a bit confused, after the marinade process do I roast it 15 minutes per pound or 20 minutes per?

EL: I’m not sure but I’ve had some good luck googling such things.

Rob B: Are you really circa 1985 Sam Raimi?

EL: Sigh, I wish.

Patrick O: Top 3 favorite films?

EL: Too hard! Not fair!  OK, fine.

Singing in the Rain (because it’s the first movie I saw)

The Evil Dead Trilogy (is that cheating?)

Unforgiven (big Clint fan)

Kenneth W: What is the hardest part of your job? Who are often the unsung heroes of your films? Do you do any raising money for your films, if so do you mind recounting a few instances?

EL: Hardest part? Hm…where do I begin…truly it’s like parenting; you have no idea how hard it is until you become one (I am one). Truly though, not being able to pay people what they’re worth, if at all, I hate that, I  really, really do.  The crew is the unsung hero, we had an amazing crew. It was seriously organized, effective, and fun.  All people seem to care about is the “talent” as in the actors, and while we had some amazing ones and none of it would have happened without them, CERTAINLY none of it would have happened without our amazing crew.  I just hope I am lucky enough to work with them again.

The crew

Kenneth W: Also, who is someone you would like to throw under the proverbial bus? Also, assuming you know them well enough to do so and its all in good fun?

EL: The girl in 3rd grade who called me a bug-eyed, fish-lipped midget.

Alan K: what do you think about George A. Romero and his “Living Dead” flicks?

EL: All hail the King of the Zombie’s! I absolutely love the Living Dead series.  Shaun of the Dead was such an inspiration for our film and it wouldn’t have been made without Mr. Romero.

Thomas S: Lately all horror films have been played out, do you have any fresh ideas for a kick ass horror flick?

EL: A real estate agent trying to sell a haunted house?  Called…maybe, THE SELLING?

Eric C: How do you approach investors with an indie-horror script these days? Obviously it’s difficult to show potential for return on investment, so what is the draw for them to give money for your project? Also, how do you prepare for the hell that is shooting, especially working with talent to get them in character for their roles? Thank you.

EL: Eric, I think we need to sit down and have coffee so I can adequately answer these…but for now here goes.  You need to approach people who believe in; you, the people involved, and the content (niche if you have one).  You need a great Line Producer to help you prep for the shoot.  Work with someone with some experience!  You will really be relying on this person!  With “talent,” hopefully you can squeeze in some rehearsals but if not you need to hire people who bring a lot to the table, shoot from the hip while being prepared and trust your gut.

Pamitha W: What types of storytelling challenges do you face working with an indie budget? Is it rewarding finding creative solutions where mainstream directors tend to slap on special effects? If you could retell any hormedy (see what I did there?), which would it be and how would you do it?

EL: I really love the problem solving involved in the process.  I wanted to shoot “practical effects” instead of using special effects for the film but… best laid plans.  One of our best effects however was done with one light in a closet and a fan.  Hormedy?  Ha! Well, probably the bleeding wall (spoiler alert).  I wanted that effect to practical SOOO BAD.  Everyone told me it couldn’t be done on our budget.  Everyone.  And, everyone was right.  We had fake blood everywhere and it looked terrible.  We ended up green screening it but green screened it wrong.  The special FX of it to this day I’m not crazy about.   If we could have done more takes, more time, more money, more blood, it would have been great!

The practical effect attempt

Alistair V: Is it difficult for a horror-comedy to be internationally successful due to the national nature of humour? I note Dog Soldiers and Severance.

EL: Our film showed in Singapore and they definitely laughed at different things than a US audience.  Also, interestingly enough, from different parts of the US we got much different reactions.

Sarah D: LOL! Why does he keep casting the same people over and over 😉 Assuming it’s the person I’m thinking you’re going to interview.

EL: I’m not “him,” but I have to say once you find some good people that you enjoy working with, if you have any control over casting you will want to hire them again and again!

Mark E: What do you think of Alfred Hitchcock?

EL: One of the best people that ever lived.  The tone he could create, his aesthetic, just him as a person narrating, how he framed a shot with no apology, everything about him is (and I use this word sparingly) brilliant.

Charlie C: ‎1) How much are those RED cameras now? 2) Do you have your own music score for the film? 3) Is it possible to make a Horror-Comedy without using too many of Raimi’s treatments?

EL: I sadly do not own a RED although we did shoot on one. I think it’s running around $10-$12K these days.  Sure!  You can make a horror-comedy however the heck you want!

Mark V: Can I star in your next movie opposite Hot Nerd Girl?

EL: She has to agree to star in my next movie first!

It’s been known to happen Mark

Kevin K: If you and I woke up in a hotel room, covered in blood, with a dead hooker on the floor, what would you like to have for breakfast?

EL: A Chocolate Peppermint Stick Luna bar.

Chris P: A big budget movie maker has scores of people and services available to him or her: director, producer(s), director of photography and crew, film editors, location scouts… How does the process differ for an independent filmmaker?

EL: We have all those same people but sadly they do not get paid as much as “big budget” films.  So, you find people who love what they do, have some experience but need more, are willing to work for less, love your script, think you’re pretty cool and then you treat them VERY well and with LOTS of respect.

*****

To find out more about The Selling, go to the website. You can find it HERE.

A HUGE thanks to Emily Lou for taking the time to participate! I can’t wait to see her future projects (something tells me this lady is going places).

Sold on “The Selling”

Hot Nerd Girl and "The Selling"

Between studying theatre and living in LA, I know a few people in that crazy little business of making motion pictures. Every once in a while I get treated to a preview of a film before it premiers. My favorites are the independent ones like Milk and Teary Sockets that are dark, quirky, and downright entertaining to watch.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advanced screener of a new independent horror comedy called The Selling set to premier this Friday at the San Francisco International Film Festival. (MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD!)

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1A2kT1rsuA]

The Selling is the brainchild of Gabriel Diani, a fellow San Francisco State University alumni (we’ve never met) who wrote, produced and starred in the film.  It’s directed by Emily Lou, also a San Francisco State University alumni (we’ve never met either) in her feature film directorial debut.

Y’all know I heart me some horror comedy.  The Evil Dead series is quite possibly my very favorite campy horror film franchise of all time…in fact, I know it is and despite my fear of zombies, I allowed you guys to convince me to watch Zombieland this past weekend.  (Granted, I was still scared and still had nightmares BUT at least the nightmares were sort of funny this time.)

Anyhooters, enough about me and my weirdness, I’m actually super excited to tell you about The Selling and I sincerely hope that you all manage to get your hands on a copy of it.  First off, the animated opening credits are a great teaser and something totally unexpected.  They made me chuckle more than once and how often can you say that about what is essentially a roll call?

The film centers around Richard Scarry (you know, like the children’s book author) and Dave Ross, two real estate agents trying to make some quick cash by flipping a house sold to them by their beautiful but bitchy coworker Mary Best.  They very quickly discover that the house is haunted by 12 ghosts that aren’t exactly keen on having roommates (I can sympathize).

Gabriel Diani as Richard Scarry in "The Selling"

Gabriel Diani as Richard Scarry in "The Selling"

Much of the cast will likely look familiar to you.  That’s because many of them have been featured in one or more TV shows or movies that you’ve seen. Gabriel Diani is adorable as the protagonist Richard.  He brings a genuine sweetness to his character.  He can be a bit of a pushover but at least he’s aware of it while it’s happening.  He’s at his best when he’s showing the house to potential buyers after he’s accepted the presence of the ghosts inhabiting it.

Jonathan Klein plays Dave, the best friend who gets them in this mess in the first place.  Once the ghosts reveal themselves he refuses to go inside again until the climax.  He displays excellent comedic timing and reacts to situations in ways that most people would…but in funnier ways…if that makes sense.  Janet Varney looks like a much prettier, much blonder version of Fairuza Balk.  I’m sure she’s a very nice person in real life but in this movie she takes her role as self-serving mega bitch Mary Best quite seriously and I found her to be the most interesting character in the film.

Haunted closet from "The Selling"

That closet seems to be very spacious....

Etta Devine (if that is her real name then she seriously has some of the coolest parents ever) is quirky and cute as Ginger Sparks (ok, seriously, how did she get the best names both in real life AND in the movie??) a ghost habitat preservationist who attempts to help Richard and Dave…mostly Richard…by making out with him…not that I can blame her.  I relate to her because I can be a weepy, horny drunk as well.

Nancy Lenehan plays Richard’s Mom and she’s probably my favorite character in the whole movie.  Without giving too much away, there is a scene in the hospital between her and Richard that literally had me LMAO.  The person you can’t help but recognize is Brad Majors himself, Mr. Barry Bostwick.  He plays the Catholic priest, a staple in any movie featuring exorcisms.  Father Jimmy doesn’t carry his holy water in ounces, nope, he brings a liter of the stuff.  What he does, he does big.

Oh, and Buffy fans, recognize the guy at the beginning of the trailer who’s interested in buying the house?  Yep, that’s Harry “Mayor of Sunnydale” Groener.

Emily Lou is a talented upcoming director.  The way she frames her shots is fun and fantastical.  At times it seems as though she simply set the camera on the floor and let it work its magic.  Other times she chooses unique and unexpected angles that are surprising in their creativity.

Exorcism in "the Selling"For an indie film the special effects are pretty amazing, especially when it comes to the ghosts.  Many of the scares are intentionally predictable (closing the medicine cabinet and seeing a ghosts reflection) and aid in the film’s comedy; however, I found myself genuinely scared a couple of times, something that doesn’t usually happen with me during ghost movies (afraid of zombies, remember?)

I keep finding myself wanting to talk about plot points because there were so many that I found amusing but I’m trying to be very careful not to give away the movie.  The hardest part is refraining from giving away some of the best lines in the film (and yes, I actually wrote them down).  All I’ll say is that I’m totally stealing the “Sizzler voice.”

holding poster imageIf you’ve ever been to the movies with me you know that I stay and sit through the credits.  There are two reasons for this.  The first reason is that my stepdad is a Foley Artist and I was taught that everyone who works on a movie deserves to be recognized for their hard work.  Their faces may not be seen but their names should be.  The second reason is that there are often little snippets during or at the end of the credits that are worth waiting for.  Sadly, I’m often the only person who sees them.  If you get an opportunity to view The Selling you’ll want to stick around for the ending credits which are HI-larious.  My favorite part?  When Dave tries to open and eat potato chips in a completely silent hospital room.  We have all been there and Ginger’s reaction to his munching is classic.

Sizzzzzzzler!

Four out of Five Sci-Five's

Four out of five Sci-Fives!