Supporting creative work by women
Quarries is a genre film about a group of women who embark on a hiking expedition to find themselves being preyed upon by savage hunters. It is billed as “FEMALE-driven, written, produced, EP’ed and Run.” The film won Best Narrative Film at the 2016 Women’s Independent Film Festival and Best Feature Film at the Los Angeles Thriller Film Festival and has played New York City Horror Film Festival and Screamfest.
Works by Women spoke with two of the women who brought the film to the big screen: Laura Small, Executive Producer and President of Diamond Cutter Films; and Nicole Johnson (pictured top), Lead Actor, Co-Writer and Producer. Laura has worked in Private Equity for years, and she shares her insights about the similarities between the Private Equity and filmmaking worlds and the opportunities available for women in both fields. Nicole offers her perspective on working in the entertainment industry.
WORKS BY WOMEN: Tell me about Quarries and how the film came together.
LAURA SMALL: I have known Nicole Johnson (Lead Actor, Co-Writer & Producer) and Nils Taylor (Director, Co-Writer & Producer) since we were in high school and have stayed in contact throughout the years. Working together is always something we have discussed; meanwhile, Nicole and Nils worked together on several film projects. Based on the unique background and experience of each of us, and my enthusiasm for the script, the timing was right for us to come together for Quarries. Working with Nicole and Nils was such a positive experience for us and, based on the early success of Quarries, we are planning our next feature together.
NICOLE JOHNSON: Nils Taylor (Director) and I wrote this film as a vehicle to showcase our work and create opportunities for our community of friends. As we all know, the entertainment industry is difficult to break into and we were fortunate to find investors who believed in us as first-time filmmakers. We started writing four years ago, established funding two years after we finished our shooting draft, and with the help of producers, Carrie Finklea, Dean Alioto, Sara Mornell, and Kirill Yusim we were able to compile all of our resources to shoot this project on an ultra- low budget.
WBW: What is next for Quarries? How can people find it?
LS: Quarries will be screening at various festivals around the country through spring 2017, targeting festivals aimed at women in film/production and the horror genre. Quarries is expected to be available for pre-sale on iTunes in early 2017, with an official iTunes release in March 2017. In the meantime, we are active on social media daily, and will continue to update those sites with any new information. We can be found on the following platforms:
WBW: Tell me about Diamond Cutter Films and your mission to support women in filmmaking, both behind and in front of the camera.
LS: While working in Private Equity (“PE”), I have seen firsthand some of the challenges unique to women that often go unaddressed. After reading the Quarries script, and numerous discussions with Nicole about our professional experiences and the underlying message of this film, we selected Quarries with the intention of emphasizing strong women. Incorporating these same values into Diamond Cutter Films (“DCF”) was natural, as we already have projects that address these themes. This remains a point of focus for DCF, as there are many opportunities like this available.
WBW: What are the similarities between the Private Equity industry and filmmaking in terms of gender representation?
LS: While working in PE I have taken notice of the gender gap that exists at all levels, most noticeably in Senior positions. Most PE firms have strong male representation, as they typically appear in (most) Senior-level positions, often exclusive of women. Conversely, women do not regularly appear in these positions, yet often are found in, what are considered, “support” roles. For example, in 2016 women hold 12.6% of all Senior positions globally and 13.7% of Senior positions in North America, with smaller firms leading the trend of increasing women’s roles. But these statistics point to a general lack of balance, which can have implications on many levels. Working on Quarries, I have seen similar trends and challenges that are common for a females working with other decision-makers. One of the exciting things about addressing this issue in the entertainment industry, and more specifically with Quarries, is the ability to draw attention to an issue through your work – in this case, the movie. Within both industries, the more access and opportunities women have, the more likely we are to see more balance. To that end, I am in a unique position to choose projects that deal with these topics and to work with others who have similar views and ideas about promoting change. (Data from Preqin)
WBW: What are ways that we can turn the tide and have more women working in both fields? How can these fields strengthen each other?
LS: Investing in other women, no matter where you work or what you do, is the single best way to create synergies across industries. “Investing” can come in many different forms, but most importantly forming partnerships with others who have the same goal. I suggest someone look at their own strengths and talents, and if developing your own project isn’t something that appeals to you, think about how your talents can benefit others. For example, access to investment capital gives someone the ability to produce a movie with an empowering message. Equally as important, women need to create a safe and positive environment whereby they can support and appreciate other women, and their work, and do not view other womens’ success as a threat to their own.
WBW: What are the challenges of independent filmmaking in this particular time in history and the possibilities for its future?
LS: I see right now as an extremely exciting time for independent filmmakers for several reasons. The introduction of new, lesser expensive technologies has made filmmaking accessible and possible for so many more people than in the past. However, the underlying (traditional) business model has not evolved with the technology. The standard sales and distribution model, which Quarries was approached with by numerous companies, simply does not make sense for most low-budget, independent films, as the costs relative to the budget simply do not align. Filmmakers however, now have some new opportunities available such as, utilizing the internet to reach new segments of the population that otherwise would not be aware of the projects, utilizing social media as a marketing and sales tool, self-distribution through online/streaming platforms and proliferations of film festivals are all tools that can be employed by the filmmakers as an alternative to more traditional sales models. One of the single most important factors to remember, however, is that because technology is so accessible, quality level can suffer. In order to be taken seriously, the most important aspect is that the finished product needs to maintain a high level of quality.
NJ: Because it is much easier for ANYONE to make a movie at this particular time in history, I think one of the challenges we welcomed was finding a way to create a film that was on par with the quality of a bigger budgeted film. We shot on two Reds with our talented Director of Photography John Woodside, had rehearsal days, and lucked out with locations. We also ran into the challenge of not having a “star-name” attached to the project so, thankfully, we made up for it with the wonderful performances given by all of the actors. This was something we took into consideration when we first started writing the film; it’s much easier to get a horror film sold with no names attached than it is for a drama, for instance. As an indie filmmaker, my best advice would be to put all the money on screen and make the quality of the project to set you apart from all of the other low budget films out there.
WBW: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
LS: There will always be people in the world who tell you they know better, more, or that you should listen to them and do something differently. But it is important to remember that if you are the one doing something and taking the risk, then do not let anyone get in your way of moving forward. “Trust yourself” and have confidence that you are doing the right thing.
NJ: Always work hard, move forward, and don’t let negative thoughts, energy, or opinions bring you down.