Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Interview with local film producer and screenwriter Michelle Mower

Local producer and screenwriter Michelle Mower will present Writing Independent Screenplays for Film at the Friendswood Public Library on Wednesday, January 9 from 6:30 to 8:30pm. This free program will provide basic instruction on writing a screenplay. Mower is heavily involved and credited within the Texas film community, and her debut film, "The Preacher's Daughter", premiered on Lifetime Movie Network on August 31st, 2012.

Michelle Mower agreed to answer some questions related to film and filmmaking in this recent online interview featured below:


MR: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

MM: I’m a storyteller. As a child I wanted to write novels and plays. As I got older, my interests shifted to screenwriting and filmmaking - which tend to go hand-in-hand in the indie film world.


MR: Tell us a little about The Preacher’s Daughter and how it came to be made.

MM: The story has been with me my whole life. I am a preacher’s daughter, so I thought I had a unique voice in telling a story from that character’s perspective. The plot is fictional, but many of the characters are derived from people I knew growing up.

MR: Could you describe the pros and cons of being a filmmaker?

MM: There are many pros and cons, especially working in Houston. The cons are typically related to lack of funding, but indie filmmakers are very adept at overcoming funding obstacles to get their stories told. Fortunately, we live in an age where technology for filmmaking is more accessible and affordable than ever. Almost anyone can buy (or borrow) a camera and tell a story. That’s a definite “pro.” Actually, being forced to make a film on such a tight budget can be a pro as well. First of all, it forces you to be efficient and to maximize your resources. Secondly, it impresses the heck out of people working in the industry in L.A. They can’t make commercial quality films as inexpensively as I can in Houston. So, when I tell people in L.A. what my budget was on “The Preacher’s Daughter,” I typically see jaws drop. Another big “pro” would be getting to meet and work with talented people that you admire. I love collaborating, and it’s always a joy to work with people who are equally as passionate about the process.

MR: Who is your favorite film director and why?

MM: Of all time, I’d have to say Stanley Kubrick. He was a true genius and visionary. I’m also a big fan of Michael Winterbottom’s work as well. I love how gritty and emotionally charged his films are. He’s never allowed his success to commercialize his work. He is a true indie at heart. I love that. 

MR: Could you name some of your favorite films and why?

MM: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, To Kill A Mockingbird, Muriel’s Wedding, Crash – I love character-driven films in general.

MR: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in filmmaking?

MM: I would first recommend that they watch films. Not just the big budget movies playing at the Megaplex, but indie films as well. It’s the best education you can get as a filmmaker. Get involved in local film groups like Southwest Alternate Media Project (SWAMP) or Women In Film and Television (WiFT). Take their film workshops. Network. Meet other people who are also interested in making films. Then, get your hands on a camera and start shooting something. You’re not going to be Kubrick starting out. But you know what? Neither was he. The more you make films, the better you’ll get. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Skill to do comes from doing.” That is especially true in filmmaking.

MR: And finally, could you tell me something about Southwest Alternative Media Project (SWAMP)?

MM: Sure! SWAMP is a 35-year old non-profit media arts organization that offers a variety of programs and services to the local independent film community – including professional development workshops, after school programs for youth, summer film camps, fiscal sponsorship, networking opportunities, access to insurance for independent artists, etc. It’s the oldest media arts organization in Texas, and one of the oldest in the country. So, they’ve been around a long time and have seen many a filmmaker come and go. Some have gone on to great success. For instance, they were the first organization to give a filmmaking grant to Richard Linklater for “Slackers.” Their tv series “The Territory” is the longest running showcase of indie short films on broadcast tv in the country, and they produce it right here in Houston at Channel 8. I was very fortunate to work for SWAMP for 8 years. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. So, yeah, SWAMP rocks!

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