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 Kimberly Wilson Interview 
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Overcoming obstacles and reaching for rainbows is something first-time feature film director Kimberly Wilson knows a lot about. For her first feature film, "Maggie and Annie," Wilson left her home in Wisconsin and emptied out her life savings of $80,000 to create a film that is sparse, yet beautiful and powerful despite the obvious lacking in production value resulting from an almost unheard of budget of $80,000. "Maggie and Annie" played to full auditoriums in film festivals around the country and, with its controversial ending, angered many in the gay/lesbian community. Wilson, who wrote, produced and directed "Maggie and Annie" is hard at work finding investors for her second film, but took time for an exclusive interview with Richard.

Question:

I was reading on the Maggie and Annie website that you attended film schools after locating yourself in California. You attended Hollywood Film Institute, most notably. How did Film School prepare you for the realities of making an independent film?

KW:

Film School teaches you the basics when it comes to filmmaking.  But no matter what you learn in film school it really doesn't prepare you fully to make a movie. I came to Hollywood to be a writer/filmmaker.   Acting was not really a love of mine but to get my feet wet I started studying acting. I did that for years and eventually became an acting coach.  A director told me years ago you need to study acting if you are ever going to be a director.  How can you direct a movie and actors if you know nothing about the craft?  The film school teaches you the shots, angles,  blocking, the simple stuff.   Years as an acting coach and doing scenes in the workshops prepared me more for directing.  Making a movie, especially a low budget movie you need to be first and foremost a business person.  You need to be a manager of people.  You can go to all the biggest film schools in the world and if you do not learn the craft of acting and have business skills you will be lost.
 

Question:

If I'm correct, you shot "Maggie and Annie" on an $80,000 budget. By today's standards, of course, that's just amazing. What's even more amazing is that you managed to create a film that works beautifully on that budget. How did you do it? What did you want to do but couldn't because of budget constraints (if anything)? 

KW:

For one thing it was shot Digital.  That alone saves $80,000.  Most people do not know that the film Stock alone is $80,000 for a  two hour movie maybe more now.  I paid for the whole movie myself. My life savings.  Every penny.   We did it non union.  Amy and Joy got paid very little and the rest, more or less worked for gas money, meals and a back end deal.  My best friend and Producer Loni Martinez helped in lots of ways.  It was just her and I doing pre-production.  Locations were mostly donated.  I tossed them a few bucks but not much.  I wished I could have had more time to film.  We filmed 16 days straight 12-14 hours a day.  Everyone involved in the film had jobs and could only get two weeks off.  We were rushed from locations.  The scene where Maggie and Annie are walking at night.  That was shot at Midnight.  We started filming that morning at 9am. It was the last day we could be at that location.  They were all troopers that day.  At one point I was giving the actors direction and the DP feel asleep at the camera.  No lie.  The sound and the lighting hurt me the most along with some white walls. It shows we had no sound person or lighting person.  Thank God for Digital and the editing system. Rule of thumb is you never film with white walls.  We had no choice.  They were the only locations we could get for free. 

Question:

What was it like to attract the cast you managed to attract? In particular,  Joy Yandell and Amy Thiel are just wonderful in your film.

KW:

Amy Thiel and Joy Yandell were gifts from God for me.   I filmed this in LA. Everyone is, was or wants to be an actor.  To tell you what the competition is like here.   I ran two ads in Back Stage West (entertainment magazine) In two weeks I received 1000 pictures and resumes.  That is no lie.  550 men 450 women.  From here it is a crap shoot.  If I seen a look that fit then I looked at their film training. If they trained in the No Acting technique. (Conrad Approach or alike) then I called them in to read.  Being an acting coach I cast it also.  Once Joy and Amy excepted the roles I got them together had lunch and then took them that night to a lesbian dance club in Long Beach. Their chemistry was magic from the start and as you watch the movie it only got better.

Question:

I'm constantly astounded, even by reasonably entertaining films, at the budgets involved. I saw "Curious George" this past weekend...perfectly fine, cute, adorable, innocent cartoon...I loved it, but a $50 million budget? Stunning when I think of how hard you worked on a film such as yours.  It just seems like Hollywood has gotten lazy...numerous sequels, repetitive/predictable scripts/bland and formulaic films...Of course, as long as the public goes to see Big Momma's House 2 or any number of other recent films...I suppose Hollywood will churn them out. Why do you think this is?  

KW:

Films are never filmed for what they say they were.  I cringe also when I see the money they spend.  My friends and I laugh when we go to a bomb that was made for millions. Why most of the movies are bad is because it is almost impossible to get your script read in Hollywood by the major studios unless you have a connection.   I had someone write me that seen the movie and complained about the low budget-ness of it.  She said she felt like she got ripped off. I wrote her back  and let her know I understood.  that I went to a low budget movie that same weekend and felt I got ripped off. (Subject Zero with Ben Kingsley) I told her that was filmed for 20 million or more and Maggie and Annie was filmed for $80,000 or less and no money to spare. I explained it all to her.  She wrote me back and apologized to no end.  
 

Question:

How hard was it to get your film finally released on DVD (which is how I found it, at Blockbuster)?

KW:

Very hard.  It took me over year to get a distributor to take it.  then they sold it for nothing to a gay and lesbian distributor and he got it in Blockbuster.  Great job on his end.  I still have never seen a dime from it. Hard to tell if I ever will.
 

Question:

I read that you're from Wisconsin? Miss the Winter? I'm in Indiana right now feeling a bit envious of your warm weather.

KW:

All my family still lives there.  I go back a few times a year.  Don't really miss the winters but it is becoming more and more of a jungle out here.  Almost impossible to live a good life.  One million people have moved here in the last 8 years.  The whole area has 30 million.  I love the Midwest and the people from the Midwest.  They do not come any better.  I plan on moving back to Wisconsin some day.  I guess as soon as I stop chasing my dreams.
 

Question:

What can you tell me about your next film?
 

KW:

I have several scripts written.  As of this moment I am pitching the true Story of Karla Faye Tucker. She was the first woman executed in Texas in over 100 years.  I feel I wrote a great script.  Researching and interviewing the people was great.  That script I am trying to sell to the studios.  It would be hard to do it low budget.  Of course I would love to direct it but if a studio buys it the exec may want his wife's third cousin's brother's best friend's aunt's daughter that is fresh out of film school to direct it.  I am trying to find four investors to invest $50,000 each to make a film script I wrote based on a true story about a guy I knew that became addicted to a bikini club called the Chee Chee Club.  I could do a nice film for $200,000.  So far no luck with the investors.
 

Question:

How often do you write? The more I read about you it sounds like you are pretty much constantly writing. I love your idea of the animation. I have to tell you that one of the things that hit me even during "Maggie and Annie" is your ability to communicate emotions and humanity very purely and innocently. Any thoughts of writing something aimed at a younger audience?

KW:

I never stop writing.  It is my therapy.  Very easy for me.  Again I have several film scripts written.  I have a wonderful animation written but that is the hardest part of Hollywood to break into.  I once heard a famous writer say that the best thing about not selling your stuff is that it will never get ruined.  I grew up in the blue collar world of farmers and everyday people.  Clothes on the back - a meal and a warm roof over your head is all that mattered to my family.  Real people writing material cannot get any better.
 

Question:

How often do you go to the movies yourself? Do you have any favorites?

KW:

I love the movies.  Very seldom ever watch TV unless it if from my collection of the Honeymooners or the early Andy Griffith shows.  I think the greatest film ever made is THE DEER HUNTER - A sleepy movie that very few have ever heard of is AFTER HOURS - a classic.  Of course my number two movie of all time is THE WIZARD OF OZ.  My range is all over.
 

Question:

You talk about wanting to touch your audience...as a lesbian, how did you cope when you started experiencing rejection from the gay/lesbian community over how "Maggie and Annie" ends?

KW:

I never really thought about until the festivals started turning it down because of that.  I got torched by some people from the AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL that showed it.  OUCH - Like I told them not everyone in life rides off into the sunset.
 

Question:

If you could offer some advice to someone who's out there like you were wanting to make their own film...what would you say to them?

KW:

Study film acting if they are going to direct.  Study business.  Making a movie is a business first - then all else follows.  Never stop believing.  When I did Maggie and Annie I was the only one that believed in it. Everyone around me thought I was crazy for doing it.  Life is full of risk.  Don't be scared to take them. 
 

Question:

I was reading your bio...you obviously have a support network of friends, you network well, and you obviously kiss ass well (to steal your term)...but, it sounds like when you headed out to California (via Wyoming, initially) it was pretty much just you? Did you have supporters? doubters?

KW:

I had no supporters.  All doubters.  If you know Midwest winters, you can get pretty depressed by the time one comes to an end.  I reached that low point and packed my bags and left.  I came to LA by myself not knowing anyone.  I had an old station wagon and about $1000 to my name.  Was blown away by the city.  I would get a motel one night - look for a job - sleep in my car the next night - check into a motel - shower look of a job - sleep - look for a job then sleep in my car the next night. I did this for about 7-10 days.  Then I found a job- rented a room- and Immediately started studying acting.   Was a very scary time in my life to say the least but I wasn't going back home.  I told my Mom all along I was staying with a friend.  People come here to chase dreams and die on the streets here - I was close.

Question:

What did you learn (good and bad) from your first film making experience?

KW:

All good experiences.  I just wish I had more money for better sound-lighting and those damn white walls.
 

Question:

As I read your website, you clearly are loyal to those who've supported you (and the film), you clearly have things you believe in passionately and you've seemingly managed to balance all of that and have a career in film. Where do you see yourself going from here?

KW:

I will always keep dreaming.  No matter who you are you have to have dreams and goals. All we can do in life is give 100 % of what God gave us. You have to put something into life to get something back. Most people want everything out of life but want to put nothing into it to get it. I am hoping to make another movie and sell some of my scripts.  I will do my best.  

Question:

One last question...It seems like the latest "thing" is that all the big film companies are starting smaller "indie" subsidiaries...like Warner Independent, Sony Classics, etc...is this having an impact on the truly independent filmmaker like yourself?

KW:

The real true concept of indie films is going out the door.  Sundance for example is a joke.  It was created by Redford for little films like Maggie and Annie and no name low budget movies.  Now it is all Hollywood and $10 million dollar movies.  I tell all new filmmakers never to send their film to the big festivals.  $50 a pop.  They get 1500 submissions and accept a handful of films-now mostly those  with star power.   
 

Question: Thank you so much for your time!

KW: Thank you!

"Maggie and Annie" is currently available on DVD through Blockbuster and Netflix. For more information on Kimberly Wilson's upcoming films visit Rainbow Chaser Productions.

Interview first published on IndependentCritics.com, February 26, 2006.

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