The Film Festival Doctor (Yes, she’s a real doctor!) Dr. Rebekah Louisa Smith, explores this week the topic of women in film. She was lucky to interview the unstoppable Sara Elizabeth Timmins, the founder of production company Life Out Loud Films. Below Sara explains her vision and her unique approach towards championing women creatives…
- Sara Elizabeth Hi, welcome to The Film Festival Doctor’s blog 🙂 could you kindly tell my reader a little bit about yourself and your awesome film production company Life Out Loud Films?
Sure. I’m originally from a small town in Ohio where the arts were not fostered at all so my dreams of working in the film/ theatre industry were almost incomprehensible but I’m not one to let that stop me. I ended up moving to LA from Ohio almost 20 years ago because I did not want to have any regrets in life. I went out without a job, without savings and it was my first time West of Saint Louis so it was quite the leap. I spent my first years both acting and as a producer for hire and then, after years of working on films I wasn’t thrilled about or for people who just weren’t all that nice or honest, I started Life Out Loud Films in 2008 out of my desire to focus on films that both inspire and impact. I quickly learned that my purpose and passion was in creating films that can spark conversation, inspire action, that ignites change, and as our company motto proclaims, “Don’t just make a film, make a difference”. I was also determined to help champion women in film after seeing and experiencing first hand the injustice, abuse, inequality, and disempowerment of women in our industry. 12 years after starting my company I’m proud to say we continue with that mission and have made several films that all have award-winning talent and have gotten worldwide distribution and we have another dozen in development currently.
Recently, I also expanded the company to include private consulting with filmmakers as well as education. Reflecting back on my crazy journey over the years figuring out how to make a film when I didn’t go to film school and I didn’t have rich family and friends or a trust fund, my wish is that no filmmaker has to take that same amount of time and trial & error to figure it out so I developed NO FILM SCHOOL. NO TRUST FUND. NO PROBLEM. I started traveling with the program in 2019 and it goes online next month. The goal is to provide community, education, and inspiration and to share with filmmakers what took me over 20 years to learn in order to shorten the learning curve for them so they can focus on the creative and getting their film off the ground. There is absolutely no reason for filmmakers to spend precious time reinventing the wheel. I mean, I had to suck up my pride as this big city girl chose to move from LA to live in her parent’s basement in VA for a year to make a film thereby pitching complete strangers to give me money (more each than I had ever made in one year) to do something I had never done before while putting astronomical amounts of money on a credit card in order to both live and focus on making my first film. I can only hope that these countless years of figuring out how to produce an indie film can help many more than just me!
- I see that you also champion female filmmakers (which we are a big supporter of too!) how do you implement this within Life Out Loud Films infrastructure?
For me, championing women is less about equality than it is about opportunity, perspective, and portrayal. I naturally have always been drawn to female stories and storytellers and it was over 12 years ago when I realized that most females on screen (with only a few exceptions) were portrayed as objects and victims and I was usually one of the only female leaders on set. The reason we don’t see higher percentages of women directors, writers, composers, etc. at the top is that they need the opportunities early in their career to build that resume. Life Out Loud Films is dedicated to seeing the possibility within female creatives and giving women opportunity so my slate features female writers, directors, and female let stories. Now, one of our lead films is about 12-year-old orphan boys playing football…how does that fit? Before getting the option, I dug to find the female B story which we found and is incredibly powerful. I feel confident the average producer would not have made a point to find that part of the story which ultimately brings a female perspective into an otherwise male-dominated film, greatly enriches the overall story and brings in female viewers. Also, in that film, it is a female-driven development team in a sports film which has never happened on a theatrical sports film to our knowledge. It is important to point out, we are not anti-men. The best person should get the job and balance is key, but often women aren’t even considered so we always consider women and strive to give them a platform to shine and further their career.
- At this moment in time the world is currently in the throes of a pandemic – how have you adapted Life Out Loud Films to work around CV19?
Going with the flow and embracing change is key to life and so, while this entire situation is tragic, I immediately saw the positive and opportunity. I started my company and started raising money for my first film in 2008 just as the economy tanked and EVERYONE warned me this was a horrible time to do both and that I should pause and wait it out. This was the worst time to raise money and start a company, and yet I vividly remember thinking, well, if I can make it through this, I can make it through anything and this is the time that will weed out the wannabes and the serious will rise to the top. I was right- the indie arms of many studios folded and I persevered. There was a need for content and yet less content was made in that time so I had more opportunity, I got into doors I otherwise may not because the marketplace wasn’t as crowded and film was suddenly not as risky as the stock market so that was an advantage for investors looking for alternate investments, etc. I took that experience into COVID and so rather than lead with fear, I led with possibility.
- With regards to both yourself as a creative and Life Out Loud Films – what are you finding the most challenging things to figure out since the CV19 pandemic hit?
I think income would be the collective answer in our industry right now but any good producer is a problem solver and we have been trained to pivot on a dime so I feel grateful I was able to shift my classes and consulting online and focus on development which never stopped. In fact, agents, directors and actors have been more available to read since they are not on set so there are advantage there too.
- Again, with regards to both yourself as a creative and Life Out Loud Films – what are the most positive things that have occurred since the CV19 pandemic hit?
I’ve been able to devote more time to connecting with my students and clients via classes and consulting which I love and fills me up. Also, from and energetic and mindset perspective, that collective conscious of this universally shared experience/reality really mentally evens the playing field and accessibility of Hollywood for me. I also think personally, this time sheds a much needed light on priorities and the preciousness of time and how we spend it.
- Are you finding the challenges, which you are currently facing to have brought out more creative ideas with regards to how will produce more films and events?
Absolutely. I’ve always felt challenges and limitations often push us to greatness.
- What are your views with regards to online film festivals?
I am glad to see the industry adapting. It will never replace the community and connections that happen in person at festivals and markets… that is priceless, but we still need to make sure films are seen and filmmakers get their films out so it is necessary to carry on in this unprecedented time and I support them.
- Do you think that industry professionals are still paying attention to film festivals and their content as they move online?
They don’t have a choice. The good news is they still need content and to discover new talent and in fact, since viewers are going through content at a fast pace, even more so. No industry exec, agent, manager or studio can exist without the work of creatives so they still need you and if that point of intro is online, it is online. Creatives often think they need the execs but it is so the other way around and the moment a filmmaker realizes that and can make that mental shift, the game changes.
- Tell us more about your Zoom networking events during CV19 how well have they worked for you?
My Wednesday Virtual Happy Hours have been one of the best things to come out of all this crazy in 2020. It started as a one-time Happy Hour in March to share community and hope in isolation and to keep spirits high and motivation strong. It was so well received that filmmakers begged me to keep it going and it went on weekly for over 2 months and has since shifted to bi-monthly with guests from all facets of the industry sharing insight, wisdom, and resources. We have had everything from film attorneys, accountants, casting directors, and podcast execs to other filmmakers who have had successful films sharing their journey, encouragement, and advice. It has been so fun to see many filmmakers make career-changing connections through the happy hours, gain confidence in areas they felt previously unsure of, and continue to stay connected and inspired despite not being on set. At the start, it was only for filmmakers who I have worked with via my classes or consulting but in July, we opened it up to anyone who wants to join in. Your readers are welcome to join us! Virtual Happy Hour is every other Wednesday (7-8pm EST) and is a casual conversation followed by a Q&A. The goal is to expand, inspire, and motivate filmmakers. They are FREE and the link is HERE
- And finally, what is next for you on the horizon for yourself and Life Out Loud Films?
I always knew I eventually wanted to put my courses online so I can both reach more filmmakers and continue to share with filmmakers in the times I’m off working on a film and COVID has motivated me to fast track that. Starting in August, the series, NO FILM SCHOOL, NO TRUST FUND, NO PROBLEM will be available as a complete program and in ala carte modules on our website which I am beyond thrilled about! Also, we have been making great progress in development on several of the almost dozen films we have in development so I hope we will have some fun announcements soon and can officially jump into prep.
Thank you so much Sara, you are super insightful! We love what you’re doing and I’m sure that all of my readers will be following your lead 😊
For further information on Life Out Loud Films visit their website here – https://www.lifeoutloudfilms.com/
Coming next Thursday: I’ll be discussing the secrets to successfully networking on-line at film festivals and how to make an abundance of contacts.