Interview with Amanda Goodman

Amanda Goodman_indieactivity

Amanda Goodman grew up in Queens, New York (Astoria to be exact which always surprises people). For Amanda, she was a storyteller since she was born…or at least as soon as she could talk (which her parents claim started early and Amanda hasn’t shut up yet.) Amanda’s earliest memory in life is being in her crib (maybe she was 2) and Amanda was yearning to be a part of what was on the TV. Or maybe that was simply just a sign of the eighties.

“You Only Die Once”, the new horror comedy web series season trailer

Amanda Goodman grew to love stories in all of their various forms from movies and TV to books, you name it! Amanda started acting when she was about 8, she started taking private lessons and from there worked in the industry in film and theatre throughout junior high and high school. Amanda Goodman wrote her first screenplay when she was about 11. Amanda wasn’t doing it to be a writer, she just wanted to tell a fun story. So she put it to paper and what resulted was a hilarious (ly bad) adaptation of a 90s video game that she loved playing called “Nightmare Creatures”. Amanda felt that was a foreshadowing for the kind of films she’d be making years later.

indieactivity: Did you study what you do?
ABG: I continued to study acting and comedy in high school (I took a summer program with Second City my junior year of high school) and through college. I studied writing in college as well, including film studies (my two favorite courses being women in film and horror). I never stopped studying film past college, specifically the horror genre. I have to this day in my office a huge stack of essays on the genre and find myself analyzing films in a different way than most casual viewers. I wrote a full length horror novel which I later adapted into a screenplay that recently got published and is on sale on Amazon. For me it’s the process of writing every day, never stopping, and forcing myself to learn what I don’t know, even if I don’t have the financial resources to do so. I did not go to film school. My version of film school was throwing myself into the unknown and getting myself out there when I produced, wrote, and directed my first short film, the horror comedy “Cori’s First Horror Movie.” The next project was YODO, and that basically solidified my style and the kind of work I was meant to be doing. I continue to learn from the wonderful people I hire to be on my sets. They are my teachers and that’s the kind of school I can’t wait to go to each day of shooting.

indieactivity: What is your filmmaking process?
ABG: My process consists of crafting a well-structured story, written for specific actors whom I hire to play the roles (all fantastic unknowns who I hope will make it big very soon because their talents are out of this world), and then I find inspiration from the films I love and work with my crew to bring that to life. I craft detailed mood boards for all the various departments from cinematography to the sfx makeup team. Then we decide how we can best bring it to life based on our resources. Sometimes you have to compromise, but mostly I find my favorite c word (after that other fun c word) is collaborate. Your team wants what’s best for the project and any good Director must have a clear vision of what that project is, but is also willing to trust the ideas of others and take what’s good and use it. If something doesn’t work or conflicts with what you feel in your gut, that’s fine.

But never be too precious about your film that you fail to let a good idea pass you by. In terms of working with my actors, and as an actor myself, I’m all about connecting what makes a person unique based off of their own life experiences and bringing that to a character. Even if you’re playing a villain and doing awful things that you yourself may not have done, there is always a way for you to dig deep into a part of you, maybe even a moment in time when you made a bad choice or felt angry, and use it where it’s needed. Then you heighten it to fit in to the fictional world that is being created. I’m also open to my actors doing what they need to be comfortable with the text. That doesn’t necessarily mean improvising per say (I’m a firm believer in respecting writers words), but I love the art of play. And if it works well for the scene, AWESOME! And if it doesn’t, we’ll try something else in the next take.

Amanda Goodman_indieactivity

indieactivity: Tell us about the work you have directed?
ABG: My main work as a filmmaker is horror. Specifically female driven horror comedy in the vein of Ash vs. Evil Dead meets Tina Fey. You Only Die Once is a show I created in order to produce something that I as a fan of the genre would want to watch. With its off beat tone and genre inspired roots (influenced by Italian giallo films such as Suspiria and Deep Red, Evil Dead, and vampire movies from the 80s such as The Lost Boys and Fright Night), I hope that the show (which premieres the end of May) will also be something that non horror fans can connect with. While we are a fun show, we also dig deep into social issues. My main goal as a filmmaker is to change the game for how women are portrayed in horror films both in front of and behind the characters. That means real people who you don’t normally see in horror, or when you do they’re killed off pretty quickly.

indieactivity: Do you take courses to improve your craft?
ABG: I do take writing courses and attend seminars whenever I can. One of the my favorites is ThrillerFest which occurs every summer in NYC. I also constantly seek out new books and articles on the craft to better my own writing.

indieactivity: How do you combine directing and writing?
ABG: I’m a writer who sees the story as I write. Even if I may not end up directing, I craft each scene in a way that is cinematic on the page. In my mind that even includes music. I hear things when I see it on the page. And when I do direct, I let my gut guide me the way it did when I was writing.

Amanda Goodman_indieactivity

Jamie, Cecelia, & Linda face off

indieactivity: How did you get into the film business?
ABG: Aside from taking acting lessons as a kid, I also took acting business courses and worked at an awesome actors networking studio for several years which allowed me to learn from those who have made their own mark in the industry.

indieactivity: How do you turn an idea into a screenplay?
ABG: You just have to write it. I know too many people who talk about great ideas they have for stories want to eventually write. Years later these people are still talking about them but haven’t put a word to page. That to me, is not a writer. That is someone with an idea. A writer writes. If you have an idea you just have to sit down and write it. Any experienced writer will tell you that when you have the idea, you gotta write it – at least jot down a few sentences so you don’t forget it because if you don’t, you will lose it.

indieactivity: How do you turn an idea into a screenplay?
ABG: I first start writing a treatment and character bios. I try and see how I can make all this work and if there is a story to be told in the course of a 100 page screenplay. Some ideas end up being more properly suited to be told episodically. You never know until you start writing. I’ll usually write a scene and let it guide me from there.

Amanda Goodman_indieactivity

Cecelia and Linda bench chat

indieactivity: Explain your writing process?
ABG: Coffee. That’s basically it. No, that’s not entirely true. I usually outline my goal for each session in order to have somewhere to go, but ultimately my gut is what guides me when I’m in the midst of my story. The actor in me also will act out the scenes to see if they work (not usually out loud if I’m in a coffee shop…cause um weird!)..but I can hear my actors in my head. Sometimes that’s not a good thing, but that’s where the coffee comes in.

indieactivity: Any tip or ideas for up and coming writers?
ABG: Keep writing, keep reading, and listen to your gut.

indieactivity: What is it like working in the Hollywood system?
ABG: As a female filmmaker, both very difficult and extremely exciting. I have so many stories to tell and a voice that I yearn to be heard. I’ve never achieved anything in my life the easy way. I’ve always had to work hard. And being in this business is no different. I can’t predict where this journey will ultimately take me. But I’m sure as hell enjoying the ride so far.

What do you want to be remembered for
As a filmmaker and writer who always remained true to their voice. I know who I am and I let that shine through in my work. And hopefully that can inspire other young writers to do the same. Never give up. We all have great stories to tell. So start telling someone yours.

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