Interview with Jacqui Blue

Jacqui Blue_indieactivity;

Some of the earliest and happiest memories from my childhood are from when my Grandmother would take me to the theater. Once a month she’d take me to a play at the Actor’s Playhouse in Miami. I knew then that as soon as I was old enough, I wanted to be a part of that world. When I was 6 years old I started taking acting classes, (which I would continue until I was 19) but I had bad stage fright and didn’t like people staring at me. It made me uncomfortable. I started writing at the age of 9; poetry, prose, short stories and eventually novels and plays. I wrote my first play senior year in high school and that was the first time I wrote characters and then saw them come to life on stage before my eyes. But I hadn’t yet decided on this as a career path yet. That came much later. Because this whole world had been a part of my life as my second nature all along, it didn’t register that this was something I could do as a career, as a real job and make money at. Whenever I did mention creative work as my career path, friends and family would scoff at the idea telling me it was “a pipe-dream” and to get real because you know, your job is supposed to be something you hate that stresses you out but pays the bills, right? To believe anything else made me a “dreamer” with my heads in the clouds.

Did you study what you do
Yes. I’d been acting and writing since I was a young child. Immediately after high school I went to Full Sail in Winter Park where I studied audio engineering in my pursuit of being a record producer because of my love for all things music. While going to Full Sail, I realized that wasn’t my path. I went to Community College and studied journalism for a little bit but that wasn’t satisfying me either. It would take about a decade before I’d finally figure it all out. I began video editing as a hobby. And I put myself through the film and video program at the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale a few years later. While I was going there I was also doing an internship (which turned into a job) with the Florida Media Market working directly under CEO Martiza Guimet. She was my boss, my mentor and friend. Working with her is when I really got a taste for the industry and decided that yes, this is where I felt I finally found my fit. I am not an actor. I am not a journalist. I am not a record producer. I am a writer/director. But I have a background and experience in acting, the world of theater, writing and audio engineering. All of which I think lend skills and talent to my craft as a filmmaker.

Beautiful Births: an informational documentary from Starseed Pictures on Vimeo.

What is your filmmaking process
It always starts with an idea and then fleshing that idea out. I have to figure out what it is I want to say on any given subject. Whether it’s birth or death – there’s a lot of angles to cover and I’m not going to be able to cover everything so I have to narrow it down and focus on something, then build out from there. I will write out a script and then send it to friends I trust for feedback and notes. Then go back and do rewrites until I’m finally happy with it. Once it’s done and I know it’s done, I’ll register it with the WGA. From there I have to decide if it’s going to get submitted to writing festivals, try to get in the hands of someone else to produce and make it or am I going to make it myself? If I’m going to make it, I move into pre production.

Tell us about the work you have directed
In the two and half years I’ve been out in LA I’ve directed five pieces and am ready to direct my first feature narrative. I started with my first documentary, Beautiful Births which was released in 2014. And I’m currently directing and producing a documentary on suicide that will be completed sometime in 2017. In between the two documentaries I directed three short films. One was executive produced by Studio 4 Films and Jay Davis under the instruction of James Franco, called Burden of Proof. The other is one I wrote, directed, edited and co produced with a friend of mine called Love & Other Lies. And I was hired by hip hop artist T.O.N.E.-z to direct and co-write his short romantic horror story. Each one of these projects has been a completely different experience.

Jacqui Blue_indieactivity

On the set of Burden of Proof

Documentaries are different than narratives and although I do love documentaries, I prefer directing narratives. I have a very strong visual mind and I’m a huge fan of symbolism. In my films, I like for the items or colors used in scenes to serve symbolic purpose as well and let the multiple layers of storytelling unfold in your subconscious psyche too instead of just what you see with your eyes.

Burden of Proof is a raunchy comedy that was written by a young woman from New York. We were put into teams of four – one writer, one director and two actors and every week Franco gave us notes on the progress of our film. This was part of a master class he was teaching at Studio 4 during the Fall/Winter of 2014. You can find it on the Starseed Pictures or Studio 4 Films vimeo channels.

Love & Other Lies is a short drama and touches upon relatable subjects that real life couples deal with such as sexual disfunction, infidelities, dishonesty, emotional neglect and boredom. It’s the story of a man who seems to have the best of the both worlds until a lie unravels his world. This one is now completed and being submitted to film festivals.

Sed is a romantic horror story. I was contacted by T.O.N.E.-z and we spent months developing the story into a shootable script. We put together a small production team utilizing my producing partner from Love & Other Lies. He flew in from New York, we shot during the last weekend in February and is now in post production.

Do you take courses to improve your craft
Yes. I take advantage of as many learning opportunities as I can. There is no one right way to make a movie. Everyone has their own style but some things are universal and I find that I can always learn something from just listening to people speak about their experiences. I’ve recently audited a class at Studio 4 that I took two years ago and whenever I have the chance to sit in on seminars and workshops, I go. It’s great networking but more so, the information you can get from those more experienced than you are like little nuggets of gold.

Jacqui Blue_indieactivity

On set of Love & Other Lies with actor Jeff Vernon and co-producer Magali Widmer

How do you combine directing and writing
In figuring out my own personal path, I realized I very much am a Writer/Director. Not only am I strong storyteller through writing with a strong concept of story structure and character development but having the background in acting gives me the leg up in knowing how to talk to my actors to get the performances I want out of them. I have a very strong visual sense of how things should look and so far, have been able to achieve that to the best of my ability even when limited in available resources. I have been playing with cameras my entire life – as long as I’ve acting and writing and photography is also one of my passions, so while at the Art Institute I paid special attention to all things related to cinematography as well which allows me to not only communicate with my creative talent but to also talk to my technical crew in their language. Two of the three colleges I attended were technical schools so I get on just fine in the “boys club” with knowing how to speak their lingo.

How did you get into the film business
It was something that became more realistic to me when I was working with Martiza at the Florida Media Market. Here she was, a single mom of four kids who ran her own company in the entertainment industry, she made movies, hosted events and she was well respected within her circle. I took one look at her and what she was doing and knew that’s what I wanted to do; I just wanted to do it my way, not her way. And that’s when I started to really pursue my first documentary which lead to the opening of my own production company, Starseed Pictures. From there I knew that making movies is all I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Being the creative minded person, I’ve had to learn the business side and that’s been a headache. But it’s so important to learn. This is a business. You can be an artist anywhere. You can be a starving artist anywhere. But if you want to be professional artist and make a living with your art, then learning the business side of the industry is vital.

Beautiful Births premiere in Florida

Beautiful Births premiere in Florida

How do you turn an idea into a screenplay
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.

Explain your writing process
There are natural writers and there are people who are trained/taught to be writers. As a writer by nature, I do it a little bit differently than how teachers try to instruct people that want to learn how to become writers. When I took a screenwriting class at the Art Institute the instructor wanted to have complete treatments and character profiles written before we even started our stories. That’s not how I do it. I asked if I could do it my way. He said yes, so I did and I was the only person who walked out of his class with an A.

My creative process isn’t formulaic. It’s not always the same from project to project. Here’s one recent example of how my process worked. I was recently talking to someone at a party about online dating. Our conversation sparked an idea. While I was driving home that night, two main characters popped into my head. The next morning I started writing a screenplay based on that idea and those characters. I got to know the characters and developed the story as I went along. At one point when I had an influx of ideas, I did put them all down on paper titled “notes” so I’d remember the general direction I intended to take the story.

What writing tip or idea can you give young writers
The first thing to know is that there are different types of writing. Novel writing and screenwriting are very different. One is detailed, one is technical. The signs of an amateur screenwriter or novelist making the transition to screenwriting are in the description. Novel writers want to tell you the colors of the walls each room and eyes of each character. Screenwriters know to leave those details to the director. I recommend that everyone who aspires to be a screenwriter work as a script reader – learn what works and what doesn’t work and what makes a script good or bad and why.

Jacqui Blue_indieactivity

In the Sex Scenes Master Class with James Franco

Write what you know. If you’re a virgin, don’t try to write about sex. If you’re a catholic don’t try to write about new age topics. Stick with what you know. Don’t try to write something that you think is edgy or risky just to try to be seen as edgy or risky. It’s going to come across as inauthentic in your work.

Don’t force it. If it’s not flowing and you have a blockage, walk away. Don’t force it. If you feel like you’re struggling, the idea just won’t come and nothing you do seems to inspire the muse – then you are trying too hard and you need to walk away for a while. Either it will come to you or it won’t. If it does, maybe what you need is to just relax your mind and shift gears for a little bit. If it never does come, then it’s not your story to tell or the timing to tell it isn’t right.

Also, don’t be married to your work. Take notes and suggestions, especially from those who’ve been doing it longer than you. There is always room for improvement so be humble.

What is is like working in the Hollywood system
I don’t know. I’m a woman. So trying to get into the “Hollywood system” and taken seriously as a filmmaker has been quite challenging and instead has forced me to think outside the box. I was recently told by a man who has been out here for twenty years that none of the work I did in the last two and half years mattered. I’ve been told by men and women alike that because I’m a mom they think I’m unable to handle the tasks at hand. I get talked down to a lot and a few people have had the nerve to say things that in any other industry would slap them with a sexual harassment lawsuit, but in Hollywood, all that stuff is swept under the rug and we’re expected to turn a blind eye and allow ourselves to be mistreated. I’ve recently had a good friend of mine tell me that I should just sign all my stuff under the name of Jack and pretend to be man so I can get ahead. I refuse to do that. That goes against everything I believe in. I will not pretend to be something I’m not just to get where I want to go. I will get there as myself or I will die trying. I guess my problem is that I refuse to see my woman-ness as something to be ashamed of or as a handicap. I create with my mind. I see with my eyes. Therefore my gender shouldn’t even be an issue. It bothers me to see how women are treated. Misogyny stinks! And in this industry the stench is thick. I have to keep my head down and find ways to work around it because making movies isn’t something I’m going to stop doing.

Love & Other Lies Official Trailer from Starseed Pictures on Vimeo.

What do you want to change about the film business
I want the “boys club” to become just “the filmmakers club” that includes filmmakers of all genders and colors to tell our stories. I’ll keep doing my part to make that our reality by continuing to make movies with or without the backing of Hollywood’s big wigs and encouraging my peers to do the same. We all have voices that matter – I want to make mine heard and hear everyone else as well. There’s enough room at the table for all of us.

What do you want to be remembered for
I want you to know and remember me for making you think, feel or laugh through great storytelling.

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