Juror in the Spotlight: Linda Palmer
Award-winning filmmaker Linda Palmer is one of the most established women filmmakers in the indie-world. Founder of Runaway Productions, a commercial and feature film production company in Los Angeles, California the content she writes, directs and produces are exceptionally meaningful and original.
Linda is passionately involved in several projects including the upcoming films "Passage", "Cat Dexx: Inkosi", "October 30th" Turnover" and "Food Heals". Her intense schedule also includes judging at Festigious - and in the interview below you can read about her inspirations, ideas, and vision.
Linda, you initially studied journalism, television, and radio production... So - why films?
I saw myself on camera and decided I would be better off behind it :-) I wanted to be an investigative reporter, but ultimately I loved writing. I sort of segued over to writing features after I took a screenwriting class at UCLA and eventually decided I just wanted to make films since I wasn't having much luck as a writer, selling my scripts. It's sort of funny that I now have a podcast for one of my other loves, 'Halloween'. It's called Bat Chat Radio and my co-host is Rae Davis.
You later continued studying at the UCLA Extension Programs (Screenwriting, Directing, Commercial & Film Production) and several other programs at the Hollywood Film Institute. In your opinion and based on your wide experience, how much of being a film director is a learned skill, and how much is natural talent and instincts?
I really direct out of necessity. I couldn't really afford to hire a director and then perhaps have to control them in order to manage a budget. I've always had a feel for what I've wanted to see and just hire the best people to help me do that. I often think I'm a better production designer (starting with the vision) and then the directing is about getting all the people to see and understand my vision. I suppose to answer the question, it's more of a vision you need to see and then have the skills to make it happen with the right team.
Linda Palmer and Scott Simerly Jr. in Last Call at Murray's
When did you start your production company, Runaway Productions, and how did it come to be?
I started it with my first project, "Switch", and named it Runaway Productions because I had runaway at 15 and it changed my life. I wouldn't recommend it, but I was fortunate a friends family took me in and raised me through high school. It was a huge turning point in my life.
Runaway Productions produces versatile content: from corporate training videos, to commercials and feature films. What are some of the productions you’re most proud of?
I'm most proud of the work that makes people think and act. (the 'Children of the Night' PSA's, 'Our Father', 'My Name is Lamar' are all very socially motivated. It's a direction I think I'll spend a lot more time on in the future. My upcoming franchise project, 'Cat Dexx', with my partners, Deon van Rooyen and Lena Pousette, is definitely in that category.
Michael Gross and Michael Worth in Our Father
Are your screenplays normally based on true-life experiences? If so, what are some examples for that?
Not necessarily, however, I think true stories really resonate with people.
Dale E. Turner in My Name Is Lamar
My Name Is Lamar, a film you recently directed, received much recognition in so many festivals! Congrats for this. What, in your opinion, are the differences between directing a film you wrote, and directing the work of another screen-writer (in this case, Dale E. Turner)? Do you find if more/less challenging when it's not your script?
Thank you. Dale wrote a great script based on a moment in his life. I was very drawn to the material and am glad he trusted me with his story. I've had the opportunity to direct/produce with two other writers as well, Janel Tanna on Sienna's Choice and Amanda Serra on Carbon Dating. All three are actor/writers that wanted to share their stories and needed guidance. They all watched my short film, Our Father, and were so taken that they pursued me to direct their work. The main difference in their stories as opposed to mine, is they have a vision for what they want and I come to the project trying to help them achieve it. For me, it's not about putting my stamp on it, as much as it is trying to discover what they see and how to achieve it for them. All three were very involved in their own post production (editing, sound, music), and I really took a back seat to that. I really liked seeing them become more comfortable in the process and discover their own skills as a producer. Ultimately all the projects have gone on to win many awards which is an awesome testament to the work done by everyone.
Sienna's Choice, which you directed, was also widely acknowledge in the film-making community. How did you communicate your cinematic vision, when working with crew and cast on this production?
Sienna's Choice, although not a true story, deals with the very difficult issue of end of life decisions and care. The writer / actress / producer, Janel Tanna, gave a stunning performance that is well worth all the awards she's been honored with. She specifically wanted to work with a female centric team, saw my work, and pursued me to direct. Normally in films I try and produce the most economical way possible, but in this scenario, Janel really wanted to film in order for her characters sake. We talked it through and felt in the hospital, that was the best choice. It was a different dynamic compared to most of my films, but a great experience to see the character of Sienna go from the picture of health and success to the end of her life. The work really is amazing, by everyone.
This is a work of love for Allison and as most documentaries do, it's taking its time to complete. The title really tells the story. If you eat right, you can heal yourself. There are so many examples of this. It really is a great story and one worth seeing. I'm attached primarily as a post producer to help finish and market it.
It is common that indie filmmakers write and direct their projects. However, it seems that you took it one step further. You also act as a producer, a production designer... you do location management and sometimes art department. That's a lot of work! Do you find it more exciting to wear all these hats, or would you rather focus on directing next time?
The one job I love the most is production design. If that's all I did, I would be able to work on a lot more projects and help other filmmakers develop their worlds for their stories and make the best film possible within their means. Because I love that and it's really something that happens prior to shooting, I do that with all my films.
Carbon Dating - Red Carpet at the Burbank International Film Festival
You were recently featured as the lead judge of Festigious Los Angeles. What impressed you the most when reviewing the finalists? Was there a certain scene that was memorable and stood out?
I love seeing different styles of work and watching different choices. One thing that impressed me, was the performance Rachel Alig gave in Yesterday is Tomorrow. I've worked with Rachel before and she is a very versatile actress, but she really broke out in this film. It's great to see that she's been awarded for the work because it's well deserved.
Rachel Alig in Yesterday Is Tomorrow (Director: James C. Shahanshah
What’s the best film you’ve seen recently?
I need to see more films, but one that really has inspired me and made me look at the stories I want to tell in the future is Spotlight. I aspire to do the kind of work Tom McCarthy and his team created.
Can you please share a bit about your next projects? Also... You are currently in pre-production for Passage, a film you are working on along with Julia Parker, who is our jury president at Festigious. What is the next step of your production?
Yes, Passage is about to film soon and we are super excited about it. It is actually happening because Julia and I were chatting one afternoon about our pets and I shared a story she told me I should make into a film. I responded she could star in it and I had the perfect daughter for her and fellow producer to bring on, Krisd Mauga. From there it came together in no time. I think we first talked about it in March? Wow! Anyway, I also have another short I'm producing/directing called, Cat Dexx: Inkosi, which is a short taken from our franchise, Cat Dexx. As mentioned before my writing/producing partners on that are Deon van Rooyen and Lena Pousette. It deals with anti-poaching and trophy hunting and is very close to all of our hearts. And hopefully by the end of the year, we'll be in production on a feature I wrote called Turnover that I'm producing with my partners, Rae Davis, Marvin Glover. That is a very special foodie family movie that has a great message.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Thanks for interviewing me :-) If anyone wants to follow what I'm up to, check out my website: RunawayProductions.tv
Interviewer for Festigious: Nami Melumad