I threw some questions via email to the super experienced director, actress, and producer, Jillian Armenante, on the release of her new feature comedy Stuck.
You’ve got so much going on at the moment. It really seems like a lot of hard work that you’ve put into filmmaking is now paying off. Do you have any tips for people who are just starting on their filmmaking adventures?
I think an artistic life is about keeping the creative process alive and active. If the work is rewarding, it doesn’t feel like hard work. “Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”, as they say. The end result is a happy by-product of all our accumulative efforts. My advice to filmmakers would be to just be in the moment and be a maker and your work will accumulate and speak for itself.
How long has it taken to take Stuck right through from the initial idea to launching it at film festivals?
When I hopped on to the project the script was already written so I wasn’t there for the initial birth of the thought but I have been involved for 1 1/2 years from our first meeting over coffee till today.
Heather Turman and David Mickel wrote the film. Did they come to you with the idea for Stuck?
I was recommended to them by NewFilmmakers LA. I had won Best Director and Best Feature of the year with my project Kittens in a Cage and Larry Leboe from NFMLA thought I was a good match to direct the script.
You’ve built up a very impressive list of supporters for Stuck. What sort of strategy did you use to bring people into the project as donors?
I employed the regular crowd-funding strategy… begging on social media and asking old friends who believed in me and my talents to chip in whatever they could afford. People really are very kind and generous when you get the courage up to ask.
Many independent filmmakers, like you, turn to crowdfunding to raise a budget. What are the key components of a successful crowdfunding campaign?
Crowdfunding is a full-time job. You want to stay active on social media but you don’t want to badger them. You want to look like a winner - which is difficult to do with your hat in your hand. I write a thank you to each and every donor on their Facebook page... hundred’s of them. Gratitude and inclusivity are key.
Do you have a mailing list for Stuck? How have you built that list and how often do you update your mailing list on what’s going on?
We don’t have an individual mailing list for STUCK as of yet. Currently, our crowdfunding page has all our donors’ contact info and they have the inside track of information related to the film.
I maintain my own social media in my spare time. I am fairly disciplined about it but I only do it when I have idle time to kill. If I am trapped in a car waiting to pick up my kids, waiting in a doctor’s office or when they are watching Harry Potter for the 50th time! I believe that real life is more important than documenting life on the internet. I know it is essential to market yourself as an artist, but life is too precious and fleeting to spend it looking down at a screen. It truly is a secondary activity I choose to do when I am disabled to accomplish a true living experience.
What part does independent film play in the entertainment industry?
The entertainment industry is as multilayered as any industry and art knows no boundaries. A kid with a crayon is just as vital as an artist as a highly paid portrait painter. Artistic value is not always financially based. Those with less power and money can still have a powerful voice. Even the industry giants had to pick up their first camera at some point, right?
Throughout your filmmaking life, you have had a real focus on telling original stories. Is there a particular genre or certain themes that you are drawn to?
I have always been interested in original stories. I don’t have a particular theme as long as the story in authentic and relatable and has universal human value.
When you’re considering new projects, what is it that you look for?
I can usually tell if I am jazzed by a script if, when I am reading it, I see the visual path of the script. I stop thinking and start seeing it. And at this point in my life, it is important that people are passionate about their work but also nice. I no longer see the benefit of suffering to make art. I want to have fun and it ain’t no fun unless it is fun.
What project are you spending your days on this week?
I have two new projects coming down the pike and another one in my brain… One is a pirate related project, one has to do with fertility and one has to do with lipstick!
What’s next for Jillian Armenante?
Well, it is pilot season and I am also an actress... I am on hold for a new sitcom (that I can’t talk about) and I just put a movie in the can last month called BACKSEAT with Christian Bale as Dick Cheney. I play Karen Hughes who worked in the Bush administration. It was produced by Plan B the company who produced another film I was in called A Mighty Heart.