a Screenmancer exclusive
Deborah Stenard: "I Do, Don't I?" real-time angst on making a seventeen minute slice-of-life
Interview by Screenmancer Producer Robinson Rea
"I Do, Don't?" (17 min.) was written and produced by Deborah Stenard,
who also stars in this short about a "straight, attractive, intelligent"
30-something who may, or may not, find herself married soon.
STENARD begins with a little backstory --
"We were supposed to shoot ["I Do, Don't I?"] last summer, but exactly
a week before we were set to shoot, we lost our camera. There
were a lot of big films shooting in L.A. last year - we went
everywhere - but we couldn’t find a 35mm camera. We finally
got one in September, but by then all of my crew members had
to go back to their regular season jobs, so we had to put
everything on hold and that was the hardest part.
Rea: What kept you going?
Stenard: I knew I had so much to learn - I was glad that I had time to take
things very slowly. I know a lot of people spend so much time
looking for the money, that when they get it, they spend it as
quickly as they can. They’re afraid the investors will pull back
and say ‘forget it, I’m not giving you my hard earned money to
make your film’. But because I was funding my own film, I could
pick the time when I felt I was ready.
I belong to a couple of organizations - Cinewomen and IFP West -
and I had put an ad in their newsletter that explained I was a new
producer looking for advice and I got a huge response from
people more than willing to tell me the mistakes they had made,
the shortcuts they had taken, the good deals they had gotten.
That kept me passionate - to meet all the other people out there
who had done this before me and could tell me it wasn’t that
Rea: I know you’ve also written a feature length script. Is the first
short you’ve written?
Stenard: I’ve written quite a lot of shorts. I love short films. I like the quick
aspect that gets you pulled in and things have to be resolved
quickly but you still have to follow the screenwriter’s rules --
beginning, middle, end.
"I can remember back in the mid-eighties, Showtime used to play
short films between features. I used to love seeing these
obscure little films from all over the world. I hope that the
Independent film and Sundance channels bring that back."
Rea: Do you have any plans to expand “I Do, Don’t I” into feature
Stenard: I think it’s perfect the way it is. A lot of people wanted me to
change the ending - make it more explosive, more Hollywood, less
ambivalent. But in life you don’t get a final answer...it’s funny, but
a lot of men wanted me to change the ending and a lot of women
said thank you for making this open-ended!
Rea: What was the most difficult part of the whole process?
Stenard: Admitting to seasoned professionals that I was a first time
producer and knew absolutely nothing, especially the technical
aspect. I didn’t know what film ratio meant! But I was very
excited about working with women because I want to see more
women in the business. I like their views. I advertised, pleading
for female crews and when women would apply and I explained
that it was a SAG experimental contract and that I couldn’t afford
to pay anyone, a lot of the women said they couldn’t afford to
work for free. Now men, especially white guys who have been
working in the business for forty years and have houses and
pensions and savings accounts, that’s a different story. Don’t
get me wrong, I had a fabulous crew, but they could afford to
play with me for a week because they work more often.
Rea: What was the most rewarding part?
Stenard: Sharing my enthusiasm with newcomers. I had a fabulous sound
editor - a young girl - she had worked on big films, but this was
something she wanted to do. I would come at her with ‘I need it
twenty-four hours ago’ and instead of getting huffy and
indignant, the hey, I’m working for free attitude, she would double
her efforts and work until 3:00 am to meet my deadline.
I remember the first day of the shoot and everything was set. The
crafts service was set up, the extras were on time, the lights were
going up in the church, the RV had rolled out. I got a bagel,
changed into my wedding dress, set my hair, put on my make-up,
and when I was called to shoot, I thought, 'oh my gosh, we’re
actually going...' It was a perfect moment...and then, of course, all
the problems started.
Rea: How long a shoot was it?
Stenard: Six days. We gave ourselves time for things to go wrong, and
they did. We had a bomb scare; we lost crew who got real
jobs: we cut an entire scene from the script because we
lost a location. But we handled it.
Deborah Stenard’s film “I Do, Don’t I?” was screened at the PALM SPRINGS
INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM FESTIVAL. For questions or more
information on this festival, call (800) 898-7256 or (760)778-8979.
Deborah and her production company. FILM BY FORTY, can be reached at
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