Short films... a serious art form

The most under-served of the cinematic arts is about to become a force unto itself.

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’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


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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