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A local filmmaker in Hollywood gives some advice

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Jean Barker hopes to make a name for herself in Hollywood. After signing a contract for scriptwriting duties in February, she relocated to Los Angeles. Channel24 had an interesting interview with her – well worth reading if you have any movie-making ambitions – or if you are just curious about the experience.

On moving to LA:

I was attacked by bed bugs on arrival in my nasty motel room so I spent the first few weeks looking diseased. Combined with a foreign accent? Not fun. I kept offending people without meaning to by discussing politics and religion. I missed my friends, my mother, the air, the sea, and the sound of South African voices. I found everybody attractive, even the dumb asshole guys, because they all had cute American accents.

Not surprisingly, if you have ever been to LA, traffic is her biggest bugbear:

I guess the traffic is the biggest ongoing challenge. I spent five hours in traffic today. Usually I can keep it under two hours if I plan well.

When asked which movies inspire her, she had a broad list that includes E.T., Children of Men and District 9. But the real inspiration are the people she meets on the job:

This isn‘t a fair question. How long do you have? It’s also sometimes about seeing people who get to meet making films, and realising that actual people, not mythical beings, achieve this stuff.

And her thoughts on what can make movies better? It’s a mix of predictable musings, somewhat naive ideas and the rising truth that all the action is on TV because it takes actual risks:

The courage to tell new stories, to find the universal in the specific. This means fewer fat people / farting people jokes / poop jokes / hate jokes / death / explosions and better characters. This means spending less money per film and making more low and medium-budget films. This means fewer sequels, star vehicles and adaptations. In a way I think TV points the way forward for movies. I love movies, but I spend more actual hours watching TV series. Don’t you? That may be because TV is taking “risks” – it’s exploring racial diversity, femininity and things you don’t find in the old boys’ club of movies – at least, not at as much. I also wish “art” movies wouldn’t fear being entertaining, or enjoyable, the way they often seem to.

Finally, some career advice for those who want to make it?

Don’t be crazy. But if you can’t help chasing this dream, then don’t do it for the fame, the money or the power. Learn a little bit about what everybody on a film set does, and then find really great people you trust to collaborate with and never, ever try to do their jobs for them. You have to love your co-creators and respect them, because you’ll be stuck with them for 12-16 hour days, for months on end. Get training – whether on the job, or in film school, or both – in your chosen profession. Stay humble, stay curious. Be a nice person, even when you’re really tired and especially when you’re drunk.

Read the full interview, including her thought son festivals, making it big one day and the kind of stories she wants to tell, over at Channel24.

Last Updated: June 12, 2015

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