GloryReelz Christian Film Festival takes place two weeks from now. Have you registered yet? The day promises to be a great film event with helpful workshops in the morning, quality films in the afternoon, and fellowship lunch sandwiched between. One of the workshops available to attend is Jamie Lee Smith’s “Succeeding as a Woman in the Industry”. Jamie Lee started in the music industry, worked in Hollywood, now runs her own production company ,and teaches filmmaking.
When did you first develop an interest in filmmaking?
Filmmaking found me! I have two degrees in politics and was working in public relations for a Columbian newspaper/magazine when I was asked to work on a music video for a partner company. They were shorthanded on the back end. The director approached me afterwards to tell me that my talents were being wasted behind a desk and to come work for them. I ended up switching careers completely and started my own company a year later. Since I had a musical background I started out in music videos, commercials and progressed into film and later TV.
Mainstream movies and TV is what Global Rockstar Productions does. There is so much violence and garbage on TV and in films; I felt there was a need to do something more meaningful. I wanted to create family films that were wholesome and people can relate to. I teamed up with Doc Benson and together we have made 3 indie-films. All of them are family friendly including the latest psychological thriller Shadow of the Missing. I like to call it the “family-friendly horror!” There is no violence, no blood and guts… just a lot of suspense, leaving much to the imagination. It was an experimental project we did for young filmmakers and talented students trying to break into the business in Wales.
What led you to start your own production company?
I grew up in a very entrepreneurial family. I moved to Japan when I was 17 and started a restaurant with one of my best friends all while going to school and having a band. After working in the film industry for a year, I thought, I can do this! I am from Colorado, and working for people from Hollywood who were very cutthroat… I felt like I was losing a bit of myself. At the time, I don’t think I really knew how difficult it was to run your own company alone. I learned right away because I was a woman and very young people didn’t really respect me, even when I had a higher position on a project. This was and continues to be a challenge for me. Growing up, I was told I could do anything I wanted and my parents were so encouraging always, so to hear that was very difficult. I do love a good challenge!
What faith-based films have you been involved in?
Seven Deadly Words and Losing Breen. Both indie-films.
What do you consider your strongest strength as a filmmaker?
My ability to assemble a strong team that work well together. Putting together a good team who work well together is key in this business. People don’t realize how much work goes into making films. Preproduction to post production can take years and so many people involved. The team is like a chain… if you lose a link, the chain is broken. Being on set for 12-20 hours a day takes a toll, so you need strong people in place to handle all the issues that “pop” up along the way.
Tell us about the class you’ll be teaching at GloryReelz Christian Film Festival next month.
I am going to speak about how to make it in the film industry as a woman. It is the biggest challenge I have had to face. There are less than 5% of women in key positions in the film industry. I hope to encourage more women and young ladies to make it to the top and never give up on their dreams.
What advice would you offer a woman wanting to get involved as a film producer?
If you have talent and drive, there is nothing you can’t do. You have to work harder and smarter than anyone else. When you walk into a room you have to demand respect, your attitude and demeanor says everything about you. Always walk with your head high, and don’t let anyone tell you that you are not good enough… it should go in one ear and out the other. Don’t ever sacrifice yourself or your personal morals because someone says you have to.
It has been a passion of mine to help young filmmakers and students break into the business and hopefully surpass some of the simple mistakes I have made. It is also about giving them an opportunity they would not otherwise have. My last indie-film Shadow of the Missing was developed for this very reason.
I was at the Carmarthen Bay Film Festival in Llanelli Wales when I met some very talented students that had been making films since they could basically walk! There was so much raw talent, passion and desire, which I hadn’t seen in years. There were also some fairly new filmmakers and some who wanted to excel in the industry but haven’t because the opportunity simply wasn’t there. So I said, “Let’s make a film!” Shadow of the Missing is now festival ready and done mostly by students and new filmmakers. All of the crew were also in it as actors. This is so everyone, including myself, could experience just how hard it is to be on the other side of the camera. This is very important to understand for directing.
Doc Benson and I teach seminars and speak at film festivals, schools and events to help young filmmakers. He has created the Cudlee Arts Initiative for this. It is important that everyone has a chance to succeed in the industry. It’s a pivotal time and we are doing what we can to help. For more info: www.jamieleesmith.net