Women Film Director Jill Morley Interview

Jill Morley

Jill Morley

Jill Morley is a write. She is also a filmmaker from a successful actress. Her critically acclaimed documentary, STRIPPED, about NY Strippers, has been released theatrically in New York and L.A. and is distributed through Vanguard Cinema on VHS and DVD. Jill has written for The Village Voice, The NY Press, Gear Magazine, and Shout Magazine, and her play True Confessions of a Go-Go Girl was published in Women Playwrights: The Best Women’s Plays of 1998. She has also directed a video production of her play, a music video for Debra DeSalvo’s Take It Off, and has produced radio documentaries for NPR.

Did you go to film school?

Did you go to college?
Yes, I got a BA in Theater/Communications from Villanova University.

How did you learn your craft?
When I was an actress, I did some production work on the side to pay the bills. Then, when I started to make my film, STRIPPED, I really learned technical stuff, step by step. Guess you could say “on-the-job training.”

What’s your favorite movie from Hollywood and your favorite indie film? Why?
Hollywood… Midnight Cowboy. It has the feel of an indie film. Great story, incredible characters, amazing acting, interesting filmmaking, and challenging for its time, Midnight Cowboy really sticks with you and has an edge, unlike contemporary Hollywood films.

What’s wrong with the Hollywood system, and what is right with it?
What is right is that they have the big money it takes to make films! Many things about it don’t seem fair. The best actors are not usually the movie stars, some may not even get work because of the way they look or because it is just too hard for them to break in. The best screenplays certainly don’t get made, because Hollywood bigwigs sometimes don’t give the general public credit that they may enjoy something a little more intellectual or surreal than usual. Studios don’t want to take risks, so many times the filmmaker is forced to make his/her film independently. This is more liberating for the filmmaker as far as creative choices go, but binding in the budget area.

What is wrong with the independent film, and what is right with it?
The independent film world, in the beginning, was so great and supportive. Now, it has a lot of the trappings of Hollywood. So many indies are being made now that there is still snobbery, favoritism, and hypocrisy. For example, certain independent distributors still won’t see a film for its merit because they want to focus on the money-making aspect. There is nothing wrong with that, but we cannot pretend that all independent films are artful creations! Or that the ones that get distributed are the “best” ones. It is almost a mini-Hollywood system in that respect. However, there is still freedom for individual expression and probably much more than a big budget blockbuster studio film. By making a film independently, you are most likely going to have more artistic freedom as a producer/ director and perhaps more respect from your peers since you are busting your ass to make the film!

What advantages do you see to making films without relying on backing from others?
Once again, there is the artistic freedom. No one tells you how to shoot, how to edit what to write, or if something seems too edgy. You make all the decisions.

What do you think is the lowest budget possible for a good feature-length film? Why?
This is a difficult question to come up with a number. I guess with the advent of Final Cut Pro, one can just invest in a digital camera, a Final Cut Pro package, digital stock, and take off. That is, of course, if you are making a documentary. If you are making a feature, you have to think about actors, whether to use union, non-union, if you pay them or if you don’t pay them, but you at least have to feed them! I would imagine a feature would cost a lot more. Also, if you shot scenes with actors outside you’d need to invest in body mikes, etc.

Do you think the films shown at Sundance are really independent? Why or why not?
The films are independent-ish. By this, I mean that they are usually made by the Hollywood-ized production companies and somehow have a leg up on getting into the Big S. Many seem to have gone through some sort of system that Sundance favors rather than just completely being made independently, being submitted, and getting in.

What advice do you have for people starting out in independent film?
For your first film, be totally committed to getting it made by any means necessary. Believe in your subject/screenplay and that your voice desperately needs to be heard. Once you have that, nothing will get in your way that you can’t conquer.

What would you do with $1.2 million?
Buy a house on the beach and rest. I just finished producing, directing, and distributing an independent documentary!

What would you like to see done differently in the American film system?
I would like to see more grants for independent filmmakers by the government and other sources. I would like the grants to be made available for everyone who has a worthwhile project. And to not have to go through a lot of red tape to receive the money!

Article Written by Filmy Boy

A Newbie Film Maker

Filmy has written 78 awesome articles.

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