"You must be in the moment and trust your instincts" an interview with director Vanessa Parise

Best known for her work on the reboot of the hit TV series Charmed, director Vanessa Parise talks to Mandy News about her experiences working on Charmed and what it's like being a female director within the industry. 

4th January 2019
/ By James Collins

Vanessa Parise IMDB

How did you get in to directing? We know you were accepted into Harvard Medical School. How did you make the turn into acting and directing? And how do you use your experience in both?

Growing up in NYC I started acting in theatre from the time I was a kid. Then I studied neurobiology at Harvard while I also sang in an acapella group and did a whole bunch of plays. That love of both pursuits continued for years, as I deferred Harvard Med to go to circle in the Square Theatre's conservatory and then moved to Los Angeles to act. I wrote and directed my first feature KISS TVHE BRIDE to create an acting opportunity for myself And boom, I found my calling – directing! That was, wow, 15 years ago – and I’ve never looked back. 

How did you get involved with the reboot of Charmed?

I’m eternally grateful for the powerful support from the executives Amanda Palley and Marci Cooperstein at CBS, who set me up to meet the EPs Jennie Snyder Urman, Carter Covington, and Brad Silberling. The most incredible people. Smart, funny, kind, & open-hearted. I’m still whirling at this opportunity. Could this be magic?

Could you tell us about the process of shooting an episode, time-schedule, etc.?

Of course! It’s all very fast. We get a script or very detailed outline at the start of prep – a 7 day period chock full of meetings, with the entire crew as well as each individual department – art department, wardrobe, VFX, action/SFX etc. During this time, we also lock any locations that are outside the studio. And since we have alternating DPs, the director gets to prep with their DP, which is such an asset. Then, we have eight days plus one double up day to shoot. 

A regular day (no overtime) is 12 hours plus a half hour lunch. And then the editor gets 2-3 days to complete an editor’s cut, each director gets 4 days for the director’s cut, and then there are usually four days for the producers’ cut before it goes to studio and finally to the network. Once the cut is locked, VFX and sound go into full swing. Usually will air within 2-3 weeks.

Did you find the path to becoming a director is more challenging for women and, what’s the biggest challenge you've run into as a female director in the industry? And what does it mean to you to be one of the "Ten Female Directors Breaking Stereotypes"?

The biggest challenge has been getting hired for higher budget gigs in the system. I started out in the indie feature world – writing, directing, producing and starring in my own films. I never felt any discrimination. But as soon as I wanted to get into the system – where you can potentially make a lot of money, I felt a huge shift. Since then, it’s felt mostly like I’m pushing a boulder up a mountain.

Also, bringing my baby – and now my toddler (he’s almost three!) – with me on location, from the time he was three months old has been a challenge. Especially bringing him to set, where people aren’t used to seeing a woman directing, never mind a woman with a baby directing laughing. Almost everyone has loved it, but I’ve also been made aware of some complaints & concerns about our brave new world!

SheKnows is a powerhouse organisation working to get to 50% women [directors and writers] by 2020. I feel honoured by their recognition. I’m always inspired to continue to break stereotypes. In my current job, this means bringing more female and diverse directors to the table.

What is coming up next for you? 

I’m very grateful for my current job as Producing Director on Charmed -- I’m loving it.

But are you also excited for what the future brings? Hopes/ dreams?

Of course! I’m also excited for the future. Hoping to direct a television pilot with multifaceted, dynamic female characters. And an action film!

What advice do you have for up and coming directors, women or otherwise? 

If you’re a woman or POC, know that we are still far from parity. But change is really happening – right now. To everyone, I recommend the great studio and network Director Programs as a way to learn about and get into the system.

This business/career is filled with obstacles of all sorts. The hours are incredibly long. (Too long!) But the work is exciting and demanding in all the best ways. To do your best work, you must be in the moment and trust your instincts. All cylinders firing. And you get to work with wonderful, inspiring, like-minded people.

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