"I think a part of storytelling is teaching" with director, producer and writer Amy DeLouise
Director, producer and author of 'The Producers Playbook; Real People on Camera' advisory board member and creator of #GalsNGear with Women in Film & Video, Amy DeLouise, talks to Mandy News about how she got involved in the film industry and what inspired her to set up the #GalsNGear popup event.
How did you get involved in the film industry?
Like a lot of people, my career wasn’t a direct line. Looking back, I can see some key parts, but at the time it wasn’t obvious. I was an English Major at college, where I took some film theory classes but they did not have film production courses there as they do now. I took one art history class and was immediately drawn to visual components, but didn’t know how it would pan out career-wise.
After college, I started working in PR, which was ok--I loved the writing component. Then I read an article about a production company opening in DC, so I called them up and said “do you need a Girl Friday or PA?” They said yes, so I got a job there for a couple of years, working on different projects and learning how to log footage, do a rough cut, do budgeting, plan a shoot, etc.
There was a classic situation when we had a big TV special we were producing for a network and the scriptwriter got pneumonia. We had a segment left to shoot to be hosted by Barbara Walters and the script wasn’t finished, so our producer said ‘You were an English Major at Yale, you write it!’ So that was my classic break-through moment, with the on-screen credit, and I got bitten by the bug of scriptwriting.
After that, I worked as a PA in feature films and commercials that shot in DC, in the location department, which I like to call “permits and porta-potties,” but it’s actually difficult work. I then ended up in the art department for Forrest Gump and that was an amazing learning experience. It used all my research skills to find materials that the art department could use to create props and sets, and also actual archival clips that appeared in the movie - and this was back in the days before the internet, so you had to make calls and dig in boxes at the National Archives and such.
I got to work with some amazing people. It was then that I started to be drawn to the real characters and stories I was finding in my research and so I gravitated towards nonfiction. That was the focus of our work in the production company that I launched and ran for 15 years.
I went back to the freelance world, now as a director-writer-producer, and that’s where I have stayed. I also do a lot speaking at national and international industry conferences, and also teach production courses online as a LinkedInLearning (formerly Lynda.com) author.
Tell us about your book ‘The Producer's Playbook: Real People on Camera’
Writing that book was interesting. I was speaking at a National Association of Broadcasters conference when I was approached by an editor from Focal Press. She said they would really like me to write a book, ‘you give a lot of producer workshops, several hundreds of people are interested in your topics.’ I said I didn’t have time, but she talked me into doing it.
We decided on a topic that was most relevant for different sectors. The Producer’s Playbook: Real People on Camera (Focal Press/Routledge) is being used now in more than 50 film programs around the world, especially for documentaries. There is a huge part of filmmaking that requires speaking to and working with non-actors.
I felt like I had some tools, strategies and ideas to help people tell stories with non-actors on camera in a really positive way. I’m now working on another title in the series The Producer’s Playbook: Sound & Story in Nonfiction Video, which will be out later this year. Both books come out of aspects of storytelling that I’m really passionate about.
What made you want to help people?
I think a part of storytelling is teaching. I found that a product of working with clients—and I work a lot in the nonprofit sector--is I’m often teaching them to be their best storyteller. It was kind of a natural extension of that to do the books, courses and workshops. Even when you are directing, you are guiding people in a way that hopefully is helping them get to the target.
What are your thoughts on the number of women involved in the industry and what can we do to change that?
I think we’re facing some real challenges in reaching gender parity in this industry. One of the reasons I created the popup event #GALSNGEAR with Women in Film & Video (DC, which we launched at NAB Show three years ago, is to make sure that women have access to the gear, networking and contacts with manufactures (for testing etc).
So far, #GALSNGEAR has brought more than 60 women in the technical fields of our industry (lighting, sound, DP’s, engineers, animators, graphics designers) as speakers into the limelight at industry events like NAB Show, and we’ve also partnered with manufacturers like Blackmagic and Adobe to bring hands-on workshops to women.
There are of course many issues at work, but we have a long way to go before we have gender and racial parity behind the camera.