Stacie Isabella Turk is an independent
filmmaker from Los Angeles, California. Her first short, Love,
Life, and Laundry, a well-made romantic comedy with a killer
soundtrack, recently premiered at the Nashville Independent Film
Festival. Understandably, Stacie was as anxious as an expectant
mother about to give birth as she waited for the lights to dim
on that first public screening. Afterward, though, she seemed more
like a festival veteran, both calmly pleased with the film’s positive
reception and eager to garner support for her next project. Stacie
shared her moviemaking adventure with us shortly after her return
to Los Angeles.
MovieMaker (MM): Is this your directorial
Stacie Isabella Turk (ST): This is the first
film, yes. I wrote, directed and produced a PSA on the topic of
domestic violence in 1997 (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not)
that MTV as well as a chain of movie theatres picked up.
MM: What is the length of the film? Also,
what was the format and film stock you used?
ST: The plight of the short filmmaker always
seems to be to make the short film shorter. My film runs 36 minutes-32
minutes of story and four minutes of opening and closing titles.
The opening titles are animated (a la The Pink Panther)
and are scored with The Pretenders’ song, "Watching The Clothes." Like
most filmmakers, I was fantasizing about titles over picture and
realizing the cost was prohibitive when I hit on the animation
idea. I thought I was so smart "to just make my own titles!" Little
did I suspect all the new challenges I was about to face: Digital
vs. cell animation, 30 fps converted to 24 fps and all sorts of
tricks that kept pushing my learning curve, which by now resembled
Mt. Rushmore. But I was convinced that the cartoon aspect would
set the tone for this romantic comedy, and thus began my fourmonth
search for an animator. Scott McCall (Nucleus Interactive) did
an awesome job of bringing the whole piece to life, and with the
help of Royal Garden Post and Pixel Harvest, we did a digital-to-film
output directly onto 16 mm and cut it into the rest of the negative.
We shot in 16mm and used beautiful KODAKVision stock.
|Top: Kristin Dattilo and Adam Lazarre-White; above: Stacie
Turk and Leslie Windram
MM: How did you fund a working laundromat
location for six whole days?
"As Jerry Lewis
says, ‘The loudest voice known to man is on thousand-foot
reels.’ Or, in my case, lots and lots of short ends…"
ST: Well, I needed a laundromat exclusively
and certainly didn’t have the money to pay for a location, so I
decided to find one that could benefit from our presence. I thought
I was so smart to choose a script with only one location and a
cast of three, but I didn’t realize I chose one of the most difficult
locations to secure for no money. Laundromats are all cash businesses
with very little overhead and are open 18 hours a day. There is
no shooting after business hours because, basically, they never
close! After a five-month search (both on foot and on telephone)
and searching out remodels and foreclosures, I finally spoke to
a man who owned a laundromat in Inglewood. It wasn’t too big, so
it could be lit for less than the national debt, and not too small,
so it could accommodate all the equipment. It was an ugly, dirty
beige color, though, and I would also have to negotiate with Crackerjack,
a man who had become accustomed to using the front sink as his
own private shower, but this I could handle. Fourteen of us from
Filmmaker’s Alliance (the non-profit independent filmmaking collective
of which I am a member and which provides production support services)
went on a Saturday night, armed with paint rollers, to this Inglewood
laundromat to give it its long awaited facelift. We finished at
2:00 am and it was beautiful! I had my movie location and the laundromat
owner had a remodeled business.
MM: How did you get your very cool "money
shot" shot at the end, with Maggie and Chris spinning inside
the washing machine?
ST: You like that? Good. I wanted to leave
the audience with that "spinning" theme that we used
throughout the story. Clairmont Camera has a roundy-round remote
camera head that revolves 360 degrees at all different speeds.
We mounted it vertically above the action and composited it on
top of another static shot we had of the washing machine. We shot
the washer at three different distances and blacked out the window
so there was a clean canvas on which to composite.
MM: The Love, Life, and Laundry story
is told very visually. Was that a priority for you?
|Windram, Turk, Lazarre-White, Dattilo and Damon White|
ST: Yes, very much so. Having shot behind
a still camera for 14 years, that was important. After nine drafts,
staged readings, four writers and many story notes, I had a script
I really loved. But I didn’t want the audience to learn everything
narratively, I wanted to paint a vivid picture, too. Plus, I wanted
the production design to reflect a "magical " laundromat.
We were trying to create an unusual environment to echo the relationship
that develops between Maggie and Chris and the dance they do.
MM: Tell us about the soundtrack.
ST: Yeah! My music supervisor (Rynda Laurel)
and I fought hard for the songs we wanted even though songs like
this are normally too expensive for a short film’s budget. Suffice
it to say that the hard work paid off and we’re blessed with great
songs from Aerosmith, The Pretenders, and even Peggy Lee, Gene
Autry and The Partridge Family We have festival licenses for all
of them. We started working on the rights a year ago. For one of
the songs, I traded a photo shoot (I photographed one of the record
label’s recording artists) in exchange for the license. I think
our original music, by Truman Fairlane, gives the film its own
MM: What advice would you give a young
moviemaker who wants to shoot her first short?
ST: As Jerry Lewis says, "The loudest
voice known to man is on thousand foot reels." Or, in my case,
lots and lots of short ends. I would advise them to make films,
shoot films, run films. Do something. Be involved in the business
somehow. Shoot anything. It doesn’t have to have sound. It doesn’t
have to be titled. It doesn’t have to be color. There is no "have
to." Just shoot and show. If it is an audience of one, that’s
okay. You’ve learned something. Now do it again. That’s how it’s
done. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It’s not. Then again, it is." MM