FILMMAKER RELEASING FEATURE FILM
POWERHOUSE FILMMAKER IN POST PRODUCTION FOR NEXT FEATURE FILM
Female filmmakers are making themselves known, as they should, for their excellence and preternatural determination in the fight of equality and inclusion. This particular woman has honed her abilties and left an impact for many individuals in the film industry with not only founding and running her established businesses, her influential persona has paved its way to opening doors of opportunities for striving fellow dreamers (aka filmmakers) and their beautiful stories — including herself. We can not thank her enough for her substantial contributions and taking the time to have an interview with us.
- Amy Frankin
Congratulations on your upcoming feature film The Only Woman in The World. What can you tell us about the project?
The Only Woman in the World started as a short film called Date with a Narcissist. While D.W.A.N. was a practice project, I realized there was a lot of great material there. As I promoted the project on social media, people started telling me about their experiences with narcissistic personalities. I decided to refine and re-write the project, and while still retaining the narcissistic character of Jay Spencer (former Broadway Phantom of the Opera, Ciarán Sheehan), make it more about love and forgiveness with regards to the lead, Sandy Petroud (Bianca J. LeRoux) and her lover, Bill Bianco (Chris Cardona). I recast the movie with seasoned actors and added some name actors as well (Abigail Hawk, Brian O’Halloran, Kevin Brown, Artie Pasquale).
“Make a reputation built on hard work, integrity and honesty.”
- Debra Markowitz
It was less than a year from the time I completed my first draft of the feature and got the film in the can. That doesn’t seem to happen in the real world and yet we did it, and with hardly any budget. Because we had no money, we also worked with a crew, that except for a couple of positions, we were training. That meant that me, and my DP [Director Of Photography] husband, John Marean, had to do all of the preproduction ourselves, which was exhausting. Because we were not paying most of the cast and crew, we had to accommodate our actors’ schedules. What that mean was shooting 20 days took us six and a half months, which ran right into our next project, pilot Couple of Guys. The stretched-out schedule also meant working with revolving crews. We had seven grips, four make-up people, three ADs [Assistant Director], rotating sound people, etc. Doing one film on no budget was extremely difficult, filming two low-budget projects was pretty much insanity, But we did it! Both projects are in editing now.
Where did the desire to work in the entertainment industry stem from?
When I was about seven years old, I would write little scenarios in my mind and tell my friends what to act out. I didn’t know what to call what I was doing, or that it was a thing that I actually could do for a living.
Fast forward to where I was a theater major in college, but I switched majors so that I could make a living. Go another 20 years, and I created the Nassau County Film Office. I still retain the position of Film Commissioner helping film, television and commercial crews find locations and navigate filming in Nassau County. Ten years later, I co-founded LIIFE, the Long Island International Film Expo (heading towards its 22nd year in July). Somewhere in between the film office and the film festival, people started asking me to act. Though I hadn’t done it in years, it was fun to explore that side again. Then about seven years ago, a director asked me to be the CD [Casting Director] for his movie. I had never done it before, but I love learning, and so I did. Though I didn’t think I’d cast again after that, three weeks later, another director contacted me to cast and produce her feature.
“I really love everything about the creative process. I love finding talent, directing, creating worlds with my writing.”
- Debra Markowitz
After those two experience, I decided to write and direct a short, just for the experience of it. My directorial debut, The Last Taxi Driver, starring Robert Clohessy of Blue Bloods, ended up getting into some larger film festivals and even won some awards. I’ve never looked back. I’ve written several features, many shorts and directed nine movies for myself and others. My plate is pretty full with future projects, and I’m deciding what my next move is. I really love everything about the creative process. I love finding talent, directing, creating worlds with my writing, and watching and assisting others in creating their own works of art.
What monumental achievements have you accomplished in your career?
Creating the Nassau County Film Office/Commission which is now the busiest film commission next to NYC itself in New York. Co-creating the LIIIFE, the Long Island International Film Expo. Winning the Alice Guy Blache Director Award at the Golden Door International Film Festival of New Jersey for my short film Chosen. Just being able to do what I love is an achievement in itself.
Twice being named to the Long Island Power List (50 Long Islanders Who Control Our Lives) in the Long Island Press.
Who inspires you?
Almost every artist inspires me. I love movies, though I never seem to go enough. There’s so much great TV right now, and I’m in love with the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, anything Aaron Sorkin, Limitless, and the list could go on forever.
What is your process and techniques do you use juggle all your tasks and responsibilities?
I’m driven. I still work full-time to afford my film habit, so I work all day, and pretty much write and work all night on my film and writing career. It’s what I’m here to do, so it’s never a chore. It’s very difficult keeping the balance. I’m always working on that. I’m a little clearer on when I need to step back, though. There was a year where I was on a different film project every three weeks, and I crashed for a few days. I know I need more time for nature, my relationship and myself. And my dog is always a great source of comfort when I need to ground myself.
What obstacles do you face as a filmmaker, businesswoman and executive? And what do you do to overcome and achieve your goals?
The only obstacles I face as a filmmaker is money to make all the projects I would love to make. I pretty much work two full-time jobs, but I’m lucky to have a job where I have a nice amount of time off. Instead of taking vacations etc, I make movies. So money, time, and the right connections. I’m still working on my craft, which I assume I always will be, but I know some of my work is getting too big for the indie circuit.
Any secret tips you could give to us that we all can benefit from?
There’s really no secret. It’s hard work. Keep working, keep learning. Read, listen, watch, and ask for feedback. Not from friends or family, but from filmmakers whose work you admire who know how to give feedback. It shouldn’t be personal. If you want to grow, take your ego out of it.
What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers about the entertainment industry and achieving their dreams?
Most importantly, keep your integrity about you. Be honest, be fair, be kind. Don’t be a jerk. I keep my word to a fault almost, but people know they can trust me. I want to work with people whom I trust. Don’t suck up to me, don’t suck up to anyone. Be polite of course, but make a reputation built on hard work, integrity and honesty. No one owes you anything.
Besides your film career, what interesting facts, hobbies, and desires should we know about?
Besides being a writer and director, I’m a Reiki healer. I play the handpan and djembe, I’m a yogi and I’m very much into exploring my spiritual nature and metaphysics in general. I can’t get enough of nature; trees, the planets and stars, rocks, and animals.
Anyone you would like to thank?
I am tremendously thankful to all the great actors who have given their all to create the worlds I’ve given to them. When they bring their magic, my work shines. Of course to all my crews, because I can’t do this without them. A special thanks to the brilliant actor and writer, Lukas Hassel who gives the best feedback ever. He told me “to not downplay my talent.” Because of him, I sent out my feature screenplay for The Only Woman in the World, and it has won awards all over the world. He also gives great advice on my movies. Elias Plagianos is another one of my “go to” filmmakers when it comes to feedback. My husband and partner, John Marean, whose answer to everything I want to do is, “okay, how can we get it done?” There really are so many, it’s difficult to name.