Having spent seven years in Los Angeles after moving from her native New York in 2004, Elle Schneider was inspired to write a darkly comic script about an aspiring actor who becomes subject to the whims of two hitmen who pick him up as collateral for his father’s gambling debts. A satire of an industry she struggled to break into, “Headshots” was born out of her pet peeves about the city and its signature business with her love of the action genre. Yet Schneider’s plan to roll cameras in the fall of 2011 didn’t come to pass when she was compelled to engage in a different kind of action. Not only did Schneider become in demand as a cinematographer on such documentaries as “I Am Divine” and “That Guy Dick Miller,” but she spearheaded campaigns to change the way movies are made – one behind the camera to create more opportunities for female cinematographers and another to change the camera itself, helping to crowdsource and create the Digital Bolex, a digital camera that gives filmmakers the ability to capture images akin to 16mm film without either the hassle or cost associated with it.
“The fastest way to give an underrepresented filmmaker a leg up in the industry is to give them access to the equipment that will make them competitive on set,” Schneider says. “I’m a huge proponent of resource-sharing, and with Bolex I wanted to use what authority I have to give access to one of the least-represented groups working in the film industry, women cinematographers. I think sharing and giving support to those who help you is the backbone of a sustainable independent film industry.”
Schneider has been working hard towards that goal, recently opening up the application process for a $10,000 grant through Digital Bolex for productions that employ women in their camera crews. However, she also plans to lead by example, finally preparing to shoot “Headshots” this winter on a Digital Bolex and with a female director of photography, though to do so, she is currently raising funds on Seed &Spark before a November 11th deadline to make sure the stunts are as kickass as the crew she’s assembled.
“There’s a strange water cooler myth in Hollywood that women aren’t interested in high-octane or genre material, and I don’t think that’s true,” says Schneider, who chose Seed&Spark over other crowdsourcing platforms because it’s prioritizing of community that allows fellow filmmakers to contribute equipment and services in addition to money. “Many of my fellow women in film have expressed a desire to work within genre material, but feel unable to find funding for that kind of project through the fellowships and grants that have become gatekeepers of sorts for women breaking into the industry.”
While Schneider’s use of the Digital Bolex will allow her to get right up close to the action without having to worry about a rolling shutter, she’s bringing along a talented set of collaborators for “The Raid”-style thriller, including producers Ryan Patrick McGuffey (“Showrunners”), Jack Bennett (Nerdist’s “Blood and Guts”) and Adam Miller (Geek & Sundry’s “Caper”), costume designer Leetal Platt, and cinematographer Lauren Haroutunian (“Flower Warfare”). Still, it might just be the collaborators who Schneider hasn’t met yet, but will through the Seed&Spark campaign that she’s most excited about.
“With crowdfunding, the ‘crowd,’ or audience you’re building for the film as you fundraise, can vote with their dollars to support any project they want, for whatever reason, even if the film is simply entertaining or looks cool, giving filmmakers who aren’t working on issue driven material an equal chance to get their work financed and seen,” says Schneider.
With a little help from the crowd, Schneider will be kicking down doors with “Headshots” once it’s ready for the festival circuit in early 2016, and it will be in more ways than one.
To back this project and watch the filmmaker’s personal pitch video, click here. To learn more about the Digital Bolex, Schneider will be holding a hands-on demonstration at the No Budget Film Festival on November 22nd in Los Angeles. And follow the film’s progress on Facebook and Twitter.