Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Filmmaker Amanda Pennington

Originally from Texas, Amanda Pennington has lived in New York City for the last 14 years. First trained, as a dancer with Patsy Swayze (Patrick Swayze's mother) at their small studio in Texas, she discovered her love of performance. She was later trained in Opera, studying with the legendary Elena Nikolaidi performing at such venues as The Miller Outdoor Theatre (Houston), the Wortham, (Houston) and at Westminster Abby (London) as an artist in residence.

In 2003, Amanda entered The William Esper Studios and worked on scholarship. It was at this point that she began working in film and theatre. She has both the talent and the artistic flexibility, to have the gift of artistic movement, between acting in both theatre and film. Her credits include; Everything Is Ordinary, the official selection at The Hamptons International Film Festival in 2009. All My Children 2008-10. She has been nominated for NY Innovative Awards, for her work in Theatre in New York City, and has worked closely with The Epic Theatre Ensemble, bringing Shakespeare into at risk schools. Being of service to the kids, is one of her great loves.

During the last year, Amanda has added producing to her repertoire, which includes her first project, where she was an Associate Producer on the award-winning film, The Sea Is All I Know by Jordan Bayne, starring Academy Award winner Melissa Leo. She also produced and acted in The L Train, a short with filmmaker Laura Terruso (Co-Dependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same). Most recently she was involved in Saving Grace, a play by Vern Theissen starring Kathleen Chalfant and Daphne Rubin Vega. Amanda will be also making a very brief and funny appearance in Ira Sachs new film Keep the Lights On that shoots this month.

She is currently working on her first short, starring Tony Nominee, Kathleen Chalfant, Lillian that she has written and will co-direct. Lillian started shooting in late August.

What is the current project(s) you are working on?

Currently I am directing/producing and acting in Lillian, a film that I wrote inspired by Edna St Vincent Millay's poem What Lips My Lips Have Kissed. I also just worked on Face2Face a documentary by Katherine Brooks they just wrapped and are starting the editing process.

What does success mean to you?

To me, success is not measured by you in relation to others and their accomplishments. I measure my success based on my own level of happiness. If someone is able to do what they love, they are happy and they are able to have an hour or so a day to smell the flowers, I'd say that's a success.

How do you handle rejection?

My friend Judy Collins always says, "It's this or better". So I go with that, and it’s the truth! So many times I have wanted something that didn't work out, and something even more amazing than I could imagine can down the path. I always just try and stay in the moment with everything.

Did you always want to be a filmmaker?

I actually wanted to always be a scientist but when that didn't work out, I decided on the entertainment industry. I am serious; when I was in fourth grade I was so into science that my mom bought me a microscope for my birthday. I do know though that I was always fascinated with films and stories and when I was a kid. I would sit and try and figure out how they filmed it or got the shot. I was always really intimated by actors, I was a dancer and trained in opera before I went to acting school. I have always loved design and creating the world to play in. So now, I have written this film, and am creating it with a team of people...and I am always thinking to myself, "I guess I am a filmmaker".... and I like that. It is fun, I'm having a blast...and I suppose filmmaking found me.

 What inspired you to become filmmaker?

I had a vision of this story and wrote it. Someone nudged me to direct this because I had a very clear vision of what I wanted. I love telling stories and I am a big kid, I still love to play make-believe so it fits.

 What is the best thing about being one?

The best thing about being a filmmaker so far is seeing how this project has helped inspire people. I love giving gifts and I feel like making this film is a gift I can give to everyone.

 What is the worst thing about being one?

I am not sure there is a bad thing. Fundraising is a challenge, but I really like a good challenge makes the reward better in the end!

What is the estimated number of projects you have worked on?

I have been working since I was in acting school...and before that I worked in Texas in operas as well as a ton of shows when I was a kid. In the last two years I have worked on about 10 projects.

 Who is your favorite filmmaker?

Jane Campion, Sydney Pollack

How has your life changed since you became a filmmaker?

My room is a mess and I don't sleep that much. But I am really happy, really really happy.

 What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to make it in the movie business?

Just get out there and do it. That is the best thing, follow your instincts, take risks. Try not to have the "them and me" mentality...if you want to act, go to school and study for a few years and have solid training. You fall back on your training because in the business there are long hours and long periods away from home and if you have solid training when you step in front of the camera, or get behind it, it is your best friend. If you want to make movies...just go for it! Don't wait for anyone to tell you to do it. Tell your stories, if you are passionate about it, and really want to do it more than anything, it will happen.

What do you like to do besides filmmaking?

I love to bake. I am a really good baker. Sometimes I bake at 2am to blow off steam. I am allergic to sugar and flour so I cannot eat anything I bake but people love my baking. Kathleen Chalfant says my rhubarb pie is "evil"!

Have you had any other jobs before you decided to become a filmmaker?

Oh lord yes. I ran a bed and breakfast. I taught yoga. I have had many lives.

 What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?

I love The Piano, Out of Africa, Notorious, Grease, Silence of the Lambs and Another Earth oh...also Nell. Nell was amazing!

 How would you describe your film education?

My film education has been really done on set, talking to filmmakers, watching what they do.... and watching a lot of films. To see how people capture certain things, and how they choose to do it.

 How would you describe the film "scene" where you live?

The film scene in NYC is amazing and thriving and really supportive. I love it here.

 How has social media changed the independent film industry?

Social media is amazing; it is such a great tool for filmmakers to get the word out about their films.

 You could go back in time and see any film being made. Which film would it be and why?

Notorious. I would go back just to see the crane shot and the crane they had to use to get the close-up of the key in her hand.

 What's your favorite movie quote and why?

"A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous." --Ingrid Bergman

I totally agree!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you so much for having me...I also wanted to give a little plug for SARA Sanctuary, a no kill animal rescue in Texas near Austin where I am from the website is www.sarasanctuary.org. They are in need of food; they have about 850 animals that they are taking care of. My friend, filmmaker Katherine Brooks is championing them and has created a chippin for them. Here is the link: http://sarasanctuary.chipin.com/sara-sanctuary

Also if you want to know more about the film here is the link to the page and if you would like to make a tax deductible donation click on the image and that will take you to the NYWIFT page.


Also we are having a fundraiser at The Bowery Poetry Club on September 29th at 8pm. We will be reading Edna St. Vincent Millay's Poetry. Kathleen Chalfant, Fiona McBain of Ollabelle, Richard Vetere and others! The link below will take you to the page where you can purchase tickets. There will be a limited amount of student tickets at the door.


Thank you so much John for having me!