The dream team was born on a summer day in 2007 when Daniel and I met at a vegetarian café on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. We instantly connected as fellow filmmakers. I was working on my feature documentary, “Me, My Father, and the Hurricane,” which was a personal story of the devastation and rebirth of my family’s homeland, Louisiana, during Hurricane Katrina. He was shooting a documentary on children escaping a life of drug addiction and prostitution in Tijuana, Mexico. We had a lot in common and much to talk about in our first meeting. Whoever thought we would someday get married and write and direct award-winning films together? Well, this is our story.
The next day after our first meeting, I flew to the Middle East to teach filmmaking in Amman, Jordan for three months. Once in a while I would get a funny email from Daniel as we stayed in touch while I was in a very interesting and foreign world.
Having to pass through heavy security daily in Jordon and being in a dangerous environment, I realized I wanted to create a film that bridged the gap between the cultures of the Middle East and the United States. The College Students of Amman were just like the college students I taught in New York City. Besides the fact that they dressed differently and spoke different languages, they had the SAME needs and wants. Why was there so much conflict, war, and misunderstanding if we are so alike?
Back in the United States, Daniel had been writing on a feature script called “Skate Boarding with Saddam.” Following an American skater kid who visits Tel Aviv, Israel, the film talks about teenagers just trying to be teenagers: dating, skateboarding, going to clubs and movies. Enjoying the wild energy of being young and finding their place in the world. The teens become threatened by the falling scud missiles of the first Gulf War of 1991 and are forced to grow up and become brave pretty quickly.
As our relationship developed, we decided to continue on this script and do some rewrites as a team. Collaborating together is always where the magic occurred. After a year of rewriting, we finished a PERFECT draft we were proud of. Our Executive Producer, Doug Claybourne (“War of the Roses,” “Rumblefish,” “The Fast and the Furious,” “Hearts of Darkness”) and Producers Manuel Freedman and Sandy Hockenberry, were especially helpful in developing the story. The script is exactly the type of movie we want to share with our audiences. It is dramatic, funny, meaningful, and real: Something we can all relate to and learn from.
Next week, we leave for Israel for ten days to meet with Israeli producers, sponsors, and our amazing actress, Gila Almagor (“Munich,” “The Debt,” HaKayitz Shel Aviya”) who is beyond legend status in Israel.
Check out more information and updates here.
Daniel and I often realize we have something special together. How many married couples have friendship, love, common purpose but can also spend 17 hours at a time writing, directing and producing together and then grow further from the experience.
We BOTH have the same goal which is to make a better world through our art. There is no doubt the entertainment industry and the world is a challenging place. But because we have each other and support each other, we have become successful.
•Having our own film company is a 24/7 job. You HAVE to love what you do! Being your own boss has some challenges. You need to make sure that you really do effective time management. We write a battle plan every day. The battle plan functions to divide up the hours of the day with a time limit on each task. We give ourselves target dates to finish projects.
A battle plan might look like this:
1. Two hours in the morning to promote our project or business, (Sometimes artists forget to promote. Get people excited about your project as you are creating it.)
2. Five hours in the afternoon for editing.
3. Three hours in the evening for writing.
4. One hour for a break.
I think the hardest part is to know when it’s time to take a break, for example, exercise is important. Also, we made a rule that on the weekend we don’t talk about anything that has to do with work. We have broken that rule a few times.
I highly recommend putting your film in Film Festivals. It is worth it when audiences continue to contact you about your work and are looking forward to the next film. Our first project together, “Text Me” has our trademark storytelling style and continues to affect audiences in this way. “Text Me” is a hilarious hit short film which was the first movie to really capture the “texting generation.” Our purpose was to use humor and great characters to make a comment on the decline of real “human communication” amongst teens in our modern age.
We came up with the idea at an airport on one of our travels, which is pretty typical for us. (Like I said we are still working when we are supposed to be taking a break). “Text Me” earned two Best Comedy Awards and an Audience Award after it screened to the public for four days on a giant screen in Times Square, New York City. It felt amazing to have success as a husband and wife team on our first real project together. Our actor, Matt Bennett, became famous and we received honors from top industry players such as Senior Vice President of Acquisitions, Ray Strache (20th Century Fox & Fox Searchlight), Oscar nominee & screenwriter Stephen J. Rivele (“Ali,” “Nixon”) & Producer Martin Brown (“Moulin Rouge,” “Romeo & Juliet”) to name a few.
“Text Me” Award-Winning Short Film (Click to play Trailer)
Starring Matt Bennett of Nickelodeon’s hit series “Victorious.” Awarded BEST COMEDY at the Indie Short Film Competition & Third Screen Film Festival.
I think one of our successes was that Daniel brought the male aspect to the characters and I brought the female side. The film was therefore very authentic and true to life.
Check out more information about “Text Me” here.
•Another tip I have for you on doing the film festival circuit with your project is:
1. Use Withoutabox.com wisely. You must read what kind of films that festivals are looking for. If they are looking for a comedy and you have a horror, DON’T SUBMIT IT. You will waste your money.
2. Look and see who will be judging the festival. What kind of industry will be there? Will there be press? We learned the hard way when we spent money on a trip to a supposedly prestigious film festival. Let’s just call it the “No Name” film festival. We flew there, rented a car, a hotel…and I have to say, that it was one of the worst trips because there was no one at the screening or the industry party. I think there were a few locals. Be careful which film festivals you choose to attend. Check out Movie Makers, “25 film festivals worth the entry fee.”
3. Write to newspapers when you are screening your film. You need to create press. Find or create an angle that will excite journalists. We got a TON of newspapers and magazines to write articles about our short film “Text Me”. We used the fact that our film was shot by a co-directing husband/wife team made in Queens, and had a star in our film. The Queen’s newspapers were so excited to promote an article about two local filmmakers from Queens making a hit that they shot in their neighborhood. We even got in the online “Seventeen” magazine.
To make a long story short, research, research, research film festivals before you go. Holly Shorts gives you the opportunity to show in the TOP theaters in L.A. There is a ton of press at the red carpet and great opportunities to make contacts at their mixers and Industry Panels. Theo Dumont and Daniel Sol who run the festival really care about filmmakers and want them to succeed.
Some film festivals are great because there are top industry execs voting for your film, so you can contact them, especially if your film wins the film festival like ours did. Okay, back to our love story: It is so interesting how life works. The first time Daniel asked me out, I was on my way to see “The Simpsons” on the big screen. Several years later, we were introduced to Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson and she came to the screening of “Text Me” at the Holly Shorts Film Festival. Nancy noticed that our film was the most positive film at the screening. She said, “Wow, I loved the film. But you have a lot of work to do and a big responsibility.” She encouraged us to continue creating films that use humor and beauty to inspire and create a better world. Everyday, we definitely realize that this is indeed a big challenge.
Too often Contemporary film leaves a bitter taste in our mouths, that’s why we, Dolce Films, make sweet movies. As filmmakers we strive to create projects that audiences leave feeling good; films they will always remember, identify with and want to watch again and again. Just like the films of our icons that range from Tim Burton to Federico Fellini to John Hughes.
Needless sex and violence is a problem today in film, TV, and video games. We will not give in to the negative trend and do the same. The way the world is headed, we just can’t create movies that glorify shooting, cheating on your boyfriend/girlfriend, and doing drugs. We feel that, yes, as an audience member you should be able to go through different emotions when watching a film; sadness, anger, fear, grief, joy but you should leave uplifted and with a sense of hope that things can be better. This is important as people look at movies and entertainment for a model of behavior and solutions to their problems.
In the past year, Nancy Cartwright called us in to a pitch meeting and hired us to co-write her feature film, “In Search of Fellini.” It is exactly the type of project we are passionate about. It is really a thrill to work with such a creative and powerful woman with the goal of making movies that change the world with humor, beauty, compelling stories, and great characters.
•My final and probably the most important words of advice I have for you as a filmmaker: make sure to surround yourself with a supportive positive team. This is important for men and women. I have had a few ups and downs as a female director. There have been times when I have worked with sexist cinematographers, who think they know better than me just because I am a woman.
•ALL WOMEN FILMMAKERS OUT THERE, DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT, let this happen to you. All women should speak up. There are only about 3% women filmmakers in the film festival circuit. Let your talents shine. Don’t let yourself be pushed around. And if it happens, speak up and make sure to find a team that believes in your abilities because when they do, you will shine and show how powerful you are!
Every day, Daniel and I do what we love and we are so thankful. We continue to create our writing/directing partnership – giving birth to innovative films, web series, music videos and commercials through our L.A. based company, Dolce Films. Like the stories/movies we want to make and express. Our story as a husband and wife filmmaking couple is on the up and up. Check out their work here.
Check out our interview with Film Courage on the red carpet in 2012:
About Bayou Bennett:
“Text Me,” The award-winning short got them the attention of ad agencies and deals from the Hollywood Film Industry alike. The couple now continues to passionately create on their writing/directing partnership giving birth to innovative films; music videos and commercials through their L.A. based company, Dolce Films (find out more and watch their reel here).
Their motto “Let our dream team manifest your dream” has allowed them to work with some of the highest profile and most influential companies in the industry. Their clients include : Adidas, MTV, Nickelodeon, P. Diddy, Smashbox Cosmetics, Chase Bank, Island Def Jam, Atlantic Records and many more. They have also discovered talents such as Lea Michelle (”Glee”, “New Years Eve”) and Matt Bennett (”Victorious”, “Bridesmaids”) and worked alongside celebrities such as Paris Hilton; Tennis Champion, Andy Roddick; Olympic Gold Medalist, Nastia Liukin; Oscar De La Renta; Carolina Herrera and more.
Lending themselves to smart, hip, imaginative and culturally significant work, their commercials, music videos and films have garnered prestigious awards. As filmmakers they strive to create projects that audiences will always remember, identify with and want to watch again and again, just like the films of their icons that range from Tim Burton to Federico Fellini to John Hughes.
Currently, Bayou and Daniel are writing and directing a new film called “Skateboarding with Saddam”, which is being Executive Produced by Doug Claybourne (“War of the Roses,” “Rumblefish,” “The Fast and the Furious”), as well as co-writing another feature project titled “In Search of Fellini” with Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson.