A Filmmaker’s Journey From Shirley Temple To Politics

LAUREN ELAINE – ACTRESS/FILMMAKER

 

When I was a kid my absolute favorite thing to do in the whole world was to make movies. And by make movies, I mean steal my dad’s video camera and accidentally tape over important family events such as a sibling’s First Communion.

Most of the stories I came up with were then filmed that same day using my friends as co-stars. I would also use both of my little brothers as either extras in the film or as the cameramen, and then yell at them if it wasn’t up to my standard. On one such occasion, instead of pressing “stop record” my brother left the camera rolling accidentally and placed it on the bed as I ranted about issues in that take that were ruining the film. I scolded my best friend for hitting me too hard in the head with a shoe (part of the storyline) and then yelled at my brother for failing to record a previous take on accident. (He clearly had issues with that big red record button.) It was not one of my finest moments. However, the evidence being caught on tape of my 12-year-old self passionately trying to make a quality film is quite endearing and absolutely hilarious.

I was inspired very much by Shirley Temple and all things having to do with the 1920’s, as my grandfather always sent me home from South Bend after visits with VHS tapes full of those kinds of movies. I made two films set in that time period which were quite good for a pre-teen, minus the horrible New York accent I constantly tried to master.

I also made several parody films of things that were all the rage in pop culture at the time such as Barney, The Spice Girls, Hanson, soap operas, and The Real World…SO 90s cool.

But my favorite two films were recorded when I was halfway through high school and I had learned how to be more creative with my stories and more artsy with my camera shots. The first was a comedy short about a group of 4 superheroes whom were fighting a mysterious enemy called “The Enemy Cult” (which was also the title of the film). This one was so great because we did everything on the fly and used neighborhood settings and random people and events to build the storyline as we went.

The second one I love is when my friend and I played a gay couple who were making a car wash how-to video. A film within a film. We wore the same matching t-shirt from Old Navy and shower caps on our heads and we played Air Supply as background music the entire time. Twice during the film there is a sudsy water fight that wasn’t scripted, which turned rather serious and angry. If that’s not funny I don’t know what is.

Making movies back then was so much fun because it didn’t require permits, insurance, a huge crew, and, most importantly, money. But if you want to do it right and be taken seriously as a filmmaker in Hollywood, you have to follow the rules and get it financed some how, some way. Crowd-funding had not yet been introduced to the mainstream and the money aspect seemed too daunting to me at first, so I abandoned that part of the process for a while and focused solely on my acting career.

But last year I started to get the itch again and began making short, comedic videos to post onto YouTube. With no money still I couldn’t make anything of superior quality, however, the nice thing about living in LA is that you can throw a rock and hit 3 people who are willing to work for free in exchange for experience. So I did that for a while and was having a great time.

Then Newtown happened…

I had never gotten involved in politics before December 14th, 2012. But something happened to me that day that changed me, and much of this country, forever. I had a new mission to my love of filmmaking, and that was to inspire people to make a change. To think about things differently. To create catharsis. To think about how their resistance to changing the way we are able to purchase and register guns in this country is creating destruction on a massive level and that it will only continue to get worse if we refuse to do anything.

I started by creating a stylistic PSA about gun violence which featured facts and ideas for solutions. That did not go over so well as the other side felt attacked and simply worked to refute every one of my points. And at times I would sit and think, “who do you think you are? Trying to fight this battle which you aren’t going to win?” And I still feel that way now. But artists are so important in this world because they tell stories that allow others to empathize with things they may never experience firsthand, which is so important in trying to ignite change.

Which is why I am where I am now. Trying to get my story about the harmful effects guns have in this country out to everyone. Not by saying guns are bad, but by allowing an audience to experience what it would be like to lose a loved one to a careless mistake because of fear and availability. Which is what Freedom Lovers is all about.

My biggest anxiety in trying to get funding for this particular film was that talking about guns would automatically turn off half of the people who might donate. From a producer standpoint that is suicide. But I was, and currently am, trying to encourage people to support me as a filmmaker who is so passionate and not just what I am passionate about.

After all, the story isn’t just about guns. It’s also a character driven film with a juicy love triangle that everyone can enjoy. The characters are very complex and flawed and I think many people can identify with at least one of them in some way.

Which brings me to my desire to really make a really great, high quality film. Crowd-funding seems like the most viable way for me to finance it at this point in my career. I don’t have a lot of work to show investors yet and doing this short film could work as a calling card for future projects.

I am currently 4 days into my Indie Gogo campaign for Freedom Lovers and it is trudging along like a truck in mud. But I have no doubt that it will gain momentum and that there is the possibility for us to really garner interest in the project. It’s scary and it’s humbling, but it’s also exhilarating and rewarding to see all of your hard work getting even the smallest amount of support.

I am still that 12 year-old girl trying to emulate Shirley Temple at heart, except now I am a professional and doing more serious subject matter for the time being. And if Freedom Lovers gets fully funded and does well for me, who knows, I may just recreate The Enemy Cult.

 

BIO:

Lauren is an actress and filmmaker from Indianapolis, Indiana. She started off in the theatre at Indiana University and continued on in Chicago where she was a part of her own theatre company called Purple Bench Productions. She moved to LA shortly after, and has been doing various web, film, and TV projects since. She also has produced many of her own small projects, but Freedom Lovers is by far her biggest undertaking to date.

Check out Facebook.com/FreedomLovers1

You can contact Lauren Elaine at leskirvi (at) gmail.com
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