Green Screen Cinema Filmmaking for the 21st century

Never Take Their First Offer

Sunday, June 01 2008 @ 01:25 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 4,879
Free Film SchoolI just received a great "how I got into the business" story from Melinda Briana Epler, production designer. She turned down an offer to work for free on the Richard Linklater film "SubUrbia" but made such an impression on the production design team that they eventually offered to pay her, proving that you can break into the business and make a car payment at the same time.

Melinda writes:

I am a documentary filmmaker but originally started in the art department and worked as an art director and set decorator on 25 film and TV projects. My big break happened in 1995, when I briefly lived in Austin, Texas. I was good friends with the location managers on the Richard Linklater film "SubUrbia". They told me where the production designer's office was, and I hand-delivered my resume to her (Catherine Hardwicke, who has since gone on to become a Director herself). Unfortunately, Catherine was out, so I actually handed it to her assistant.

Now being an artsy person, I didn't have just any resume - I superimposed a painting over my resume. It stood out to them. The next day they called and asked if I could intern full-time with them. I told them I couldn't, as I had to make a living. Two weeks later they called me and asked if I could make paintings for them - this time they would pay me by the painting. I went into the office the next day to meet with Catherine Hardwicke herself and go over the colors and look of the film.

When Catherine first saw me she stopped what she was doing, looked me up and down and said, "Can we take a photo of you?" "Uh, sure..." I said. She ran out of the room and came back with the costume designer. "Look, she *is* Sooze!!!" (At the time I had pink dreadlocks with turquoise barrettes, and I was wearing a hip dress with Converse shoes.) The costume designer agreed I was indeed Sooze embodied. She took lots of photos of me, and then she asked me to help her shop for Sooze's wardrobe. So she, Amie Carey ("Sooze") and I spent an entire weekend shopping all over Austin. Later that week, the set decorator gave me some cash and asked me to go buy some stuff I thought would look good in Sooze's room. When it was time to dress that set and Giovanni Ribisi's tent, they asked me to help.

Meanwhile I was creating teen angst paintings in my garage, making drawings of Giovanni Ribisi in his boxers, and photographing each of the actors in various cool areas all over Austin. I had a friend that worked in the darkroom at the University of Texas, so I developed the photos myself. At the end of the shoot, Richard Linklater personally bought many of the paintings and photos from me so that I could earn a little more money from the work!

That was my big break. Once I got to LA, I was able to use my connections to get to an up and coming production designer (Patti Podesta). She saw "SubUrbia" on my resume, and subsequently took me under her wing. I worked on many projects with her over the years, until I began production designing myself.

Melinda Briana Epler
Documentary Filmmaker