Every great film begins with a blank slate.
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Cameo Wood
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I've always been fascinated by film, ever since I did camera and editing for my high school's TV show. My life path ended up winding through a range of careers, from telecom to beekeeping, and I wanted to try my hand at film next. I was on the lookout for inspiration when I read a short story by Ken Liu called "Real Artists". A lot of elements in this story really spoke to me: neuroscience, AI, and the lead character being a female aspiring filmmaker. But even more than that, I immediately had a vision of how this story could be brought to life on film. So I got in touch with Ken, and the rest is history.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
There's a lot of science fiction movies out there these days, so what makes mine special? My film is definitely entertaining, with suspense, strong visual effects, nuanced performances, and a twist you won't see coming. But science fiction at its best doesn't just entertain. It makes the audience reflect on how technology affects people and society. And my film does that as well. It seems like every day there's a story about AI doing something that only humans could do before. How could that change our world? I promise my film will leave you thinking about these questions.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
As a woman in film, and previously a woman in tech, film portrayal of women in these roles is important to me. The strongest personal theme in Real Artists is creating the representation that I wanted to see. The most universal theme in the film is the idea of aspiring to achieve your dreams, in this case, a dream job. But often in life, and sometimes in film, you find that what you always dreamed of isn't what you expected, or what you wanted. I explore that as well. Finally, between these, there's a theme that is not exactly universal, but which is resonant in the present moment. There's a lot of mixed curiosity and anxiety about machines doing things that we thought only humans could do. Not just physical labor but creative and intellectual endeavors. I found this tension to be a rich vein to explore in my film.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
I wrote the first draft of the screenplay in 2012, working from the original short story, but with many changes. I read and revised the script a few times. Then I shared the script with some test readers, including a few with experience in writing or film. A lot of them had helpful feedback, especially Alexa Fraser-Herron who went on to be my producer.
As we entered pre-production, we realized that we needed a strong sense of the shots, pacing, VFX needs, and location setup. So we made storyboards. Then, we hired voice actresses to read the lines, and combined that with the storyboards to make an animatic. The animatic helped us see problems and things we could improve. We made at least 18 revisions to the animatic before shooting.
We scheduled three days for principal photography. I chose to shoot on 35mm and we knew there'd be no chance for reshoots. So DP Kimberly Cuolotta and I had to make key decisions on the spot. There was one shot I really wanted, a hallway walking shot, that I almost had to cut because we were running out of shooting time. But my crew pulled together and made it work.
Finally, there was post-production. Editing was crucial. The rough cut got the story across. But I wanted to be as spare as possible in my storytelling and leave the audience wanting more. VFX also made a huge difference. Several scenes rely deeply on the VFX to work. Our production designer Matt Evans, worked with Anna Rottke, our animator, to create effects that provided a consistent overall look. Finally, color, sound effects and score gave it the right mood and overall feel.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Audiences, reviewers and festival programmers have all responded really strongly. One thing I keep hearing is that people were left wanting more. That was one of my goals for the film, but a lot of people who have seen it really want to see a feature film in this universe. I can see how the world building for this film makes the audience imagine that there's much more to see. I envisioned the short as more of a standalone, but time will tell.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
One thing that really surprised me was the reaction of Ken Liu, the author of the original short story that my film was based on. He wasn't very well known when I started adapting it into a screenplay, but by the time the film was made, he'd won the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. Since I'd made a bunch of changes to the story, I was really nervous about what he'd think when he saw Real Artists for the first time. But after he saw it, he told me that the story actually worked better with my changes.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I'd like more people to see Real Artists! Right now in festivals, or next year when it's released online. Our festival schedule and mailing list can be found at realartists.film.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I'm looking for buyers and distributors for the film's release after it's done on the festival circuit. I'd also love it if more journalists could help the story out there. Finally, I'm looking for collaborators for future projects, especially experienced producers and screenwriters.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I'd like it to leave the audience smiling but also a little uneasy.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What is the nature of art and creativity?
Would you like to add anything else?
- Thank you for this opportunity!
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Tamlyn Tomita is in the upcoming comedy THE LIVING WORST and on the TV show TEEN WOLF; and Tiffany Hines can be seen in 24: LEGACY and BONES.
Interview: August 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Every great film begins with a blank slate.
Length: 12 minutes
Director: Cameo Wood
Producer: Cameo Wood, Ryon Lane and Alexa Fraser-Herron
Writer: Screenplay adapted by Cameo Wood from a short story by Ken Liu.
About the writer, director and producer:
DIRECTOR | WRITER | PRODUCER
REAL ARTISTS is her first narrative film. Cameo had a long career in technology, working in voice over IP and computer security, and then studied artificial intelligence and neuroscience in university. She also opened up the first urban beekeeping store in America. Filmmaking has been her lifelong desire, and she is thrilled to have the chance to make movies.
Ryon Lane has worked in film and commercial production over the last 13 years, producing festival-bound small indie shorts, spec projects and commercial spots for clients such as Salesforce, Microsoft, McAfee and AMEX. He previously worked at CAA and Innovative Artists, prior to serving as a Business & Legal Affairs exec at Lionsgate and Intermedia Films.
Alexa Fraser-Herron is a writer, director, and producer based out of San Francisco. Originally lured to the city to pursue fine art at the San Francisco Art Institute, Alexa later began channeling her myriad interests into film. Her work includes EAT, PRAY, WHATEVER, ALONE FOREVER, the experimental horror short 7 MINUTES IN HELL, “PETE & VERONICA, and MINI SUPREME. Alexa is the production manager for Peaches Christ, runs Bay Area-based film collective Scary Cow Productions, and lectures on various aspects of creative development and film production.
Key cast: Tiffany Hines and Tamlyn Tomita
Social media handles:
Where can I see it in the next month?
HollyShorts Film Festival, New Filmmakers Los Angeles, Austin Revolution and many more! Full screenings list at https://www.realartists.film/screenings.