Film Connection grad Shaylah Conley Works Horror Feature Film & Starts Her Own Production Company.
Film Connection graduate Shaylah Conley did her externship training with mentor Christine Chen, the producer/director and founder of Moth to Flame Films. We connected with Shaylah to talk about her experience working as part of the crew of the upcoming feature film, Room 203, and the connections she made on-set, discuss her future goals, the short film she wrapped after graduating, and more!
You researched your options prior to enrolling in Film Connection. What did you like about us in the first place?
“It was online, so I didn’t have to go anywhere… then you’re set up with a mentor who brings you into the field. So, it’s not like you have to start from the bottom of the food chain and beg your way in. You get brought in and then you can move up depending on you, depending on everything about yourself.”
Take us back to your interview with Christine Chen, how did it go?
“I believe it was in the middle of that first week [after applying]…. [Admissions] set us up and then we had our Zoom call. And what’s funny is that before we had our call, I had to go search her because I wanted to know more. I went and looked at her Moth to Flame website…. I just was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this woman is living my goals of having my own production company, being just the most awesome entrepreneur I’ve ever seen.’
So, then it finally came time for our Zoom call, and it went super well. It was just so chill…. We were just talking about… our goals and aspirations. And she basically was like, ‘I can see it. I see the fire in you. I see that this is the drive that you have.’…
And so, I think maybe one or two days go by and I got a call and they said, ‘Christine has accepted you as her mentee.”… And then it just took off.”
You did several film projects with Christine, including 2 features. The first project you worked on as an extern was a 31-day shoot for the feature horror film, Room 203. What do you consider your biggest takeaway from working on that film?
“The biggest thing that I learned… [in] that first feature is what people actually do in their role because I feel like there’s such an illusion when you think of, ‘What does a director do?’ or ‘What does the 1st AD do?’ or ‘What does a grip do?’ And so being able to work on that feature… I was really able to have a better grasp on, ‘Okay, these are your responsibilities. Oh, okay, those are your responsibilities. Oh, this is what a 2nd AD does. Oh, this is what a DP does.’” Hear what Shaylah says it really takes to make the most of Film Connection in our Straight Talk video below!
Did you make many industry connections while working Room 203?
“Quite a few actually, because I got to talk to a couple of people about the script that I’m writing right now, the feature film. The sound person that I met on that film [Room 203] said yes, they would come from L.A. to make my movie. The camera crew from that film who lives in New York, they said yes, they would come from New York to make my movie…. And honestly, they told me that they were interested before I even asked them, so that made me feel very happy.”
A lot of people have the idea that filmmaking is glamorous. Is it glamorous?
“Yes and no. It’s beautifully brutal…. The time I had to be on set was about 2:30 p.m. And usually, a shift is 12 hours. And so, 12 hours would be 2:30 a.m. However, because we were a horror film, most of our stuff was happening at night. And so, there were many, many nights where usually we wouldn’t wrap or end the day until about 5:30 a.m., 7:00 a.m. and then go home, go to sleep, wake up with enough time to maybe eat something, and do it all again. …
It is a grind, but it’s worth it because of the people that you’re with, and it’s worth it whenever you get that one moment to stand in video village and see the monitor and see what the camera is capturing on the monitor and just feel the excitement, just the joy [that] what you’re watching on screen right now will soon be edited into a movie, into a short film, into a documentary. And that feeling that you get, that’s what pushes you through the entire process.”
Just after graduating from Film Connection, you went on to do “First Impressions,” a short film of your own. How did the education you obtained through our program inform your shoot?
“I had downloaded this call sheet program and so [I] got to make us a legit call sheet and that felt so cool. And then I got to take the script… [and] make our shot list…. it was the full experience of, ‘Okay. This is the first setup. Okay. This is the new deal. Okay. We’re going to flip the world. Okay. Now we’re going to POV. Okay, now we’re going to over-the-shoulder.’ … I got to, use all of my film lingo that I had gathered and that it really made [the crew] feel like they were on a legit set because, you know, we were doing the things the way that the industry does them.”
You’ve already started fulfilling your goal of having your own production company. Tell us about what you’re currently doing and your vision for its future.
“Our name is Sisters’ Productions and, honestly, we want to make everything. We don’t want to limit ourselves…. We want to do everything. We want to do anything that interests us…. Our biggest goal, in the end, is that we want to create media that makes you think…. Definitely, we want to create things that if you go back and watch it again, you get to enjoy it all over again.
Since my production company is just my sister and I, we wear all the hats. So we are the writers, we are the directors, we are the DPs… the 1st AC and the 2nd AC…the 1st AD the 2nd AD. And we’ve begun to have people join us. We have someone who… we can turn to for sound because that is its own beast. …
[Another] big goal for me and my sister is that we want to be able to be a resource for artists who feel like they don’t have any resources…. If someone comes to us and they say, ‘Hey, here’s my script, I want to direct it,’ then we want to be able to help them achieve that.”
What do people coming into Film Connection need to do to make the most of their time and experience?
“The thing about Film Connection is, yes, they do say, ‘Hey, you’re falling behind,’ or, ‘Hey, you’re not going to graduate in the six-month period if you don’t catch up on your chapters.’… They do give that kind of push, but they aren’t there to monitor you…. So, if you don’t already come in with some self-drive, with some motivation, you aren’t going to get what you need to get out of this program. And what you need to get out of this program is kind of a tough love, ‘Are you going to push yourself?’ A tough love, ‘Are you going to keep moving forward because you want to?’ ‘Are you going to keep asking to go onto set? Are you going to keep talking to your mentor?’ Because your mentor has a life. They have a career. They aren’t going to baby you either. …
And so, to me, you will find out real fast if this just isn’t the kind of… hard work that you want to do for the rest of your life. If this isn’t the self-motivation you want to have. If this isn’t the thing that is going to drive you… no matter what’s going on outside of you, no matter what’s going on in the world.”
Update: Shaylah has just completed the 48 Hour Film Project. Here’s what she wrote about that.
“My sister and I got together a small crew of our close film friends and we competed in our very first film competition!… [We] had a ton of fun writing the script and we really let the elements tell the story. The logline for our short is: The fabric between reality and imagination rip at the seams when Diana Ruiz, an amateur cosplayer finally gets to meet her idol Estrella Linda, a famous online cosplayer.
We had a team of 9, not including our wonderful parents who let us film a scene in their hotel room! My sister and I stayed up all night Friday writing and then stayed awake all day Saturday filming. It wasn’t until about 1 a.m. Saturday that we finally went to sleep. Then Sunday we woke up at about 10 a.m. and started editing around noon. We exported our film and submitted it with about 4 minutes to spare to the deadline! It was SUPER nerve-wracking! My sister and I didn’t even get to watch the film before we submitted it. So, when we finally did watch it back, honestly I was so proud of the story that we created that I started crying. Then my sister started crying and our poor sound guy, Preston Bounds, who was the only person who stuck around past Sunday morning, had two crying women on his hands! But we told him they were tears of joy. Of course, there were some boo-boos, like some cuts that could’ve been better and some sound silence, but we made a finished product and submitted it on time! A few days later I… [went] back and fixed all the mistakes. I’m so happy and still SO proud of our team and we were able to create in 48 hours!”
That’s not all! Shaylah also wrapped her first production working as 1st AD. The short film is named “Sweet Lemonade.”
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