We caught up with director Susan Davis on the red carpet of the Alliance of Women in Media Southern California’s 57th Annual Genii Awards. Susan was presented with the award for Best Comedy Short by Film Independent president Josh Welsh. Her short, Three Strikes, is about an ex-con who gets out of jail with two strikes, and tries to go straight when everyone else has other plans for him.
WTM: How are you feeling tonight?
SD: I feel so blessed even to be part of such a great organization, and then to get lifted up is amazing.
WTM: How did the idea of this film come about?
SD: It started out as a 48 Hour Film [festival] project. So it was born at three o’clock in the morning with [a team of ] three women and one male writers. We threw it around and 41 people later on the crew it became a reality. A lot of funny people.
WTM: How did you get into writing?
SD: I just love to tell stories. I love news and I love TV and I love film. And I want to make people love things the way I love them. My dream is to make feature films and have people walk away love them as much as I love my favorites.
WTM : What are you working on now?
SD: I have a project in post. It’s almost done. I wrote it myself, and produced and directed it. It’s called The Highway. That should be out in about a month, so I’m excited about that.
WTM: What advice would you give to aspiring women filmmakers?
SD: You know, it’s not easy. I’m from San Diego; that’s the film community I belong to. I’m one of the very few women in it. And honestly you just have to make your own way. Don’t expect any help. Honestly, don’t. It kept me on the sidelines for years. I kept begging people to let me crew with them or learn from them and never got anywhere. So I just started doing it myself. I’d beg my cousins, “Please, I’ve written a story. Come be the maid, or the whatever.” That got me started, let me make a lot of mistakes that I could learn from. And then entering into contests and film festivals made me better. The 48 Hour, the Four Points, the National Film Challenge. They make you good because you cannot finish if you’re not good. If you have to do something in 48 hours or 72 hours that you can be proud of, it makes you really have to fight for it. The other thing I would say is join as many groups like this. Join the Alliance of Women in Media Southern California. Join the Alliance of Women Directors. There’s a daily newsletter where you can write an e-mail that goes out to two hundred women directors…[who] help and share.
WTM: What about film school?
SD: I built it myself. There’s a lot of local colleges. I take a class here, a class there, and I’ve been doing that for years…because I was working full time doing non-film [work]. But I think the best film school I could ever go to is just to make films.
WTM: Do you try to hire women?
SD: Oh yeah. We just entered for the Bentonville Film Festival [a film festival dedicated to women’s voices]. We had a crew of 30 people and there were only four males. DP, editor, [nearly] everyone, all females. It’s not hard to do. There’s a lot of us.