ANNA DARRAH

Anna Darrah talks about her upcoming book ‘How To Raise Your Kids Through Film,’ being president of the Santa Fe Network, and teaching millennials.

And 10 other fun facts including flashmobs and Meryl Streep

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Anna Darrah, filmmaker, author and teacher 

By Patricia de Pastors

8: 45 AM EST 6/27/17

Anna Darrah has her finger in quite a few pies: she is the President of Santa Fe Network, co-director of the Love and Relationship Online Film Festival, author of the upcoming book ‘How To Raise Your Kids Through Film,’ creator of the film company Film Nest Studios, maker of The Helen Movie, teacher at Santa Fe University of Arts and Design and of workshops on distribution, and private consultant for filmmakers’ distribution strategies.

This story appears on the WordPress site and Facebook page “Inglés de Cine.”

For those of you who don’t know her, I’d say Anna is the white, blonde and blue-eyed version of Michelle Obama – energetic, kind and a fierce promoter of equality and opportunity. Not that I know her that much, either, only since January 2017 as my teacher of Business of TV, Film and Emergent Media at Santa Fe University. From packages and battle films to copyrighting and budgeting, the Spring Semester class was unanimously deemed useful and enjoyable to no end.

Currently working in Santa Fe, Anna chats with me about the world of film, her varied trajectory, and answers some fire-rapid questions including ‘SNL,’ flashmobs and her favorite movie lines.

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Santa Fe Network: Real. Different. Stories.

Patricia de Pastors: Hi, Anna. Great to talk with you. ‘Things are changing way too fast to be complacent,” you rightfully write in your website. How has this approach prompted you to take part in your initiatives and what would you want young people to make of that thinking?

Anna Darrah: Well, I think this is an amazing time to be a filmmaker because no matter what kind of film you’re creating, regardless of the length, genre, or even quality of the film, you have options for how to get it out to an appreciative audience. That’s brand new. Every day there are new ways, fresh approaches, outside the box thinking and the technology to launch into new spheres of influence that can be used to get eyeballs on what you’re creating. So if we sit around consuming only, leaving the creating to someone else, then we’re missing out on expressing our own unique voices through our art. And in my opinion, it’s that personal artistic expression that makes life worth living. So my advice would be to get off the couch, put your device down and dream up your next project! Go get a coffee with a talented friend and bounce ideas off each other. Draw some story boards, write some dialog. Dive in!

PP: Tell us a bit about ‘How To Raise Your Kids Through Film.’ Were you yourself a kid raised through it?

AD: I was not intentionally raised through film, though I was deeply influenced by the media I saw as a kid. Watching Dracula haunted me and gave me my own personal boogie-man from a very young age (it terrified me and I was too young to see it when I did!). Disney became my nemesis. I wanted to sit with my brothers and watch the weekly Disney TV movie every Sunday evening, but the story lines upset me too much, and I was banned from watching with the family! At the same time, Star Wars, ET and Somewhere in Time fed my imagination and thrilled me about what was possible to convey through the medium of film.

When my own daughter was 6 years old, I began working in film acquisitions, watching up to a thousand movies a year. So I began thinking very carefully about what she was seeing and what the influence of media might be on her depending on what she was watching. I slowly realized that if we had the right conversation, creating context around what we were watching, that she could process the images and stories beautifully. Over time, that conversation grew and built on itself so that by the time she was in high school (running a little movie club out of our living room) she was using media to think, to dive deeper into our collective consciousness and explore who we’ve been and where we are going. I became so inspired that I had to write a book about it.

PP: ‘The Helen Movie,’ arguably a cross between ‘Up’ (2009) and ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ (1995) sounds like a very personal project. Telling the fascinating journey of a life that included trips worldwide, working for National Geographic, finding a partner in Frank Schreider at first sight and even appearing on the Today Show, Helen’s story is now for us to binge watch. How did you come to know Helen in the first place and what aspects of her life did you want to include as the most inspiring?

AD: I met Helen through a mutual friend about 10 years ago. I went to her house, which was so magical, filled with her bright beautiful paintings and artifacts, textiles and books from around the world. She was the most charming human being I’d ever met, so kind and inviting, and filled with stories of adventure beyond anything I could imagine. She’d tell of meeting Princes and Queens, Heads of State and head hunters, pirates, giant snakes, and Amazonian rapids in a hand built boat. Incredible stories, all true, and all backed up with film footage, photographs and 60 page National Geographic articles. I was swept away. Within a few years I was working with her to tell her story.

The way in which that story will be told continues to shift. But I have faith that it will blossom into something wonderful and be as inspiring to younger generations as it has been to me. Helen is now 91, still going strong, though she isn’t painting as much these days. But the stories keep flowing. What a life she has had!

PP: How do you think women like Helen change the game for others and why may that be particularly relevant today?

AD: Helen was amazing because she had the courage to do what she wanted at a time when the world expected something very different from her. She was on the show “What’s My Line,” where they try to stump the panel of judges who guess what your line of work is. No one could possibly guess that Helen was an explorer- it was the 1950’s and she looked like a normal American woman, who would’ve been a house wife and mother by her mid 20s. But Helen took a different path, and had the strength to be a public persona even though she was going against the grain. There’s a lot to be inspired by there, and especially today a lot to emulate.

PP: You told Santa Fe New Mexican that the goal for Santa Fe Network is to “provide a missing link [by supporting] above-the-line talent [in New Mexico, as opposed to] studio productions from Hollywood.” Do you guys select the content being submitted in any way? And how major is the role of distribution in the process?

AD: We are getting the word out to all the writers, directors, producers and actors living in New Mexico, or who have filmed in New Mexico, to submit their work to the Santa Fe Network. As work comes in, we are curating the SFN to reflect the highest level of quality available. We want the world to see the incredible talent living in this place, and the beautiful films being made here. So the idea is that we’re putting films up on the Network as a way to bring eyeballs to those projects; it’s an opportunity to find a whole new audience, which is distribution by definition.

PP: Can you walk us briefly through your journey with your film company Film Nest Studios?

AD: I was offered a small film project for Zillow and wanted to assemble the best possible team I could find to get it done. I asked Jilann Spitzmiller, a brilliant documentary filmmaker, if she would be willing to help me. She agreed and suggested that we work with Alessandra Dobrin Khalsa for the post production. Alessandra is an incredibly talented editor who worked in television in NYC for 10 years before coming home to Santa Fe. And the rest is history… the three of us just found something magical together, the relationship we always dreamed of around work, creativity, friendship and a supportive community. We’re so excited to be working together within our new company, Film Nest Studios. You can see the Zillow pieces we made here and here.

PP: What do you like the most about teaching? (Besides bringing A-list dog Squash!)

AD: I loved getting to know the students. With 33 people in the class, I was pretty overwhelmed at first, and couldn’t believe that I’d actually get to know and love every single one of them, but I did! Every person in that class has talent, drive, curiosity and passion for filmmaking. It was an honor to teach them what I know about the business of the film industry. After so many years running around festivals and markets, networking with distributors, producer’s reps and sales agents, it was a joy to share what I learned with my students. I really want to empower young filmmakers with the basics of distribution and contract negotiation because I know what a difference it can make in the life of a film (and the life of a filmmaker) when you’re coming from a place of knowledge and confidence.

To wrap up the interview, I ask her some fire-rapid questions:

1. Where would you do an epic flashmob and to what song? Bowie’s ‘Oh! You Pretty Things,’ in front of SFUAD!

2. What is your favorite movie line? “You’ve got me, but who’s got YOU?” Lois Lane to Superman as he grabs her and flies through the air.

3. How I like my coffee: From an Aero Press, with honey and some coconut cream.

4. Two shows I can binge watch like there’s no tomorrow: Madam Secretary, The Good Wife.

5. Who inspires you the most in the industry? Ava DuVernay, Lynn Shelton, Lake Bell, Brit Marling, Mike Cahill, Tina Fey, Amy Pohler…. The entire cast and crew of Arrested Development.

6. Your signature dish? Paleo pumpkin-chocolate chip breakfast cookies.

7. Top picks for this year’s Emmys: Shameless (for everything) and Downward Dog (Comedy, Writing, Acting.)

8. Favorite ‘SNL’ character ever and from this season? Roseann Rosannadanna (Gilda Radner) and hands down Kate McKinnon- she’s rocking it!

9. The one Meryl Streep character I’m most like: [Jane Adler] from ‘It’s Complicated.’

10. The best part about my job(s): How much I love doing what I’m doing every day. And production- my favorite thing is to be shooting (directing)- seeing the world that we’re creating through the camera’s lens.

This story appears on the WordPress blog, Facebook and Twitter page “Inglés de Cine.”

The Spanish version of this interview will soon be yours to read right here.

Follow Anna on Twitter and don’t miss updates on her website. You can donate here to The Helen Movie.

All the pictures are taken from Google Images.

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