Member Spotlight

June/July 2019 Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Shantel Hansen
Q: What is your field of focus?

I'm a documentary filmmaker. My field of focus stems from my anthropology background
including over 20+ years in marketing and communications experience. I didn't go to film

Q: Tell us about your journey thus far in your career? Did you study? If so, where or are you
still in school?
My journey to becoming a documentary filmmaker launched from a conversation I had with my
childhood friend, Robyn, over seven years ago. We were talking about our goals. I told her how
I wanted to become a doc filmmaker in my 40's (something kinda unheard of) and film female
refs. She really encouraged me to go for it. And, I did! “Her Turf” is my first doc and took me
over six years to make.  First, as a rookie, I had to read the manual to figure out how to turn on
the camera, and it was a challenge for sure. However, what I lacked in experience, I knew I
could make up with dedication, passion, and authenticity. I also love to geek out by identifying
subcultures that unwittingly impact their larger community. As a result, I’ve always been
interested in refs and officials across all sports – specifically about how they impact a multi-
billion industry, and yet we hardly know anything about them.

Q: What was your inspiration to get into this industry? Do you have any mentors you want to
When it comes to mentors, mine are pretty unusual because they are not part of the
entertainment, media, or film industry, but are women badasses in male dominated businesses
and communities. I'm insanely grateful for the mentors I have in my life. One in particular has
overcome breast cancer and is helping millions of other women in the cancer journey.

Q: Tell us about your favorite project you've worked on? Any takeaways?
My favorite project is my current doc and honestly will always be. It will always be my first that
help launch me into a new arena to help document and share stories that are meant to be
heard.  I LOVE filming women who are doing exceptional, groundbreaking work with humility
and grit that you’d never otherwise hear about. One big take away from filming “Her Turf”: I
knew working on an independent budget was going to be hard. At the same time, because
nobody else had captured this footage or these stories, I knew I had an opportunity to bring
light to an unheard and underrepresented group. There were a lot of tough decisions to make
during production because of the budget. For example, I remember that I had to decide
between renting a specific lens for a camera or renting a car. I decided to rent the lens because

the camera woman I hired was giving me a major day rate discount. It was the least I could do
for her to have multiple lenses to shoot from. Since we didn’t have a rental car during the film
shoot, we ended up catching rides with the referees and officials. To my surprise, this benefited
us because we conducted interviews during the car rides and learned so much more about
what it’s like to on the field. These informal opportunities not only helped referees feel more
comfortable with us and the camera, but we started to blend in, allowing us to capture such
compelling fly-on-the wall footage.

Q: Any projects coming up?
I'm in pre-production for (working title) "Women of Courage: Fist Full of Love" documenting
women in their 50's, 60's and 70's doing online dating. I have three locations: Colorado, Oregon
and NYC that looking for women to film. It's been an incredible pre-production process so far.
I'm excited to see the stories unfold.

Q: What are your hopes for the film, television, and media scene in Colorado?
My hope for the local scene in Colorado is exposure. There are some serious badass filmmakers,
actors, and writers here. You don't have to be in LA or NYC these days. Being creative can take
place anywhere. Especially where you have 300 days of SUNSHINE!

Q: Any advice/wisdom to fellow actors, filmmakers, writers etc.?
It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. It only matters what you think. Sometimes you don't
even know what you think and that's okay. Be kind to yourself. It will all come together when
you least expect it. The creative process lends itself to where you are in that moment in time.
Don't forget to embrace the naysayers in your life (the closest people or complete strangers,)
because they are either coming from a place of fear and want to protect you from failing or
don't have the guts to make their own dreams come true. Embrace their feedback. It's a gift.
Because, these moments will reconfirm that your creative project is meaningful and that you
have what it takes to make it come alive.

May 2019 Member Spotlight

Q: What is your field of focus?
I am now retired from more than 30 years of HR management work, with the lion’s share being
in the television world.  My focus now is to use my experiences to assist in training and
development of those trying to get employment in media. I also look for opportunities to use my
corporate management experiences to help develop effective teams.
Q: Tell us about your journey thus far in your career? Did you study? If so, where or are
you still in school?
I started my journey at KWGN, Channel 2 here in Denver.  My first job was half a day in
Personnel assisting the Manager with training, recruitment, payroll and miscellaneous duties. I
also spent half a day in Public Affairs where I performed PA activities assisting on a show,
“Denver Now”.  When the Personnel Manager (my first fabulous mentor) resigned, I was
promoted into her position where I continued to learn the business of television and personnel for
the seven years.
In 1987, my husband excepted a job as a White House Correspondent, and we moved to the east
coast.  I focused my job search on Fortune 500 companies to gain a deeper knowledge from a
more sophisticated HR organization.  I landed a job as Supervisor of Employee Relations at
Unisys Corporation, a high tech company.  In this position, I was in a large organization which
deepened my skill base.  I was responsible for diversity, training and creating a positive work
atmosphere.  I spent ten years with Unisys ending my career as Business Partner, leading all
recruitment activities for the east coast.  Our team was the company leader in time to fill and cost
per hire!
In 1997, I was recruited by the Station Manager at KTLA in Los Angeles.  I accepted the
position as Director of HR.  My focus in this position was to lead a team which was responsible
for HR policy development, employment law, recruitment, collective bargaining, compensation,
diversity and executive coaching.  In 2000, my role expanded to lead these efforts for all Tribune
owned stations on the west coast.  I continued in this role until the end of 2014.
In 2015, my husband and I returned to Denver.  I started a HR consulting business.  For two
years, I assisted two doctors in successfully starting a concierge medical practice.  I recruited
three patients, wrote job descriptions, hired the front and back office staff and wrote all
procedures and policies for the company.
During 2015 and 2016, I was also on the board of the Colorado Police Museum as the Treasurer,
a position I enjoyed alongside my father who is a retired Denver Police Lieutenant.
Q: What was your inspiration to get into this industry? Do you have any mentors you want
to mention?

I have worked in only two industries during my HR career, television and high tech.  Television
is my love. The employees are creative and innovative and it was quite accidental that I sought
HR employment and fell into this world. I have had so many wonderful mentors during my
Q: Tell us about your favorite project you've worked on? Any takeaways?
One of my favorite projects was pitching an idea to senior management at KTLA to hire a traffic
reporter through a segment on the KTLA morning show.  The concept was to have a contest
using our audience and three judges to select the winner.  The idea became “The Audition” and
we started with 12 contestants selected by the News Director and General Manager.  I was one of
the on-air judges providing feedback.  The winner was Jessica Holmes who continues to this day
as a main anchor.  The idea was a revenue and ratings hit.

Q: Any projects coming up?
My upcoming project to learn, learn and learn about WIFMCO and help create a meaningful
strategic plan while using my leadership skills gained through my career.

Q: As WIFMCO’s new chair, what unique qualities do you possess, and how do you hope
to use them to benefit the organization?
I want to help build out advisory committees to achieve strategic objectives, increase
membership through my TV contacts, obtain corporate sponsors, develop a skills inventory of
members and increase diversity.  My philosophy is to establish trust through honesty and
transparency.  I want to develop relationships with members and learn about their experiences
and competencies.  I will listen, observe and brainstorm.
Q: What are your hopes for the film, television, and media scene in Colorado?
Growth and inclusion.
Q: Any advice/wisdom to fellow actors, filmmakers, writers etc.?
Networking is not an activity but a way of life!

January 2019 Member Spotlight

Kimberly Ricotta

WIFMCO Co-Chair Development

Q: What is your field of focus?
Producing films and writing screenplays is my main field of focus. I’ve also co-authored and self-published a memoir with my film producing partner, Pamela Nelson, entitled “And, Don’t Call Us Ladies!”, which chronicles our 20-year history of filmmaking adventures.

Q: Tell us about your journey thus far in your career? Did you study? If so, where or are you still in school?
I’ve been involved in many aspects of production, from volunteering to running video cameras for the first cable company in Denver, writing and performing comedy – both stand-up and improv, and voice work, to producing music videos and feature films. I attended many film and screenwriting seminars and was a founding member of the first chapter of Women in Film in Denver. Later in life, I attended the New York Film Academy (in New York) for an eight-week intensive filmmaking workshop. Shortly thereafter, my producing partner Pam Nelson and I decided to produce an independent film. Walk-ins Welcome, a campy sci-fi romantic comedy, written by Pam, won Best Feature and the Audience award at the Intendence Film Festival in 2013.

Q: What was your inspiration to get into this industry? Do you have any mentors you want to mention?
I was always interested in movies as far back as I can remember. I was also inspired by T.V. shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show because they wrote and performed comedy for a living. Once I discovered screenwriting, that was it…I wanted to write and produce (with a comedic bent).

Q: Tell us about your favorite project you’ve worked on? Any takeaways?
Producing our independent film, Walk-ins Welcome, was an exhilarating project. We were involved in every area of that production, which was a great learning experience. We used local cast and crew (except our composer, who was from L.A.) Years earlier, we were producing a multi-million dollar feature that lost its financing, and thus, never saw the finished project. So, it was a thrill to see Walk-ins Welcome come to fruition. Film production is not for the faint of heart, but if you can stick it out, the result can be incredible. It’s magical.

Q: Any projects coming up?

I am currently co-writing a script with my producing partner. We also have a couple projects in development, including Frog Days, last year’s winning script of WIFMCO’s screenplay contest. I would also like to get back into voice-work.

Q: What are your hopes for the film, television, and media scene in Colorado?
I hope to see the continued growth of production in our state. We have many talented writers, actors and crew here. Being a WIFMCO Board Member (Co-Chair of the Development Committee), gives me an opportunity to contribute and make a difference in that arena.

Q: Any advice/wisdom to fellow actors, filmmakers, writers etc.?
I think the most important piece of advice I can give is trust your instincts. And course, try to do what makes you happy.

December Member Spotlight

Karen Hemmerle
WIFMCO Fundraising Co-Chair

Q: What is your field of focus?
I’m a screenwriter, screenwriting coach, script consultant and editor. In other words, if it’s a screenplay, I can write it, help you write it, tell you what’s wrong with it, or fix it.
Q: Tell us about your journey thus far in your career? Did you study? If so, where or are you still in school?
As a kid, I loved writing stories and loved movies, but never connected the two and realized that there were writers behind the stories and dialogue in the movies. Screenwriting started as a hobby, but the feedback about both my stories and writing was good enough that I eventually decided to pursue it as a second career. I watched a bazillion movies, read everything I could get my hands on, and took classes with Barbara Wilder.
Q: What was your inspiration to get into this industry? Do you have any mentors you want to mention?
I was a yearly attendee at the Telluride Film Festival for about 20 years. Sometime around 1997, my friends and I were standing in line for the next film, discussing the one we had just seen, and I shot my mouth off about how poorly written it was. There was a tap on my shoulder, and a famous producer laughingly suggested I put up or shut up. So I decided to put up. When Cheryl Whitney started CASA, I was one of the first members, and feedback from the CASA general assembly cold reads was incredibly helpful.
Q: Tell us about your favorite project you’ve worked on? Any takeaways?
I’ll always have a soft spot for The 24 Hour Intimate Position, which we recently finished. It started back in the days of AOL chatrooms when a friend and I were chatting about our first jobs. Mine was at a Fotomat – yes, I was the girl in the tiny box in a parking lot. Hers was the 24 hour intimate position (you’ll have to see the film to know what that is.) As soon as I heard the job title, I knew I had to use it in some way. I sat down and wrote a (very) long monologue with that title, which has won awards and inspired me to write a short screenplay, which won Best Screenplay at the Copper Mountain Film Festival. My takeaway is that inspiration can come from anywhere.
Q: Any projects coming up?
I just produced my short script The 24 Hour Intimate Position with Darla Rae of Film It Productions. The film is finished, submitted to a few festivals, and our plans for it include two tie-in documentaries. So we’re working on the docs while juggling everything else. We’re also in pre-production on the feature The French American, a romance set against WWII and based on a true story. I’m also busy writing a family comedy screenplay about technology addiction, a contained horror screenplay, and writing a screenplay for an author.
Q: What are your hopes for the film, television, and media scene in Colorado?
I hope Colorado will continue and grow in its support for film, television, and media, but I’m not holding my breath. The voters have been convinced that incentives are only going to “Hollywood elites”, so they see little reason to support filmmaking in Colorado. They have no clue that we have a home-grown industry that they should support. I’ve only known one Colorado film commissioner who was really enthusiastic about supporting local film. We could use a new one like him. If incentives go away, we’ll still make films here; fewer perhaps, but we’re not going away.
Q: Any advice/wisdom to fellow actors, filmmakers, writers etc.?
Get involved with the local filmmaking groups, online and in person. Let people know who you are and what you do. Keep learning and refining what you do. Listen to advice, then throw away the bad advice. And never lie on your resume.

Follow The 24 Hour Intimate Position on Facebook

November Member Spotlight

Photo by Joseph Loeffler.

Jhene Chase

Q: What is your field of focus?
I’m a storyteller. I love to direct and I spend much of my time working in the art department. Working in art has allowed me to learn from every director I’ve worked with. It has also provided a perspective on storytelling through varied viewpoints. How do we convey a message with color, with a prop in someone’s hand, with the textures associated with the psychological experience of a character? I’m happy to say I’m a director. I’m also proud to say I’m a production designer.

Q: Tell us about your journey thus far in your career? Did you study? If so, where?
For me it all started with writing. The idea that you could create any world, any experience just by writing it into existence. I studied writing and directing at the Colorado Film School. While I did direct a handful of films, I supported many directors by designing art for their films. It very much felt like I created my own curriculum in the cracks. I was also fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to do some professional work during my education.

Q: What was your inspiration to get into this industry? Do you have any mentors you want to mention?
Film is the greatest mix. Stories, fashion, exploration, art and magic. It’s the most wonderful soup of everything that means the world to me. Geoffrey Chadwick at CFS was a great person for me to have learned from during my time there. The second film I directed was screening in class and he stopped it to give me criticism on what felt like every shot. It was a very humbling experience and in the wake of wanting to quit, I thought that if I really wanted to work in movies that I needed to learn how to take criticism and keep going. He was good for me because he never let me go an inch I didn’t earn. On many occasions he offered me the opportunity to help my peers and to teach kids that came through the summer program to learn film. He helped me learn how to make movies, how to be torn down and how to build others up. I’m very thankful for his influence.

Q: Tell us about your favorite project you’ve worked on? Any takeaways?
Somehow, I’m able to turn most experiences into great experiences. The hardest ones have the best stories and you learn unexpected lessons. I’ll tell you about my very first film. Even though I started film school in New Orleans, I didn’t get to take my first film class before a hurricane moved me out of the city. I was having night terrors and I was working a warehouse job, it felt like my life was over. I couldn’t figure out how to regain my footing and stay on course. My friend from New Orleans called me and convinced me to come down and shoot a film. I bought a one way ticket during hurricane season to make a film with her. I worked a job to bankroll our film and she worked to pay for our living situation. In post Katrina New Orleans we filmed a short over 8 months about a girl who was basically a Nancy Drew type kid sister to the city. We built puppets and sourced wardrobe. We wrote and directed it together. We did everything as a two person crew. Later, when we were in the editing process, I was at an afterparty for a film festival. I met a woman who was interested in screening the film “as long as it wasn’t about shoes, or something.” It killed me because one of the motifs was shoes. She saw it as a vapid, superficial preoccupation, the idea that a story would be about shoes. To me, shoes are everything, because if you’re wearing the right pair you can walk anywhere, climb anything. If you’re wearing something impractical, you can’t. It was an early lesson to me that you have to tell the stories you want to tell. People won’t understand your messages based on the taglines and symbols you’re using unless they see them in practice.

Q: Can you tell us more about your current project “Elijah”? How did you get this job?
I think it was Hitchcock who said he got his first directing job just by being there. Earlier this year I was invited to work as a costume designer on the film Brother’s Keeper for Winter State Entertainment. I was their last hire on the job. Knowing that they were developing a long term crew to make a roster of films, I became very interested in their production process. One of their producers saw part of my last short, Metropolitan Legend. His regular production designer recommended me to design the film they were shooting next, Summertime Dropouts. Before I knew it, that became an offer to direct my first feature. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that I was the person for the job. So I directed that film. That producing team was searching for the right match for Elijah, a project they’ve been developing for some time. In the relationship we expanded during Summertime Dropouts, I think they came to the conclusion that I could deliver the film they wanted to create. It’s an exciting project, one I’m not privy to discuss at length. The story is a great adventure and I look forward to crafting an epic, and unexpected, experience for the audience.

Q: What are your hopes for the film, television, and media scene in Colorado?
I hope that it continues to grow and is able to establish an infrastructure that will make producers confident in bringing more content here.

Q: Any advice/wisdom to actors, filmmakers, writers etc.?
Do what you say you’re going to do. It seems so simple, but you can’t imagine how many people promise high and deliver low. Always under promise and over deliver.

Here is the announcement for Summertime Dropouts:

Here is the announcement for Elijah:


October Member Spotlight

Carol Rodarte Wilson (October 2018)

Q: What is your field of focus?
My field of focus right now is editing, voice over, singing and acting. I would also like to explore directing/producing.

Q: Tell us about your journey thus far in your career? Did you study? If so, where or are you still in school?
I started out in Radio in the early 70’s. I was the first female DJ on the radio here in Denver and worked my way up to music director. I moved on to work in radio in St. Louis. While there I was nominated for personality of the year from the National Radio and Record Industry in Los Angeles. I loved working in radio but needed something more stable as I was a working mom with two boys to support. So with the help of the radio station engineer I got a job in television as a broadcast engineer. I worked at the NBC affiliate in St. Louis and the CBS owned and operated station in Los Angeles and along the way have also worked for the NFL Sunday football.
During my time in television I was told if I wanted to move up I needed an engineering degree so I went back to school and got a B.S. in electrical engineering and found out later that I really didn’t need it because none of the men in the department had any kind of degree. It was just a ploy to keep me out. I worked in television for over 20 years. My favorite position I held in television was as an editor. In my twenty some years in broadcasting I worked every position one person could work from studio camera to ENG camera, lighting, audio, post production as well as preproduction, master control to satellite acquisition.

While working at the NBC station I had an opportunity to work on a five part special for the news department which later garnered me an Emmy nomination. The one thing I learned from working on this project was that when one is given the freedom to do whatever they choose with regard to the piece take full advantage of that and show what you are capable of.

Q: Any projects coming up?
I am currently working on a film as an assistant director, which I am very excited about. I am also brushing up on some editing software, so I am taking some online classes.

Q: What are your hopes for the film, television, and media scene in Colorado? I see WIFMCO as a great organization that can help bring more major productions to Colorado, and a way to help actors, screenwriters and everyone else in the industry get some experience, mentorship, connections and invaluable friendships. I love that it is the kind of organization where you can be yourself and everyone wants to help in whatever way they can. It is truly a great organization.

Q: Any advice/wisdom to fellow actors, filmmakers, writers etc.?
If I could give any advice or words of wisdom to anyone who is doubtful or on the fence, it would be this – Have faith in yourself and don’t give up. Look at failures as just minor setbacks and ask “What can I learn from this?” Because you are never a failure as long as you keep working at it and learning.


Petra Perkins (August 2018)

Q: What is your field of focus?
A: I’ve been long focused on memoir writing, as I have three in progress (mine, my husband’s, and my daughter’s) plus a novella and an epic poem, but recently I started (oh-no!) a *new* project – a screenplay, which is even more fun because I have fantasies of it becoming something like “The Book of Mormon.” Plus, PLUS, if that’s not crazy enough, I have another project slowly working its way like a worm through my sleep-deprived brain — a film or stage play, a dark comedy in circa 1859.

Q: Tell us about your journey thus far in your career? Did you study? If so, where or are you still in school?
A: I’ve studied writing at the Lighthouse in Denver for seven years, mostly workshops in fiction, creative non-fiction, experimental/hybrid poetry and screenwriting. And, gratefully, because of this superb writing school, I’ve been published in several genres, including essay and monologue. I’ve studied humor writing, too, and lean towards integrating some form of humor into most of my work.

Q: What was your inspiration to get into this industry? Do you have any mentors you want to mention?
A: Where did I get the inspiration to write all the time? Well, from the get-go it was some chronic internal voice: I liked the idea of ensemble pieces, bringing together several characters in comedy (or tragi-comedy). For me, the screenplay of the movie “M*A*S*H” is ever-inspiring and iconic.

It started when I was young, writing plays for my family to perform (yes, you can imagine the introverts’ reactions), at school, and later even on my job in business management (for team building). These were always wildly satirical plays. Nora Ephron was my early essayist role model; David Sedaris, for his light/heavy risky wit. But for imagery and dialogue, and for truly deep –practically buried — satire, I went to Paul Theroux and read everything he wrote. Then I wrote a little play about him writing it. Then years later, I got the courage to send it to him (gaaaa). He answered and said he “loved it!” and some other nice words and wished me well in my writing endeavors. That bit of feedback was greatly encouraging and kept me going.

Q: Tell us about your favorite project you’ve worked on? Any takeaways?
A: My favorite project is always the one I’m working on at the moment! Takeaways from it are lessons learned to make the next project go easier and better. Also, I notice how I integrate poetry. I believe the study of poetry, the absorption of it, and the use of poetic device give dimension to everything I write.

Q: What are your hopes for the film, television, and media scene in Colorado?
A: My hopes for the Colorado media, TV and film scene include increased resources (talent, money, tools) committed to growth in women’s projects, and male dedication to projects about female subjects. I would also like to see Colorado’s politically-oriented media projects used as national flagships, to become leaders in bi-partisan discourse or treatment of political/social/economic issues via TV or film, because we, in this trend-setting ‘blue’ state, have insight and influence to share.

Q: Any advice/wisdom to fellow actors, filmmakers, writers etc.?
A: The only advice I have to give writers — something I tell myself daily because I work on too many things at once — is: Just get your idea down, down and dirty as fast as possible, from start to finish. Take it from mind to matter ASAP. T-h-e-n go back and make it clean, smart and pretty.
Also, don’t hesitate to connect with your favorite author/actor/producer/director/filmmaker. They actually might answer.[/text_output][/vc_column][/vc_row]

July 2018 Member Spotlight

Suz Jordan & Laura Alsum

Winner’s of the Athena Project/ WIFMCO Media Mashup!

Congratulations to our short script writer Laura Alsum and our podcast writer Suz Jordan! These projects, along with a short play, will be produced this summer/ fall and then presented as part of the TedX Mile High Adventure Series at the end of November.

We asked Suz and Laura to answer a few questions for us so you can get to know more about them and the amazing projects they are working on in Colorado.

Q: What is your field of focus?
Suz: Writing will always be my first love, and now I’m learning about producing. I’m drawn to the role and responsibilities of a producer because I enjoy collaboration and project management.
Laura: Screenwriting mostly, but also fiction writing – short stories and novels.

Q: Tell us about your journey thus far in your career? Did you study? If so, where or are you still in school?
Suz: When I look back over my professional lives (administration, product development, marketing, freelance writing, and management), my journey has been all about building the relationships, skills, drive, and patience needed to thrive in this industry. I used to sneak into closed sets on Los Angeles studio backlots and quietly absorb each person’s contribution to television and film projects. That education and respect for the work keeps me excited about new projects. Some of my studies include broadcast journalism classes, multiple screenwriting courses with Cynthia Whitcomb and Trai Cartwright, and degree programs in communications and organizational management. You’ll probably run into me at WIFMCO meetings, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers seminars, classes at Lighthouse, and film and arts venues in Denver.

Laura: I was always interested in creative writing and the arts and linked up with Denver’s Phamaly Theatre Company (, a theatre group founded by and for people with disabilities. After participating in a writing-to-performing workshop with them, I knew telling stories was something I had to keep doing. I signed up for an online screenwriting course, and after getting positive feedback and placing well in a competition with my first script, I decided to bite the bullet and apply to grad schools for screenwriting. In 2014, I graduated from UCLA’s MFA in Screenwriting program.

Q: What was your inspiration to get into this industry? Do you have any mentors you want to mention?
Suz: My love of films began in the womb. The Ford Theater allowed my mom to escape a difficult parent. She and my dad fell in love at that theater. Films have been the touchstone of good and bad times for my family. One of my favorite classic industry women is Ida Lupino, a name that many people won’t recognize. She was a force as an actor/writer/producer who often broke the rules.

Laura: I was born with a physical disability. While I had a happy childhood with good friends and a supportive community, I didn’t have as much energy to run around like other kids. And so I spent more time with quieter activities – reading books, watching television and movies, and creating elaborate stories with my dolls (complete with high-stakes drama, backstabbing, and murder mysteries). As I grew older, I realized people like me with disabilities (especially women) were not being represented in media. Moreover, we weren’t representing ourselves. Since I saw this needed to be addressed, and since I loved stories, it all fell into place, and I understood this is what I should be doing. And although I don’t write exclusively about disability, it informs all the stories I tell in one way or another. As for mentors, I was partnered with writer-director Nancy Savoca when I was awarded a Sloan screenwriting award through the Tribeca Film Institute while at UCLA. Although our contracted mentorship ended years ago, she is still an important mentor and friend. She always has great advice and encourages me about working in film and television outside of NYC or LA.

Q: Tell us about your favorite project you’ve worked on? Any takeaways?
Suz: My favorite writing project is a baseball story about my dad’s major league tryouts. I had to experience several life events before I could capture this story and put it on paper.

Laura: Although my feature screenplay “Survival of the Fittest” received the most notice out of all my scripts, my favorite is a screenplay called “God’s Colony.” It’s a historical drama feature based on real events, and I absolutely loved doing the research for it. I even was able to travel to Las Cruces, NM, where the story took place. I could feel the atmosphere – the landscape, the isolation of the town – and this really informed my story. From then on, I realized the need for my stories to have a “feeling,” and that I need to be in that same feeling while I write them. Maybe it doesn’t make sense, or maybe it sounds too mystical, but it works for me!

Q: Any projects coming up?
Suz: My “How the Goblin Lost His Giggle” podcast from the Athena/WIFMCO mash-up contest is scheduled for production in November. I’m currently finishing a Christmas romance script. Also, I probably have ten years of projects covering every surface in my office. Establishing “Flying Pencil Productions” for film projects and “Hear Ye Productions” for podcasts this year made my dreams more of a reality. Now, I have to finish the website.

Laura: I’m completing a novel (a YA fantasy) and am working on a few short stories.

Q: What are your hopes for the film, television, and media scene in Colorado?
Suz: My biggest hope for our scene in Colorado is solid, sustained investment in projects conceived and produced by our state’s amazing creative talents.

Laura: I’d love for people’s reaction not to be, “Colorado? Oof, that’s rough,” when they hear I’m trying to make a go of it here. But all joking aside, I’m starting to see just how large the film and arts community is in Colorado. There are so many people making great things, but it seems like we’re doing it more in isolation. I think it would be great if we could build our communities and be more of a voice together. (That’s why I’m so happy to have learned about WIFMCO – this is exactly what they’re doing!)

Q: Any advice/wisdom to fellow actors, filmmakers, writers etc.?
Suz: I have three.
1. Sometimes projects are meant to fail and result in valuable lessons learned.
2. Seek legal advice and cover your ass (valuable lesson learned).
3. Remember to say “thank you” every day because we get to work in this crazy industry—and sometimes get paid for it!
Laura: I definitely need to give this advice to myself, but just keep creating. It can be a bit demoralizing when things don’t seem to go your way, or you wonder if you’ll ever make a living or get anywhere with your art. But keep writing, filming, acting, etc. Try to find your tribe (even if it’s just one other person) where you can encourage and push each other.

June  2018 Member Spotlight

Roma Sur & Jessica McGaugh

“Pulse of the Mountains”

Winner of WIFMCO’s 1st Annual Film & Media Finishing Funds Grant

WIFMCO is excited to introduce you to Roma Sur and Jessica McGaugh the winners of our 1st annual Film & Media Finishing Funds Grant. Roma and Jessica are taking home $1500 to use on their film: Pulse of the Mountains

Q: What is your field of focus?
Jessica: I consider myself an all-encompassing filmmaker. That means, I direct, shoot, edit and produce work. Some projects I will do one of those things, some projects I will do all of those things. I’ve worked in fiction and documentary and believe there is much value to doing both.

 Roma: A filmmaker and faculty member at the Film and Television program at the University of Colorado, Denver. She came to the US in 2000 and received her Master’s degree in Film and Video Production, with a focus on Screenwriting, at the University of Denver. She received the Harold Mendelssohn Graduate student award in 2003.  Her short documentary, Storytelling Today received the Boulder Community award. Her feature documentary, The Golden Hour won the Best Documentary Award at the Indian Film Festival of Houston, 2013, and was broadcast nationally on NDTV, India in 2015. She recently completed co-editing her feature documentary titled Changing Tides about a paraplegic swimmer reclaiming his life. Her current project Pulse of the Mountains is slated for release in fall 2018. She recently completed her feature screenplay titled The Rock Within which has been receiving strong reviews at contests.

Q: Tell us about your journey thus far in your career? Did you study? If so, where or are you still in school?
Jessica: I received an MFA in film from Syracuse University. Following my MFA, I worked as an editor in New York before moving to Colorado. Since then, I have been producing independently and teaching film and TV at the University of Colorado Denver.
Roma: Before coming to the US I was a copywriter with advertising agencies. While writing and producing television spots for commercials I realized this is what I wanted to do. That was like a teaser. I wanted to do the real deal. I came to the US and got my Master’s in Film and Video production.

Q: What was your inspiration to get into this industry? Do you have any mentors you want to mention?

Jessica: My first passion was music. I have played music since I was a kid and took it very seriously throughout most of my life. However, when I studied at the University of Arizona as an undergraduate, I soon after found that film making was something I would like to pursue. It was an easy transition moving into this new medium and I think my musical background has made me a better filmmaker.
Roma: My mentor is Craig Volk at CU Denver. I learned a lot from him about dramatic writing and about teaching screenwriting. I am also inspired by local filmmaker Sean Jourdan who is a friend and mentor. He is always encouraging as a fellow filmmaker.

Q: Tell us about your favorite project you’ve worked on? Any takeaways?
My favorite project thus far was a documentary titled “The Golden Hour.” My long-term film partner, Roma Sur and I shot the film in India in 2011. The month in India was an incredible adventure, but more than that an incredible learning experience. The production of that movie, all the way through its distribution was the greatest amount of problem-solving I’ve ever dealt with while working on a project. I grew enormously as a filmmaker and as a person throughout that experience.
Roma: My favorite project would be my first doc feature The Golden Hour. This was a project that I started from ground up. I heard the story on NPR radio, called the protagonist, and floated the idea of a documentary. Almost magically everything happened and the next thing we knew we were going to Boston to film him at Harvard Medical and then to India  in summer of 2011. I collaborated with Jessica McGaugh on this project, my longtime filmmaking partner. This film was featured on the NDTV website and received the Best Documentary award at the Indian Film Festival of Houston. There were many takeaways. But the biggest one was to be really mindful of how we allocate our time and budget. We learned many lessons along the way which we implemented in following projects. Spend wisely, but also have a buffer. The second day of our shoot, we busted one of the LED lights. We spent an entire day trying to locate an equipment rental place in New Delhi. That put an unexpected dent in our budget.

Q:  Any projects coming up? 
Jessica: Currently I am in the middle of working as Director of Photography on a post-apocalyptic feature film titled “Feral.” We are shooting sections of the film every summer for four years to allow for the child actor to age throughout the duration of the movie. As a DP, this type of movie is a dream to shoot. I get to play with shadows and texture, travel to run down places around Colorado and work with a great cast and crew. The final piece of the shoot will be summer 2019 followed by its release.

Roma: The immediate one would be Pulse of the Mountains. We hope to complete it by the end of this summer. The other project would be my feature screenplay – The Rock Within. It is loosely inspired by true events. My artist statement is to give voice to women and children related issues and narrate cross-cultural stories. I hope to initiate a dialogue on tabooed issues, like infertility through this film. I have started sending out the screenplay to contests and received strong positive feedback so far on the unique premise and an international target audience.

Q: What are your hopes for the film, television, and media scene in Colorado?
Jessica: To be perfectly honest, I would like to see the independent community grow big enough to support more narrative television and films.
Roma:  I think Colorado is already a fast-growing market for film, television and media. It’s growing reputation as a foodie destination made it the chosen location for Top chef’s season 15. Colorado produces a large amount of non-fiction content. It is the hub of post-production work for many of these big budget non-fiction shows.   Colorado Springs is already a coveted location, with the recent filming of the Netflix film ‘Our Souls at Night.’ And I see this as a growing phenomenon.

Q: Any advice/wisdom to fellow actors, filmmakers, writers etc?

Jessica: My advice to filmmakers is not to wait for their passion projects to happen on their own. I feel that you should just go out there and do it. If you don’t know how to do something specific, there are many resources online and around Colorado. I’ve found that many film/tv/media people are friendly and willing to talk to you about production challenges.  Another thing that Roma and I are working on as filmmakers is finding and building our audience for each movie. Although this can feel like a full-time job and a massive undertaking on top of making the film, it is crucial in this day and age to keep connected through social media and get your work out there.
Roma: Hold on to your BIG vision. Have that in the horizon. But set short term achievable goals which will finally get you to that BIG vision.