Posted on 1 Comment

The Story Behind Starting Film in a Year – Part 1: Small Seeds

Film in a Year has an interesting origin story.

We started from one small, seemingly casual conversation and blossomed into an organization that produced its first feature film in just over a year, has a fantastic network of passionate filmmakers and has vision and mission with true heart behind it.

But before I get into the details of how we got started, let me introduce myself. My name is Ali Parnell and I am (officially) the Music Supervisor, Communications Manager and one of the four Producers for Film in a Year. I am also (unofficially) the caterer, set designer, assistant director, PA, content writer and much more, on top of all that, the wife of the director – which is really where this story begins. So now that you have a better idea of who I am, let me get on with the story.

One afternoon in December my husband (the director/ producer), Paul and I were driving to the music studio in Raleigh where I worked. As per usual we were chatting about our dreams, the future and what it could look like if we attained those dreams, yet also reflected on the huge gap between where we were and where we wanted to be (the story of most people’s life right?).

The motivator and risk taker inside of me came out of hiding long enough to say, “well why don’t you just make a movie this year? What’s stopping you? If it’s money, just make the best thing you can with whatever resources we already have. If you want to write, then write. If you want to direct, then direct. Create your own opportunity. It doesn’t have to be the best thing ever, but just do it. You will be much further ahead than most in your shoes and one step closer to what you truly desire.”

He was inspired and deeply encouraged by my support of his dreams and it was one of those moments when something clicked and we both took that statement seriously, locked arms and decided “let’s do this for real!”. The reality of our decision started to sink in over the next 20 min and waves of curiosity, excitement, questions and concerns crashed around us, but we were all in, ready to get serious about our dreams and goals.

And as fate would have it,  that very same day, just hours later, while Paul was hanging out in the lobby waiting for me to finish teaching piano he met a local film director who just finished directing his first feature film. They had a great connection and Paul got to hear all about his experience writing and directing a feature film for the first time. Coincidence? I think not. And that is only the first of many to come.

So with the new year dawning on us and a feature film on the agenda for 2014, we knew we would need help. Paul decided to reach out to two local friends and business owners – Jason and Alex (who are also in the media/ video world) – to get support and help in producing this film. At this point we didn’t know what it was going to be about, who would star in it, where we would film or if we would even have any money to invest in it. It was just an idea with a whole lotta passion and commitment behind it. But we knew we wanted to make a film and that is what united us all to move forward. And to make sure we followed through we gave ourselves a deadline – to make a Film in a Year.

Now I know this sounds all peaches and roses, easy as pie, but making a film in one year is a huuuuge undertaking and to say that Alex and Jason were all gung-ho about the idea from the get-go would be a massive over-statement. They were interested and intrigued, but needed to see some proof of ability and commitment before they fully jumped on board. As anyone knows, it’s one thing to talk the talk, but it’s a whole other ball game when someone actually walks the walk. For them, it meant having a completed script with a story that was worth producing. This was not an easy first step and I will share next time about how we settled on an idea that stuck and how Paul was able to finish the script in just under 2 months, but not without 1 scary productivity hack.

But now I want to hear your story! What’s a gutsy thing you stepped out to do in the past year or two? What was the outcome? What did you learn from your experience.

Until next time,