Actress and Executive Producer Dawn Davis hopes to give audiences a subtle chill with her new short film, “Harmony.” This supernatural thriller is set to premiere on August 19th as part of the HollyShorts Film Festival at the world famous TLC Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
Looking to take control and start creating her own projects, Dawn is responsible for bringing “Harmony” full circle. It’s obvious her smartest decisions were finding an intriguing script and the perfect director, rising female talent Logan Kibens, a Sundance Screenwriting Lab fellow, HBO Directors Guild fellow and winner of Film Independent’s Project Involve and Sloane grants.
Previously, Dawn has been making her mark on-stage as Joan, in “Saint Joan”; Agnes, in “The Shadow Box,” directed by Keith David; and Goneril, in “King Lear,” opposite Apollo Dukakis. As a producer, her shows have been staged off-off Broadway, at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, at the Brattle Cinema in Cambridge and at the Electric Lodge in Venice. On-screen, Dawn has appeared in Avicii’s hit summer music video, “Wake Me Up,” and got down and dirty as Katie in the zombie-horror series, “Dead Souls,” which is currently on the festival circuit.
We recently caught up with Dawn Davis to discuss the making of “Harmony.”
Tell us about the new film “Harmony.”
DAWN: “Harmony’ is about a clairvoyant hospice nurse who lives a quiet life until one dark night when she finds herself in a fight for her life against a psychotic intruder. Her intuitive gifts come to her aid in a way that she least expects.
This supernatural thriller packs a lot into 5 minutes. How did you find the script and what about it grabbed your attention?
DAWN: I posted an ad on the International Screenwriters' Association website (www.networkisa.org) and was sent two scripts by Warren Fast. Both had strong female protagonists and I especially liked “Harmony” because it managed it be simple, interesting and to contain a great plot twist all in space of five pages. I felt it would be fairly straightforward to shoot but still something I hadn't seen before.
Next, you brought in emerging director Logan Kibens. What can you share with us about this experience?
DAWN: Logan is one of my favorite artists to work with. She has a strong point-of-view and visual style, yet she makes those around her feel seen and heard in a way that is very rare. So many of the actors we auditioned said afterwards that they loved coming in for her because it felt more like a collaborative rehearsal than an audition. With Logan at the helm, the entire process was smooth, provocative, and also very fun. We had some twisted inside jokes about the different directions we could take “Harmony” in--we've even created some fake marketing materials to entertain ourselves--so maybe our next project will be a bizarre dark comedy.
Not only are you the Executive Producer of the film, you’re also the star. Was it hard to juggle these two jobs during the actual shoot days? Any advice for others looking to do the same?
DAWN: Thankfully, I set myself up with two co-producers for this very reason. Logan was one and George Fivas was the other. The practicalities were taken care of for me on set, so that I could focus on acting, but it was definitely a mental struggle not to worry about logistics and just stay present with the character. I certainly noticed if Logan or another crew member seemed upset or tired and I wanted to play my producer role in those moments but I really couldn't. They were all tough and experienced enough to take care of themselves but I wanted my crew to be happy and it registered with me if they weren't.
These days, actors (especially women), must get involved in producing and creating work for themselves. I think it's wise to learn how to do that. Just try to be the engine behind the project, the person who develops the content, but find other organized, committed and dependable people to help you make it all happen and to run the set while you're acting. It's essential to meet and network with other producers- not just actors, writers or directors. Good producers are hard to find.
Were you surprised by anything during the making the film? And, what do you consider the biggest lesson you learned?
DAWN: I felt very prepared going into the shoot, thanks in no small part to Logan and George, so I wasn't unpleasantly surprised by anything. Obstacles always come up, though, and ours was having to work with the cat on the first day, but we still got great shots that worked for the film.
I used to resist having to produce my own work but, with this project, the biggest lesson I learned was that it's my path to create content, rather than waiting around for it to find me, and that I feel passionate about creating opportunities for female filmmakers.
What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
DAWN: I think it's great to leave any movie still thinking about the characters, and wondering what happens to them next, so I hope we accomplish that with ours. I hope they take on a life that still exists in the imaginations of the audience when the five minutes are over.
Lastly, how can fans find out more about “Harmony” and you?
DAWN: For the film:
Thanks, Dawn. And, please keep creating…’cause we’ll keep watching!