In Part three of this exclusive profile on the Creative Director and Producer of Life Out Loud Films, Sara Elizabeth Timmins, we will explore her community outreach for the films her company creates, the mission of Life Out Loud Films, and her latest project, the film Chesapeake.
You usually attach a charity projects to each of your films.
David Baldacci’s Wish You Well Foundation focuses on literacy and that is a very important passion for him and his wife. Part of the profits from Wish You Well the film will benefit this foundation. Also, We wanted to involve the community, and encourage them to explore some of the underlying issues and messages in the story. So that’s where the Believe Campaign came from. It was actually just a one-time campaign, designed specifically to go alongside the making of the movie Wish You Well and promoted discussions and learning surrounding issues addressed in the book like environmental issues, education, family roots and history. Every film from Life Out Loud Films partners with some relevant charity or organization that will benefit from the film.
Your Scott Winters Scholarship is still ongoing, correct?
Yes. We just awarded our second one, and we’ll be raising money again for two more scholarships, which we need to give away within the next year.
Scott Winters is also the inspiration for your scholarship program, correct?
He is our inspiration. Scott was an amazing person; always positive, always a can-do attitude, extremely talented and when he wrote the script for Lake Effects, he really trusted me. He wrote the script for no upfront pay (I did not have money), and believed that I would attach name talent to the film. I believed in my ability to raise the money to get it made, even though I’d never done either before. He put a lot of faith in me. He was also an actor and he plays the banker, Dave Boyers in the film Lake Effects. Right before the film had its first screening, he passed away of cancer.
I’m so sorry.
Thank you. He was battling metastatic colon cancer. He was in remission and doing great when he was on set. I found out later that right before we started shooting it was back, but he never told anybody. It got bad again. We all thought he could push through, and he really wanted to be able to see it for the first time on the big screen at the local Virginia premier. Then, when I found out that he went into hospice. I bought a ticket to Rhode Island and left the next morning with the movie in hand. He saw the film for the first time in hospice a couple days before he died. It was one of those moments I will never forget, because I could see the sense of joy, peace and accomplishment that it brought him in his final days. My company founded a scholarship fund to carry on the passion and talent for film-making that Scott embodied. The scholarship is awarded annually to provide an opportunity to a young filmmaker with a dream, and is funded entirely through private donations and fundraisers.
Would you like to talk about the overall mission of your production company?
Sure. Life Out Loud Films is an independent film company, which is now based out of Virginia. The model that we use is quite different and unique, not only different from obviously the studio system in Los Angeles, but also a little different than the typical independent film. Our mission is to balance business and art, by creating quality and inspiring films with strong female characters. We also try to make a positive impact behind the scenes within the communities we film. What I always say is we’re not just making a film; we’re making a difference. At Life Out Loud Films, we have that mission in mind. It’s very community-based. Our idea is to go into a community and showcase that community beautifully on screen, rather than go in, make a film and leave. We like for the whole community to take ownership in the project. They’re not just watching it happen; they’re actually an active part and can say, ‘Hey, I was a part of making that film possible’. That’s really important, and it ends up becoming a model that really includes people and creates memorable experiences.
There are tons of people in this area that are equally as talented, if not more so, than individuals we all know of that are famous in New York and Los Angeles. They've just never been given the opportunity to showcase their talents. That’s really part of our mission as well is to create opportunities. It makes the whole process a lot more rewarding. Even our investors play a really active part in the process. An investor’s money is not just a check that we take blindly to go off and make a film and never talk to them again. We develop a friendship and I have a responsibility to work as hard as I can to give them a return on their investment. It’s one of the reasons we also keep our budgets low. We’re able to do that, because we’re making it locally and we’re smart about our spending. We focus on putting our money on the screen for things that increase the production value, and get creative for funding things not on the screen. As a result, the final product looks like it has a much higher price point than we actually spent on it. A film should have a value based on what you see, and not what you spend. This is how we approach film-making.
A portion of proceeds from every single film goes to a cause. Lake Effects had lake cleanup efforts tied to it. Wish You Well, had David Baldacci and his wife, Michelle, literacy foundation, the Wish You Well Foundation, tied to it. Chesapeake, our next film, will raise awareness and support for efforts helping to preserve the Chesapeake Bay and assist in the ecological issues that they’re dealing with. It’s really not about just making a film, but raising an awareness of community, social and ecological issues, through the stories we tell and the organizations and causes we then partner with.
Let’s talk about your upcoming production Chesapeake?
Chesapeake is a dramatic film about an aging 'water man' who lives a very secluded life on the Chesapeake Bay. He rescues a young boy and a woman from the base of the bay. Suddenly his solitary life becomes their shelter. His lonely and secluded life dissipates as he finds hope and vows to protect the boy and woman from the dangers that follow.
I’m thrilled, absolutely thrilled about Chesapeake, which was written by Eric Hurt. The film is actually a collaboration between three different Virginia companies: Pillage and Plunder, which is owned by Eric Hurt, the Director of Photography, Director and Writer; Arvold Productions, which is owned by Erica Arvold, the Casting Director and Producer; and Life Out Loud Films, which I own. We have Keith Carradine as the lead and J.P.Vanderloo, playing the little boy. JP also played Oz in Wish You Well. The roles were written with these actors in mind, and they were brought on early in the process, but we haven’t technically started the rest of the casting process. We’re in the fundraising stage right now, and God willing, if we’re able to raise all of the money, we’ll be shooting it spring/summer of 2015 on the eastern shore. It’s a story of redemption. We will film right in the beautiful Chesapeake area, which naturally adds such stunning visuals. Eric’s style of filming is very fluid and he captures the simple yet abundant beauty of an area so wonderfully it will be like a visual poem.
The Chesapeake Bay is dealing with a lot of serious preservation issues, environmental, and cleanup and other problems like a decrease in the number of oysters. Part of our mission, which is in line with my company’s mission, is to inspire audiences themselves to make a difference in either their own life, the life of their family, community or the world, and to take positive action. For Chesapeake, our hope is that people will see this film, have an emotional response to it, and look deeper into the bay by going to our website to discover some of the local non-profits, or viewing the Making of the Film, which will cover some of these environmental issues in greater depth. Hopefully, people will be drawn to help support those issues and raise awareness.
How did the idea to make Chesapeake come about?
I cannot take credit for that. It was actually Eric Hurt’s idea while he was shooting another film years ago down the coast. He fell in love with the area, and he wanted to tell this story. So he spent a lot of time there to make sure the script authentically and genuinely portrayed the area. The ‘Water man’ culture is a dying culture. The way of life is slowly dissolving. Eric did a lot of research for his script and then he brought Erica onto the project. I had previously worked with them both on separate occasions, and they asked me if I wanted to come and join this team. It’s been a wonderful collaboration, because we’re very like-minded in the way we make films. We all agree it’s not just making a film, but making a difference. We all bring very unique skill-sets to the table, which really complement each other. So it’s been a real pleasure working with the two of them.
What advice would you offer people starting out in the industry?
I think the one thing that I've learned is you can do anything you put your mind to. You just have to tell yourself you’re going to do it. Sometimes the biggest obstacle is just deciding you’re going to do it. For me, it was telling everybody that I was going to do it, because then I couldn't back down. I needed to put the ball in motion to make sure that I had control of my own destiny. I wasn't just waiting for things to happen to me.
What do you think people’s biggest obstacles are in accomplishing their dreams?
Well, I think it’s themselves and fear. I named my company Life Out Loud Films, and it took me a long time to name it. I feel like the name really embodied what the company is about and the, the mantra is “Dare to live life out loud”. Dare stands for: Dream, Act, Risk, and Embrace. Probably the easiest of those is to Dream and then you take ACTION. Next, the problem is that a lot of people want a safety net. It’s the fear of the unknown. Whether it’s the fear of failure or just the fear of letting the people you love down, or letting yourself down, often times the fear stops people from taking that third step to Risk. In my mind, if failure is not an option, how can you fail? I always have a plan from A to Z, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten anywhere from A to Z direct and as planned. Fear really holds us back and I think fear and regret are two of the biggest obstacles to happiness. Once you've dreamed, acted and risked, hopefully you take the time to embrace the journey and your accomplishments.
That makes a lot of sense, and thank you again!
Please check out the websites for Life Out Loud Films, Arvold Productions, and Pillage and Plunder to see the past and up-coming projects filming in the DMV area. The Wish You Well Foundation continues to champion literacy and is well worth the time to support.