The film industry in Los Angeles, and Hollywood specifically, is like a form of creative mecca/nightclub. Imagine hundreds if not thousands waiting in line, from screenwriters to actors to directors, all having worked relentlessly in perfecting their craft up to that point. Getting in can be difficult, as the bouncer is notoriously stubborn, but the opportunity for exposure and collaboration increases exponentially once inside. One such creative talent who has navigated the line into this tight-knit club is filmmaker Laura Franco. In addition to being recognized for her solo work as a writer and director by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as a production coordinator Franco has helped bring shows such as Netflix’s The Hollywood Masters from the think tank to your screen. We had a chance to ask the ambitious storyteller about her work behind-the-scenes, and learn more about the role of a high-profile production coordinator.
What excites you most about the industry you find yourself working in, being film? Is it the creativity, the collaborative nature, or something else?
Franco: Creativity is definitely what drives me every day. There are not enough industries and mediums out there that give you the opportunity to make a living out of telling stories. The fact that film gives you the freedom to tell your own personal story and re-invent it for an audience is what makes film so compelling. The collaborative process has a lot to do with it, as well. You need an army to make a film, but as long as you find a solid group of collaborators that are on the same page as you, you can create magic.
Was there a particular moment or series of events that inspired you to move to the movie epicenter of the world, Los Angeles, or has that always been the goal?
Franco: I think anyone who has ever thought of doing film has thought of moving to Los Angeles and Hollywood at some point. My initial goal was to learn how to make films and having grown up watching a lot of American cinema, it just seemed natural this would be the place for me to be. But the beauty of Los Angeles is that you get to meet people from so many different backgrounds that it opens your mind to different perspectives, ideas and you get to know about other types of filmmaking out there that catch your attention and eventually, you find what type/genre of films you’re most interested in.
What sort of hands-on / behind-the-scenes work does a production coordinator have to take care of, like when you were the production coordinator for the Netflix show ‘The Hollywood Masters’?
Franco: For The Hollywood Masters there was a lot of logistics involved. I was mainly assisting the director with coordinating the hiring of crew members and ensuring all paperwork was in place. I had to make sure all crew members were present on the day of the taping to follow up on their payments. A lot of the behind-the-scenes has to do with compensation and keeping track of working hours and schedules, including the expense report at the end of the month. I took care of all that.
The business model and goals of Big Review TV are rather compelling and unique. How do you successfully go about marketing small business through video?
Franco: Big Review TV is actually setting out to do more than just marketing small and medium enterprises. They are actually telling the owner’s stories through video. If you watch some, you get to hear about the personal inspiration behind the business which most of the time comes from a very personal place. Like in film, the videos connect with the audience and give you a compelling reason to want to check out the place, and unlike many other platforms out there, you get to watch instead of read.
What are some of the biggest challenges a production coordinator faces on a daily basis, and how do stay motivated and inspired given the exhausting nature of your work?
Franco: Any person working in production, whether as a coordinator or manager, can tell you that the biggest aspect of being a producer is to solve problems. On a daily basis, a problem will come up and people look at you for a solution. Most of the times your experience gives you the confidence to come up with a fix right on the spot. If you’re shooting a film, sometimes you have to improvise and do damage control, but the important thing is to keep in mind that everything has a solution and somehow, things just work out in the end. This is what motivates you, the fact that despite the obstacles you managed to complete your job, which gives you confidence to take on another project and deal with whatever comes at you.
How did it feel to know that your hard work had been recognized by the The Academy when you were selected for the ‘Tomorrow’s Filmmakers Today Program”?
Franco: The Academy sponsors a handful of programs and having been selected to be a part of one last year was very rewarding. As a latino filmmaker, I wanted to meet and collaborate with other latino filmmakers in the US as I had not met enough of them to actually collaborate on a project. It was a very exciting time where I got to make talented friends but also meet filmmakers with common interests to develop future projects with and raise our voice for the latino community, and help make the film industry more diverse from the inside out.
Did the program mentioned assist in growing your understanding of what it takes to be a successful filmmaker?
Franco: Definitely. The panels and discussions we had with professionals currently working and creating content gave us encouragement and tools to continue our work, to focus on our creativity, hone our skills and the most important thing, keep us motivated in a highly rejectful industry. Watching almost every film of the festival also inspired me to think of my next project and sort of “re-charge” for the coming year. My biggest takeaway is how important it is to believe in ourselves in order to be successful and happy. I now trust I can do anything I put my mind to as long as I truly believe I can do it.
What projects or moments during your career stand out to you as being the most memorable or unique?
Franco: Being selected for the program we just talked about was definitely my highlight of 2017, as well as having the opportunity to screen my latest short, A New Beginning at the Borrego Springs Film Festival here in California in January. It was a dream come true to be able to screen a film at a film festival and to be able to attend and talk about your film with other talented filmmakers and viewers. Overall it was really an incredible experience.
Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind your most recent short film, A New Beginning, as well as how that project has been received?
Franco: The film was born as my idea to show the respect I feel for all the acid survivors around the world. I wanted to produce and direct a film about based on a particular survivor from Colombia who had severe acids burns all over her body and has now become an avid advocate for acid attack victims. Her resilience inspired Paloma’s [the main character] journey. Given that it’s such a topical film, it has been well received in the festival circuit here in the US and worldwide where it became an official selection of the International Izmir Short Film Festival in Turkey. It will be screening in early June at the Hobnobben Film Festival in Indiana so I am looking forward to that as well!