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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Bellingham film collective share the secrets to becoming an actor

Talking to Crows directs readers to the ins and outs of film and where to start

Talking to Crows is a female majority film collective that acts, films and markets their own work as well as creates for others. Their latest film is a revival of work by Ella Higginson // Photo courtesy of Talking to Crows

By Bailey Sytsma

Talking to Crows, an independent female film collective, share how they built a business doing what they love and urge aspiring actors and creators to start working toward their careers now. 

Talking to Crows began in 2013 when Cassidy Brooks co-created the multimedia cartoon, American Pizza about working in the foodservice industry. To keep their work independent, they started the company Talking to Crows in order to have complete creative control over their  work.

Not only is the company mostly female workers, but its audience consists of 75% women, Brooks said. 

“In our branding we like to go over-the-top girly a lot of the time to sort of reclaim girliness and make it cool and edgy,” Brooks said.

In 2019, 113 directors from the top 100 movies of that year were 89.4% male while 10.6% were female, according to a study from the University of Southern California Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. This is compared to a group of 8.4 men being equivalent to 1 woman.

“We’ve definitely realized that our content is better when it’s a subject that we’re passionate about, equality being one of those subjects,” Brooks said. “As with so many professions, film is still largely dominated by men. We are constantly trying to bring focus to this issue.”

Stacy Reynolds joined the company in 2015 as a co-owner and works to expand the platform with Brooks.

Brooks and Reynolds said that filmmaking is a team effort and a big part of their success was help from the community.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brooks and Reynolds said they’ve had plenty of creative work on their hands while video editing, sound editing, web design and social media consulting for themselves and other businesses.

“Many of our clients are small businesses so we anticipate more potential impact on that part of our business as we all continue to shelter-in-place,” Brooks said.

Their latest film, Just Like the Men, was released to their website on Tuesday, May 12. The film, which costs $20 for a 48-hour rental, is based off of the original 1914 silent film on Ella Higginson and Frances Axtell, two women who campaigned for legislative office during a time when there weren’t any women in office.

Talking to Crows has numerous films and videos that are based on later historic events, as well as many female leaders and femminist-forward meanings behind their work.

“Follow your passions, just start. Go. Right now,” Reynolds said. “Everything you do creates opportunity. Who would have thought we’d go from a zombie musical to owning a production company?”

Benjamin Mann, a Bellingham artist and owner of Ben Mann Studios, works with Talking to Crows whenever he needs videos or editing for his projects.

“I can barely navigate Hotmail so when it comes to  building a website or shooting a time lapse video or producing an online marketing thing, they’re really brilliant at it,” Mann said.

Mann began working with Talking to Crows five years ago after he met  Reynolds in a coffee shop. Mann said he enjoys working with the company because they take the time to explain their process.

“I’ve got an established business but it’s good to have someone with young energy and fresh eyes and a ton of multimedia tech savvy to come along and just throw gas on the fire,” Mann said. “It’s been a phenomenal thing for me.”

Both Mann and Brooks said that reaching out to businesses in the community is a great way to be noticed and to establish a business in the area.

Ashley VanCurler, a theatre and dance program coordinator at Western, said there are many opportunities to become involved with theatre on and off campus.

“Student Theatre Productions produces several shows every year and often encourages new students or those interested in theatre to get involved in performance or production roles within their season,” VanCurler said. “They even offer workshops to help hone skills for auditions, technical interviews or dance calls.” 

Due to the school being online, the program is unable to host productions and workshops in person but the theatre production has created an online version called “Not So Staged Readings.” Students are able to try out for casting roles in a Zoom version of acting and script readings. 

Off-campus events like Bellingham film festivals can help young actors and creators get their foot in the door, VanCurler said. Film festivals offered in the area include The Bellingham Music Festival, Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival and Bleedingham. CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival, is another festival that presents films directed by women.

“They are very popular and often engage local artists to create their own works,” VanCurler said.

Clubs, festivals and getting in touch with the theatrical community in Bellingham can be a beneficial hands-on experience on becoming an actor or filmmaker, VanCurler said.

“Create a body of work and do it with people you love working with,” Brooks said. “Reach out to professionals in the industry and see if they want to collaborate or need an intern. Don’t be shy about this, people are typically really awesome and kind.”

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