In the cold, cold world of making movies, there has been a revolution happening among the small fish that can’t afford big budgets. The DIY movement has taken over, letting plenty of people who are interested in filming actually do it. The method of finding videos online and teaching one’s self has birthed a group of new filmmakers that keeps on growing. In New York City, we spot them all the time. Working the sidewalk with a crew of three to four people, at the parks trying to emulate their heroes, but with different methods. The results vary from incredible pieces of art to amateur curiosity, but one new short or web series gets prepared to shoot every morning.
A company that uses these methods is Second Star NYC, a company that focuses on giving opportunities to those that rarely get one. Starting as a DIY project between two friends to learn the ropes of filming, Dan De Jesus and Matthew Willings found a new love in their lives. Before long, they were filming a series of experimental short films under the name “The Dan and Matt Show.” Adding Theresa Basile, and later Knilo Solei, to their crew, they started planning their biggest project to date: a web series called Working Title, in which they use their real life experience with the DIY movement and create an absurd look into the world behind the camera.
Now on their second year, and with a thirst to network and create opportunities, Second Star NYC has opened up their floor with the monthly 7-Day Film Challenge. Here, they take cues from their audience to create a film and assemble a new team each month to produce a short in 7 days. This gives people that may have just had a fleeting interest or those that never knew where to start a place where they can be part of it.
I have had the privilege of working with them, and I have to say I highly recommend it. Check out our interview with the three founding members of Second Star NYC so you can hear in their own words why they are the company you are looking for. For more information on the 7-Day Film Challenge and their upcoming projects visit them at http://www.secondstar.nyc.
NDM: Hello Second Star NYC! How did you guys come up with that name? As a matter of fact how did you guys formed?
Matt: Theresa tells it best, but basically Dan, Theresa and I got together with plans to meet Dan’s older brother, Carlo about the prospects of doing a project that he had wanted to do. The meeting fell through, but the three of us hung out and decided to write a show. Then, Working Title was born. The name Second Star NYC came from a literary reference that had often have many of us hope throughout our lives.
Theresa: Second Star NYC comes from a famous line from Peter Pan – “Second star to the right, and straight on ’til morning.” We’re all fans of the story and the quote is inspiring, representing hope and adventure, and the part of us that never wants to completely grow up.
Dan: Matt, Theresa, Knilo, and I had all worked previously on the Dan and Matt Show, a zero budget sketch comedy web series that Matt and I created. After the season was over, Theresa, Matt and I decided to write a 6 episode web series (Working Title) that highlighted our experience as amateur filmmakers in NYC. We wrote the series with Knilo in mind. It wasn’t until after a few readings of the Working Title script, and realizing this was the biggest project we ever tried to produce, that we decided to create Second Star NYC. This provided us a platform in which we all stood as equals with one unified voice. Knilo later joined our company and became our fourth company member.
NDM: What is your main mission? What sets you apart from other companies around?
Theresa: Our main mission is to create our own art and highlight the work of artists from underrepresented demographics – women, people of color, and any group that doesn’t get the spotlight in traditional media. There are a lot of great artistic voices out there that go unheard because they’re a little “out there,” a little quirky, and outside the norm. We stand out because we make a point of seeking those voices and giving them a chance to flourish.
Dan: Second Star NYC’s main mission is to produce projects that highlight artists from underrepresented demographics, particularly women and people of color. We want to tell stories that aren’t normally told. We want to take risks. We want to give everyone the opportunity to create something they didn’t think they could. As a young company, we aren’t looking to compete with other companies or artists. Instead, we want to work with everyone. In our early stages, we did a weekly Facebook post called Community Thursdays, in which we highlighted artists and their projects! It was amazing to see the positive feedback we were getting from people. Artists were so surprised we were supporting them consistently. If you had an event, more than likely Second Star NYC will promote it and go to it. It’s all about the community for us. We pride ourselves in striving to be the most reliable community members you’ll ever encounter.
NDM: Let’s talk about this fantastic 7-day film challenge Second Star NYC does on a monthly basis. The concept? Who can participate? If someone is interested and doesn’t have a direct connection to any of you, could they someday be a part of it?
Dan: A team of artists turns audience suggestions into a film in 7 days. Each month we give audience members a prompt, we randomly choose one of their answers and hand those answers over to a team of artists who turn it into a film in 7 days. It is a hugely collaborative project that forces you (often blindly) to trust in your fellow participants. Anyone can participate. Whether you have a new camera you want to try out or have zero experience in the film industry, the 7 Day Film Challenges gives you the opportunity to experiment and grow as an artist. Contact email@example.com with the subject “7 Day Film Challenge” to participate.
Matt: We look for the same roles every month: writer, director, actor(s), director of photography, editor, sound designer, boom operator, production assistant(s), and musicians for original scores. This team has 7 days to take audience answers to random prompts by Us, and make a film. We help facilitate and communicate amongst the team, but these are very much independent projects that are products of true raw collaborations.
NDM: Second Star NYC has been a very big advocate of diversity and giving opportunities to talented people to be in roles that they may not otherwise get because of the shallowness of the industry. In “Working Title,” the main character is a full bodied woman played by the beautiful Knilo Solei. With this body positive approach, and the many ethnicities that have worked with you in past projects, how do you feel moving forward? Is this a coincidence, or do you actively look to give minorities those chances they may be missing?
Matt: We absolutely do. I think ultimately it boils down to subject matter. We want to tell everyone’s stories. And we want to show off people who have talent. Talented people aren’t only skinny or white. They are all different types of beautiful people with amazing things to offer any project.
Dan: We consciously make an effort to highlight women and people of color. We have two women in the company and I’m half Filipino and half American. So naturally we want to see faces similar to ours and tell stories that represent us.
Theresa: We’re always striving for balance when we assemble our casts and crew for each project. We don’t want any cast and crew to be all white people and we don’t want them all to be men. I can’t see a good reason not to make diversity a priority. If the same kinds of voices and the same kinds of perspectives are always the one being amplified, art becomes stagnant and repetitive. It makes artistic sense to seek diverse casts and crews.
NDM: Besides these projects, anything else you guys are cooking for us? Prepping?
Dan: I know each of us have ideas and projects cooking. Whichever project we decide to do first, it’s good to know Second Star NYC is there to support us.
NDM: SO we talked about your power together, your avengers approach to filmmaking, and how you are like the “We are the world” of Indie film companies. BUT! What about you guys individually? What are you involved outside the company? Time to promote yourselves a little.
Dan: I’m an actor outside this company. Shakespeare is the man and you can routinely find me doing readings for Instant Shakespeare, performing for Accidental Shakespeare Company or taking improv classes. I also do freelance director of photography work.
Matt: I personally have a project in mind that will be multi-media base. It would have a prequel that will be published as a comic series and a series of short films, or chapters that will make up the ending.
Theresa: My biggest project outside of Second Star NYC was publishing my first novel, Fanged (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7382481.Theresa_Basile). I’m working on the sequels and a few short stories as well.
NDM: Dream project: GO!
Dan: A restaurant web series that takes all it’s content from true stories. And a comedic pop art zombie web series.
Matt: My dream project is a dystopian samurai short epic.
Theresa: My dream project is top secret because I don’t anyone stealing my idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if we did it with Second Star a few years down the line.
NDM: To finish this interview, I want to thank you all for your time and one last question. For all the people starting a company together that are having difficulties getting it to work in this hard city, to those that can’t get a role on or off camera because of how they look, their ethnicity or how they speak: what would you say?
Theresa: Network. Go to as many artistic events as you can and talk to the people involved in them. Go to the events of friends, of friends of friends, of acquaintances, of something where you don’t know anybody but you heard about it and thought it seemed cool. Be enthusiastic about your work and who you are, and you’ll meet like-minded people who will want to work with you.
Dan: I had a moment in NYC where I silently cried in a bathroom stall of my restaurant job. The pressure of being successful had gotten to me. Crying cleansed me though. It allowed me to see that I had mixed up the definitions of success and goals. Goals are paying my bills with my craft, winning an Oscar, and traveling the world for a film/acting job I love. Those are goals. Success has nothing to do with that. Success is waking up when you don’t want to. It’s being eaten alive by this city and asking if it wants seconds. It’s as Mandy says in Working Title “Success is the aches and pains, it’s the difficult days”. So if you find yourself beat down by this city, or crying in a bathroom stall like I did, know that you are being successful at that very moment. It may not feel that way but when you come out of it cleansed and a stronger person you’ll realize that no one can take away your definition of success. Because that definition is you and whatever you decide to pursue.
Filming ain’t easy, but it’s a lot better with companies like SECOND STAR NYC around. Please check their IndieGoGo campaign and share. Also go to their 7-day film challenge shorts page, watch some, and see if you can join next month. Link right here: http://www.secondstar.nyc/7-day-challenge/
But more importantly: SUPPORT NEW WORK!
Twisted Talk: Have you heard of Second Star NYC? What are your thoughts and opinions about what they are doing? Discuss below!