Dub them the Golden Girl-illa Filmmakers. Or Charlie’s “Social Security of Cinema” Angels.
Just don’t tell them they’re too old to be filmmakers.
(Photo: 61 year old Director/Editor Nancy Hanks.)
Dollhouse Productions founder and Santa Clarita resident Nancy Hanks is 61 years old and she’s the kid of the creative group that includes Sue Upperco, Rachel Arno, and Linda Simeone.
“They’re all just about Social Security age. Almost 65,” said Hanks.
And when it comes to working in Hollywood Hanks has discovered 65 is not the new 25.
“It becomes really apparent that they really don’t want older people in those jobs. It’s fine to temp there or anything but when it comes right down to hiring someone outright that is of our age, they don’t tend to do that,” said Hanks.
While some might expect these ladies to start a knitting club or play canasta to while away their frustrations, instead they gathered at the Valley Oaks Village in Newhall and began planning their creative escape by making their own movies.
(Rachel Arno, photo left)
“We wanted to do live-action scripts. We didn’t want to do animation or any other type of medium. We just really wanted to get into narrative story telling with film,” said Hanks.
Their research online revealed over 300 fables that could be cleverly adapted to two or three page scripts. The group then cast the production with professional actors.
“We’d pick a day and shoot it. We’d just go out and shoot it. And I would have a week or a week and a half to finish cutting it and have it up on You Tube. And that’s what we did all year long and had the greatest time,” Hanks said.
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The four women had many different roles in front of and behind the camera. Hanks would direct and edit. Arno is an actress as well as script supervisor and sound person. Simeone is the screenwriter and Assistant Director. Upperco acts and decorates the set.
Although the ladies have the verve of production folks half their age, sometimes Father Time doesn’t cooperate when it comes to certain tasks.
“One of them is just holding a boom up all day. We kind of need somebody for that type of things. Moving equipment around is not easy for us,” said Hanks.
Ever optimistic, Hanks compares their production struggles to -- of course -- a fable.
“It’s kind of like Stone Soup. Y’know it’s like you start doing something and other people get involved and it’s ‘Oh, well I’ll bring some food for us’ and somebody else says ‘I’ve got some green material. We can make so green screen out of that’. And it kind of goes on from there," Hanks said.
And so, after a year of hard work Dollhouse Productions made 12 short films. One a month.
You can watch them by clicking here .
But the group isn’t satisfied with their fabled success. They now want to make a feature length film
“Linda Simeone came up with this idea, of “Distant Location” which is about this actor who has a near death experience and when he goes to heaven he finds out that Humphrey Bogart runs heaven and then he start running into all of these old motion picture stars,” said Hanks.
(Photo: L-R Sue Upperco, Rachel Arno, Nancy Hanks, Linda Simeone, Ann Druffle, Ramon Hamilton, and Penny and Mike Herman.)
The actor in the story is struggling with the guilt of not being around when his mother passed away. Bogart Heaven gives him a second chance.
“That’s what really attracted me to this script, that one scene of him being able to say goodbye to his mother,” Hank said.
Unfortunately, while Dollhouse Productions was able to get by with a shoe-string budget, (a budget so small even the frugal Jack Benny couldn’t complain) a feature-length film will not come as cheap.
“We have broken down the entire script. We’ve got the breakdown. We’ve got the day out of days. And we know how many actors we’re going to need and we know what we’re going to need green screen wise to shoot this. And we just, we’re gonna need some money,” said Hanks.
(Photo: L-R Nancy Hanks, Madison Ratel, Aiden Toulian and Karina Huerta.)
So what do seniors do to find financing? Well, just like the hipsters, they turn to the internet.
“Right now we’ve got the 'indiegogo' up and I’m planning another one after that because we’re just learning,” Hanks said.
Indiegogo.com is a website geared to help artists raise money for their creative projects by pitching their idea online and soliciting money.
“We’ve got like $60 so far. It’s sad because you look at these other ones and they’ve got four or five thousand dollars so far,” said Hanks.
But while they search for the funding, Hanks and her compatriots can take comfort in the knowledge that they’ve dispelled the notion that senior citizens are fearful Luddites.
“I love everything, the whole technology. I use After Affects, and Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and you know we upload them and post everything to You Tube,” Hanks said.
She says it’s sad that the stereotype about seniors exits.
“I think it’s half true. I think it’s true for people who give up. You have to like learning things,” said Hanks.
DollHouse Productions meets every Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at Valley Oaks Village in Newhall.
Distant Location will begin casting in April with principal photography to begin the second week in June.
To visit the indiegogo.com page, learn more about Distant Location and perhaps make a donation, click here .
You can also help Dollhouse Productions by buying the complete 2011 fable collection with blog booklet for $10 by clicking here .