|First-time director gets Louisiana Filmmakers Grant|
Valerie Holliday may be new to the director’s chair, but she is eager to prove that what she’s experiencing is not just beginner’s luck.
Holliday, the department chair of speech, foreign languages and fine arts at Baton Rouge Community College, has taught film history, film production and introduction to cinema studies. She says she always dreamed of getting into the industry.
“I’ve had a love affair with audio-visual arts all my life,” she says. “It’s such a uniquely 20th-century art form that blends the arts and sciences into something magical.”
Holliday was recently awarded the first Louisiana Filmmakers Grant for her debut short film, Survivor. The 20-minute film is her first fictional narrative, and its post-apocalyptic story takes place in southern Louisiana.
The film centers on Alyssa, a woman fighting to survive after much of the population dies in an unnamed biological event. As the plot unfolds, she meets Seth, and that’s where things get interesting.
“In any other type of movie, this would normally be a love story, but it’s not,” Holliday says. “She has no way to imagine a strange man’s desire to survive as anything but a threat.”
Holliday wanted to explore what it would be like to replace the strong male lead with a woman, played by Gail Suberbielle, the department chair of philosophy, English, education and reading at BRCC and a close friend of Holliday’s.
The film is Suberbielle’s first, and the project has brought in several other BRCC faculty members.
When Holliday finished her script, she brought it to English instructor Wes Harris for feedback. He not only gave his advice; he became the film’s producer.
“When I read the script, it felt really well thought-out,” he says. “That’s not easy to do for a short film.”
Harris says the first-time filmmaker’s enthusiasm on set was often contagious.
“It wasn’t hard to get people to come out at 4 a.m.,” he says. “She really helped them understand what’s at stake for these characters.”
Holliday says she enjoyed taking on the role as leader.
“You can’t do it by yourself. It’s not possible,” she says. “A director is like a captain. You have to work to give the cast and crew something to believe in.”
After what she estimates as 20 to 30 hours of filming, Holliday is satisfied with the end product.
“It’s a lot of work,” she says. “You have to fall a little bit in love with a character or a location. But that’s what makes it such a rewarding experience.”
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