Filmmaker Spotlight: Amy DePaola
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you get into filmmaking?
I grew up in North Jersey in close proximity to NYC. We would travel in regularly for shows and soon, auditions. So, I started my journey exploring filmmaking as an actor. Later in life, in my early 20s, I took so many acting classes; went to conservatories -- I even went as far as Moscow to study -- and, I came to find life behind the camera when I realized, like many other women, that most female characters were created by men and weren't as realized as I wanted them to be. I wanted to be a trifecta like Adrienne Shelley was. I first started producing film but quickly found that my knowledge as a performer made me a good director, I could communicate with performers in ways that other director's I was working with at the time, weren't, so I figured - why not?
Why did you make your film?
AMYDEE is based on a true story of an incident that I lived through and later, how I chose to handle it. Choosing to make this story into a film was cathartic. I've come to realize that I tend to write based on what I am grieving at the moment, or something that is causing me anxiety. In some ways, I didn't actually fully heal from the trauma in this story until this film started to screen for others.
What was your favorite part about making the film?
Sharing this with others. AMYDEE screened at about twenty film festivals, I am super proud of that, but at each one I had so many individuals pulling me aside saying "I want my daughter to see this film," "I am a survivor of ____," - "I struggle with feeling lonely too"; connecting with others and being vulnerable with people I hadn't known before? Yea, that was pretty special.
I feel like it would be too easy to say the actual boxing part!? Ha. It was really hard to balance the personalities of the film crew and my coaches. There was, what wound up being, a dark ego on a key partner on my film team for awhile that would remind me that "I'm not Ronda Rousey," when I was training, and remind me that all of the boxing was just for a film. Which was not true. This whole experience (filming, boxing) helped me rebound from the trauma I experienced. That attitude acted like the film was bigger than the sport of boxing itself and occasionally that kind of attitude would appear in the gym when we were filming, which did not sit well with my coaches and boxing peers at times. I say this because I want to remind people that its OK when creative partnerships don't work out. As a director, you need to go with your gut and do what is right for the story. During the early days of post and pick-up shoots, I made the tough decision to part with that person, who did do a lot for a good amount of this project. That was very challenging and really upset me for awhile. Anyways, the sport of boxing - especially if you chose to train to fight - is a sport that requires a lot of discipline and a certain respect. I really had to earn my place at the gym. There was a sense of "am I just doing this for the cameras?" from some of the coaches and others who trained. I actually still hear from trolls online about that. I still box (and yes, its been tough and almost non-existent in quarantine) but, I don't share that part of my life online anymore because of that.
What did you learn while making it?
So much. About myself. About collaboration. But, I think from a filmmaker's perspective and what I took away from it, I really started to learn in the editing process. Because of this film I am so not precious when it comes to footage. Kill all your darlings, darling! The film will always be better if you are able to lean into the toughest of decisions.
What do you hope the audience takes away from the film?
I always knew what the film was meant to do. That is something that I encourage other filmmakers to know as they are making their films: why are you doing this? What's the mission of the film? For me, it was that I wanted to inspire others to find empowerment within themselves whether that be in their own dark times or they are in a slump, or something is out of their control.
What are you working on next?
I produce for a living so I'll talk solely about my directing career here. Currently, I am planning to release another short film of mine titled Laura Wants a Husband Healthcare, which is a sci-fi farce about a women's choice to use a dating app of a parallel time period to gain access to health care. I am also wrapping post on a crime series about a woman who picks up where her hitman father left off that I directed titled THE NATURALS, which was created by Caitlin Graham and, in pre-production on another series titled Plant Moms that will film in Spring 2021. Lastly, on a personal note, I am in the early stages of writing a short for a feature, that I will also direct, a dark comedy that delves into the opioid crisis -- which is something that greatly affects the small town I grew up in.
I am also always working on my podcast, Pink Among Men, which is an interview based podcast on what motivates creators and their work, and their relationships with women.
Where can we follow your work?
Follow me on Instagram! @amydepaolafilms and my creative label and podcast, Pink Among Men, @pinkamongmen.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I love connecting with others! If you liked my film or are interested in my work, please don't hesitate to reach out. I tend to respond, albeit sometimes more slowly than others, to every one who reaches out. I want to also say that I really jive on projects that come from a deep personal place and I encourage all who are making films to look at why they are doing it and use that to guide you.