An Interview with Courtney Daniels

In continuing my coverage on women in the entertainment industry, I got the chance to chat with Courtney Daniels, an actress and producer for production company Busted Buggy Entertainment. Daniels comes from a classical background from the British American Drama Academy in the UK. She’s acted in films such as The Girl in the Book, Magic Hour, and most recently Rescue Dogs. One of Busted Buggy’s main focus is on female driven content which currently includes a web series in production called OR DIE TRYING that was developed by producer Sarah Hawkins. It was helped by Seed and Spark, a crowd funding site allowing for new voices to emerge. According to Courtney on breaking ground in the industry and supporting the project, “I think it’s a great story, female starring, female written, female directed, and female produced. That’s the only way we will break into this industry and make our voices heard: making sure we do it together.”

You can check out updates from the project here:

https://www.seedandspark.com/fund/or-die-trying#updates

Among other works, Courtney has helped produce includes, The Girl in the Book which was written and directed by Marya Cohn which tells an empowering story that could encourage women who had suffered sexual abuse/assault to reclaim their power and their voice, and to not be defined by that event. As we look at current headlines today, the film resonates a chilling aspect about our society and what we’re continuously dealing with women and abuse such as the Stanford/ Brock Turner case. In a strange way, The Girl in the Book, has a similar connotation to the controversial book Lolita in a few ways. I imagined what Lolita would be like after the sexual abuse and what kind of woman she’d become in the present day. The dynamic of an older man sexually abusing a younger girl is never an easy subject matter to handle, but Girl in the Book handles it in some very interesting ways. You can check out The Girl in the Book on Netflix.

But as far as working with male and female directors every person has their style, has their way of working and ultimately it comes down to encouragement according to Daniels, “Working with experienced guys, who encourage female filmmakers is also a strong way to exact change on the industry. The He-for-She concept is also an important one to support, and take advantage of when possible.”

Courtney has also produced and starred in a film called RESCUE DOGS which premiered this year that correlated with her passion for storytelling and rescuing animals. The film tells the story of talking dogs featuring real rescue animals. During the release they were able to host live adoptions which help gave more than 150 animals new homes. How cool is that?

Women continue to strive for their dreams, making movies, and running production companies. According to the Directors Guild of America, 6.4% of Hollywood films were made by women in 2013 and 2014. And only 1% of movies were made by women from ethnic minority backgrounds. 1% Let that resonate for a moment. If we look back at the history behind women in the early 50s such as Lucille Ball, who was a pioneer in co-owning Desilu Productions as well as her own company later down the road. She made things happen by sticking to her guns and great cleverness. Or if we look even earlier than that and see what Mary Pickford did for the studios. We still have a longer road ahead of us and as long as there are women out there cleverly striving to have their work shown the more optimism I have for the future. Its inspiring women such as Courtney Daniels and her production company Busted Buggy are making their way and striving to empower women paving the way to breaking the barrier.

To follow Courtney Daniels and her production company, check out her website here:

http://www.bustedbuggy.com

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DAMNATION.

Damnation (1987) has that dark noir vibe with incredibly breath taking cinematography. The story is about a married woman ending an affair with a very gloomy-eyed barfly. And this entire narrative revolves around him confessing his I-can’t-live-without-you saga which somehow convinces her to stay in the lopsided affair. But at one point the woman breaks it off because she wants to focus on her singing career in this very dilapidated town where everyone likes to dance and drink. Then of course the gloomy-eyed barfly convinces the manager of the bar to employee the married woman’s husband to smuggle illegal drugs in to make some money. So that way he’ll take the fall be thrown in jail and the two lovers can live happily ever after. Well, that’s the gist of it anyway. The narrative is messy and doesn’t provide for any resolution because I guess you can say life doesn’t always have a resolution it just is what it is.

What really makes this film work is not in the story line but in the style it’s captured in. The opening of this film is all about the long take where the editing becomes minimal and characters continue to do mundane things that have nothing to do in moving the story forward. Realism is captured throughout the narrative but there is a steep, stigmatizing void to it.

This is Bela Tarr at his best and where his notable style takes root. I think its all about a void most people carry within themselves but continue to live their lives as if aware of it and yet are unaffected by it.

The camera rests on the motion of an empty lift squeaking its way from one place to another, like a sad conveyor belt aimlessly running it’s course. From there, the camera slowly pulls out, focusing on the inside of a window. Keeping steady with the subjective point of view, the camera pans revealing the back of a man’s head. Here it is, the main character in the act of simply gazing out the window within the first five minutes of the film without a single cut. Sure, this has been done a million times before in a million other movies, but Bela Tarr has a gifted finesse to it, making it unbelievably seamless and natural. His eye in detail, timing, contrast, and lighting makes this art film live and breathe by layers and depth.

On the surface, most if not all Bela Tarr films feel depressing, meaningless, and are considered boring because the stories are unappealing and the characters don’t always have exciting action. But on a deeper level, his cinematography points the camera on life itself. Imagine it this way; the universe is massive and as its inhabitants walking the earth, we have no control over what the universe is going to throw at us. Bela Tarr gives us that in Damnation, where his characters are walking about a deep, dark, dreary world, and there’s no substantial significance to it, other than their day to day lives of being who they are as people. I mean if you think about the word “damnation” from a biblical standpoint you are condemned by your own conscience. So, maybe in a way it’s an internal hell but it’s showcased on the outside. The entire story takes place on the outskirts of some town that feels desolate and is in the middle of nowhere, abandoned even. It’s a hell with internal and external components.