Director’s Stories: Yolanda Beasley

Meet Yolada Beasley the editor of Write For Hollywood whose blog aims to nurture, encourage and inspire budding filmmakers from big ideas to the big screen. Now, taking her own advice, she’s completed her first feature film – Masters Of Romance, a fantasy rom-com she wrote, directed, produced and stars in due out in 2017. Being so up close and personal with the film industry and the barriers women face, she made efforts to recruit a majority female crew and ensure the film passes The Bechdel Test with flying colours – something many rom-coms struggle to do.

With her first feature under her belt, Beasley shares with us how she made her film, the barriers she overcame and the surprise of how easy it actually all was…

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The best thing to come from this meeting was that it made me decide that no one was going to tell me what I couldn’t do.

There’s a lot of focus on women in film right now and I have to admit that before the media blow up, I wasn’t conscious of the gender imbalance.  As a result, I have made conscious decisions on how I write, cast and crew my films.  

It never really occurred to me that being a woman in the film industry would be a problem in getting my film made until it seemed like it was.  About a year ago, I met with a producer I had once worked with years before to discuss one or more of my scripts.  I thought he was interested in producing a film of mine, but even now I honestly don’t know what his interests were. Ultimately, he lectured me for twenty minutes on how Hollywood works as if I was new to the game, then told me that I stood a better chance of getting my scripts produced if I wasn’t attached to them because no one would give me a million dollars to produce it with me attached as director and lead actress.  

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I might have believed him if it hadn’t been for the fact that the only film his company had produced was a million dollar feature written and directed by the lead actor who had no previous credits.  Maybe it was a bad experience and so they decided not to repeat it, but it seemed a bit hypocritical at the time.

The best thing to come from this meeting was that it made me decide that no one was going to tell me what I couldn’t do.  I knew I was capable of producing, directing and starring in a low-budget film.  Seriously, how hard could it be?  I had produced a play as well as other major events and managed multi-million dollar budgets in advertising.  Besides, if twenty-five year old Edward Burns can do it, so can I. 

It bothers me that women in the industry bash other women for writing romcoms. It’s a valid genre that’s evolving into smart, sharp relationship stories beyond the formulaic chick lit model

The difference between Edward Burns’s situation and mine was he had $25,000, a twelve-day shooting schedule spread over several months and a small role; whereas I had no money, a six-day shooting schedule and four cast members.  

At the time of that meeting in October I had just started writing the script to Masters of Romance.  The first draft wrote itself in six days, and the rewrite took shape in twelve days over a month during the Christmas holidays. Masters of Romance was originally going to be a two-hander about a relationship between two former high school sweethearts reunited twenty-five years later.  I added two best friends to give it room to breathe and to meet the requirements of the Bechdel Test.  Granted throughout the majority of the film the two women talk about men, but they also talk about work and life.  The two men talk about women, work and life too, so it’s well-balanced.

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It bothers me that women in the industry bash other women for writing romcoms.  It’s a valid genre that’s evolving into smart, sharp relationship stories beyond the formulaic chick lit model and there are plenty of men who write romantic comedies who do not get any flak for it including my contemporaries Edward Burns, Woody Allen and The Duplass Brothers.  

By the end of March I had secured the cast.  As an ACTRA co-op I couldn’t audition so I asked two friends of mine whom I met ten years ago through improv.  Jefferson Brown and I were introduced on set and stayed in touch through Facebook over the years.  I was always a fan of his work so I asked him if he’d like to play Doug and he said yes.  A dialogue-heavy script, cast had just two months to prepare their lines.  

It was my vision, my perseverance, my energy that kept this project moving and made it a success.  As the writer, director, producer and actress, without me, there was no film.

Two weeks later I had my key crew and we locked shooting dates. I found the crew mostly through CastingPro.com, some through Craigslist.  We had the best crew and it turned out to be mostly women.  The Production Manager, Social Media Manager, Publicist, Editor/Camera Assistant, PA, Wardrobe and Makeup were all female.  The Cinematographer, Camera Assistant, Sound/Boom Operator and Web Designer were male. First day of shooting was May 28 and September 25th we submitted our work-in-progress edit to Sundance.  It was the easiest, most fun thing I have ever done.  

In just over one year, I will have produced a film from conception to fruition.  No one will give me a million dollars to produce my script with me attached?  I didn’t need a million, the film cost just $1500 to shoot and yet it looks like it cost a million to make.  The only reason this film got made is because I was attached to it.  It was my vision, my perseverance, my energy that kept this project moving and made it a success.  As the writer, director, producer and actress, without me, there was no film.  

I don’t know why people like that producer are quick to make judgements and put up barriers to success when it can really be this easy.  Sometimes people make obstacles where they don’t need to be.  Sometimes people tell you something is impossible only to get you out of the way in order to serve their own needs.  Sometimes people assume you can’t do something because they can’t do it themselves.  Don’t listen to them.  If you have a vision and you believe in your ability to fulfill it, do it. 

Look out for Masters Of Romance in 2017. 

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