An Interview with Clara Davies.
Since the age of 11, Clara Davies has been using writing as her primary creative outlet. As an actress, she’s decided to combine ambition and passion to create her own roles and stories, after seeing a limited number of great roles for women.
Clara filmed her debut short as a writer/director of The Last Day of School, which is now available online. Bittersweet is her first feature screenplay to be in production, after spending several months developing a story and creating a lead character she would love to bring to life.
How did you come up with the premise of Bittersweet?
I was trying to think of interesting screenplays that I could film myself, even if no one else would be part of it. So, thinking of free locations, one-person or limited cast, good stories with small budget aspects.
I was going to make a film, even if I had to do it all by myself with my phone and a tripod. A lot of the details in Bittersweet are parallel to my own life, so adding in some dramatic narrative and imaginative scenarios, I outlined Bittersweet pretty quickly in my head.
How long did it take to write the first draft from the initial idea and what steps did you take?
I didn’t quite keep track of the timeline, but I’d say about 4 months from when I started actually writing until I was able to attach our director, Taylor Clement, to the project.
Initially, in my writing process, I write a lot of quick prose in outline form to beat out the script or what I have rolling around inside my head. From there I take passes through the outline, adding and subtracting, giving more details, more plot points, maybe even dialogue or themes.
I’ll go through until I have a thick outline, a few pages worth, then I’ll copy that right into the formatting software. Once it’s all in, I’ll start at the top and make my way through, turning each section into a screenplay. I go through many times before coming to a good first draft.
When writing the film treatment what did you find was most helpful about having one?
I guess my outline would be kind of the treatment, I like to have that to sort all of my ideas. I refer back to it quite often to see the bigger picture in my writing. It is helpful in later parts of the process, like pulling small thoughts that don’t make it into the script but are useful in a promotion like crowdfunding or social media to elaborate about the characters or the story.
What was your strategy for having a feature film funded?
Well, both Taylor and I agreed, we are making the film no matter what–funding or no funding, it is happening. We decided to try crowdfunding for at least some of the project, and the rest we would invest ourselves. I had a successful crowdfunding campaign for my short film in 2018 on Seed & Spark, and I really enjoyed using the platform, so we wanted to use that again.
What elements were key to getting the fundraising campaign in place?
First, we had to estimate the budget, Taylor worked out a possible filming schedule and what a minimal crew would look like, etc. Then we had to pick a 30-day period to run the campaign, giving ourselves a month of prep before that campaign, etc.
Other things to think about are social media posts, who is going to be doing all of the follow-up emails, what the incentives are going to be, and other details.
Seed & Spark is really great because they’re specifically geared for filmmakers and they have a series of videos and a workbook explaining why and how you can be successful, which is so necessary because, if you want a successful campaign, it is not something you just throw up on the internet and hope people are generous.
What were some of the toughest challenges with your funding campaign and how did you overcome them?
I would say the continuous promotion of the film and the campaign is tough. We’re filmmakers, and I know most of us to feel very uncomfortable touting our work all the time and asking for money. But you have to. There is a balance that is difficult to maintain, but again S&S makes it really easy.
You have to have someone on your team who is prepared and good at the social media aspect. Daily posts, a variety of posts, engaging and connecting with people, and responding to emails and questions. Taylor and I pretty much split the work on the promotional aspect.
We made a schedule of what kind of content and posts to share both in the campaign page and on our social media pages and took turns posting. We also prepared content before launching the funding page, like still shots of the locations and a “trailer” video with one scene from the film.
We used these different pieces, along with headshots, bios, and filmmaker commentary to get people excited about the film and about what we are doing.
Honestly, you just have to get people to believe in you and they’ll support anything you’re doing.
Was there anything you would change the next time around?
If we had the budget for it, I would have loved to hire someone to do all the social stuff completely. We were simultaneously in the pre-production phases, like hiring cast/crew and finding locations, and running the crowdfunding campaign, so it was just a lot of work. If I couldn’t hire someone, I’d give myself more time to do each phase separately.
Do you have any advice for budding filmmakers who want to go down the route of fundraising?
Educate yourself on the platform options and look into how you can be successful with it. There is a science to it and knowing the basics of marketing and the psychology of it is incredibly helpful. You also can’t be scared. Filmmaking is vulnerable, and asking people to help or give you money, is going to feel like “not your job”, but you really just have to share your story and your “why” and people will support that.
Check out Clara’s social media channels as well as the Bittersweet movies down below: