Filmmaker Spotlight

Wendy A. Latella: A First Time Filmmaker with a Lifetime of Experience

  FAME: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Wendy: A little about me: I got my start in the film industry over 20 years ago as a recurring guest star on Aaron's Spelling's "Savannah" on the original WB network. That was in the 90's in Atlanta - where many of us were working hard to bring more projects to the Atlanta area. I worked as much as I could, on-camera (although I always joked "I hold a mean boom mic!") and supporting wherever I could, and learning something from every project I was on. I met and worked with some great people and learned a lot. After graduating college, I had the honor of living in Europe for 5 years where I was able to work in film and theatre in several languages. Back in the states, I had the unique opportunity to work in Arizona, Los Angeles, Savannah and Charleston, and then NYC. Each place introduced me to more talent and taught me more tools of the trade. Married to the military (15 years today!), my Army husband was hurt overseas and sent to Walter Reed. After working for so many years, it was hard moving to Central Virginia where not much was happening. Similar to Atlanta in the 90's, I saw many opportunities to jump in, learn, and share what I've learned. After being appointed a County Commissioner almost four years ago, I began to better understand the changes in the local schools and the diminishing of arts and music education. I am a believer that everyone needs that creative output, to be able to safely share their thoughts, feelings, and fears in a creative way. I believe it's how we better relate to one-another. We are not robots, afterall! Wink Recognizing the problem, I sought out ways to help. The overwhelming response led to education so I interviewed schools and chose to attend Harvard University via Extension Services. I plan to use everything I learn to give back to my community and help build a safe place for my neighbors to be able to experience positive, creative releases.

FAME: What was your inspiration for your short film "Life in 5"?

Wendy: That's a hard one. This project was my final for my Spring, 2017 film class- my first film class ever! Our project was to showcase all we had learned that term in a 4-5 film. The project before this, we had a choice to either do a documentary short OR a narrative. I opted to do the documentary; however, I wanted to incorporate aspects of the narrative project in my final as well. The narrative project had suggested the lines: "Are you coming?" "I don't think so". While working on the project, I visited a park with my son. When the time came to leave, I asked him, "Are you ready to go?" and he replied "I don't think so". At that moment, I was hit with the realization that our lives are full of moments when we just are not ready to move on. On the way home, preoccupied by this, I thought about why they were so important and came to the conclusion it was because it's what everyone wants - just one more moment. Just one more moment in that situation. Just one more moment at that special place. Just one more moment with that special someone. To love and know they are loved in return. I knew right then what I wanted my project to be and how I wanted to do it. What I didn't know was how crazy everyone was going to think it was! Wink

  FAME: What was the biggest challeges you faced and most rewarding experiences in creating your film?

Wendy: SO EVERYONE thought the project was too ambitious. Too big. A lot. And it was! We had only 5 weeks to plan, write, cast, film, edit, and turn it in. Other than acting, the Student (me) had to do it all. During this time, we also experienced an electrical fire at our house. Add to it my everyday happenings with 2 young kids, their school, 3 cats and a dog, and ... I was motivated. That's the only way to put it. I feel like I cheated by basing it on my life which made the first part of the timeline easy, (but it also made the last part all that much harder). The research on what people wore/how videos looked was easy, but recreating them was my biggest challenge. I used pictures and old video equipment to replicate what it should look like. I shopped second-hand stores and posted "looking for" messages on social media to find costume pieces and locations I still needed. (Wood-paneled rooms are not easy to come by!) Wink I tested several filters and didn't like any of them. I opted instead to hand-place the 'dust' on the film and the lines in it - mimicking what happens to VHS tapes sitting on one side for too long. In the end, I hoped to pass the class and give my amazing cast something they would be proud to have been a part of.

FAME: What do you want people do take away from watching 'Life in 5?'

Wendy:Smile A feeling of hope. Of happiness. Life is so short and we get so caught up in the everyday junk that happens, but it's that same junk that takes us from moment to moment where our hearts and minds expand, where we meet and create new people, and when we move on, the feeling we leave behind with those people and what we take with us is truly what matters most - not the junk. The junk is useless and forgotten.

FAME:What have you learned from making "Life in 5" that might be of value to aspiring filmmakers?

Wendy: Absolutely! It may be something most have already learned, but it was exciting for me to learn this: I have not really edited before. In class, and speaking with people who edit, there was a lot of mixed advice to 'just leave it to the filters for the effect' and 'don't rely on filters for effect'. Both sides had great reasons, so I decided to find out for myself what worked best for me for this project which spans 80+ years. I found the preset filters and effects very intriguing and wondered WHY they would do certain things/look a certain way. It was incredibly fun to research the WHY. I knew about older film warping and (in VHS tapes) it was bad for the film if the disc was not turned ever so often; however, I didn't know the WHY. Researching the why, I learned so much. First off, I immediately went and flipped the VHS tapes I still have. Wink Then, I popped one in and looked for dust. I was surprised to find a little bit there! Even cooler were the older tapes and film from the late 70s. They were so old they would speed up and slow down randomly. After viewing what I had on hand, the preset filters (though amazing at recreating that effect) just did not match what I saw. Although I'm on team 'don't rely on filters for effect' now, I suggest to all film makers to check out the filters and effects. Try them out and, if they are not exactly what you want, don't feel stuck in using them - make your own! I know I'll still check them out on my future projects. They were great starting points and great suggestions for things to edit in my film AND, if you're working in a short time period, you can definitely still use them and still be able to reedit later when you have more time!

FAME: Any other films of yours our readers can check out? What about upcoming projects?

Wendy:I want to say 'yes', I have several scripts and ideas I am excited about. All uplifting and positive spins on life, challenging the viewer to reconsider how they view something. 'Challenge Your Perception and Change Your Reality' is my motto. I think when we do, we will begin to understand more and to love each other and ourselves more, but like most people in Indie films, I need some money in place to secure the people to get one into production. Although "Life in 5" was a great challenge to do all by myself, I don't have a grade dependent on working alone for future projects and I truly love collaboration and working with great people more!

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