IN HER 2020 Thespian Filmworks application, Lauren Ferro quoted legendary director Frank Capra, whose works include It’s a Wonderful Life, You Can’t Take It with You, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. “No saint, no pope, no general, no sultan has ever had the power that a filmmaker has,” Capra said, “the power to talk to hundreds of millions of people for two hours in the dark.”

Ferro has been nurturing her filmmaking powers since age 13, when she first picked up a camera to tell stories through music videos. The rising senior in Thespian Troupe 5986 at Texas’ Montgomery High School turned her attention to narrative films after acting in the 2015 independent short Third Base. “It’s a heartwarming story about a young girl who wants to learn baseball, who learns from a homeless ex-pro ball player,” she said. “I loved acting in it, of course, but I was mesmerized by the camera and all the creative choices they used. The rest is history.”

Even before earning a spot in the Thespian Filmworks program, Ferro experienced success. Her movie Loser won Best Student Film at the 2019 Gulf Coast Film & Video Festival. But, according to Ferro, her small hometown has “little to no film community.” So, she jumped at the chance to work with professionals and peers from across the country through the Virtual International Thespian Festival program.

Ferro said, “In football, the only way a player can do better is by throwing the ball, kicking goals, and tackling dummies. The only way a baseball player can improve is through hitting, throwing, and catching a baseball. This is no different for a filmmaker. The only way a filmmaker can get better is through writing, directing, editing, sound-mixing, and making films.”

It’s easy for Ferro to name her favorite filmmakers: Taika Waititi and Wes Anderson. “I love how much whimsy is in every project,” she said. “They both find the perfect balance between comedy and drama that is so beautiful and unique. I am a dramedy person, so the films that have inspired me are Little Miss Sunshine by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, Boy by Taika Waititi, and The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson.”

But asked to name her favorite aspect of filmmaking, the writer, director, editor, and cinematographer has more difficulty narrowing her response. “You couldn’t have asked a harder question!” Ferro said. “I love to direct because you get a little bit of everything. I also love to write because that’s where the bulk of the storytelling comes from, which is most important.”

You’ve said How to Have a Successful Quarantine in Six Easy Steps (2nd Edition) was inspired by infomercials. What was it about that style that influenced you?
Infomercials are absolutely absurd to me. To think that someone got paid to act like they don’t know how to use something as simple as a cup. It’s as if they are putting on a show. I also love shows that at first glance tell one story, but the more interesting plot lies behind the scenes. My works as filmmaker are varied, but the one thing they all have in common ― including this one ― is that they’re focused on a relationship of some kind. Whether it be a friendship or romance, the best part of watching a movie is watching characters grow because of each other.

What were the unique challenges of creating a film while quarantining?
There seemed to be problems left and right. Everything did work out in the end. One of the biggest challenges for me was, halfway through, my sound equipment broke before I could record the voice-over. I fixed it, but it took a significant amount of production time.

After I learned I was in Thespians Filmworks, I was overwhelmed with excitement. I got so much support from my theatre troupe. Then I went to the first meeting. I met [mentors] Chris [Veneris], Matt [Ringrose], and [fellow Thespian Filmworks winner] Paige [Fahrenkrug], who are awesome, and we were told to come up with a film in a week. I was horrified but ready to get to work. After much brainstorming, I came up with the Quarantine film. I called my friend Jack, a fellow filmmaker, to help me with a couple of shots and to be the boy in the film. After lots of laughing, we finally completed his filming, and I started editing. I got scared because it didn’t seem to work right in the edit. However, when I finally put music in and filmed the rest of my scenes, it turned out as I had hoped. I am grateful for all the people who helped me with this, and I’m proud of the final product.

What would you say were the biggest takeaways for you from Thespian Filmworks?
A major part of this process is the importance of time management and time constraints. It’s true when people say that creativity flourishes under limitations. I tend to bite off more than I can chew sometimes. Being part of this program taught me to think on my feet, think outside the outside of the box, and organize time effectively.

You also have considerable performing experience, onstage and on film (as showcased in your Filmworks entry). How has working behind the camera helped you improve as an actor and vice versa?
It has given me a completely new perspective. I have become more patient with the technicians and the director, who I know now is not only thinking about my blocking but also about the 50 million other things going on. I knew they were doing a lot of other things but, being in the director’s shoes, I have a whole new appreciation for them. Also, being an actor has helped me direct. When I direct actors, I think about what I would need if I were playing their part and try to accommodate that as best I can.

What advice would you give other Thespians interested in making films who might not know where to start?
I think one of the biggest hurdles is starting, and I completely understand that. One of the hardest things for me is staring at that cursor on my computer, waiting for words to magically appear. But they aren’t going to appear unless I start.

That being said, start to write things that come to mind even if they feel completely stupid. In enough time, you’ll mull through the bad ideas and get to the good ones. Then, grab a camera ― anything will do, from an iPhone to the Super 8mm you had to borrow from your least favorite uncle ― and go film it.

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