Rebecca Livengood Talks Filmmaking

Rebecca Livengood.

Novice and experienced filmmakers will showcase their films and share their skills on Feb. 14 and 15 in Sister Bay at the fifth annual Door County Short Film Festival. The public is welcome to attend screenings, meet the filmmakers, and partake in workshops.

One of the 18 short films that will premiere during the two-day event is Winter Guest, directed by Rebecca Livengood and starring Chris Irwin, a popular performer who has graced many stages throughout Door County.

Livengood took some time to speak with Sally Slattery about Winter Guest, the upcoming film festival, and the joy of making movies.

Sally Slattery (SS): Tell me a little bit about yourself. You live in Baileys Harbor, correct?

Rebecca Livengood (RL): I actually don’t live in Door County – I wish! I grew up in Neenah, Wisconsin. My family has a cottage in Baileys Harbor so I grew up spending summers there and working around the county.

I live in Los Angeles now and focus on juggling my day jobs and writing primarily. I’m getting ready to shoot another short film in March in LA, but the big project on my mind is a feature film I want to shoot this summer in Door County.

SS: How did you become interested in filmmaking?

RL: Well, I’ve loved movies all my life – most likely inherited from my parents. I remember both of them swooning over Out of Africa and seeing Fargo with my dad. Any kind of world you can escape into – I was always reading as a kid.

I have also always been drawn to the idea of “putting on a show.” I remember trying to command my siblings and neighbor friends into putting on plays in our backyard, duct taping a blanket to the swing set to make a curtain. I was a bit of a bossy oldest child and very intense about details and story even back then.

Chris Irwin stars in ‘Winter Guest.’

SS: Tell me about your film Winter Guest. What was it like to work with Chris Irwin?

RL: Winter Guest is about a man who lives alone in the north woods of Wisconsin and discovers an unexpected visitor in his home. It’s 35 minutes and was shot entirely on Kangaroo Lake.

As for Chris Irwin, he’s kind of a diva…kidding. He’s actually my sweetheart in real life and he is absolutely the main reason this film got made. I wrote a film specifically that we could act in together and shoot in one location. He studied the camera and sound equipment that we would need. It was a complete baptism by fire for the both of us. There is no way I could have done it without him. That, and he is an incredible actor with an innate sense of naturalism, which is ideal for film.

SS: You attended last year’s Door County Short Film Festival; tell me about the experience.

RL: Yes! I attended last year and it was amazing. It was like a film festival from Northern Exposure…and I mean that in the best possible way – a really intimate and cozy and friendly atmosphere. And great films.

SS: What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge filmmaking?

RL: The first thought off the top of my head is “everything.” But I would say money as it puts a cap on what you can do. But limitations can also be a blessing.

SS: What is the most rewarding aspect of filmmaking?

RL: Whenever you capture a moment of spontaneity on film, hands down. You know, rushing outside with the camera to film a perfect sunset or when an actor forgets a line and has to search for it or improvises a sweet moment. Those are unexpected jewels that add magic to a film.

SS: Why would you encourage folks to attend this event?

RL: Oh my gosh, because it’s a wonderful community event, because art – especially in the middle of winter – is life-giving, and because it’s so exciting to see filmmakers and just regular people (and I consider myself to be in the latter category) who are willing to experiment and put themselves out there.

SS: What’s your advice to budding filmmakers?

RL: I’m a budding filmmaker, I need advice!

The advice I’m following is what I’ve heard a lot, which is that you have to make the film you want to make with the resources you have now. You can’t wait for anyone to ask you to do it, to give you money for it. Grab friends, grab a camera, study the movies you love, go to Youtube for camera and editing advice. Make one film and then another and another.

Four films will be shown Feb. 14 at 7 pm in the Sister Bay Village Hall, followed by a discussion with the filmmakers. Meet the filmmakers at the after-party at the Sister Bay Bowl.

Two free workshops will be held Feb. 15, as well as another screening of 14 short films beginning at 7 pm at the village hall. An after-party will be at Husby’s Food & Spirits.

Tickets for each night are $5 per person. For more information contact Chris Opper at 920.606.9523 or [email protected].