Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed filmmaker and author Camille Hugh about her life, her career, and her latest project; Am I The Crazy Girlfriend?
Tell me a bit about yourself.
My name is Camille Hugh and I am a Jamerican (Jamaican born, New York bred) director, producer, writer, and actress. I created and starred in the web series, Am I the Crazy Girlfriend? and co-created and co-starred in the ten-episode web series, Ruff and Tug. I have also written, produced, and acted in numerous comedic short films about topics ranging from dating in NYC to the horrors of getting stuck on hold under my production company, Sitinpretty Productions.
I have authored thirteen books and produced two workout DVDs under my fitness company, Lit Cardio. When not writing, filming, or dancing, I run an extreme sporting company, Bubble Ball Soccer NYC.
Next, I will be filming my indie rom-com, Them or Us, as well as developing my Irish-based holiday movie, The Rocky Cashel Christmas.
I have an MBA in marketing management from Pace University and was trained at Magnet Theater and Improv Now. Most recently I was awarded the City Artists Corps Grant.
When did you first realise you wanted to make films?
A far back as I can remember, my favorite movie was, and still is, Dirty Dancing. Watching that magical film resonated and sparked a fuse inside of me to also tell stories through a visual medium.
Ever since then I have loved writing, but the actual moment I realized how much joy I got out of making a film was in high school, where I wrote, cast, and shot scenes from my first completed screenplay. Experiencing and watching my teachers and peers bring my characters to life was simply awe inspiring and made me want to make films forever, even if it was just for fun.
What is your favourite thing about films?
My favorite thing about films is how lost I can get in them. I love when a film gets me so invested in the characters and emotions that I am moved to tears. This is a goal of mine and I think the highest compliment to a writer/filmmaker because we all know what we are watching isn’t real. We know these are actors/actresses pretending, but you just become so engrossed that it doesn’t matter. I love film’s ability to bring us into other people’s worlds and make us not only see, but feel characters’ unique points of view.
What classes or research did you take to support you in your filmmaking career?
I have read many screenwriting books such as Save the Cat! and taken workshops on story building, but have not taken many classes on filmmaking, unless you count the ones from YouTube University. Anything that I need to know I look up on YouTube and I have learned so much that way. Additionally, I have found myself analyzing movies and television – watching with a critical eye the directorial choices that are made, and what works or doesn’t. I have also learned a lot from trial and error on my personal projects and speaking to other directors on their creative processes.
What was your first film industry job?
My first film industry job was as an extra on Quantico. It involved a lot of waiting around, but it was fascinating to see the director, cast, and crew in action. I had no idea that the big party scenes on set, behind the scenes, was just eerily quiet with a bunch of people pretending to talk to each other.
What was your most recent film industry job?
My most recently film industry job was as a PA on a small independent film. The job involved a lot of heavy lifting. We carried tons of large equipment piece by piece into the forest, precariously balanced said expensive equipment on rocks under a waterfall, and carried them piece by piece back out again.
Tell me a favourite experience in your career. Something that stands out in your memories and makes you want to find more experiences like it.
I have had so many great experiences thus far in my career, but my favorite thus far was filming my second short film, Nice Guy TM. It was such an ambitious project with 5 locations all over the city – one being an outdoor salsa party with the live band, Avenida B, and I was working with a larger cast and crew of mainly newbies, but we pulled it off. That is not to say we pulled it off without a hitch, as there were many hitches, but we got it done and the end result was ten times better than I could have imagined it being. There were a log of laughs on set and everyone just worked together so well to overcome any obstacle that it was an inspiring moment that will forever remain a favorite memory of mine.
What was your toughest experience in your filmmaking career?
My toughest experience in my filmmaking career thus far has been dealing with cast members who inform you at the last minute that they cannot participate in your project, leaving you scrambling and stressed out. As a filmmaker you have to be organized and plan, but there are just some things that are not under your control and that’s life.
The first time it happened to me, which was the morning of my first short film shoot, The Black Writers’ Room – which had a cast of eleven or so people – I was so angry and at a loss for what to do. I had spent all this time organizing the location and hiring the cast and crew and didn’t want to have to reschedule the shoot because of one person. Luckily, living in NYC means finding an actor at the last minute isn’t an impossible task, but the actor had mere hours to learn all of his lines.
I still get major anxiety right before each shoot and try my best to ensure I do not have to deal with last second dropouts by being in constant communication and asking for confirmations so that I am not blindsided and taking focus off other important details the day of filming.
What is the title of your current project?
My most recent project is the 11-episode comedy web series, Am I the Crazy Girlfriend? . The story is about a neurotic woman committed to making things work with her new boyfriend, whom she fears thinks she is crazy. Episodes are released on YouTube every week.
What inspired you to make Am I The Crazy Girlfriend?
I was inspired to make Am I the Crazy Girlfriend? because I wanted to explore themes such as: how our partners make us feel crazy because of their lack of communication and mixed signals, getting so caught up in the fairytale of a new relationship that you are willing to do anything to make it work, the culture of turning to strangers on the Internet for love advice and only listening to comments that reinforce what we want to hear, and the futility of one-sided relationships (not even black magic can save them!)
What is the main conflict of Am I The Crazy Girlfriend?
The main conflict of Am I the Crazy Girlfriend? is a woman who struggles with being excited and enthusiastic about her new relationship because we live in a world where caring too much about your significant other is seen as taboo and frowned upon.
As a result of her inner struggles, the main character, Gabby, turns to the Internet for advice ans is egged on by one commenter to get to the next level with her boyfriend, Boo, – the next level being marriage – meanwhile Boo is egged on by his best friend to break up with Gabby because of her overeager, a.k.a. “crazy” ways.
How long did you spend in production?
We shot the series over five very long days.
How long did you spend in post production?
I release a new episode of Am I the Crazy Girlfriend? every week. It typically takes three to four days for me to edit each episode. The series has eleven episodes so I estimate I will spend one and a half months editing altogether.
Did you work with a writer, or write Am I The Crazy Girlfriend? yourself? Would you do the same again?
I wrote the script myself and solicited feedback from other writers whom I admire and respect. As someone who considers herself a screenwriter first, I would most certainly do it again. That is not to say that I would not direct or produce another writers’ work – to the contrary. I would love to try my hand at that as well, but I write stories because I want them to be seen and have a very clear vision when writing that I enjoy bringing to fruition through filmmaking.
How did you find your cast and what made you choose them?
I cast Am I the Crazy Girlfriend? Through a mixture of friends, friends of friends, casting sites, fakebook groups, and even family. I watched a lot of auditions and characters and narrowed down each role to my top three. Choosing amongst the top three was a little harder for some roles than others. Overall, I looked for who brought energy to the role who also seemed easy to work with got the gig.
Since I didn’t have a specific look in mind for the characters as I was writing them I was very flexible and received a lot of submissions. Some factors that helped narrow down the selection included, did they make me laugh, were they believable, did they follow nuances mentioned in the script, did they bring a new element or interpret the script in a unique way, did they follow instructions / directions, did they make it easier for me to see them in the role by dressing the part or having props, did they give me different takes, did they move around or were they stiff, did they seem professional, etc.
How big was your crew? Would you choose the same size again?
Since the budget and script was very tight (5 main characters), we had a two-person crew and myself and the DP wore a lot of hats. I would definitely prefer to have a script supervisor and dedicated person to handle sound, lights, and set decoration. As we grow and hopefully have a larger budget, that is definitely the goal moving forward.
How did you find your locations?
First, I try to keep to the rule of writing to your resources, but at times when my story calls for a location I don’t have a contact or hookup for, I pound the pavement – or better yet, Yelp and Google Reviews to see photos of a space – and send out a lot of cold e-mails. I have also just patronized really cool spaces and made a mental note of how great the location would be for a project. For example, I visited a space called Fiona’s Bar in Brooklyn that had a gorgeous tree in the middle of the bar and made a mental note of how perfect it would be to film a scene there. Luckily, when I was looking for a venue for Am I the Crazy Girlfriend? To host the bar scene and started reaching out to different locations, the owners at Fiona’s were completely film friendly.
Tell me some career goals. What would you like to achieve?
Some career goals of mine are: to direct my own projects and the works of other that I champion and believe in; showrun a critically acclaimed comedy television show that leaves an undeniable mark on the landscape of television, much like The Office, work with people I admire like Paul Lieberstein, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon, and continue to develop and produce content that I want to see and am proud of.
Tell me something you were surprised by, something you had never realised about being a filmmaker.
Something I never realized about being a filmmaker is how much many times the story gets written after what is supposedly the “final rewrite” and how drastically it can change along the way. After the “final” script rewrite, which can be an endless number, the story gets rewritten when the actors put their spin on it, and once again (truly final) when the editor gets a crack at it. Filmmaking is such a collaborative art and everyone who touches it leaves a permanent mark which you hope only makes the final product better.
What are words of advice you have for other aspiring filmmakers?
My advice for other aspiring filmmakers is to know that you have to start off somewhere, but that does require starting. And as long as you keep moving you are growing and one step closer to your wildest dreams. There are plenty of talented writers who would love to have someone direct their project and vice versa, so just put the ask for whatever you need to get started out there and take people up on the offers.
Give me your social links so people can come and find you!
YouTube: Sitinpretty Productions www.youtube.com/channel/UCip9Q9fs47iCHNi9rMc5Inw
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