Editor by day, film boss by night

Amen Jafri
Jan 19, 2018 · 6 min read

In this series, I’m going to discuss how you can find your creative outlet outside the 9–5, through interviews with individuals who are doing just that. I made this web series and as a creative coach to amateur artists, I want to continue showcasing the stories of individuals who are making their artistic ambitions a reality. For tips on how to transition from amateur to professional, visit amenjafri.com and sign up for my newsletter.

This is Amanda Taylor.

She’s Assistant Editor for the University of Utah’s Continuum Magazine by day and by night the founder of Apple Juice Productions, a film production company dedicated to telling female-centric stories.

In addition to leading the company, Amanda handles all aspects of production, from directing and producing, to scriptwriting, set design and costuming. Apple Juice Productions’ YouTube channel currently has more than 3K subscribers and their latest film, Lily Evans and the Stroke of Midnight (inspired by the Harry Potter series), has accumulated more than 41K views since its release two months ago.

What got her started

Amanda studied journalism and always planned to work in the entertainment industry. As a writer, she realized she wrote “in scenes” that were dialogue-heavy. It was while interning at Entertainment Weekly a few years ago that her career trajectory changed. Her manager asked a simple question, but one that made it all click: “Would you rather write for the movies or be in the movies?” Amanda knew she would rather be on the other side of the red carpet.

But why start up a production company to get a foot in the door? “I was afraid I would never get the permission”, she said. The thought of moving to LA and waiting on tables alongside other aspiring writers and screenwriters seemed too discouraging.

The types of stories she wanted to see on screen (Apple Juice Productions has an affinity for literary ones in particular), with women leads, were non-existent and she realized she could form a team to tell them. “When we came up with a great way to modernize Northanger Abbey, we realized if we wanted to see it on screen, we had the power to make that a reality”, she said.

Given the relative ease of access in making and distributing content nowadays, Amanda decided working with other like-minded people and launching a production company was a way to “realize our dream exactly the way we wanted to do it”.

Running a company

A natural leader, Amanda knows how to bring a project together, with help from the right team. Since they operate without a budget, they rely on themselves to borrow and buy resources to bring their films to life.

“We simply do not have the equipment to make a blockbuster-quality film. But we do have incredible volunteers who have shared their talents to help make our projects higher and higher quality. We are all amateurs, learning about sound and lighting as we go, which is difficult — until we are able to snag a great volunteer who can help us on our way”, said Amanda. She also acknowledges that it helps to have a creative partner with strength in filming and editing, to oversee technical matters.

The balancing act

Amanda uses her lunch hour and downtime during the day to connect with the rest of the team. They use Google Hangouts to periodically connect, as well as Google Drive to create contracts, develop shot lists and brainstorm story ideas or complete script edits. After work she will meet with her writing partner to develop scripts. Shooting takes place on weekends, although she once had a dedicated eight-hour writing session as well. There are also lags into between projects; at the current time the focus is on marketing and distribution of the last film.

Amanda tries to complete as much as she can in pre-production. For example, she creates a Pinterest board for film projects, which helps her establish characters, as well provide inspiration for costume and set design. She also compiles Spotify playlists to imagine a potential scene. This means that by the time shooting begins, “I [already] have insight into the character and I have a backstage pass into what the lines are going to be”, said Amanda.

She also tends to “fly by the seat of [her] pants”. If she wants to work, she works. “Making time for it comes naturally as both a hobby and a second job or “side hustle”…because I work with a core team who are equally itching to be doing more and being more successful with each project, we push and support each other”, added Amanda.

Overcoming insecurities

Amanda takes on a lot of roles in each of Apple Juice Productions’ projects, also ensuring that no one else on the team is overwhelmed by stress. The emotional weight of that, plus getting into the heads of every character she plays and thinking about potential audience reaction means she is managing a lot of mental stress.

“I am constantly second-guessing myself, especially since we are in the unique position of giving ourselves permission. We decide everything. Which ignites the neuroses: Who am I to deserve to write these things, or play these roles, or make decisions for a 30-person cast and crew?”, said Amanda.

Since every film project does reach its eventual conclusion, it gives Amanda time to hit the reset button, before the pressure gets too high.

What drives her

“Being able to escape reality and bring joy to other people through storytelling and performing is the top thing that gets me up in the morning. I need the time to get out of my own life, my own head, my own personality, and into others. It helps me with perspective and compassion in my ‘real life’. It reminds me I still have dreams I can make come true”, said Amanda.

The takeaways

· Listen to your gut. Just because there are stories out there about what launched creative careers and recommended best practices, it does not mean they will define your journey. You know yourself best and you need to trust your own instincts on what you are comfortable and happy doing.

· Creative careers are not set in stone and often the skills are completely transferable from one industry to the next. If you do not see yourself fitting in any industry, there is no reason you cannot create one unique to you. It is all dependent on your vision at the end of the day.

· Most creative people are talented in more than one area and that’s an advantage. Just because you are a skilled writer it does not mean you have to stick to that alone for a career. Even if you are not as talented in other capacities, consider what else you enjoy and see how they can be combined together.

I hope you found this post useful. Let me know in the comments below if you have any tips to share on managing a creative outlet outside of your day job and connect with me if you’d like to be featured in this series!

I used personal branding to transition from being a public servant to working in the film industry and earning accolades as a doc filmmaker: amenjafri.com

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