Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Dawn Gilliam Is Helping To Change Our World

Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine
Published in
9 min readNov 29, 2022

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Awareness is the key. There are a lot of obs in the entertainment business. Sit and watch the credits after a film. This also is a way of respecting and supporting all that participate in the endeavor.

As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dawn Gilliam.

Dawn Gilliam is a well-known Script Supervisor in the entertainment business. Dawn has worked on iconic movies and television series throughout her career. She is also the founder of Date My Make-Up and creator of the first Makeup and Skincare Expiration labels.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

I am an original Los Angeles Rams Cheerleader. In 1978, the Los Angeles Rams football team introduced their first cheerleading squad. In the beginning, we were called “The Embraceable Ewes”. People would randomly come up and hug us, so they quickly changed it to The Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders.

We were models, did commercials and appeared on television shows. My first appearance was dancing on the Johnny Carson Show which brought me into the SAG and AFTRA union. After cheerleading, I would go on to get jobs as an actor, dancer, and hand model in the entertainment business.

There came a day when I was tired of taking pictures and auditioning wasn’t as fun even though I was working. I realized I liked being on set, so I looked around to see what position I liked. They would let me jump on the camera and I realized I had composition. They taught me how to load film, but I didn’t want to carry around heavy film equipment.

One day on the set, I asked a young lady what her job was. She said, “I’m the Script Supervisor — I’m kind of the secretary on set.” This resonated with me, because when I was growing up, my dad said, to learn to type.

I took every secretarial course in high school and college. I would get temporary office jobs in between acting gigs. I had excellent secretarial skills and picked up the work quite easily, but it was boring.

Days later, I found a book on script supervision in the library. I was paying attention on set but just didn’t know what things were called. I tried to take a class, but the class was canceled so I just kept reading the book and asking questions while on set.

In January 1990, I started script supervising film school projects. This led me to meet and work with the late John Singleton on a music video.

When John got the green light for “Boyz n the Hood,” he requested me to be the script supervisor and the producer — the producer, Steve Nicolaides, approved. Steve said he knew I could do the paperwork but didn’t know if I was a filmmaker. I was a fish to water and the rest is history.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

During my cheerleading days, we played a charity softball game against the Playboy bunnies. I was very athletic and considered myself a tomboy. I was on base; someone made a hit, and I took off running and slid into home plate like I was at a real baseball game.

The horror on all those girls faces as I was wiping the dirt off my legs. I was so embarrassed. I learned from that incident that it was time to grow up and shed my tomboy ways. I also learned to read the room and act accordingly.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

The entertainment business has a cast of characters. There are a multitude of personalities. The most interesting, to me, would be the director — everything from how they maneuver to get the story in their head and then onto film is amazing and inspiring.

As a Script Supervisor, we observe. We sit at video village where producers and directors speak freely about any given situation happening on the film. It’s being privy to confidential information. So, the stories I have, I tend to keep to myself.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

Harriet Tubman is inspirational to me because she made a way out of no way. She had to be divinely led. She was in a no-win situation but something inside of her told her to change this situation and help others to do the same.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

Being one of the few women of color working as a script supervisor, I became president of IATSE Local 871. During my term, I was able to work with IMDB to create a category for Script Supervisors.

IMDB is the main resource to find cast and crew on a movie or television shows.

When you look for the script supervisor in a movie, we are under the Script and Continuity Department banner. Script Supervisors were categorized in the past under Miscellaneous Crew now renamed as Additional Crew.

The industry is working on diversifying and giving unrepresented groups the opportunity of considering a career in the crafts behind the camera.

I am part of the IATSE DEI Committee (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion). We are working to implement the DEI initiative agreement between the Studios and the IATSE union. The initiative will create opportunity for the underrepresented groups to learn and carve out a career in the industry.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

During the pandemic, Netflix launched the Netflix/ION’s Virtual Connection initiative. The goal was to introduce Department Heads of color to Line Producers and Netflix Executives to expand our current network.

In the meetings, the Producers were asking questions about the craft. When will script supervisors get an apprenticeship program? Are script supervisors ever going to have assistants like in the UK? Many script supervisors are at retirement age, who will fill the gap?

This was my “aha moment”. I did some research and found out the craft is not growing and the work on film sets have changed using more cameras. Rewrites are constant. All in the effort to create a better product but the Script and Continuity department is not expanding. I brought my findings to veteran script supervisors with 15+ years of experience and voiced my concerns.

I thought at that time, in order to update and level up the craft we would be able to do so through diversity. We broke up into three groups and started doing the work to create an Apprenticeship Program, identify when an additional script supervisor on set in warranted and to create an outreach program.

About six months later, the studios came with the DEI Initiative. Everything in the initiative will expand and update the craft.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Early on in my career, I started teaching the craft. For the last ten years, I’ve been traveling out of state and abroad to work. I am very approachable, and I volunteer to have an intern when possible.

While working in London, I was able to have two of my online students intern on a set. One went on to work at Central Film School as Film and Screenwriting Program Manager. Another is now one of the top working Script Supervisor in the UK.

A few years later, another Intern went on to work in animation, doing script supervising as well as voiceover work.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

Awareness is the key. There are a lot of obs in the entertainment business. Sit and watch the credits after a film. This also is a way of respecting and supporting all that participate in the endeavor.

High Schools, Film Schools, vocational Schools in or near underrepresented groups of people can open their curriculums to the crafts behind the camera.

People can start think tanks on how to start and maintain training and/or apprenticeship programs in their cities, and the government can give monetary incentives to film productions to hire and train the unrepresented groups.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Film production has long working hours. The average work week is 60 to 70 hours. That is a job and a half. And that you must rest on the weekends.

2. How to balance work life with home life. There were many times I was too tired to take my children on outings. Luckily, they had many friends and would go with them. I found balance by getting a housekeeper and having someone wash my laundry.

3. Take time off between productions, at least once a year. You get into a rhythm of going from job to job. It’s hard to say no. The main reason is you don’t know when the next job is coming. But if you are good at what you do and build a great reputation, passing on a job to get rest and rejuvenate is the best course of action.

4. That being a script supervisor would be so cerebral. Who knew the amount of information that is stored in our head on one film. We are constantly thinking twelve to fourteen ours straight. People constantly asking questions for things that was done days ago as well as being asked what happened ten minutes ago.

5. That script supervision is one of the hardest jobs on set. As the years go on and filmmaking is evolving with more cameras and more rewrites during filming, along with a bigger number of casts in a scene, being the script supervisor, everyone is counting on to know the continuity, screen direction and what each camera is shooting is one of the hardest jobs on set.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

It really is more fulfilling to give than to receive. The positive vibe gets when you bless people with your talents and skills for the greater good.

The environment as well as society needs your young passion and ideas to motivate us to do better.

We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

I would love to collaborate with Film schools and Colleges to bring The Art of Continuity, my script supervising course to their curriculums.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You have everything you need to succeed.” “A closed mouth don’t get fed.”

I think about both quotes to motivate me into starting a business called, Date My Make-Up. You must ask for what you want. Doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get it. “But a closed mouth don’t get fed!”

Using all the filmmaking skills, acquired through the years, a product was created, Makeup and Skincare Expiration Labels!

These Labels go on your makeup and beauty products to let you know when the product has expired.

Our blog has a short script, the characters are makeup products. All learned from working with the script on a daily basis. “I truly have everything I need to succeed”.

How can our readers follow you online? FOR THE INDUSTRY:

TheArtofContinuity@Gmail.com Website: The Art of Continuity RESUME: IMDB.

FB: https://www.facebook.com/dee.gilliam/

IG PAGE: https://www.instagram.com/dawngilliam/

YT: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdS7tXvCxtpL2ITENQIJfrA

FOR THE BUSINESS

Dawn@datemymakeup.com WEBSITE: Datemymakeup.com IG Page: @datemymakeup

FB: https://www.facebook.com/datemymakeup

YT: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCii8jmsOK0hycrmCZdA4agA

This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!

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Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator