Stories transport and ​can ​transform us. They allow us to know ourselves and others, and to find meaning in our lives and in our world. They cross borders, transcend culture, and allow us to frame our worlds through new lenses. To create rich stories takes​ courage​ and a willingness to ​do the deep work. Ilyse McKimmie, Kimberly Peirce, Heather Rae, Tyger Williams, Justin Chon, and Rudy Valdez discuss.
Key Insights

Heather Rae’s Takeaways:

  • Understand that the reality of the film industry is that it is a place where art and commerce meet.
  • Become comfortable with the idea that the original goal is to create art. At the end of the day, if everything else around it is a disappointment, you are still left with having created something original, and the world finds its way to it. 
  • When it comes to partners and investors, find people who will share in your vision and have similar expectations for the project. You may have to mitigate expectations with first-time financiers. Don’t work with someone whose only alignment with the project is their financial investment. 
  • A commercial failure doesn’t necessarily have to affect your creative decisions moving forward. It’s important to stand by the work you believe in. 

Kimberly Peirce’s Takeaways:

  • Understand that failure is good. The brilliance of failure is that you inherit an arsenal of tools. 
  • Allow your love of storytelling to override your ego and your fear or failure. 
  • Find a community of professionals and peers to carry you through your struggles so that you can turn them into insights. 
  • The beauty of storytelling is that every great story has its own DNA; your job is to find that. 
  • You can be drawn to a story and not know the best way to tell it. That’s OK. That’s why we have rewrites. 

Tyger Williams’s Takeaways:

  • As a writer, failure is an everyday experience. 
  • Just because you like certain movies, that doesn’t mean you are the right person to tell that story. 
  • Embrace the fact that you don’t know it all, but that you will discover things along the way. 
  • Be patient: it takes storytellers time to find their voice and to find their confidence in what they know they do well. 
  • By stretching, you have to allow yourself to fail. You have to get out on the tightrope, or you are never going to grow. 

Justin Chon’s Takeaways:

  • Communication, especially on set, is paramount. Keep the lines of communication open, even when time doesn’t necessarily permit. 
  • Find a way to make conflict a productive experience by channeling your shared goals with an actor, director, financier, et al. 
  • There is no proxy for failure. Accept that your biggest failures are experiences you simply have to go through and come out the other side of. 

Rudy Valdez’s Takeaways:

  • Trust your voice and have confidence in telling a story the way you think it needs to be told. 
  • Don’t blindly incorporate notes because of who they come from. There’s no one right way to tell a story. 
  • Be open to feedback, but also have the confidence in your own vision to tell a particular story as a reflection of your distinctive voice.

Producer, Director
Heather Rae is a film producer and narrative change activist. She produced such films as Academy Award nominated "Frozen River", Netflix Originals "Tallulah" with Ellen Page and Allison Janney and "Dude" with Lucy Hale.
Writer, Director
Kimberly Peirce staked her place as a writer and director of singular vision and craft with her unflinching debut feature, BOYS DON'T CRY. She is a proud to be a Governor of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, head of the Diversity Committee, and Executive Board member of the Director's Guild of America, and a member of Time’s Up and the WGA.
Screenwriter
Los Angeles, CA, USA
Tyger Williams is a screenwriter best known for MENACE II SOCIETY, which debuted at the Cannes Film festival as part of the Director’s Fortnight selection and went on to win an MTV Best Movie of the Year award. His other credits include THE PERFECT GUY. Williams has written over thirty screenplays for film and television and has sold original screenplays, as well as written on assignment, for all the major movie and television studios.
Filmmaker
New York, NY, USA
Rudy Valdez is a Michigan-raised, Brooklyn-based filmmaker. He got his start as a camera operator on the Peabody Award-winning Sundance Channel series BRICK CITY, and has worked as a cinematographer for directors and producers such as Sebastian Junger, Whoopi Goldberg, Geeta Gandbhir, and Sam Pollard.
Screenwriter/Director
Justin Chon was born in Orange County, California where he learned to drag race Honda Civics. He most recently wrote and directed Ms. Purple that premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in the US Dramatic Competition.

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