I connected with Danielle Earle while she was working on the web series “Brooklyn is in Love.” I started out as a funder and have since advanced to be associate producer or executive producer on her projects. My professional relationship with her has been long-term (since circa. 2011), and is one of the longest such collaborations I have developed with creatives.
Anticipating the completion of her latest feature film, “The Haunted Mind of an Insomniac,” I recently interviewed Danielle Earle for Support Our #creatives. You will learn a lot about her as she describes her journey in the entertainment world. She mentions me a couple of times! Following the interview there is a bonus: the official trailer of the film!
1.Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us how you got your start in the entertainment industry.
Danielle Earle: My name is Danielle Earle, and I own a production company PL Entertainment LLC. The journey that lead me into filmmaking actually happened by accident. I went to college at the Academy of Art University (AAU) in San Francisco, CA, and received my Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Animation and Visual Effects in 2008. I’ve always wanted to pursue the Arts. It was in my senior year that I realized that my passion was truly for being a director. Growing up, there were barely any female directors and it felt very challenging at the time for many. So, I decided to take a leap of faith, and pursue it. The summer after graduating from AAU, I started a web show called “On the Scene.” It was a series where I would travel from city to city, interviewing Indie musicians and rock bands. I started interviewing bands such as The Spring Standards, Elizabeth and the Catapult, Ian Axel, The Paper Raincoat, Jukebox the Ghost, and many more. Eventually the series branched off to the UK, and I interviewed the popular rock band 6 Day Riot, that was featured in the hit series “Skins” on MTV. The series reached close to 100,000 views on YouTube. In 2010, I enrolled at the City College of New York (CCNY), studying Film Directing for Documentary Films. In 2011, I left grad school, and started a narrative web series called “Brooklyn Is in Love.” It was the same year, when I decided to form my own production company called PL Entertainment LLC. After the first season of “Brooklyn Is in Love,” I got a call from the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE), asking if I can schedule a meeting at their office in Manhattan and a year later I joined the WGAE union.
2. What education have you received in this area? What entertainment-related professional organizations do you belong to?
I received a BFA in Animation and Visual Effect at AAU in San Francisco, CA. I studied for one year at CCNY in New York. I’m also a member of the WGAE.
3. I first worked with you on the web series “Brooklyn Is in Love.” Talk about that project.
That was a wonderful experience and I had such a blast working with you [the author of this blog post]. It was an exciting and terrifying time for me, because it was the first narrative series I had ever worked on. Before this, I produced a short film called “Where the Road May Lead Us.” It was a student film that I wrote when I was at CCNY. The first season of “Brooklyn Is in Love” was the hardest, but I can remember how emotionally driven I was at the time. There was so much going on in my life at that moment. I can remember being a mid- to late-20 something, trying to figure my own life out, and writing was my therapy, especially the series “Brooklyn Is in Love.”
4. I love your feature “Lover’s Game.” Explain your motivation for making that film.
“Lover’s Game” was probably the hardest project that I had ever worked on because I was so vulnerable at that state. My grandmother was very ill. I had finished my second season on “Brooklyn Is in Love.” I felt such a void in my heart that I need to fill. That was this movie. It relates to a part of myself that I felt needed to get out. All of us have always felt the up and down moments when it comes to love. I felt that this film could connect with an audience that I’ve always connected with. I wanted to write a movie about two women, who have been through similar obstacles in their lives, whether it’s love lost or a divide in their relationship. That emotional connection is the glue that brings them together. Sometimes, love just happens when you least expect it. I’ve noticed that in lesbian romance films, women are overly sexualized on screen, far more than in gay male-dominated films, and men are majority of the times directing these films. It’s unfortunate. I felt that I wanted to write about the characters in my film as people; sexuality orientation is not the main subject of the film and that everyone is the same, and shown that way on screen.
5. Tell us about your feature film “The Haunted Mind of an Insomniac,” which is currently in post-production. Tell us about the process of getting this film made and what challenges have you have faced in all its phases. Why did you decide to make a film in this genre?
I’ve always been a fan of romantic dramas, and Alfred Hitchcock. I loved how he was able to blend romance and horror into one medium. That’s how “The Haunted Mind of An Insomniac” was developed. “The Haunted Mind of An Insomniac” tells the story of Terrence Cleaver, a horror writer, who has been haunted by his wife’s suicide and his son’s death. When a murder happens in his building it suddenly puts everyone on edge and Terrence ends up being one of the prime suspects. What’s great about “The Haunted Mind of An Insomniac” film is the fact that we have a very diverse cast working in terms of talent and crew. I felt that it is very important and that representation matters in the film industry. The post-production process has been great. We’re working with Daniel Miller, a wonderful sound mixer/sound designer. We’re also working with Natalie Palumbo, Visual Effects Artist.
6. Tell us about the importance of promoting diversity in your films.
At the age of 35, I’ve realized how important diversity is. It took me years later to look back at my life and the films and television shows that I grew up watching had zero representation for people of color. I realized how important it is for our culture, especially for the younger generation. Young girls that are fans of American cinema will eventually question themselves, and believe the lie that as African Americans we are undesirable or not worthy of a love story. There is so much negative representation on television and in films. I feel that as filmmakers we have the power to change that. We have to power to show people of color in a positive light.
7. I have noticed you use a lot of the same actors on multiple projects. Explain the advantages of that approach.
I admire the directors Christopher Guest and Wes Anderson. They use a similar technique when it comes to hiring talent. When I cast for a film I pick people that are right for the part and that share a similar drive and passion. I love that we’ve all grown over the years creatively and professionally. It’s heartwarming to work with them on several projects.
8. What awards have your projects been nominated for and which have won?
“Brooklyn Is in Love” At the LA Web Series Film Festival (2012), the web series was awarded Best Ensemble, Best Writing for Seasons 1 and 2, Nicole Vogt-Lowell for Best Supporting Actress, and Katja Gerz for Best Actress.
“Lover’s Game” At the Hudson Valley International Film Festival (2015) the film was nominated for Best Director and Best Narrative, and Crawford M. Collins was awarded Best Actress in a Feature Film. At the Mount Vernon International Film Festival 2016), Crawford M. Collins was awarded Best Actor.
9. What are the challenges of distribution of your completed projects?
The challenge is financing. Majority of my films are self-funded with my executive producer Alan Greenstein [the author of this blog post].
10. People should know that the entertainment industry is not all glamour. What roadblocks have you faced and how did you overcome them?
Being a black woman in the film industry that is predominantly male is definitely a challenge at times, but I don’t let it get to me. I surround myself with positive people and crew that respect my vision as a director and producer.
11. I have worked with you on the web series “Brooklyn Is in Love,” the feature “Lover’s Game,” and currently the feature “The Haunted Mind of an Insomniac.” Tell us what you have learned and how you have grown in your producing abilities over the years.
Both [earlier] projects were a learning experience for me. I was so young working in the business at that time, with so much drive and determination. I remember when I joined the WGAE and I was around 26/27. There was a lot of challenges that I had faced due to funding, but I didn’t let that get to me. I worked extremely hard. I had to get the word about “Brooklyn Is in Love” and “Lover’s Game.” This was before Instagram or Twitter. I had to physically write letters, and pass out flyers for the web series in Brooklyn. I also contacted local businesses to promote the series. Now at the age of 35, I’m being invited to speak at panels with over 300-400 people in the audience, speaking at filmed interviews, and sitting with film producers that worked for BET, Bravo, and other platforms. Sometimes I look back at my life and wonder how in the heck I was able to do what I did. I feel that I’ve become stronger and more comfortable in my own skin as a director, producer, and writer. I’m also a teacher during the day, teaching high school students Filmmaking and Digital Media. I think that made me realize the challenging path/journey over the years was all worth it.
12. Being interviewed is a very important way of promoting oneself. You have been interviewed in different media – print, audio, and video. And you have been involved in panel discussions. Tell us about some of your experiences. Do people reach out to you, or do you reach out to people, or both? Are you comfortable doing interviews?
Majority of the time it’s publications, panels and podcasts that reach out to me for interviews. I think it’s mostly because of word of mouth. I’m always nervous when it comes to interviews.
13. You have worked on Indies. What is your definition of “Indie”? Why are Indie productions so important?
Indie films are low budget films that are authentic and have substance. I wish Indie Films were more respected at the Golden Globes or Oscars. There are so many incredible films out there that have not been recognized.
14. What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you in entertainment?
The most exciting thing that has happened to me in entertainment was evolving as a producer. I find myself producing more and more as the years go on. I’ve been a judge for several film festivals. That’s a major accomplishment.
15. What other project(s) are currently in production? What are your plans for future productions?
I’m currently one of the producers for an LGBTQ short film called “Chasing Love,” produced and directed by Diana Foronda, and written by Diana Foronda and Calvin Benson. I’m also the executive producer for the feature film “Beauty Marc,” with longtime collaborator Jay Palmieri. I’m also directing an LGBTQ short film called “New York, My Lover,” starring Steve Riggle.
16, What do you want to tell our readers that will inspire them?
Never give up. There were so many times in my career that I just want to throw in the towel and move on from filmmaking, because of funding or the long production process. If I had not stayed in the game I would have never evolved and be the person I am today.
17. How is it you know all the great coffee places in NYC?
Coffee Shops are my sanctuary. I love coffee shops because it’s a writer’s paradise and that’s where I’m the most creative.
18. How can we get in touch with you?
“The Haunted Mind of an Insomniac” – Official Trailer
PL Entertainment presents the Official Trailer for The Haunted Mind Of An Insomniac, starring Ebeneezer Nii Sowah, Leigh Poulos, Irma Cadiz, Kim Akia, Nestor Garland, Hollis ‘Fox’ Wansley, Yaron Urbas, Jamal James, Emily Bennett, and G. Paul Salvetti.
Several years after his wife’s suicide, Terrence Cleaver finds himself haunted by his unfinished novel in a quiet Harlem apartment. A series of murders occur in his building, leaving him as the prime suspect. Terrence finds himself caught between fantasy and reality.IMDb page — The Haunted Mind of an Insomniac
The film is currently in post-production. I am an executive producer.
We have learned about Danielle Earle and what drives her in her creative activities. She has grown in her abilities as a producer of films and web series. Over the many years Danielle and I have collaborated, our constant communication, back-and-forth advice, and mentoring, has been so very beneficial to both of us.
To my readers, please provide feedback or questions in the Comments. I would really enjoy hearing from you. And let me know if there are any topics you would like me to cover.
Disclaimer: The author is not being financially compensated by anyone associated with any project mentioned, for this post.
The interview was edited for readability and formating.
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