Shatterbox Shorts-Makers Channing Godfrey Peoples, Veronica Rodriguez, and Tiffany Johnson Talk “Refinery29 + Level Forward Present Shatterbox” at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival
Moderated by Amy Emmerich, President & Chief Content Officer at Refinery29, the SCAD Savannah Film Festival’s “Refinery29 + Level Forward Present Shatterbox,” a program of seven quite diverse shorts followed by a post-screening discussion, was presented at the comfy SCAD Museum of Art theater on an industry-heavy Monday afternoon.
The event featured Parisa Barani (Human Terrain), Tiffany J. Johnson and Adrienne Childress (Girl Callin), Kantú Lentz (Jack and Jo Don’t Want to Die), Channing Godfrey Peoples (Doretha’s Blues), and Lizzie Nastro (the Chloë Sevigny-directed White Echo) onstage to discuss their work – as well as working with Refinery29 and Level Forward’s female filmmaking incubator. And because the talk made me eager to learn even more about the Shatterbox selection-to-distribution pipeline I decided to follow up with some of the inspirational participants. Luckily for Filmmaker, three talented women — Channing Godfrey Peoples (one of 2018’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film”), Veronica Rodriguez (Shoot), and Tiffany Johnson — kindly agreed to answer a handful of questions via email.
Filmmaker: How did you come to collaborate with Shatterbox on your film? What’s the application process, or did they reach out to you directly?
Peoples: Shatterbox totally believed in the vision of my film, Doretha’s Blues. They embraced a story about a woman in her 70s, quietly navigating her own grief. As far as connecting with them, I was informed about the series by the incredible team at San Francisco Film (SFFILM) who have supported me as a filmmaker.
I submitted the script and a look-book with my vision for Doretha’s Blues. A few weeks later they reached out and wanted to interview me to learn more about who I was and why I wanted to tell this story. I was in Texas at the time, so we had a Skype interview. The interview happened a few days after I was named one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film” 2018, which I was honored to be able to update them about. Shortly after, I found out that they wanted to make Doretha’s Blues.
I was extremely excited and set about finding the right actor for the role of Doretha. We found her in the incredible Dr. Tonea Stewart, who brought so much more than I could ever imagine to the role and lifted it off the page.
Rodriguez: I came to collaborate with Shatterbox on my film Shoot via my co-producers on the project, Jay Ellis and Aaron Bergman of Black Bar Mitzvah. They came on to produce Shoot with me as a short film, and connected with Refinery29 when we were looking for financing. R29 took Shoot into consideration as a project for Shatterbox, but before we were selected we were asked to come in and pitch them the project. It was important for them to meet me, the filmmaker, and understand my vision for the script. (When you see the film, you’ll totally understand. It’s a little weird and very specific to me and my sense of humor.) They then reviewed our proposed budget for the film, and ultimately selected our project to participate in Shatterbox season three.
Johnson: From the beginning, my producer/writer (Adrienne Childress) and I always saw the Shatterbox series as the platform we wanted to bring this project to. Adrienne had collaborated with Shatterbox in the past on another project and had had a wonderful experience, and I’ve been a fan of Refinery29 for awhile now. We applied with the script, visual treatment, bios and resumes, and then were brought in to pitch further.
Filmmaker: Why do you think your project was selected? Was it your pitching skills? Resume?
Peoples: Shatterbox does an excellent job in curating this series and I felt fortunate that my project was selected amongst such a wonderful group of films by women directors. I think part of the reason that this project was selected was that we live in an age in which African-Americans are senselessly losing their lives to police violence at alarming rates. My film Doretha’s Blues tells the story of a woman left behind after losing a loved one and burying her own grief.
Rodriguez: I think Shoot was selected for a few reasons. It is a female-led comedy told by a female filmmaker, which unfortunately are still few and far between, so I think that was of interest. I like to think that I did a good job pitching this film, because I was pretty much pitching myself. The entire vibe of Shoot is very much me and my sensibility, and I couldn’t have felt more ready as a director to take on this project.
Before consideration, we attached a strong and impressive team of diverse female department heads to the project: director of photography, costume designer, production designer, and line producer. We had Jay Ellis (Insecure, Top Gun: Maverick) attached to star and co-produce the film. Lastly, I think many short films tend to lean towards the dramatic, but Shoot promised to be light, fun, and a bit funky, which seemed to get people excited.
Johnson: I like to believe that our project stood out because of the characters and the world we were placing them in. We were very excited about merging our favorite genres together and putting our own spin on it. Another key element to our story was the music, so we even included a playlist in our treatment to help paint the world.
Filmmaker: What exactly is the process? Is Shatterbox involved with every step from funding through distribution?
Peoples: Shatterbox was involved at every level from funding, and now they are guiding distribution. They were especially supportive during production as both representatives from Refinery29, and Level Forward came to set and were encouraging and supportive. They were truly a driving force in getting this film made. I wrote a story about an older African-American woman as the lead character (the kind of film that is seldom made), and I was able to do that with Shatterbox support.
Rodriguez: Shoot had Black Bar Mitzvah attached as the production company fulfilling production services for the project, so Shatterbox provided the funding and Black Bar Mitzvah handled all that was physical production and post-production. Once we got into the post-production process, we worked creatively with Shatterbox on the edit. They provided insightful notes throughout the post process, helping us find the best way to tell our story.
Once we completed the film, Shatterbox worked with us on Shoot’s festival application and digital distribution strategy, as well as on the film’s marketing plan and materials. Shatterbox was a fantastic partner because they not only supported us in any way they could along the way, but they fully trusted my vision for Shoot, allowing me to tell this story I’ve dreamed of telling my way.
Johnson: Shatterbox was very hands-on in the process and in keeping us on track. They were super supportive in our vision of this project and made sure we had everything we needed to see it through. They trusted us too, which is ultimately all filmmakers really need to bring their films to life. Having that trust is crucial.
Information on the three shorts follows.
Directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples
USA, 2019, 15 min.
The story of an African-American woman who is rocked to her core when a national news event opens up an old wound.
Directed by Veronica Rodriguez
USA, 2019, 12 min.
Inspired by real events, two prestige auction houses engage in the ancient form of ritualized combat, Rochambeau, for a coveted $20 million art collection.
Directed by Tiffany J. Johnson
USA, 2020, 14 min.
After a drug deal goes awry, two best buds make a presumably careless decision that not only jeopardizes their relationship, but possibly their lives.