Making it in the Entertainment Business: Director

Kate Rees Davies is a film director, actor and producer with her own production company (Bizfoot Productions). A 2011 graduate of UCLA Extension’s directing program, her thesis film “Cell/Phone” screened at that year's Cannes Film Festival in France. Among her latest projects are “Sticks and Stones,” a film that deals with the devastating effects of bullying, and the sci-fi thriller “Altered Perception,” which revolves around post-traumatic experiences.

Born in Britain, Davies studied acting at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Australia before making the big move to Hollywood. She believes that her acting background is a huge advantage when she's directing because it eases actors into feeling safe in the space, which frees them to do their best work. 

Davies admitted that she still finds it tough getting her work in front of the people who can get her to the next level in her career. But the task is made easier nowadays by online platforms and producers who are always searching for the next (undiscovered) big thing.

She said that technology is also changing the way the industry views media and entertainment, with short-form content more popular than ever. Davies calls new technology in the entertainment industry the “new frontier.” Her favorite quote is from former British prime minister Winston Churchill: “The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.”

Here are Davies' tips for anyone trying to break into directing.

Network and get to know as many people as possible working in your chosen field. Go to screenings with Q&A's with the directors and learn from them, building those relationships — and not being a lunatic and tracking them down. Save the restraining orders for when you’re famous!

Helm a 48-hour film project. It will help you get into the habit of creating your own work, collaborating with other people, get you to work faster and on a deadline. The first one I did was filmed in a friend's apartment when I was a student at UCLA. We forgot to tell the neighbors, and when they heard a lot of commotion they called the police for a domestic disturbance! This is when being a woman and being British came in handy. I was able to charm them and prevent them from shutting us down. Producers will love you if you can bring a project in on time and under budget.

Create your own projects. This is a good chance to gain experience and build a group of awesome people to develop your careers together. 

Intern at a production company and learn from the inside out. These people are your future bosses. I was lucky enough to intern at the Weinstein Company and Double Feature Films while I was in the UCLA Extension program. It was in the first school quarter and the Oscars were approaching, a very exciting time. I learned so much about the business in a very short space of time.

Watch movies and TV as much as possible. Pay special attention to the shows and films that are getting buzz. Learn from what they are doing right. Think about why they are so popular — is it character or story or both? Focus on passion projects and good stories, read newspaper articles that catch your eye, watch viral YouTube videos from around the globe.

Keep an ideas book. I spend a couple of hours most mornings at the pool. When I'm musing while I swim, that is when the best ideas come.

Dream big. Nothing is impossible. Ask yourself: What do I want to accomplish? A big budget, three-picture deal with an all-star cast and to be the first woman to direct a James Bond movie!

Julia Clerk for UCLA Extension

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