Hey, I’m Stephanie Bignault, and I am the co-producer for the short film 360 Seconds, written & directed by Bex Bradshaw and starring Sydney Sainté. The film is a quick but intimate glimpse into an evening with Ladykiller, a mysterious woman who enters a punk restroom for, oh, 360 crucial little seconds.
The rest of our cast and crew include Kieran Cronin (Bar Patron), Curtis Yap (DoP), Sean Perreira (Art Director), Emily Hirsch (Hair & Makeup), Arjay Ancheta (Gaffer), Kaitlin Ragland (Production Sound Mixer), Stephanie Noritz (Stills Photography), Jill Youngblood (PA), Antonello Parlato (Editor), and Jason Knutzen (Color & DIT).
indieactivity: What is your experience working on the story, the screenplay, the production, the premiere, and the marketing?
Stephanie Bignault (SB): When Bex first sent me the script, I could immediately envision it. But even better, I could feel it. Bex is so effective at capturing tone in her scripts, and I felt certain we could make this one come to life, even in the midst of the pandemic in LA. We knew we would need a skeleton crew of people who would do excellent work on a tight budget. We found those people. We prepped within the span of four weeks and shot it all in one day with really only a few minor setbacks. Thanks to Bex’s connections, the post-production only took about a month. The whole thing from the onset of pre-production to the film’s premiere took a little over 3 months. Pretty wild to realize it all happened that quickly.
How did you put the crew and cast together? Did you start writing with a known cast?
Stephanie Bignault (SB): The script is all Bex, but we conferred heavily on it, swapping out lines of dialogue here and there and zeroing in on each detail until we both felt satisfied with what tethered each moment to the story. We had to know the why to every little thing and it had to feel cohesive off the page. The script was set two weeks out from our shoot day. I vividly remember that moment. We were so jazzed. Did you catch the red riding hood references?
When did you form your production company – and what was the original motivation for its formation?
SB: This is my first time producing, so I wouldn’t say I have a company. At least, not yet. We’ll see, won’t we?
During the film production, what scene (that made the cut) was the hardest to shoot? And why?
SB: The transformation into Ladykiller’s final character proved tricky. We had toyed with the concept of using sweeping shots that would go round and round her, revealing her transformation during the spin, but by the time we hit it in our shooting schedule, time was not on our side and neither was our elephant of a camera. We were stuck but only for a bit. Arjay, our gaffer, brilliantly suggested using practical light changes to help convey the internal shift Ladykiller needs to start the transformation. That idea led to another and another until we found ourselves on the other side of the problem. I love what we got, and I love how Antonello edited it.
You must have donned several hats on this film, the measure of your input required intellect, effort, tenacity, skill. What did it take you to put out all these qualities to get the film done?
SB: We certainly did don several hats! We also left no stones unturned and ensured no detail was too small for our consideration. We leaned on this thinking throughout, trusting it would help our film stand out in the best ways. Bex and I sourced each wardrobe piece together. I took a pair of scissors to Ladykiller’s white faux fur jacket until the texture was the way we wanted it. (well-worn & not perfect) Our friend Tim let me tear through his vintage Playboy collection to add that bit of authenticity to our set. Bex and I also spent hours learning about different kinds of blood spatter (not splatter! Spatter), and we got severely specific about how the first kill went down. We knew how crucial it was that the blood looked good. I practiced the spatter on Bex and once we landed on a pattern we liked, I did all the blood work on our shoot. It’s fun to surprise yourself with new skills. I think one of the most fun parts of independent filmmaking is all the unexpected territories you have to enter in order to tell the best version of your story.
What about independent filmmaking and the business do you still struggle with?
SB: The part where you have to be lucky. You might have a great script, great cast, great crew, great everything, but if you don’t get a little bit of luck? Your great film will only take you so far. So much of this business, unless you have a boatload of connections or unless we’re talking about nepotism, so much of it still comes down to freaking luck.
Where do you think your strengths lie as a producer?
SB: If I sign onto a project, I am going to give it everything I’ve got. I’ll give it my time, my energy, my full skill set, and then some. I’ll be sure to ask every question possible until I understand the story down to its bones. Good stories are worth it.
Stephanie Bignault produced, 360 Seconds written and directed by Bex Bradshaw and starring Sydney Sainté as Ladykiller
Let’s talk finance, How did you finance the film?
SB: Bex financed the film entirely herself. We kept costs down wherever we could, wearing extra hats when needed, but we also made certain that everyone who worked on the film was paid. That was important to us. They were paid, and they were fed. Too many artists don’t get the appreciation they deserve. We didn’t want that to be the case for us.
What was it like filming during COVID?
SB: You know, it was a little wild! By the time our shoot day arrived, LA was the epicenter of the pandemic. Yikes, right? For my survival job though, I work at a commercial production company, so I was lucky enough to be fully immersed and up to speed on all the official LA COVID protocols for filming. We did them all! Everyone agreed to get tested within 48 hours of our shoot, everyone submitted answers through our covid screening questionnaire, we had PPE kits for each person, we marked out areas for everyone to easily social distance and limited how many people could be on set at a given time. Everyone complied, and we felt so proud of how safe we made our set
How important is marketing? Do you think a project can make a dent without it nowadays?
SB: There is so much noise on the internet, but there’s also an astounding number of independent projects. Without online spaces like indieactivity, I think it would be nearly impossible for a piece like this to find its audience.
What do you hope audiences will get from the presentation of your film?
SB: My biggest hope is that our little film genuinely excites and intrigues people. If it makes them wish they could watch for longer and see where our Ladykiller goes next, then that’s pretty much perfect. If they go a little further and notice the diversity in the folks who made the film, then damn, I can’t ask for more than that.
Tell us what you think of the interview with Stephanie Bignault. What do you think of it? What ideas did you get? Do you have any suggestions? Or did it help you? Let’s have your comments below and/or on Facebook or Instagram! Or join me on Twitter.