A lot of you outside the US might not have heard of Rolla Selbak, but this award winning film-maker, writer and producer has been making films since the age of 12, so we thought we’d catch up, say hello and find out a bit more information…
What inspired you to write/produce/create films?
My love affair with movies began when I was a young girl in the Middle East. My parents would take me to the video rental store once a week, and I would just watch and study movie after movie all weekend long.
I never went to film school. My self-education began in middle school with my close relationship to the family-VHS recorder that I hijacked for making my short films.
Something about movies just completely enthralled me. I would get lost in the stories and the characters especially. My dream was to be able to create the thing that I loved most. So, here I am.
How did you get started in the film industry?
I officially started screenwriting while I was getting my Computer Science degree in college, though I’ve always had affinity for making films. When I was younger, I used to dress up my little siblings in outfits and make all sorts of ridiculous ‘art’ using my huge, VHS recorder at the time.
Something about movies just completely enthralled me. I would get lost in the stories, and the characters especially. My dream was to be able to create the thing that I loved most. So, here I am.
Funny enough when I was in middle school, my teachers would give me very mediocre grades on my writing. Maybe because of the stringent British school rules I had to conform to, or who knows what, but for the longest time, I thought I was a failure at writing.
I made my first short film when I was 12, ironically titled “Never Give Up”, and the rest is history.
Have you noticed any changes since you started?
Oh absolutely. I remember when I first started out; the industry looked down upon digitally-created content. I remember I would be shunned from festival after festival for not having shot on film. At the time, that was all I could afford to shoot on.
Now, of course, with the digital revolution, that’s all completely changed. It’s just amazing what has change in a handful of years.
I also think that the audience tide is shifting. We like to believe that our attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter, but in actuality, there’s even more of a hunger for stories and characters that stay with us across a longer period of time, especially now that we can consume streaming content whenever, and wherever we like.
I think eventually, cable companies will be irrelevant, and you’ll have HBO, AMC, Showtime, etc. go the way of Netflix, and simply create direct-to-streaming subscription based content without needing to broadcast on traditional TV at all.
How did you come up with the concept of ‘Kiss Her I’m famous’?
Nowadays, gratuity and fake publicity seem to be able to catapult just about anyone into the spotlight, so I wrote the series as a satire that tackles the phenomenon in smart and entertaining way.
With a subject such as sex tapes, I could have gone really over the top, but in the end, I believe it’s the story that grabs audiences, even if the content is primarily consumed through the web. So it was very important for me to create characters that were interesting and a story that had a compelling arch.
What sort of reaction have you received from the public for ‘Kiss Her I’m Famous’?
I couldn’t be more pleased with the reception so far! I really couldn’t have envisioned the trailer alone gaining 2 million views. And teaming up with TelloFilms.com as an exclusive network distributor has been a fantastic experience. So much so, that we’re teaming up again for Season 2!
Are web series popular in the US?
I think they’re popular everywhere. Audiences take to the web to find content that they’re not finding in traditional media. Different characters, story lines that they connect to, and all of it are at their fingertips but just pressing play on their device.
It’s definitely and audience’s market right now. Content creators like myself have yet to find a way to completely sustain themselves by producing work solely on-line, but there are new models popping up every day. I’m certain we’ll get there.
What wakes you up in the morning? (OR) What keeps you going?
The thought of doing something greater than I did the day before.
How can people access your work both in and outside the US?
Just go to www.rollaselbak.com, and you can check out all of my produced work, and news about exciting projects coming up as well.
What are your thoughts on joining the big screen stage i.e. cinema etc?
At this point, I have two feature films under my belt, as well as a number of short films, all of which have been on the big screen. I actually quite enjoy being able to sit in a theatre with an audience, and experience their energy and reactions to what you have created. It can be eye opening and cathartic, especially after I’ve been alone in my editing room for months with no idea how the work will be received. The other thing I enjoy are the Q&A sessions afterwards, and even more dynamic are the hallway discussions with people who grab me after the screening to bounce of ideas after what they’ve just seen.
Now web series, though, are essentially an indie filmmaker’s dream. First, you have immediate distribution and feedback from your audience. The minute I finish editing and uploading it, audiences are able to press play and watch. Another great thing is you don’t have any constraints on length, meaning you can make your content as long or as short as you like, instead of having to adhere to television or other distribution requirements.
You have the freedom to experiment, and see how much attention an audience willing to give to your projects.
Apart from your regular day job, do you have any hobbies?
Rock-climbing and chilling with my cat, Jelly. Don’t have time for much else!
What’s next for Rolla?
I’ve always got something up my sleeve. I’m pitching a few TV shows at the moment, and working on a feature film. Nothing I can divulge for now, but you know where to find me to keep up with all the fun 🙂
I’ve also got some exciting guests coming up on Grrls Guide To Filmmaking. GGTF is a free, live Spreecast event that I host where I interview influential women in the filmmaking industry who are making it happen, and who hopefully inspire other budding filmmakers to do the same. More info here: http://www.spreecast.com/channels/grrls-guide-to-filmmaking
Also, for Londoners who are fans of Tracy Ryerson, she’ll be in London, along with Stamie, for an awesome event in November. Kiss Her I’m Famous swag and sneak-peeks will be there for fans!
Date – November 23rd, 2013
Website – www.lionheadevents.co.uk
Venue – The Candy Bar, Soho London
Ticket Price: £30
- A Q&A session where Tracy & Stamie will answer audience questions live and in person
- Kiss Her I’m Famous Season 2 swag and sneak peeks
- Tracy & Stamie will be signing autographs for all ticket holders
- A Photo Studio, where fans can have their photo taken with Tracy & Stamie by the Candy Bar’s resident photographer
- The chance to win a coffee date with Tracy & Stamie
- Tracy & Stamie will be recording a podcast for Our Fifteen Minutes live at the event
- An exclusive after party, featuring stand-up comedy from Stamie
Have you got any advice on anyone aspiring to write or create their own material for either film or otherwise?
I would say study other people’s material meticulously. Focus specifically on what you like, and what you don’t like about it. Create work that you yourself would find compelling as an audience member, don’t worry about appeasing anyone other than yourself. You will find an audience if your voice is true, and your criticism of yourself is honest. And never let fear stop you. Just go out and do it. Then do it again. And do it better.