Exclusive Interview W/ Writer & Film Director Elizabeth Blake Thomas
“I don’t think you can take Hollywood away from Hollywood.” Writer and director Elizabeth Blake Thomas states as she opens up about being a film director during a pandemic and her thoughts on the future of the entertainment industry. Plus, discuss her new movie she filmed during Covid starring Hallmark star Jodie Sweetin.
Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, AfterBuzz TV is the artist-friendly entertainment news platform that celebrates, discusses, interviews, promotes and reports on the widest range of stars, creators and content through video, audio and article publications.
Writer and film director Elizabeth Blake Thomas is changing the Hollywood model on how to make it as a film director in the entertainment industry. She lives by her slogan “filmmaking without fear” and while she is successfully climbing the ladder with directing eight feature films under her belt. She makes a point to help others who have a passion of wanting to break into the business.
Elizabeth sits down with Chelsie Overocker from the House of Hallmark to share her inspiring story of how she began her journey as a filmmaker and embracing the building blocks that helped build her character.
Hey Elizabeth, thanks for joining us. We hope you are doing well today.
“I am very good, thank you my darling. Very well indeed. Although I have to say I am wearing a sweater today. Even though I am in California I’ve gotten used to the weather. You can hear my British accent. You’d think I would be used to this cold. But anything now under 60 I stick a sweater on.”
We agree. Everywhere else 60 degree weather feels warm but when you are in California 60 degree weather feels cold.
“The irony is I got shorts on with a sweater.[laughs] I don’t know if you can tell I actually live on a boat. So the temperature also can get a little bit chiller down here by the water. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
That’s so cool that you live on a boat. The best places to live out in California is when you can be closer to the water. Not only are you a director but a writer. We bet living on the water is a calm atmosphere for you to find your creativity.
“I’ve had amazing spiritual connections to the mountains. I often go to Palm Springs. In fact I know we were talking a minute ago about how you have a connection for your creativity and where you like to go to write. You need to have that zen space around you and the boat does that for me. But also going to the mountains is incredibly spiritual and that’s actually where I do a lot of my writing or come up with my ideas.”
We agree it’s important to find a space where you can process your ideas and create new projects. There are so many steps involved when writing a new script. Do you have a process to help you clear your thoughts before you start your next project?
“I think it’s important to have that space. I know when I’m creating for example I’m about to shoot my next movie. I need to take that time out before I go to do it. So I can really get myself focused on it. I call it sorting out my domestic admin before I start shooting. All the bills are paid. Any phone calls that need making everything is done so I can totally dedicate myself to that film.”
You have produced films during Covid which can add more stress when being on set. What did you do as a director to prepare yourself before shooting?
“Actually now during Covid things you might think there’s not much domestic admin to do. But in a way because you have to focus even more intently when you are on set during Covid. You just have to be hyper aware of everything. I’m really sorting everything out. So I would take myself away just for those few days to get my mental space set ready to film.”
When you are not filming what did you do during Covid to keep yourself busy? This is the time for creators to think of new projects and take this time to focus on what direction they want to go into next.
“We had a few months where I was able to do a lot of my personal work. Create teaser trailers and finish off my book. All those types of things before I then got into raising money for the next film. Which I did shoot totally in Covid. So you’re right.”
As a film director where do you see the entertainment industry going? Covid has affected a lot of productions where they had to shut down and some are even relocating out of LA.
“I think it depends on what you are filming. The main studios are still here. People are building studios around the world and there is a new one being built in London which I am sure will be hugely successful. But I don’t think you can take Hollywood away from Hollywood.”
You make a great point. You mentioned that Covid has given you the opportunity to write your new book Filmmaking Without Fear. Are there any other books you are currently working on?
“What Covid has given to a lot of people is given us the time to practice and the time to develop skills. I write books as well. My book Filmmaking Without Fear is out soon and I got my next book, Storytelling Without Fear coming out. But I also write a lot of kid books and kid stories. This time has been able to give me that space to work exactly how I want these to be. I’m not rushing it. I can really think about it and take my time.”
You have an inspiring story of how you made your path as a film director and writer. Before coming out to LA and discovering your passion for film how did you get started in entertainment?
“When I first started I was a theater director. I just loved doing that. That was the thing I enjoyed doing the most and that led me to when I had my daughter to her being involved with that. Again we loved doing that. There was a natural progression together and she went for an audition. She got the lead role in a TV show back in the UK. I just became the mom that needed to look after her. It’s funny I look back now and think I wish I’d known in a way that I was going to do this because I would have made more of those contacts. But I didn’t. I was very present at the time and doing the job well of what I was supposed to do.”
We like how you emphasized “we loved doing that.” If you are going to pursue a career with entertainment you have to love the good that comes with the bad. Elizabeth continues to explain her journey on how her and her daughter made it to LA.
“It led me to the next stages of being on set with her and supporting her. People on set, them asking me if I could help direct the other actors because they knew I was a theater director. That led us conniving over to LA and I was told that I would make a very good director and said how do I do that? My mentor at the time said you just say you’re a director. The reason I could do that was because of everything I’d gone through to get to here but I hadn’t known it.”
That’s good advice that your mentor gave you. Many people coming out to LA are waiting for that opportunity which may or may not come. But what they don’t realize is they are pursuing an industry that’s about creating so why not start creating your own content which could potentially open up many paths for you.
“Don’t wait around for an opportunity to be handed to you. That’s what a lot of people who come to LA do. That’s why with my daughter we started Mother and Daughter Entertainment and we started our own projects. We progressed with our own things because we weren’t going to wait around for other people.”
Since starting Mother and Daughter Entertainment Elizabeth has made eight successful feature films and has more in pre-production that will be set to film later this year. Elizabeth is always wanting to learn but also wants to help others who are struggling.
“I also set something else up called Medicine With Words which is about the practical practice of self-development of understanding who we are. What we want. Finding our purpose. Finding our bliss because that’s something that is very important as well. If you’re not enjoying what you are doing it’s not going to happen.
Tell us more about your own personal journey navigating through your career and finding your calling.
“The journey I’ve been on is a very natural journey. A natural progression and as I said I am constantly grateful that everything that I do and everything I am part of. If you can keep yourself grounded doing that then that allows you naturally to flow. Naturally be part of the progression of where you are going to get to.” Elizabeth states, “I’m currently successful. I’m currently happy and I’m currently very grateful to work where I am and what I’m doing.”
What is your definition of being successful?
“For me I’m aware of what I like in my future. I often discuss the word successful and being successful to me is actually what I’m doing right now. I’m sitting here talking to you about something I love to do. My daughter’s actually here and my dog and I am on my boat. I’ve got all of the things I could possibly need. I’ve got a cup of tea around me. [laughs] I’m therefore able to wake up each day and know if I decide to create something. If I decide to make something. If I decide to come up with an idea then I can do that. So to me that’s where I want to end up.”
You talked about how you had a mentor who helped guide you when you relocated out to LA. Do you have any young inspiring filmmakers who approach you seeking guidance of their own?
“One of my biggest things is mentoring. I’m a professor at Pepperdine University as well and I ran a course called storytelling and the power of our words. I had 20 students and every single one of them spoke very highly about the course and the way I did it and the way I ran it because it was inspiring. I feel a privilege of that can be what I do. If I can inspire someone.”
One thing Elizabeth has learned being in this industry is that many people won’t help others. They will oftentimes use someone who can take their career to the next level but never strive to help others achieve their accomplishments.
“I actually send the elevator back down because I actually don’t have that many people that do that for me. So I think it’s important that I need to show my daughter that you should do that.”
Elizabeth has made it a point to do things differently and set up others for success. Starting with her students who want to see where their career can land after being on a movie set.
“I’ve actually got one of my Pepperdine students who is coming on my next film and who also wants that experience and to try different things. I always say I’m just throwing you in at the deep end because we all just have to learn and just go for it. See what happens. You can’t lose from it just go for it. I’m giving you that permission to do that. I always say as well to them afterwards, ‘don’t forget me when you’re famous.’ [laughs] I do believe that they are going to be hugely successful and gosh if I’ve been part of someone’s journey that’s enabled them to do that then again that’s a huge privilege.”
We really admire you going the extra mile and helping the younger generation who have an interest in pursuing the entertainment industry. But not only does Elizabeth have the privilege of being part of someone’s journey but also having the privilege of adding diversity into her films.
“I am responsible for encouraging the world to change. As a filmmaker we have a huge responsibility because we are putting things out there that people will watch and learn from and hopefully take something from. So if I was just going to continue to be the same filmmaker, which believe me makes me very happy the way I used to make films. I’d write something. I’d get my friends or get cast and often my daughter would be in it. So, I would find her a mom and a dad and we’d make that and it would be great. But I realized that wasn’t what I should be doing. It was just what I did naturally which means that I wasn’t thinking outside of the box and understanding the world as a bigger picture. So it was very important to me in this last film I actually took an extreme take on this and forced myself to make different choices.”
Speaking as a young black woman this means a lot knowing that filmmakers such as yourself are wanting to add more diverse roles in their movies. Not only did the world change last year with Covid but hopefully after experiencing BLM more people are aware of their actions.
One movie that we are excited to see that you directed and wrote is Will You Be My Quarantine? Starring our favorite Hallmark star Jodie Sweetin.
“Aww I’m very pleased. It’s definitely something that came from personal experience. I use this as an example if you’re looking now at the Zoom you can see what you can see. But like I actually said I am wearing shorts. Maybe my hair is greasy. It’s actually not I washed it for you. [laughs] But you can only see what you can see. So this suddenly puts the dating world into a different place and sometimes actually I realized that was a better place. Because I thought oh hold on a minute I could be whoever I want right now. It allows you that time to really get to know somebody. But then I thought well that means you could also be somebody totally different to what you are revealing.”
So true! Dating now, especially virtually, it can be harder to get to know the person you are speaking with on screen. The camera only displays so much until you can meet with that person in real life. We are excited to see this film and know many singles who are trying to date during this unusual time are probably facing the same challenges.
“I loved filming it. It was hysterical to work on and we’re editing it at the moment so hopefully eight more weeks and it will be available.”
Okay! Keep us updated when the film will be available. Thank you Elizabeth for coming on the House of Hallmark to discuss your new projects and how you created your own path as a filmmaker in Los Angeles.
“Thanks Chelsie it was lovely speaking with you.”
Make sure you all are following Elizabeth on IG @elizabeth_b_t and Twitter @Elizabeth_B_T. Mother and Daughter Entertainment on IG @motheranddaughterent and Twitter @M_D_Ent.
Check out Elizabeth’s website Medicine With Words where she provides tips on self-development and how to embrace your creative journey.
Chelsie Overocker is a host for AfterBuzz TV. She grew up in Denver, Colorado and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in communications and marketing.
Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, artist-friendly AfterBuzz TV is the world’s largest digital broadcast network and pop culture news platform, producing post-game ‘after-shows’ for nearly all favorite TV shows, interviewing cast and showrunners and providing the widest video, audio and article coverage of shows, content and influencers than any entertainment news platforms in existence
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