“Batwoman is the best in the franchise”: Holly Dale on Filmmaking as a Female, Director-Actor Chemistry, and the Rise of Batwoman

At a time that builds upon the momentum of movements like Me Too and LGBTQ Pride, female filmmakers are finally starting to get the recognition they have always deserved. Holly Dale, the award-winning director, producer, writer and editor(!), gets up from her seat within the audience and faces them as she enters the Vancouver Film Festival’s (VIFF) stage. As her long-time colleague and friend Norma Bailey says proudly, Dale has a perfect record of five plots proposed, and five directed. On top of this, she has directed 200 hours’ worth of screen productions.

You probably already viewed many of Dale’s works: Durham County, Mary Kills People, Flashpoint, Being Erica, Dexter, The Americans, The X-Files, Law & Order True Crime, Limitless, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Falling Skies, are some of the most popular ones. Dale is currently working on the highly anticipated Batwoman (2019) series, in which she is producing and directing. Batwoman aired on CW just last week, and already has the internet people talking! It currently sits at a high 73% on Rotten Tomatoes; however, it has also been a victim of the toxic fan culture because of its nonapologetic characters.

It seems that Dale will gather a lot of attention while the Batwoman debates catch fire. Meanwhile, I had the privilege to attend Dale and Bailey’s masterclass in October and meet her personally. Unlike someone who has so much experience as Dale, she was very humble; she wanted to connect with every single person in the audience. Hence, why she stayed for another hour or so to answer questions and guide aspiring filmmakers in their individual journeys.

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Holly and Norma Kill People

As the moderator and co-director of Mary Kills People, Bailey cheerfully states, she and Dale met at a time when both directors decided to move away from documentary filmmaking and into drama. When filming documentaries, Bailey felt she was exploiting people to do what she creatively wanted to accomplish, and that was to tell stories. On the other hand, documentary filmmaking was never Dale’s intention either. However, through drama, Dale rightfully obtained the title of being an actor’s director; someone who knows how to approach an actor’s needs.

As Dale states, setting up the visuals truly set up what Mary Kills People (MKP) stood for. Camera angles, colors, location and all that you could see on the final screen product aimed to service the characters. As an example, the visuals of dull-colored tunnels in MKP were intended to walk the actor through the tunnel of light, often associated with death. The entire piece was made to relate to life and death in various ways.

 

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Norma Bailey and Holly Dale at the VIFF Masterclass.

 

Drama in the Industry: A Female Perspective

“When I first started directing”, Dale says, “there were only 5 female directors in the industry”. Dale made sacrifices and traveled a lot. Her hard work paid off, especially when she shot a documentary on female filmmakers, Calling the Shots in 1988. As she reminisced those days, Dale exclaimed, “I met so many great males in the industry, too—they were sons of single mothers”. The audience burst out laughing.

“Women tend to collaborate and nurture more, but they also need to be careful,” says Dale. Through her experience in the industry, Dale realized there are people on set who definitely won’t want her to succeed. At the end of the day, she suggests the important skill aspiring filmmakers need to obtain is to use their energy only when they need it. A director’s job is to make decisions. Dale exhales, and gives a piece of valuable advice, “you don’t want to make a decision quick”. According to Dale, there is a delicate line between helping the producer in terms of cost and convenience, and the look and feel of the final product. She adds, “you need to filter ideas and use them for your benefit”.

 

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Holly Dale and myself at the VIFF Masterclass.

 

Director-Actor Chemistry

 When talking about times she is mostly involved in the process of selecting an actor, Dale states, “firstly, the actor needs to be a reactor”. In other words, actors need to be reactive to what’s going on around them in the scene. For Dale, another important factor is that the actor needs to know their lines. Specifically, “casting for TV is very fast,” she says; hence, seeing these two qualities stand actors out from the hundreds of tapes that are viewed every day.

Dale continues on about the ideal director-actor relationship, “Actors are very nervous most of the time. You need to tell them your processes and do not stand away”. Dale says that a director’s job is to go ahead and tell the actor, “Hey, that’s a great job”; simple as that. If a director wants the production to succeed, Dale argues “[they cannot] talk to an actor in results”. A director needs to tell the actor what causes the happiness or sadness and let them walk through the emotion. When Dale was asked about the best way to set up an emotional tone to the production, she stated, “it is best when they (the actor) wants to work with you”. When the actor and director understand each other, the character starts telling her story.

One sentence: Marvel vs. DC

Dale briefly talked about the best parts of working for Marvel vs. DC.

Marvel (Agents of the S.H.I.E.L.D.)– Executives are very hands-on during production.

DC (Batwoman) – Finally has the best superhero on-screen for the franchise! 

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The rise of Batwoman

Dale defines Batwoman as “a groundbreaking series” that welcomes a lesbian superhero on screen, and adds, “it (Batwoman) is the best in the franchise”. She says she is on set a lot these days; she practically “live(s) there now!”. But Dale seems to put her heart out directing Batwoman, as she “always excels to be beyond the script”. And, we are beyond excited to see where Batwoman’s journey will take her; because we want to go there with her, too!

[Photoblog] 2018 in Review: I did all this?

2018 was my ride or die. It was full of moments that left me in awe, put my capabilities in a trial, overwhelmed me with joy and with its last bit, challenged me with deep sadness as well.

I love the photoblogs because it has always been hard for me to see the small successes. As I looked through these moments, I said to myself, “I did all this?“. Believe me, there were a lot of question marks, not just one.

As always, thanks to the many friends I made along the way.

Continue reading “[Photoblog] 2018 in Review: I did all this?”

Extended Travel Guide for the Ultimate Wanderer Series: Winter in Downtown Vancouver

Over the holidays, I felt blasé as hell. Literally. I overcame that phase through learning how to knit, and driving to every corner of the city. What’s better to do than capturing the colors of a beautiful parrot that also freaks you out because there’s a possibility that it might attack you? Or, getting into New Years with not-so-wild crowd of kids and parents in the heart of the city? Well, it was a time. As I enter into my last week in Vancouver, I finally finished crossing out my bucket list of places to visit (minus Capilano. I still need to make it on the thrilling suspension bridge). It’s time to say goodbye to Vancouver for a bit of a time, and runaway from another possibly large snowfall. I shall return soon.

Here are my “Top 3 Places to See in the Heart of Vancouver”

(Comment if you want to read about it more- I am happy to continue with a part two of this post!)

  1. Stanley Park

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Excuse yourself if you haven’t started whining about how you can’t book your tickets for next year, like, right now. The event called “Bright Nights in Stanley Park” included three million lights according to the City of Vancouver information website. As I recall from the event, it was facilitated through the contributions of BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund and 800 firefighters worked like Santa’s elves to light up the whole area. The event has been ongoing every holiday season for 20 years, and was it ever spectacular! I have been to the big event of 2017 “Enchant”, smaller events like the “Lights Festival at the Bear Creek Park”, in Surrey and many more. I am fed up with seeing lights everywhere I look by now, but Bright Nights in Stanley Park was the best out of all that I have seen. There are live performers around, decent hot chocolate (cheap for once!), Santa’s workshop, lights, cardboards, lights, cardboards, lights and more lights. All of this is free. If you would like to take the train ride with exclusive lights, it is 15$ for adults. For 10 minutes, I suggest let your kids take it because it will be magical to them. Like I said, I am fed up with lights, so that part was ‘meh’ for me. You can still catch a ride in the event until January 6th, or wait for the next seasonal one (which will probably be a different train ride for Easter. See more info at: http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/bright-nights-train.aspx)

In nicer weather, Stanley Park is amazing to take a walk by the sea side, admire the amazing view, and ease your mind. If you don’t mind the rain, in all weathers, it is the best location to a rent a bike (please carry a map with you, you’ll thank me later), or go for a run. Hint: Justin Trudeau was spotted running in Stanley Park earlier last year!

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  1. Queen Elizabeth Park

A little bit of sun helps makes this place look full of life, and fall is probably the best time to see the shades that every tree brings in the picture. However, we have been getting sunny weather now and then too, I assure you that it is a good idea to make your way to the Queen Elizabeth Park. The park is the home to a quarry garden, a rose garden and Canada’s first arboretum with plantings done in 1949. According to the city of Vancouver, there are approximately 1500 species of Canadian trees.

On the highest point of Queen Elizabeth Park, visitors see the iconic domed roof of Bloedel Conservatory. It is a 5$ entrance for adults to observe more than 200 free-flying birds as well as seeing different plants from the desert zone, tropical and subtropical habitats. There are many words to describe the colors of this place, but I’ll let the pictures help you with the rest…

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  1. Vancouver Art Gallery

In the heart of downtown Vancouver, this majestic building is located. As I made my way out the Pacific Centre, I walked along historic hotels and delicate buildings, but when I saw this one, I stopped and stared, like every other person would. In front of the Vancouver Art Gallery, you are much likely to see ballerina’s twirling, filmmakers with their gigantic cameras and a lot of people like me, admiring.

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I had the privilege to see one of the largest collections under the roof of Vancouver Art Gallery, “Portrait of The Artist: An Exhibition from the Royal Collection” which captures the painters painting themselves (as Michelangelo would say), and one of my favourite artists Gordon Smith’s “The Black Paintings”. I adore Smith for his way of expressing his emotions of the wartime memories so touchingly. Both exhibitions are still open to viewers until February 4, 2018, accompanied by many newer exhibitions in the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Adult rates are 20$, and students with valid ID can enter for $18. Arts students can get a yearly membership for 5$, whereas adult memberships are $48 (See website for more info: http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/visit_the_gallery/plan_your_visit.html).

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Until next time,

Hazal