Filmmaker Feature: Deb Hiett & Stephanie Erb
Discipline: (Ex. Director) Co-Directors/Co-Writers/Co-
Film: “Gratitude Jar Time Capsule”
Festival: Women’s Comedy Film Festival – Atlanta
City you’re based in: Los Angeles, CA
Short Bio (100 words or fewer)
Writer/director/actress Deb Hiett has appeared in many TV shows such as “The Good Place,” “Barry,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Veep,” “Baskets,” “Documentary Now,” “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.” She’s a regular panelist on the NPR show “Says You!” and the plays she has written have been produced across the country.
Actress/Writer/Director Stephanie Erb has garnered over 100 onscreen appearances. Recurs include RAY DONOVAN, WEEDS, FREAKS AND GEEKS and TRUE BLOOD. Films include projects with directors like Peter Weir, Gore Verbinski, and John Hancock. Current intent: creating female-centric content; expanding her acting repertoire to include witches, divas and traditionally male roles.
Social Media Links:
IG: @debhiett and @stephanie_erb_official
Tell us about how you got started in the industry and what you’re currently pursuing.
DH: As a kid, I was always a walking ham and cheese sandwich, which is, coincidentally what I’m currently pursuing.
SE: First of all, I like sandwiches! And for me, I think I was inspired by Laurence Olivier’s HAMLET on PBS. My first performance as Paul Bunyan’s father in the sixth grade just started the whole process. Currently I work in film/tv and onstage if and when possible.
What sort of stories are you drawn to telling? Do you have a genre of choice? Why?
DH: I tend toward stories where people try to make sense of a weird world in a way that is funny, because that’s pretty much my story.
SE: I enjoy quirky and intelligent tales – often period stuff because I find the details of history interesting. In general though, I try to be open-minded to all genres. Although female-centric material seems to hold my interest more lately as I realize how limited the amount of female content has been most of my life.
How are you approaching forging a path for yourself in this industry?
DH: With a machete. In all honesty, I think resilience and a firm grasp of the absurd keeps me going.
SE: My path forging technique might be labeled “willy nilly” or “keep on swimming” or “seeing is believing” or some such thing. If I have an idea or find a lovely collaborator, I just will myself to pursue a project so at least it can be shared with an audience. Persistence and a bit of lunacy also help.
Tell us more about your process as you prep for a film, or as you’re on set.
DH: On set, the first thing I do is complain about the size of my trailer, and then hit up craft services. Then I make really good friends with hair/makeup, wardrobe, and sound, in that order, cuz nobody can wreck you like they can. After that, a nap, then lunch with the crew!
SE: Much like Deb, I find craft services early on and scope out what candy is offered there. I try to learn names as best I can. I am respectful of everyone and their jobs. I do my best to be prepared in every possible way. AND, I do not sleep on my face because it ruins the makeups.
What’s the first thing you do when you get a script?
DH: Autograph it, then count my lines.
SE: I get Deb to autograph it, even if she isn’t in it. No seriously though, I think the first thing I do is read it.
What’s one lesson you learned working on your last film?
DH: Pick a location that can also accommodate the wrap/pool party.
SE: (You are welcome Deb, too bad there was that pandemic thingie!) I learned that if you find fun smart people to be in your crew, you can shoot a lot in one day. Also finding sets is limited only by your imagination. Also Deb makes great lasagna.
Any other practical tips for producing or for indie filmmaking in general? (Ex. tips on budgeting, marketing, hiring a crew – you can put as many as you want in a bullet point list!)
1. Simplify your shot list, especially if you don’t want to simplify the shots.
2. Find a producer with a great sense of humor.
3. If you’re interested in film festivals (and with great ones like these, why wouldn’t you be?), do your research to find the festival that that might be a good fit for your film. Seems obvious, but if you don’t do due diligence, you’ll get hit with FFF (Film Freeway Fever) and get carried away submitting your film to every festival on that site. Just like every medication, not every festival is right for you. Ask your doctor today.
SE: Deb, that is a pretty great list.. I will add a couple more to those tips:
4. Don’t skimp on a makeup artist. Although by doing so, I DID discover that putting flour and water all over your face makes a good ghost effect.
5. Try to shoot before a pandemic hits.
6. Cut. Your. Script. Especially in film, less is more where the words are concerned. Saves you time and allows your images to speak.