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A Sonnet A Day: An Interview with the Director Julie Feskoe

Please tell us how it started for you. When and how did you fall in love with cinema and wanted to become a filmmaker/producer? What did you work on before making A Sonnet A Day?

My love for cinema began when I was young. I knew early on that film was an art form that resonated with how my own imagination presented itself to me. Meaning, it made sense to me to use film to translate the stories I created in my mind into a medium other people could understand and enjoy.

I also realized that film wasn’t an easy profession to get into without any family connections, so I tried other ways to express my creative side, and failed at all of them. I can’t sing, play an instrument, paint, or draw. I barely passed the mandatory art classes I had to take in high school.

By junior year in high school, I figured the best way to get into film was to become an actress. The town where I grew up was just outside of New York City and I knew several students who were professional actors, so the idea of being an actress wasn’t so far-fetched. Between high school and college, I apprenticed at the Westport Country Playhouse where I was able to learn the behind-the-scenes workings of regional theater, I took acting classes at Stella Adler Studio of Acting and I was able to work as background in some movies and TV, but I couldn’t land any major acting gigs. After I graduated college, I struggled to understand if I could even have a professional career as well as a creative one. I pretty much gave up the idea of being actress because I couldn’t afford not having an income.

Then around 2015, there was a major shift in how people created and consumed media. Technology for creating internet content was quickly evolving and becoming more affordable and accessible. This made creating and distributing content much easier, which was a gamechanger for me because I grew-up during the era where if you wanted to make it in the film industry, you had to move to Los Angeles and get discovered before you ran out of money; and that was something I couldn’t even attempt to try. As this shift in media started to gain traction, the advice given to actors by acting teachers and casting agents changed from “you need to be discovered by someone else and here is how they will notice you…” to “you need to create your own content and people will notice you.” I then realized that being a filmmaker was a possibility.

Before I made “A Sonnet A Day” I had just completed my first web-series “Drinks & Frames”. Both projects were created and completed during the 2020 pandemic. Basically, it took a lockdown to push me to create my first media projects.

Who are the artists/filmmakers that have inspired you the most?

It is hard to say who inspired me, as I am moved by any project that captures the characteristics I find most valuable in storytelling through film. I am drawn to projects that put thought into cinematography, into selecting appropriate settings, deciding how music is used, and of course the quality of the script and performances.

One of my favorite films is the “Ballad of Jack and Rose” written and directed by Rebecca Miller. This film captures the beauty of all aspects of filmmaking. I am always moved and in awe after watching this film. So I would say Rebecca Miller had inspired me the most.

I am also a huge fan of romantic comedies. I greatly admire Nancy Meyers and her work because she always brings a certain warmth to all her films, which so unique. Her work definitely had an impact on me growing up.

Where did the idea for the film come from? Could you explain Sir Patrick Stewart’s project and what it is intended to be?

I had recently concluded a highlight video for my web-series “Drinks & Frames” which was a compilation of the best moments from Season 1. After I completed and released the video, I was itching to do another project. I had been following Sir Patrick Stewart on Instagram and watched some of his readings of the Shakespeare sonnets from time to time. His readings would even come up in conversations I had with friends, and I think it was in one of those conversations that I got the idea of making a highlight video of Sir Patrick’s sonnet readings. I just thought it would be nice to make a video that captured the beauty of his readings and the fun he had as he went through the sonnets. I also thought that his dedication to keep his promise to his followers to read all the sonnets was extraordinary and the video was intended to be an homage as well as a thank you to him and his wife, Sunny Ozell, for their time.

The sonnet a day reading project for Sir Patrick Stewart originated early in the pandemic. It was sometime in March 2020 and while in lockdown he had read Shakespeare’s Sonnet #116 on Instagram for fun. Within a day of posting the reading he had more than 457,000 views and 3,800 comments. This then sparked the idea to post a reading of a sonnet once a day either until the pandemic ended, or until he finished reading all 154 sonnets. The caption on his first sonnet reading post was “a sonnet a day keeps the doctor away.” This is why in my highlight video Sonnet #116 is the longest clip because this is the sonnet that started the “a sonnet a day” journey for all of us.

What was the creative process behind making A Sonnet A Day?

I conceived the idea of creating “A Sonnet A Day” 2-weeks before Sir Patrick would read the final sonnet and I wanted to release my video no later than a few days after his last reading. So, the creative process was a little hectic. I watched each reading in order, starting with Sonnet #1, and took notes on what I liked, what made me laugh, and what I wanted to highlight. I knew I needed a song to use in the background and I wanted to use something I thought he and Sunny would also enjoy. There were a lot of late nights and weekends doing research, making lists, listening to a ton of music, and pulling together a PowerPoint presentation of everything I noted from the readings. I did this while simultaneously editing everything as I began to see the video take shape.

Tell us about your projects at Cat Chat Productions. What are the themes/issues you try to reflect in your work?

While we are still evolving as a production company, I would say comedy is the main theme reflected in all our projects. I love making people laugh and I strive to do so through our work at Cat Chat Productions.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent filmmaker/artist? Does it liberate the filmmaker/artist or limit his or her freedom?

The advantage of being an independent filmmaker is that you are your own boss. You have total control of all aspects of the film making process. Being able to tell a story through your personal lens is very liberating and wonderful. The disadvantage of being an independent filmmaker is that it can be expensive. Most of time you are paying out of pocket for all the items you need to make your film. Even if it’s a short film, it isn’t cheap; especially if you care about things like setting, cinematography, music, sound, lighting, crafty, etc. I would say having a small or no-budget can impede on your creative freedom, but it doesn’t deter the drive to make a film.

Tell us about your festival run. Have film festivals provided you with the experience and exposure you needed?

Film festivals provided me assurance that my first media projects weren’t terrible. Since I am new to the film festival circuit, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Because our projects are unique in nature and were made without a budget, film festivals assisted in showcasing our work to audiences we would never have been able to reach through social media alone. The festivals also provided credibility through laurel awards that we were putting out quality work. I would say film festivals had greatly contributed to the exposure and credibility of our work.

What was the reaction of those who watched your film? Was the feedback what you hoped for?

The reaction has been very positive. The feedback was validation for me that I was able to translate what I had in mind, as well as capturing the overall feeling I was hoping to project, into a short film.

Please tell us about your future project(s). What are you currently working on?

Unfortunately, my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer last October, so all my attention has been towards her recovery, comfort, and care. This is not to say we won’t have another project in the future—we will! I am just uncertain of when it be.


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