Founded in 2005, Maestro Filmworks is an independent and minority owned, Emmy award winning video production company based in Philadelphia.
Our missionis to be the trusted storytellers that shine a light on stories that need to be told, doing so with the brightest and most creative talent, for the world’s top brands and companies.
Our vision is to be the leading advocates for sustainable careers and lifestyles in the film industry in order to enable our people to make an impact in their communities.
Our ethosis to approach our work with a focus on diversity and inclusion, ensuring that we are intentional in empowering and employing members of marginalized communities in our industry.
Start date: ASAP. The Video Transfer Technician will be responsible for transferring and digitizing legacy video tape formats, including but not limited to VHS, MiniDV, HDV, HDCAM, Betamax, for usage in documentary and corporate/commercial projects.
Contract / Hourly / Entry Level
digitizing legacy video tape formats
managing and entry of digital assets into database
a degree in film & TV preferred
knowledge in post-production formats, codecs, both digital and analog
knowledge of Adobe Premiere CC and Media Encoder
proficiency in technical trouble shooting of hardware and software
Are you looking for a production company to which to bring your talents? We’re in search of an Equipment Technician to join our growing production team. See the job details below and submit if you are qualified and interested.
Job Title: Equipment Technician / G&E Swing
Commitment: Part-Time w/potential for Full-Time
Job overview: This position oversees all video production equipment management and maintenance, ensuring equipment is properly made ready before and after each production shoot. They will perform routine checklist audits to ensure proper working conditions are maintained while making recommendations into gear purchasing & selling. On identified on-set shoot days they’ll be available to act in a support role as a Driver Swing, Grip & Electric, or Camera Department, while remaining the point-of-contact for ensuring a high-quality level of care over managed production equipment. Position will report the the VP of Production.
The right person for the job is: An organized individual who is a curious mechanical tinkerer who likes keeping abreast of the latest trends and advancements in technology. A multitasker and self starter who effectively meets deadlines, while thriving in a team environment.
The right person for the job has: A few years of production set experience and a passion to learn more about the filmmaking craft.
Proficiency in Microsoft Office and Google cloud based software equivalents
Valid driver’s license with clean record
Experience with operating a commercial cargo van
Applicants must be authorized to work in the United States.
All applicants must send cover letter, resume and reel to email@example.com.
Keenan Marshall (he/him) is a director/producer who hails from Philadelphia and continues to make innovative, thought-provoking work here with his team at Draulhaus. In the advent of tactical Instagram influencers, don’t lose sight of this genuine motivator. Marshall is a pioneer of what was essentially only a gram of storytelling: the original Instagram short. With only 15 seconds of air at a time, he was able to produce complicated series work like Powda Room and Fun Problems which would inspire our local filmmaking community to seize the microphone on that Insta-platform. These stories and their format paved the way for other voices, exposing certain leveling aspects of producing for social media. Marshall took that first step and has since created Draulhaus, a full production team with a company mission of hiring people of color in order to stay accountable to their stories. He calls for a joining of perspectives toward a fuller understanding of the world, supporting the nuances of Black stories across America which have layers upon layers of depth. And finally, he speaks to the value of those voices as creating more comprehensive data and eventually closing fewer doors.
Keenan Marshall: My name’s Keenan Marshall, I’m a director, producer, and co-founder of a minority owned creative agency calledDraulhaus, which specializes in video production, photography, integrated advertising campaigns, amongst a wide range of other services.
Kris Mendoza:How would you say you got your start in the industry?
Keenan Marshall: So if we go back all the way, Draulhaus was originally started by me and my best friends. We all met in middle school and stayed friends all the way up until now. After college, we were all wondering what was next and had this creative itch [to scratch].
My one friend, Bryan, came up with an idea for a web series about our friend who wanted to be an actor called The Mingler and that was the jumping off point. It was a web series made for Instagram, so every episode was cut to the 15 second limit. It took us a few months to finish, but we produced an entire “season”.
It was a lot of long nights, a lot of grinding. None of us went to film school and none of us had any experience doing anything film related. We just picked up cameras, grabbed lights, wrote scripts and just did it from the muscle –
A lot of people really enjoyed it so that motivated us to make more short films for Instagram, which evolved into (bigger) video productions – but that was the start.
Kris Mendoza:I remember watching it when you and I first met, it was very well put together/thought out.
Keenan Marshall: Yeah, it was just born out of a lot of love and passion within the team. We wanted to see each other win. So this was about proving to ourselves what we could do. Thinking back, it’s crazy how that was such a foundation for what I’m doing right now.
Keenan Marshall: We had a channel on Instagram called Fun Problems.
So between 2013 and 2017 this channel started coming together: The Mingler ; We made a short film called She’s Not Trying to Hear It (based on Spike Lee’s, She’s Gotta Have it) ; We made a short film called Powda Room — all of which put us in a position to turn Draulhaus into an official business in 2018.
Kris Mendoza: Powda Room one was something that made me think of Four Rooms or Go! where multiple stories overlap and you have to piece things together. But it was also innovative in itself because of its Instagram platform – so ahead of its time there. I definitely noticed that you often cast Black actors, why is it important that people of color are the ones telling their own stories?
Keenan Marshall: That’s obvious, that’s the best way to get it right. I enjoyed watching a lot of TV and movies growing up but was always critical of what I was seeing. For example, movies based on basketball… I played a lot of basketball growing up, I know all the small nuances of what people wear, say, and what they do. When I saw that in movies, it was always super watered down or corny. (People) Wearing Modell’s two pieces, sleeveless shirts with matching shorts …. that can seem trivial but for somebody like me, a young Black person who loves my experience with basketball, I want to see what our life and experiences actually look like on the screen.
Kris Mendoza: So definitely a certain level of authenticity. You’re craving to see a person that looks and talks and acts like you, but somebody else is trying to tell your story and they’re not nailing it. They may not have bad intentions. …
Keenan Marshall: Yeah. That “somebody else” is just missing the mark. They don’t know what they don’t know, which is why there should be room made for people who do, because they can tell their stories better.
I feel like the stories we (at Draulhaus) always try to find the second or third layer of a story. For example, Powda Room was a series about a party. What you might normally see would be people going crazy, drinking, having fun. But as a group, we were always more like flies on the wall, observing and watching. So we thought what if we showed people in the bathroom at the party. What if we showed them getting the chance to take off their “masks” and show how they truly feel? (What would those second and third layers look like?
I think the ability to tap into the second and third layer of stories is unique to minorities in America because we have to be aware of all cultures, whereas white people may only be aware of their own,dominant culture in America. We have to know all the top white films, actors, directors, and people hailed at the top of our industry. But we also have our own stories and experiences that reflect a totally different reality. This gives us a pretty full view of what’s actually happening out here. It’s important to let minority voices get a chance to tell their own stories because they have the widest view of what the world and this country actually looks like.
Kris Mendoza:What are your thoughts on Black cinema or Black films? Because from my perspective, I got very turned off with Asian filmmaking and the scene early on in college. It was just so much about identity. That was 20 years ago and the story is still a struggle just about being Asian. Slowly it’s evolved to stories that happen to have Asian people in them, that’s more about real life. Any thoughts on how you’ve seen that evolve over time and how it continues to evolve?
Keenan Marshall:I think in the past- [Black cinema] was more didactic, as a method to teach what “the Black experience” looked like. It wasn’t about characters who just happened to be Black. Sometimes that worked, and sometimes it missed the mark. I think Boyz n the Hood is a good example of (the importance of those distinctions) because when I saw it, I was just a kid from Philly that had never been to California. Seeing a whole world with people who looked like me, but had way different experiences was big because I got to see what life for somebody like me might look like in a different place.
Another movie that comes to mind for me is Bad Boys with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, because it was a big budget Hollywood movie that just happened to have two Black leads. It wasn’t about them being Black per se. But there were a lot of important nuances in the script and in the film that legitimized their characters, you know what I mean?
The Fresh Prince was very much a Black story too. It could have been anybody or any family, but they also captured important nuances of Black culture very well. Will always have the coolest clothes on, the toughest Jordans. Uncle Phil would talk about how he grew up in the South and how that influenced how he developed….
Kris Mendoza:But with Black cinema as a genre, people have come to expect a certain kind of humor or action. Representation is starting to become a little more accurate and not so stereotypical.
Keenan Marshall: Yeah. I also think it depends on who’s making it, if it’s coming from an honest, thought out place then I feel like it always does what it needs to. But if it’s coming from a contrived place and needs to fit a mold then that’s where it gets a little tricky
Keenan Marshall:Forced. Exactly. (This reminds me) I watched The Wiz the other night and I wanted to know how much it cost to make, since it was so big. What I found out was that it actually was a big blockbuster flop. People in the industry pinned that as an example to not give opportunities to movies with Black leads. They said, “People just don’t want to see this. Look at The Wiz, we spent all this money on it, it didn’t make anything.”
That’s just like an example of how people project the status quo. The Wiz was very different, so as great as it was people chose not to support it. So no matter what, I think it’s important for people to make it and for people to back it, because it just helps more get made in the future. You know what I mean? It helps more of those stories get told in the future if people support them, whether they agree with it fully or not.
Kris Mendoza: Yeah. And I think they certainly loaded up The Wiz with star power to reach as far as possible. It had Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor and Diana Ross ..
Keenan Marshall: Nipsey Russell.
Kris Mendoza:Lena Horne
Keenan Marshall:Quincy Jones was in charge of the music.
Kris Mendoza:I didn’t realize that.
Keenan Marshall:Every famous Black person in the ’70s.
Kris Mendoza:I’m sure that those were very vocal voices on set there in terms of representation, but also that was a different time I think in the late ’70s, early ’80s for sure.
Keenan Marshall:It makes me think of the blaxploitation movies too. There are a lot of opinions on what they did for Black culture since they were just so crazy and out there. But you got to remember that Black directors like Melvin Van Peebles and Gordon Parks were getting a chance to tell these stories. It might not have been perfect. But it was an opportunity for someone Black to open the doors for everyone that came after that.
Kris Mendoza:Who do you look up to in terms of shaping your creativity or artistry, any inspirations?
Keenan Marshall: Yeah. Like I said, I watched a lot of TV and movies growing up. Spike Lee has made some of my favorite movies. I think his stories tapped into those second and third layers of what was happening in the world I knew.
Kris Mendoza:How does all of this tie into your mission at Draulhaus?
Keenan Marshall: We like to say we specialize in colorful storytelling. Basically giving people of color a chance to tell their own stories in the way that they want to tell it, not necessarily the way that it has been told before. I would say that’s our main mission and we get there by the way we cast, the crew we hire, and the types of stories we tell. Everything is centered around these underrepresented communities getting a chance. It’s really that simple.
Kris Mendoza:You’re very intentional about hiring people of color, also getting women and LGBTQ filmmakers behind the camera, what drives your intentionality to do that?
Keenan Marshal pictured center
Keenan Marshall: If you go to any film set in Hollywood there may just be a bunch of white men walking around and they’re doing every job… Jobs that are specialized but that anyone can learn to do. So that’s our first intention: to have a woman, or a non-binary person, a Black person, an Asian person do this work. Because why not? They are just as qualified if not more. In order to specialize in telling the stories of underrepresented groups, we have to have people who represent these people on screen. We have to have them behind the camera to make sure the stories match up to what they’re supposed to be.
Our team has been in a lot of diverse situations, but we couldn’t tell the story of a woman or a non-binary person without them present. Those people have to be a part of the process.
Joanna Shen and Keenan Marshall on the set of Live Chair, which focuses on medical care offered in the sanctuary of many communities’ local barber shops.
Kris Mendoza: So this is kind of a hot button topic, but to have more diversity on set seems to be a polarizing debate – to me it’s a no-brainer – but being in a very white male-dominated industry, what are your thoughts on that? The Oscars are putting out percentage quota goals to inject diversity, is that good?
Keenan Marshall: Ideally, someone at the head of a studio would just step back and give a person who doesn’t look like them, who doesn’t come from the same place, an opportunity to do what they (themselves) have done for so many years, not because they are mandated to or because there’s a quota attached, but because it’s time for change.
Maybe minorities are being brought to the table in a contrived way, but they’re still getting a chance to do what they love and make a difference. There are still opportunities born from it. They’ll create work and the next generation might be inspired to take it further. They’ll see people that look like them in these positions.
We saw what happened this summer with different initiatives and commercials, now everybody cares all of a sudden. Everything was messed up for years, and it took the country damn near burning down for people to realize how much inequity and inequality existed.
Kris Mendoza:I agree. I had mixed feelings about it, but getting people of color and marginalized folks on set and into roles they previously did not have access to, is only a good thing. Now, people are hyper-aware and you get a lot of performative allyship –
Keenan Marshall: -someone getting an opportunity because of the popular initiative is still helpful because then, they come into power. They can hire whomever they want and they can bring different types of people and stories to set, which will just lead to more change in the future.
Kris Mendoza:Our Project Forte has been about compounding allyship between marginalized communities, but also about spreading power to those who don’t otherwise have platforms or whose voices aren’t really being put at the forefront. We’ve done four very different conversations stemming from a lot of the same questions and topics, each journey adding a different perspective. I cherish that kind of diversity within diversity itself. Black culture, Asian culture, any culture… we’re not a monolith. We’re just as intricate and complex, if anything, more intricate and complex because of our disparity from white American cultures.
You are making Black history every day, especially in an industry with few role models in front or behind the camera. You are in that model position — do you feel a certain level of responsibility towards the young Black filmmakers looking up to you?
Keenan Marshall: I think about it a lot, but not specific to young filmmakers, That’s heavy. I feel a responsibility to make sure I’m doing my best every day, for me and for the community around me. I don’t approach this as a 9-5 job. I don’t clock in or out, this is me 24/7. I always bring who I am to the work that I do. I am intentional with the decisions I make and my approach and I’m someone who is committed to building up the people around me, but I don’t wake up and go to work thinking about how I’m inspiring people today. I just go out there and try to do my best.
I hope to inspire people not to waiver in terms of the work that they’re doing. You don’t have to change who you are to get where you want to go.
I think that’s the biggest thing I would want people to be inspired about, especially people who look like me. I came from humble beginnings. I grew up in Philly. We didn’t have much. I didn’t grow up rich. But the world is huge, really. You can do anything, you can be anything. It takes seeing people who are doing it, and it also takes people instilling that confidence in you through knowledge. It’s just way bigger than filmmaking for me. It’s complex, because my journey here was different from any other person, I would say.
I can’t detach who I am from what I do, because who I am is the reason I’m doing it. My community of friends, our interests, can’t be detached from who I am as an individual or from my motivation.
Hopefully, it inspires people coming up behind me to understand they don’t have to change anything about who they are in order to get to where they want to go. I know I said that before, but I think that’s super important because I think this is an industry where a lot of people feel the need to fit in a certain box or be a certain type of person.
I understand the importance of hierarchy because everyone has a job to do, but the reason we like to have diverse cast and crews on our sets is because we want people to feel comfortable around each other, eliminating the (polarizing) side effects of that hierarchy. You’ve been on film sets before where everyone’s super robotic and quiet… Certain people aren’t talking to the director or can’t talk to each other. Some people don’t even interact which I think is so dated and just corny.
Keenan Marshall and DP, Danny Gervitz
I want people to be comfortable, to have a good time with the work they’re doing. Because the work is hard! It’s very difficult so why not try to inject it with as much fun and enjoyment as we can with each other as a team? For me, having someone walk away from our set saying, “Yo, that was so much fun” or “you guys were so cool. You made me feel comfortable” or “you inspire me to go further in my career,” that’s more important than any award or accolade, for sure.
The work is a by-product of the things I believe in as a person. I believe in uplifting communities. I believe in giving people a shot, because it’s not something that everyone feels like they have, or everyone actually gets. I believe in creating that community where people can feel uplifted and feel inspired to be bigger, be better than they think they ever could have been.
The work is just a vehicle to help do that.
It puts me in position to hire people, to cast, to interview and listen to their stories… that empowerment, always will come first. I want to inspire people who look like me in any field. Maybe they want to be a doctor, a teacher, a basketball player, a construction worker. If they can look at me and get inspired to become the best them that they want to be, then that’s something that will make me feel fulfilled in life.
A new bicoastal collaboration that is redefining how marketers’ produce strategic and agile video content
PHILADELPHIA, PA, March 1, 2021 – Today, local film production company, Maestro Filmworks, announced a partnership with Bay Area brand strategy firm, BRANDKIND Marketing, to answer one of marketers’ biggest challenges – how to build an ecosystem of video story content that sells now while building a brand over time.
“We have redesigned the project-by-project way our industry produces branded content. This old model is rooted in a history of making TV advertising spots and is no longer relevant in today’s fast-paced, street-level co-creating world,” explains Maestro’s Founder & Executive Producer, Kris Mendoza.
Marketers often get their budgets gobbled up on a single brand anthem video or in producing multiple rushed, short-lived product sales videos. BRANDKIND Maestro’s Branded Video Ecosystem anchors to a single narrative and a single production plan to create a modular system of video and animated infographic content.
“Think of our Branded Video Ecosystem as a year’s library of branded content. This is the closest we’ve come to offering clients the benefits of an in-house production facility enjoyed by larger brands,” said BRANDKIND’s Managing Partner, Shantini Munthree, “The lock-down has also made brands more open to the cultural nuances that smaller BIPOC owned agencies bring to their brands. We’re excited to share how our Ecosystem sets up brands for high quality, affordable content across their marketing efforts.”
The BRANDKIND-Maestro collaboration focuses their launch on food and beverages and financial services; industries where both companies share deep experience. The team will roll-out the Ecosystem to retail, consumer products, health services and nonprofits later this year.
About Maestro Filmworks: Maestro Filmworks is an award-winning video production company and creative agency specializing in commercial, corporate and broadcast television production. Since its establishment in 2005, Maestro’s mission has always been to produce engaging and imaginative films that inform, entertain and inspire. Maestro is a team of visual storytellers who bring a fresh perspective to each production. www.maestrofilmworks.com
About BRANDKIND: BRANDKIND is a strategic marketing consultancy that builds brands to love and last. BRANDKIND advises enterprises, growth businesses and late stage start-ups on brand re-stages, strategy changes, M&A marketing, and new launches. BRANDKIND is a proudly woman-owned, BIPOC business based in Oakland, CA. www.brandkind.marketing
Alicia DeLarge (she/her) is a production designer who has maintained many driving inspirations throughout her career, but especially to uplift those around her, enabling them to see paths like her’s as possible. Get ready to be inspired by her experience, talent, work ethic, and motivations. DeLarge contributes her success to the strong men and women in her life, who made space for her to grow, expand, and influence. She speaks to the role of serving others, but also to that of speaking out. She stresses the importance of sharing access to resources and therefore to power within her community. Read about her experiences with diversity on set and how the community of filmmakers in Philadelphia is evolving.
Alicia DeLarge: My name’s Alicia DeLarge, and I am a production designer by trade. I’ve served many roles though. I’ve been a Production Designer, Set Designer, Prop Stylist, Prop Designer, Wardrobe Stylist. I’ve also served as a PA, of course, for many different departments. So, I’ve assumed many roles in the film industry, but now I’m now being recognized as a Production Designer, which I’m really proud of.
Kris Mendoza: How did you get started in this industry?
Alicia DeLarge: I originally went to Spelman College in Atlanta to study English. My plan was to be a journalist and start a PR firm. When I came home from school I attended CCP with hopes to obtain my Associates degree and transfer to Temple University. One of my good friends from Spelman, Dyandra Brown, was a stylist on set in New York, styling women such as, Jacqui Reid on NBC, and working on a lot of TV shows as a Wardrobe Stylist. She would call me often to be her assistant, people naturally liked how I dressed and would want me to do costume design, or wardrobe styling. I figured I would see what this world was all about.
Although I was on set serving as a Wardrobe Assistant and Wardrobe Stylist, I realized I wanted to be a Set Decorator in the Art Department. I was already becoming a vintage dealer, and designing trade shows and retail stores with Search & Rescue. I was also the person that would set up my all friends’ and family parties; and I was doing a lot of location scouting without even knowing I was doing it.
On Instagram, I would post pictures of places I explored. I was all over the city, going into abandoned properties, or graffitied up areas. My friends would want to use them for their shoots so I would tell them where it was, or I would go with them to show them the locations. I was basically doing location scouting and management without knowing it, and then I realized I could charge people for it.
Alicia DeLarge: That evolved into actually going into local businesses, and talking to owners proposing, “Hey, my friends want to shoot here. This is their mission. This is their purpose. We’re students …” and I would get these amazing locations for free, and we would do these really cool shoots. While working on set with Dyandra, I was doing a lot of wardrobe styling and costume design I would talking to the art department while I’d be on set. I would find the Props Master, or the Set Decorator, or the Set Dresser, and ask, “Can I connect with you? Can you tell me how to get into this?” So that’s how it started. It really started through working in the wardrobe, and costume department.
Kris Mendoza: It’s always interesting to hear about someone’s path, because there’s no one right way – can you share for yourself, culturally, if there was a stigma that comes from your end, from family, and friends, to switch gears and pursue this career path?
Alicia DeLarge:My friends were always supportive of my career choice. Most of my friends are artists, but my parents were kind of tricky. Both of my parents are artists, naturally. My mom paints on canvas, and draws, but she ended up having a baby when she was 17, so she couldn’t really pursue that in the way that she wanted to. She went into computer science and ended up working in corporate America. My father is also a designer. He was making prom dresses in high school, and making my mom clothes when they were dating.
Both of my parents are extremely art driven/artistic, but of course their generation stressed getting a good, stable job with a pension. They couldn’t really pursue any of there artistic aspirations, because it didn’t really make money. That was kind of what they projected onto me. When I said “I’m going be a designer, I’m seeing people really do this, and they’re making money, so I can do this too.” My parents weren’t really supportive of it at first. My dad used to think I was just a silly little girl, going to thrift stores wasting time, when I was really shopping, building sets, and getting paid to do it.
It took outside validation, and my hustle in and of itself, for my parents to really respect what I was doing, which I’m grateful for. When I got pregnant with my son, they actually helped me go back to school for Film Design and Production at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. Only because I had done this for years before, were they able to really take me seriously. Frankly, my parents were grateful to support me due to seeing me do things they didn’t set out to do or think they could do, due to being products of their generation.
So no, the support wasn’t there originally, but is now. I always tell kids, you have to just do it. You have to be consistent at it, and you’ve got to try not to care, because people are going to make you feel ridiculous sometimes about the things you want to do.
Luckily I’m a part of a generation that supports freelancers, you know what I mean? We don’t have social security like our parents did, so we all have to figure something out for ourselves, to survive.
Kris Mendoza: Were there any role models for you who paved the way, or was there a blueprint for you, of someone you aspired to be?
Alicia DeLarge: Honestly, as a black female Production Designer, no. There aren’t many black Production Designers. I have yet to meet another female that does what I do, even a black male, although I’m sure that there is, I just haven’t met any yet. I think my first role model coming up was Spike Lee to be honest. I actually got the chance to work with him and saw how involved he is in every aspect of production.. He’s the costume designer, the production designer, the director, — he’s everything — in which case, watching him work allowed me to see a black, male artist working on set, giving a lot of direction, and being very serious about what his vision was, and what needed to happen on his set.
Outside of the industry, my role models were mostly, my father, and other people in my life that I saw creating things for themselves. Even my friend Dyandra, as mentioned earlier, was a huge role model for me, because she was somebody that was close to me in age, who I saw stepping out, creating something for herself. For her to take me with her, was extremely encouraging. The women that I keep around me are amazing. They hustle hard and are amazingly humlble. The care they have for their work is otherworldly and I appreciate it and admire them wholeheartedly. Needless to say, I have a long list of women who really inspire me.
One of my newest role models is Hannah Beachler. She was the Production Designer for Fruitvale Station, Moonlight, Black Panther, and Creed. She really caught my attention in Creed, because I knew that the locations picked were places only someone from Philadelphia would even know about. You know what I mean? It was extremely well done. She was really running the art department and had total control. I was inspired by that, and then of course she won the award for Black Panther. Visually it is one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. It feels good to know that there’s a black female Production Designer that’s being recognized for her work, and that is being validated by the public, and the masses for her work.
Alicia DeLarge: And of course, Tim Stevens is one of my biggest role models. I talk about him every interview I do. He’s my heart. I believe he is responsible for starting my career as it is now. By bringing me onto Concrete Cowboys. Prior to this, I was really just working in New York and LA. Once I got on that set, the (local) work just ran like water. For the rest of that season, I was on pharma commercials in the middle of Pennsylvania every week, and pharma commercials are money.
Kris Mendoza: A good launchpad for more local stuff.
Alicia DeLarge: South Jersey is booming right now too. I did a Lifetime Movie and a Giant Foods commercial out there, but Concrete Cowboys was the best and it’s about to come out on Netflix. It was one of those films where I got my hands on everything. I served as a Set Dresser and I worked under Tim Stevens, and Set Decorator, Michael Mizrahi. Tim and Michael are so hilarious ridiculous (in a good way), we just had so much fun. I got to work with horses, set dressing stables in Philadelphia and Glenolden, PA. It was amazing.
Kris Mendoza: I’m very much looking forward to seeing it when it comes out. What are you working on now? Anything really interesting?
Alicia DeLarge: So I just finished working on a lot of big projects, this is my slow season. I am currently applying to a graduate program in London and I’ve been working with Draulhaus, creating a lot of Angry Orchard commercials with them which has been really fun. Last year, I worked on a Lifetime movie with Meagan Good, called Death Saved My Life. It actually just premiered February 13th, , and I served on that as a Set Decorator. That was my first feature film where I served as a set-dec from beginning to end. I worked under a Production Designer named Luie Garcia, who is a woman of color. It was definitely hard, but a good experience, because I learned a lot about what I am able to handle without a lot of support.
I production designed my first documentary. We traveled to New York, Philadelphia, D.C., and Delaware, and that was extremely rewarding, because I couldn’t be on set for any of it, I was working on the Lifetime movie at the same time. Black History Untold, by Sofiya Ballin, is about black love… the radicalism, the revolutionary nature of black love. I was super honored to be able to create the environment for a project such as this. I created a set that was able to travel to four different cities without me. All they had to do was lift it up, put it on a backdrop pole, and put a couch down. I was just extremely proud of myself and the way that I was able to pre -set it, how simple it was for the people in every city to just set it up for me, and I was available on FaceTime, so I was able to guide and give direction without being physically present.
Also, I served in the costume department for Mare of Easttown, with Kate Winslet, doing a lot of costuming for background. I felt like I was on set for The Devil Wears Prada. We would dress everyone, they would run in, line up….
Kris Mendoza: Rolling racks full of wardrobe….
Alicia DeLarge: Yeah, and the Costume Designer would just walk up and down and look at everyone deciding, “You, yes. You, no. Go get her a hat, go get her this….” It was so inspiring. One of my goals, in the role that I have, is to place a lot of black designers and black artists within the sets that I work on. So this was also the first time that I had that much influence on a set. For example, my friend Dyandra Brown just recently launched a vegan shoe line, so I had her shoes in the closet, and they got so much playtime. And then my friends, Rosco Spears, who did this tapestry I have in my apartment, and my friend Aubrie Costello, I got their work on the project, front and center. So it feels really good to be able to give my friends this type of exposure. Artists and designers are necessary, and people need to see their work, you know?
Kris Mendoza: That’s huge. Got your own Project Forte going on a day-to-day basis. Great to have influence like that on a project and uplift people you know are worthy of it. But also, someone gave you that opportunity to launch, there’s nothing more gratifying than having the opportunity to pass it on.
Alicia DeLarge: My mission in any capacity of my work, whether or not it’s film, is to serve black men specifically, women, and students. So anything that has to do with those three demographics, I’m always here for.
Kris Mendoza: You talked about notable projects as of late, and we touched on it a little bit in terms of role models, but what’s the current state of ethnic diversity on film sets?
Alicia DeLarge: I love this question. I still don’t think there’s enough representation behind the camera, butwhat I know is, it’s a process, so I think it’s amazing that I’m seeing more representation in front of the camera in this season. Sometimes of course I think it’s only because we’re in this black lives matter era, and people feel very inclined to be moreinclusive. I have some friends who are annoyed about it, who have gotten promotions at work, but say, “They only did this because I’m black.” To which I say, “Well, take it. Why are you mad about that? This is something that you should’ve had years ago.”
Kris Mendoza: This is what we’re fighting for..
Alicia DeLarge: Yeah, “you should’ve had this years ago, and now you’re mad about it? Just embrace it, and use it to the best of your ability,” you know what I mean? I get where they’re coming from, because it should have always been like this. But on set specifically, no, I don’t think there’s enough representation behind the camera. For instance, I recently worked on a Lifetime commercial and noticed the talent was black, but looking around set, there were still a lot of white men giving direction. They did have a white female director, but she was not really taking over in ways that I believe she could’ve
Kris Mendoza: So playing second fiddle.
Alicia DeLarge: Yes. Basically the DP was a white male, calling all the shots. I once worked on a lip plumper commercial where everyone on set and behind the camera was a white man, giving direction for something that’s made for women, that also didn’t make sense know what I mean?
The most representation I’ve seen on set was the Lifetime movie in which almost every department head was either a black woman or male, or a woman of color, which was extremely encouraging, and I made sure I talked about it all the time. Even the talent was black, so it was great to see representation on both sides. I’d point it out saying “hey ya’ll, do you understand that we’re all here, we’re all black?” And they were like, “Alicia, thank you for saying that.”
Kris Mendoza: Just like you’re aware when you’re the only non-white person in the room, you become aware, there’s not one white person in the room.
Alicia DeLarge: So the director was a white male, but his assistant was a black woman. I’ve never in my life seen this before, but we had an all-black male G&E [grip & electric] from D.C. It was very encouraging. And then, Concrete Cowboys.
The first day we show up to set, I remember it was not diverse. Like you show up to set, and everybody’s white, even the director. Everybody was white, coming together to tell black stories. Come to find out, Lee Daniels actually put a clause in his contract with Neighborhood Film and requested diversity on set, at least that’s what I heard. I remember showing up to set the next day, because every department had changed. G&E crew was mostly black. I saw color everywhere, and not just in front of the camera. The art department was headed by my mentor, Tim Stevens, I tell him often , “Every time I work with you, I work with a badass beautiful women.”
Kris Mendoza: It’s crazy how quickly he (Lee Daniels) was able to turn that around.
Alicia DeLarge: I’m sure he would’ve shut it down. But once again, we’re starting to see more color in front of the camera. I affirm Draulhaus on their intention to carry that out all the time. We were on a set the other day, and John (from Draulhaus) says, “I can’t wait to do more creative stuff, I don’t feel like I’m impactful.” This man goes out of his way to hire women, and black women like me to be in lead production roles. I said, “That’s extremely impactful, I don’t want you to take that for granted. You are a white male that is making room for a lot of people like me, and that’s what it takes.”
I affirm Tim Stevens because even on Concrete Cowboys, the director would’ve never even known who I was if Tim didn’t give me room. There was this one moment where I had showed up at a location they were trying to create this chase scene through a made-up alleyway, which was confusing to me because this is Philadelphia and it’s full of alleyways. But Tim said, “This is what they want, so this is what we’re going to do.”
I remember saying: well, “I don’t think it’s a good idea.” I’m very outspoken, especially with Tim, because he just makes me feel comfortable to speak. “We should use this other side.” And Tim asked me to tell him why.
Alicia DeLarge: When we did the walkthrough, Tim brings up my suggestion but he actually can’t quite speak to it, because it was my idea. He kind of tripped over his words so I just started talking, “Tim is trying to say that it’s way more cinematic, there’s more room. There are layers and levels, and all these things…” just giving the whole spiel. People looked at me crazy because I’m a black girl on set that nobody knew.
Alicia DeLarge: Ricky liked the idea and asked, “What’s your name?” I said Alicia and he cleared it with the Locations department. After their approval he said, “Okay. It’s done. We’re going to shoot it over here.” And then we just moved on, and I look at Tim surprised, but that’s what it takes, more white men and women humbling themselves, or taking a backseat to allow people of color to have a chance.
Kris Mendoza: It’s creating space.
Kris Mendoza: So, what needs to happen in order to get more opportunities for people of color to open up? You could say on one hand, by looking at the Oscars and the Golden Globes, there aren’t as many black or Asian films being submitted. But I don’t think there’s a shortage of those, it’s just more like the status quo has to make room for other folks. So you need those white men or women allies to cede some of that power.
Alicia DeLarge: Totally, and it’s happening more, like I said. I’m working with La Colombe right now, which I always looked at as a vanilla-ish corporate company, but they’re pushing a lot of inclusivity right now, and elevating a lot of black people
Kris Mendoza: Well, if you didn’t know, Todd Carmichael, the owner and founder of La Colombe, is a father to four beautiful black adopted kids. So I’m sure that is intentional coming right from the top.
Alicia DeLarge: That’s beautiful. I didn’t know that! They recently reached out to me to promote an initiative they’re doing with the Loveland Foundation to give black women free therapy, which is a personal initiative that I have. I often pay for people to go to therapy because I think it’s super important. They wanted to pay me for my work in various ways, but what I asked was for them to hire more black and brown people to work with them and to pay them their rates. I gave them a list of black creatives in the city that I admire to start with.
Alicia DeLarge: They were shocked. They had never heard anybody request something like that over capital. But that’s what’s going to support me, caring for a community of people that I love. I plan to challenge more companies because that’s what it takes. I notice that sometimes, even people of color get to a certain height in their career, and then they don’t want to bring anyone with them anymore….or they feel like they have to hold on so tight.
Kris Mendoza: Do you think there’s a level of thinking “I’m a person of color, I got here and have my scars, and you’ve got to do the same thing?”
Alicia DeLarge: Yes I do believe that level of thinking is prevalent due to the experiences I’ve had working under older people of color. It is always as if there is a hazing process I have to undergo to earn their love and respect. I don’t have to go through this working under white men honestly and it’s disheartening that I have to deal with this working under older black men and women.
I don’t put the girls who work under me through things like that just for them to learn, or have an experience. And there’s also a level of insecurity and ego that is prevalent right? Older people don’t want you to take their job. They’re afraid. Although your goal is truly to support, elevate, and learn from them. It’s interesting to say the least.
Kris Mendoza: There’s no clear antagonist here other than racism, and lack of equality. Our inclusivity is adding different perspectives, and enriching the conversation.
Last question for you. how do you define success, in terms of what you do? This is Black History Month and you’re making black history on a daily basis yourself. What’s that responsibility like, knowing there may be a young black boy or girl thinking this is not a career path for them?
Alicia DeLarge: Well, success is what I experienced this weekend, right. I feel very successful to be able to complete something from beginning to end and have influence in various ways. So not even just being able to create a set, or being able to pick out the things I want to decorate a set, which is definitely having influence, but also the fact that I was able to get my friends’ work included and to be able to elevate other people. When I’m on set, I’m constantly encouraging people. I want them to feel good, feel cared for, feel comfortable… That’s just the type of person I am.
Alicia DeLarge: On my last day of work on the Lifetime movie, I went around and gave every black woman flowers. Black women don’t tend get ourflowers while we can still smell them. That felt successful for me, to be on a set, have influence personally and professionally, and elevate other people while I was there.
I feel the most fulfilled when I’m serving people. Even in the role that I have as a production designer, I’m always serving someone, and that makes me think of my father who always talks about being a ”servant leader.”
I remember growing up, he would always, whenever he would have these conversations with his friends talk about his role at work,he would say “I’m the advisor to the king. That’s the role that I have. I have a lot of influence, but I’m also in a very humble position, where I’m able to advise people in a more elevated and powerful role than me.” I’m in a supporting role, and I’m grateful for the quiet influence that I’m able to have on a set.
I don’t believe for one minute that I’m the first black woman that’s ever decorated a set, or anything like that, because I’m not. But to be able to be recognized in that role, which is usually held by white men, is extremely empowering.
I did a career day at Mastery Charter a few years ago, where I was able to see how important it was for black children to know that they could do what I do. I actually started substitute-teaching in between my jobs as a result of that experience.
I’ve also been doing this Brown Girls series with a group called Mighty Writers, where I have the opportunity to talk to a group of girls from ages 11-13 last weekend about what I do for a living, and their minds were blown. I was talking about Spider-Man, and asking them, “who do you think decorates Spider-Man’s room? Who puts the pictures on the wall? Who makes his bed? Me!” They all got a kick out of that!
It’s extremely empowering, and it gives me more purpose to my work. I’m not just doing this for me, I’m doing this for my son, I’m doing this for all these little black kids. Even being on Concrete Cowboys was very emotional for a lot of us, because it shows little black kids they can get on horses, you know what I mean?
It’s a rarity — when you think about horses, you think about equestrians, white people on their horses, the Kentucky Derby. But black people have been owning horses in Philadelphia for decades and kids should see that.
I’m extremely blessed to be an example to other kids, to be able to show them what’s possible for them. I’m all about showing people, especially black people, what we have access to, because that’s power.
Like many other businesses, the film & video industry came to a screeching halt in the early months of of the pandemic, but since July, Maestro Filmworks, along with many others, have found ways to capture video footage safely. In addition to pivoting to virtual and streaming services, we’ve managed to keep a slow but steady stream of work flowing by following strict health & safety guidelines as well keeping our rock star post team slated with animation and post-production only projects.
In addition to getting certified by Safe Sets™ International, the Maestro production team, led by Geoff Nichols, has been adhering to stringent Covid safety protocols on set. Masks and gloves are mandatory as are temperature checks upon arrival and many other guidelines on set.
“Thankfully, we have managed to continue to film safely and without incident since things started opening back up,” says Kris Mendoza, Maestro’s EP. “The important thing is we continue to stay vigilant and take things seriously, and not let our guard down.”
Interested in what pre-cautions you should take to conduct as safe of a film shoot as possible? See below for some of our things to consider:
Clearly and visibly display Safety Protocols and signage in several places as well as conduct a safety briefing at the beginning of each shoot
Temperature checks shall be taken before each shoot with a non-contact thermometer on the day of shooting. Any person showing symptoms associated with the COVID-19 disease should leave the set immediately.
Production will ensure that disinfectant gel and masks are provided to all workers. A
No non-essential crew, client or people may be present. Only the “essential technical and artistic film crew,” selected beforehand and clearly identified, shall have access to the film set.
Masks are required at all times. Production will have backup masks in case a crew member forgets or mask malfunctions or breaks.
Determine maximum capacity for each room in use, taking into account distancing measures.
A sufficiently large waiting area shall ensure control of the in- and out- flow of people.
Masks cannot be taken off, unless in case of extreme necessity (such as talents stepping in front of the camera).
The premises will have sufficient toilets for effective hand washing, with water point, liquid soap, disposable towels and closed garbage can.
A cleaning procedure for surfaces and equipment (including electro, set design, hair & makeup…) will be established beforehand and implemented during the whole shoot.
While this has been a challenging year in many regards, we’re grateful for our amazing clients who continue to trust us not just creatively but with their safety and well-being as well. The hope is, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but in the mean time, be safe, be well and wear a mask.
Maestro Filmworks, along with Nerd Street Gamers, is proud to announce their first NATAS Emmy® Win! The FTW Philly segment “Enabled Gaming,” won the category of Lifestyle Program at the 2020 Mid-Atlantic Emmy® Award last month.
“This is a tremendous feat for the Maestro team and validates the tireless efforts we put into this show,” says Kris Mendoza, Executive Producer at Maestro. “I’m proud of the work we put together and this was easily one of my favorite segments we produced for the show.”
The “Enabled Gaming” segment featured Maestro’s own Andrew Czudak, who was also nominated for an individual Emmy® award for technical excellence in Motion Graphics! His work centered around developing better access to gaming for senior citizens. Czudak took his love of gaming and used it as a means to bond with his grandfather and connect with him as he battled dementia.
Director, Jo Shenn, shares her experience, “I remember biting on my nails nervously and my heart was racing a mile a minute as Andrew watched the final cut the night before its release. We knew we had to get this one right. Not only because we are telling a story of our own but of a loving grandson who truly believes video games can be for everyone, including his grandfather. They can bring so much more to the table than just entertainment, it was truly an honor to be able to help tell his story.”
Watch the segment here and don’t forget to catch this award-winning show for a second season premiering on October 23, 2020 on NBC Sports Philly.