SkinnyPop’s “Whole Bag Kinda Night” (commercial)

Kimberly Stuckwisch

Scheme Engine (U.S.); Rogue Films (U.K.)

 

What was your first professionally directed work and when was it? 
I shot Margo Price’s “All American Made” video. Throughout, we see Margo riding through America in a tiny house built on the back of a flatbed truck showing that we are all protected in our own little worlds. In the end of the video, Margo stands staring at the driver of the truck, and we are left to question, “Who drives your fears, your hopes, your comfortability, your cultural perspective and what steps do you take to open up to the world and connect with others?” The video was shot in eight cities across five states, highlighting individuals from these communities including: Leona Tate, one of the first children to integrate into an all-white school in New Orleans, The Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition from Price’s hometown, and Burnell Cotlon from the Lower 9th Ward, who put his life savings into revitalizing the neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina.

How did you get into directing?
My journey into directing started a million miles from Hollywood; a poor farm town in southern Indiana (pop. 2000), predominantly populated by cattle and crops. My late pappaw Sherrell Street, an exuberant storyteller, inspired my love for directing. He taught editing and camera classes at a local tech school and would bring the cameras home to film my family performing funny sketches that he wrote, complete with top-of-the-line grandpa jokes. In elementary, I found myself just like him, except this time writing skits and directing my fellow classmates on the local jungle gym at recess. I wrote a couple plays and then in high school I’d write/direct/shoot short films for bonus to attach to a report for history class just for fun. After 15 years of creative producing, I decided to make a go at directing professionally, but the jungle gym bits were some of my best work yet. :)

3) What is your most recent project? 
I’m currently traveling to Bulgaria to film a Taft X Gliss hair commercial, complete with wild dancing and unexpected Gondry-esk camera trickery. Concurrently, I’m finishing post on my first feature film titled “Canvas,” inspired by the classic “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” that we shot earlier this year in Tennessee. On top of that, I help run The Elysian comedy theater in Los Angeles, where we develop and program groundbreaking experimental comedy.

4) What is the best part of being a director? 
Having the ability to bring a voice to people who too often don’t have a platform to share their stories. I also wholeheartedly enjoy bringing together a team of friends and family and watching them shine. There’s nothing better in the world. Besides, what is a director without the 67 + people lifting them up?

6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre--comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.? 
I’m currently focusing on features and commercials. As for genre, honestly, any project that has a socially conscious message or one that allows me to explore magical realism is one for me. I also like working with cool people who love what they do. You got a cool brand or a script, you’re not an asshole... rad, you’re for me.

7) Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you? 
I was a creative producer for 15 years for a lot of really talented directors, who became my mentors and who I strive to be like. I have to give it up to Hiro Murai, James Lees, and Dugan O’Neal who really taught me how to treat a set with kindness, respect, and love. They exude joy and lift up all those around them. Not to mention, they are brilliant storytellers who are constantly challenging cinema norms. I couldn’t have asked for better teachers!

8) Who is your favorite director and why? 
I’ve always been a huge fan of Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) for his incredible way of blending magical realism with everyday life. But I must say, in recent years, I can’t remember a movie quite like Jeremiah Zagar’s We the Animals. It’s a film blistering with honesty that is both beautifully tragic and artfully profound in its simplistic portrayal of a child’s view of the world. It’s exactly the type and style of story I would be honored to tell.

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 
(see above)

10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?) 
Small town Indiana was a place where success only came through being either a doctor or a lawyer. Growing up with less than desirable means, I decided to put my passions behind and headed off to Indiana University to study medicine. However, through a chance opportunity to work on a film shooting in South Bend, Indiana, I dropped medicine and nabbed a BA in Telecommunications and a BS in Psychology. In 2005, I packed my bags and headed to Hollywood. By 26, I had assistant directed over a dozen indie films, which became my film school. After the writers’ strike in 2007, I started to shift my focus to producing, working freelance for legendary directors like Hiro Murai and Carlos Lopez Estrada and eventually owning my own production company “Little Ugly.” A few years ago, I decided to go back and pursue my first love… directing.

11) How has the pandemic impacted your career, art, craft, shaped your attitudes and reflections on life which in turn may influence your work, approach, spirit, mindset?
When COVID hit I watched as the business I love completely disappear, leaving so many of my colleagues, friends, and family out of work. My production company “Little Ugly” became a casualty of the virus forcing me to reevaluate my career. At 37 I had the hard realization that I had largely ignored my true passion. I couldn’t waste any more time.

My producer, Ian Blair, and I started strategizing ways a small production could happen safely with a minimal crew and according to guidelines. We owned all of the gear and at one point even bought a travel trailer and traveled cross country twice to film. Seeing the world through new eyes, I made it my mission to write and direct stories that matter, one’s that bring awareness to timely social issues. As filmmakers I believe we have the unique opportunity to inspire real change.