The Philly Geek Awards are this month, and leading up to the ceremony we’re spotlighting some nominees.
Last week we introduced you to viral filmmaker Shawn Caple. Today we’ve got another filmmaker, Amanda Danziger, director of The Backyard Philly Project.
Read on to learn more about her and her documentary. See you at the ceremony on August 17th!
What’s the name of your film, and what is it about?
The name of our film is The Backyard Philly Project. It’s a documentary filmed in an inner-city neighborhood (unofficially called Penn Town) that delves into the lives of four teenagers growing up in the projects.
We gave the four teenagers cameras to document their loss, hope, dreams, and struggles and met with them on a monthly basis with professional quality interviews.
What made you want to make a film showcasing the city of Philadelphia?
During the making of the film, my husband and I were living in Philadelphia. We lived in a studio apartment on the 20th floor in Fairmount that overlooked North Philly. I always thought about the stories that were happening in my own backyard, and I was also itching to film my next documentary.
That’s when I got in touch with Adam Bruckner (a complete stranger to me at the time) who is the Youth Director at The Helping Hand Rescue Mission off of 6th and Green. I started to volunteer there once a week at their after school tutoring program, and quickly fell in love with neighborhood and it’s stories.
What do you feel is the thing that sets Philadelphia filmmakers apart?
We make the definition of “independent filmmaker.” We’re located in a city that is underground and hip when it comes to the arts. Plus, the artist community is so helpful.
What are some of the biggest challenges and rewards making films in Philadelphia?
I think the biggest challenge is marketing your film to a city that doesn’t know you that well. I’m a fairly new filmmaker — so I’m just trying to build my credibility around here. What’s rewarding is seeing a community grow. By that I mean — in our latest film, Backyard Philly, we’ve watched the teens in our film turn into respectable adults. They don’t want to be defined by a neighborhood that they live in, they want to be so much more. To me, they’re changing the typical definition of an inner-city teenager and making Philly a better place.
Also, another reward about making a film in Philadelphia is having the support of your university! As an alum from Drexel University, I can’t tell you how awesome they have been, especially the staff at Westphal College (a big shout out to the EAM program!). They’ve helped me spread the word of this film and helped me build good relationships and contacts here.
What is the best advice you can give as an independent filmmaker?
Always follow your gut. Be adventurous. I think I took a big risk working on this film because I was pregnant with twins! And then learned how to finish editing the project during nap times after they were born. Risk is everything (and always makes for a good story later).
Finally, if you could make any Hollywood Big Budget, Sequel Remake, or Reboot, what would it be and why?
This is a tough question. Honestly, I wish I got to work on the set of “The Lord of the Rings.” By far my favorite series. But as for cinematography, we recently watched “Django Unchained” — if I could work with Robert Richardson one day and study under him that would be amazing. The way he sees things is so breathtaking!