Thursday 22 March 2012

Interview with Cindy Lemas

Cindy Lemas lives in Ft. Bragg, California. She has been a ballet dancer, teacher, writer, child advocate, crab boat captain and, just lately, executive producer of the web series Sundays, which was filmed in Mendocino County, California.

Like most people, I've always been impressed by the title "Executive Producer" and wanted to learn more about how somebody scales the heights to such a position. So when I met Cindy online, I thought this opportunity was too good to miss.

* Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in San Jose, CA. I spent my summers with my grandparents, in Mendocino, CA. My grandfather was an alto-sax player in his own band, my mother the pianist, for many years. My aunt (in Mendocino) was the location and extras scout for film in Mendocino, including for Same Time Next Year, Dying Young and Murder, She Wrote. I used to hang out during filming and learned from behind-the-scenes.

* Where did you go to school?

* You have musical abilities. What is your history as a performer/composer?

Yes. I play piano, sing and took/taught Russian Ballet. I was a night club singer for years in the greater Bay Area.

* In the 1980s you moved into an entirely different field, as a child advocate. What led to that, and what gave you your greatest sense of achievement?

My daughter was born in 1987, with a genetic disorder called Angelman Syndrome. I had to choose to between singing and caring for my daughter. I chose my daughter. Her father left. My daughter and I moved to Mendocino. I learned how to become an effective advocate for my daughter. I began working with parent organizations, took mediation courses at Sonoma State University, provided mediation/ombudsperson/advocacy services in Mendocino County, and lectured for special education teachers at Chico State and Hawaii State University.  

Sundays: Where it happens
I was hired by Mendocino County Schools to write, produce and host a live telecast (on local cable public access channel), promoting the special needs kids and the services provided in our County. It was a great show that lasted about five years. I created a non-profit for parents and by 2000 had over 300 families on my case load. I had to leave my CEO position to care for my daughter after scoliosis spine surgery.

I promoted my daughter's need to be included with her peers throughout her school career. I was the parent representative on the State of California Board and helped create Early Intervention for infants and toddlers to provide support services immediately for the child and the parents.

I worked with her service agencies and built a house for my daughter in my backyard for her to live full-time, with round-the-clock help. She will be 25 this month and lives in her own house, with her team of caregivers, giving me the freedom to have my own life.  She will always be my responsibility, but she has her own life.

My message for all parents with disabled children: NEVER GIVE UP. Believe, work as a team with agencies. See the bigger picture. It can and will happen if you never give up.

* You worked with Cammie Conlon, who played Scarlett’s daughter in Gone With the Wind, and supplied one of the voices in the animated film Bambi.

Cammie Conlon and I met in Fort Bragg where she was working for the Chamber of Commerce. We became great friends. She was friends with my aunt (the location/extras coordinator for film). She was a great promoter who did everything she could to support our local economy and non-profit organizations. I learned a lot from her tenacity and "getting the job done", how to do it with grace and always a smile. She is greatly missed.

* In 2000, you moved into another new field. How did that come about and what was the most satisfying aspect?

The Sea Hawk
My new husband was a charter boat captain, and I helped him with his new charter boat business, All Aboard Adventures. I worked on the boat, fishing, whale watching, and even did karaoke on the sea trips. I earned my sea time to become a 100 ton master and become the first lady captain in the Noyo Harbor, Fort Bragg.  Unfortunately, I was assaulted at a fundraising event for kids, causing a severe neck injury and had to leave working on the boat. 

Noyo Harbor
At that time, I worked for our local medical clinic as their fundraising event coordinator. This is where I worked with Cammie Conlon, producing the benefit "Tea with Bonnie Blue Butler," and Bill Irwin's "A Work in Progress," to raise money for the clinic.  I also coordinated our famous Crab and Wine Days Crab Cake Cook Off Event.

I began singing again, started my own band, and did a CD called Landing for author/songwriter Patti Angeletti. Unfortunately my drummer passed away, and the band members went their separate ways.

I was cast for "On The Road with Austin and Santino". It was a spoof about me being a crab fisherwoman, celebrating our 10 year anniversary of All Aboard Adventures and I needed a designer dress for the party and the debut of my new band. The drummer passed away during the filming and the show took a different twist. Santino Rice and I still remain friends. He is such a kind man. He loved my daughter, and she just loved him! We had a lot of fun filming together

* In 2011, you became Executive Producer for the Sundays Web Series, a 10 episode webseries about a small Californian town and the characters that call it home—drama, comedy, romance, and mystery.  How did that come about?

Cindy Lemas and Forrest Naylor radio interview.
I was producing a 'haunted house' fundraiser and asked Forrest Naylor to film the event. I was aware of some of his films and told him I would like to produce his next film. He was so impressed with the production, he asked if I would be interested in reading his script for Sundays. I did, and said I would like to produce.

He really wanted me for this project because of my ties to the community, my reputation to get things done successfully. My being a good businesswoman, promoter and negotiator suited what he needed.

Sundays: The search begins

* I know some of the funding for the webseries came from Mendocino County. How did you raise the rest?

I funded the webseries from my life savings, the majority of which purchased all the equipmentcameras, hard drives, audio equipmentas Fog Line Films just started their business and had no equipment. We did receive some funding from local businesses... the list is long.

Before we began filming, I started the "buzz". I organized interviews on the local radio stations, and newspapers. Getting the word out there, and also asking for those who would like to sponsor this exciting new venture to come forward.  Most came forward with valuable in-kind support. All of our locations were donated for free, in exchange for being on our website where the show airs. We could not have done it without them. I organized meetings with our local organizationsRotary, Lions, Study Club, Soroptimist Internationalto talk about the show. This generated a lot of in-kind support and also more people to keep the "buzz" happening.

Sundays: The search continues

If you believe in your project, you will get the necessary financial and/or in-kind support you need. My first recommendation to anyone doing any form of film is to find your promoter. 
  • Find that person who will live, breathe and talk about your project until the entire community is talking about it for you. (I just happened to be that person, so Forrest was pretty lucky!)
  • Offer something for their help. This could be in-kind support, as well as money. For instance, the Beachcomber Motel provided rooms for our traveling actors. For that, they received landing page exposure, where the show airs.
  • Hold a special screening event, with the proceeds to go towards the new project. 
  • Find your movers and shakers in the community who have connections. Ask for them to host a cocktail party where you can present your project and ask for support.
  • Find a talented executive producer to fund the project. 
  • Sit down with your executive team and establish a realistic budget. 
  • Remember you have to feed your cast and crew. 
  • Consider all obstacles and options for each shooting block. 
  • Pick your team wisely. 
  • Create a budget for each shooting block. 
  • Stick to your budget. 
  • And as an executive producer, stick to your guns to stay on task and within the budget. This is tricky and directors and producers can butt heads frequently. But it is necessary for the success of the show.
  • Promote, promote, promote, promote, promote.

Sundays: A wrong turm
* How did you recruit your actors?

Through various newspaper articles in local newspapers and casting call notices to all theatre groups and casting agencies in Northern Calfornia.

* Have you been happy with the reception Sundays has received?

Absolutely! I knew it was going to be a hit, and am thrilled it has received nominations and awards!

* What’s next for Cindy Lemas?

I would love to get back into my music, write music again, and sing. That is when I am truly the happiest. I have been approached to produce other shows/projects, but nothing has resonated with me yet. I really am a free spirit. I have true confidence in what I can achieve, and know what I touch can and will turn to gold if I believe in it. I think my next project will be a project for me. I have enjoyed the success of promoting others, and seeing them shine (for example, my daughter, my husband and now Forrest's dream). I guess I am at a place in my life where I need to shine and do something for me. 

* What are your ten favourite movies of all time?


CIndy Lemas said...

Thank you for the lovely interview.

samswife2000 said...

i just love Cindy.. and reading this article, just made me feel like a proud family member all over again. I have known Cindy since 1996 and close to the first person I met when I moved to the Coast. She has been a special person to me every since. She has a contagious spark, and the love for her daughter, and.. haha, I could go on and on. Thank you for giving Cindy this opportunity. I will print and cherish it for a life time..

Anonymous said...

Great interview! So many accomplishments - wow!! And Russian ballet - who knew?! Can't wait to see your next project and happy that you're focusing on yourself!