POV: Waltzing In To Invest In Film - Cate Caplin

The 36 filmmakers poised to make their pitches August 24th-26th can revel in the news that  now three films and filmmakers are in the running to land 25K alongside all the goods We Make Movies has to offer. On the inauguration of our Make Your Feature Competition Semi-Finals, WMM could not be more elated to announce the arrival of a THIRD judge and investor, multiple award-winning producer, director, choreographer, and dancer Cate Caplin. Having  captivated audiences through her talent, dexterity, and grace in productions onscreen and in theatrical venues worldwide, she joins us in our mission to remodel what film financing and creative collaboration look like. 

Cate has produced, directed and choreographed over 200 productions (from the Paris Opera House to the Broadway Stage), she has been the recipient of a Garland Award, a Women in Theatre Red Carpet Award, multiple LA Stage Alliance, Ovation, Eddon, Scenie Awards, as well as an Award of Excellence from the LA Film Commission for her work as a Writer, Director, Choreographer and Producer. She wrote and directed her first feature film Mating Dance, which won an Accolade Award and can be found on Amazon.com. She co-founded her  production company, Night & Day Entertainment (alongside her creative partner Vernon Willet), and is an astonishing 34 time Regional and International Theatrical Ballroom Champion. 

Prior to becoming an illustrious force in the industry, she trained at institutions such as  Interlochen Center for the Arts, Washington School of Ballet, the Royal Academy in London, and the Metropolitan Ballet (where she was a principal dancer). She danced  with the American Dance Machine, performed internationally with the Broadway revival of West Side Story, regionally with Disney's Symphonic Fantasy (featured as Princess Jasmine for which she enjoyed a 22 city tour starting at the Hollywood Bowl and culminating in New York City's prestigious Metropolitan Opera House). 

And now she would like to introduce herself...


WMM: How has your extensive dance training and remarkable career as a dancer, choreographer, and coach  informed your eye as a director?

CC: I love working with creative artists, actors, designers, technicians, writers, musicians, composers ... We all need each other to do our best work. I learned very early on as a dancer to approach every collaboration with as much preparation, training and experience as possible while still maintaining a beginner's mind. As a Director I try to perpetuate a receptive spirit of collaboration and a mindful willingness to listen for what best serves the project while still maintaining my responsibility as the Leader at the helm. I have a strong vision for the work that I do, but I also am open to discovering new possibilities mid-process and hearing ideas that I may not have considered from other people on my team.

You've heard the expression, "flexible people never get bent out of shape" ? As a dancer, I most definitely AM flexible (!) and I am intensely focused and disciplined in my approach to the work, but I am also willing to flow with what's happening in the moment, shift gears and re- adjust timing when troubleshooting production "curve balls" -  and if that means "re-choreographing" the moment or the plan of the day, if that means re-casting or changing venues or losing an ingredient of the project mid stream, I know how to exhale, trust the process and roll with it!

WMM: The mediums of theater and film are so different in execution and in effect. What excites you about each?  

CC: There's something about performing in person for a live audience and the ephemeral essence of theatre that makes it innately vulnerable and challenging. There's no Take 2 - There's no holding and going back and doing it again. Each moment is unique in time and space. no matter how your day's been or what may be happening after the show. One specific audience experiences a particular rhythm of words and physical action that has a unique shade of emotion and behavior that emerged during that singular performance. Actors will make new discoveries and a laugh in the audience might change their approach to their next performance which will then be interpreted differently by whoever experiences it next. A dropped prop, a missed sound cue, a popped zipper on a dress or fumbled set move will create a whole OTHER kind of performance in the moment! Performing in live theatre is like going out on a tightrope with no net, where anything can happen to surprise and challenge your concentration in the moment. You may forget a line or a step of choreography - It's all about how you "ride the waves" of the unknown!  
In film, you can craft the performances more specifically. You can do take after take (after take!) to capture the exact tone you are wanting for the moment. You can construct the illusion of chemistry and dynamics with calculated juxtaposition of edited visual sequences. You can stop if an actor's costume rips or if they flub a line or are late entering the scene or if a set element fails - Then of course you can add all KINDS of sound and visual effects in post after you've assembled all the pieces of the bigger story. The final product of the film is much more controlled and in the hands of the film maker. If you don't like a performance moment, you can reshoot and re-edit - If you can't hear a line clearly you can dub the line back in anew. They are two completely different art forms ... I do love the immortality of film though.... When you can bring your story to life and capture the exact performances and production elements you are envisioning, you have it there to be enjoyed again and again exactly as you imagined..... More and more people are starting to capture theatre on film and stream those performances, but that is really more of a hybrid art form that is evolving quickly as a result of the pandemic and the shutdown we all experienced worldwide.

WMM: What was your transition into filmmaking like? 
CC: Opportunities in my creative life seem to have evolved organically. When I was actively performing as an actress and dancer, I had my fair share of on-camera work in music videos, commercials and on film, so I was gaining on-set experience learning from observing the creative and technical wheels while they were in motion. My brother is a film producer and about 13 years ago he told me a production company he was working with was looking for a low budget Vampire movie and if I could write it for them, I could Direct. I didn't really WANT to write a Vampire story (!) but pitched instead a stage play I had just finished choreographing a tango for. It had an "other worldly" character, it was comedic, it had wonderful character relationships AND it had dance. They loved the idea, we optioned the play and I was hired to write the screen adaptation, direct and choreograph.

WMM: How did you find We Make Movies and what drew you to reach out to us?  
CC: Going through the entire process of making a feature from writing the script, to casting, storyboarding, location scouting, scheduling, rehearsing, shooting the film, being alongside my editor day in and day out and then following through with post production, creating a website, submitting to film festivals and the entire "long distance ride" of what it means to make a feature film (!) I knew that to do it again, I really needed to LOVE the next story I would tell on film!  I went back to "theatre land" for a handful of years and then when the shutdown happened, I started (along with the rest of the world) watching tons of webinars and SAG offerings on Zoom. I watched several sessions where the very beautiful and talented Aubrey Mozino was talking about We Make Movies and the network of filmmakers taking the reins on their own creative projects outside the studio system. I was inspired by her passion and commitment to creating the work and I reached out. She immediately responded and our conversations began. I told her I was looking for my next story to tell on film and that I had been struggling wrapping my head around what sort of project that might be. One discussion led to the next and here we are....!

WMM: What specifically attracted you to the Make Your Feature Competition? Our alternate model of film financing? The process by which we plan to produce all the films? The access to talented, deserving filmmakers?
CC: My other feature was done under the umbrella of a studio set up and although it was "low budget" there were significantly more dollars budgeted for the project but then of course I was working within the mechanics of that producing entity which has their own particular restrictions and requirements. What intrigued me about the WMM Competition was the "challenge" of telling the story on film within the limited funds of the proposed budget, but knowing you will have a support system of fellow collaborators added to your team and saving you significant upfront and post production dollars - a group of passionate and like-minded film makers.

WMM: Are there any particular stories or themes you are looking for through the competition? Is there a dream scenario that would immediately engross you?   
CC: In theory I am open to all possibilities (!) but of course I have an affinity for anything that involves dance (Literal or figurative). I'm also also looking for stories that can support and embrace diversity and inclusion in the casting and in the message of the story. The world is changing dramatically daily and film is a glorious way to hold up a mirror to what we see in the world while inspiring what might be possible through the vision we share.

WMM: Artistically, what have you not done that you aspire to do?  
CC: I've had some wonderful experiences over the years as a performer working with some giants in the business and studying with awe inspiring mentors and legendary artists, also working behind the scenes as a Director and Choreographer and reaping the rewards of those artistic collaborations.... I was delighted to direct an Off Broadway play before the shut down and sure, I have dreams of Directing a hit play or musical on Broadway (!), but honestly, I am most happy when I am creatively working, period. Be it on an intimate 99 seat theatre project or coaching an actor, or dancing at the Hollywood Bowl, what makes me happy is expressing myself artistically, interacting and collaborating with other creative players and making ART!

Written / Compiled by Sapna Gandhi

Sapna Gandhi is an actor, singer-songwriter, and content creator. In addition to TV credits such as BOSCH, SHAMELESS and SCANDAL, she has appeared in numerous shorts, features, and series, including festival darlings IN ABSENTIA (Raindance) and THUMPER (Tribeca). Gandhi has produced several series and films under the umbrella of her production company Elegant Grotesque (most recently SCRAP, starring Anthony Rapp and Vivian Kerr, and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ STRANDED ON THE EARTH, directed by Mike Bruce). She is also 1/2 of the musical duo, VATAVARAN, was born in England, raised all over the states, studied English and Women’s Studies, and trained at the American Conservatory Theatre in SF.


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