It’s understatement to say Brooke Lemke is a busy lady. She just finished starring as the demented Paige in director Rachel Grubb’s Why Am I in a Box? as well as directing two wonderful short films of her own, Young Eyes and A Broken Family. Last month, I interviewed Rachel, who is also Brooke’s partner in Silent-But-Deadly Productions, their Minnesota-based production company. I was supposed to chat with Brooke at the same time, but she was already at work on another film. Brooke finally slowed down enough for a quick conversation about women in horror, directing vs. producing, and the future of film. And hopefully, she got some sleep too.
Brooke, let’s talk about Silent-But-Deadly Productions. What is SBD’s mission?
This has been growing since day one. Our mission has always been strengthening women in film, but how we’ve gone about it is always changing as we’re always growing. First, it was educating ourselves. Then, it was having crews that we made up primarily of women and creating strong roles for female actors. Now, we’re teaming up with other non-profits in our community to reach out to women. We are no longer just aiming to strengthen women in film. We aim to strengthen women in our communities.
Yes. We both worked as actresses in the Twin Cities before starting our production company. Since starting the company, we’ve worked with local crews and actors. We aim to always make our films here since there is such a strong film scene and incredible talent.
Do both you and Rachel have specific duties in SBD?
We are both producer/directors on our projects, though we split responsibilities based on our strengths. For example, Rachel is amazing at casting, meals and coordinating. I’m good at budgeting, locations and managing. We also have this relationship where, once we’re on set, one of us is the director and the other one takes on all the producer responsibilities. This allows the one who is directing to not have to worry about the little problems that arise and can stay focused on the acting, the shots and the story.
What have y’all produced under the SBD umbrella?
We both have produced all of our films. So far it has been a feature, three shorts and a webseries.
Rachel and I collaborated on her story, but I decided to push her a little further. We decided that she grew up playing dress-up with her mom’s clothes, which explains her poor clothing choices from the ‘80s. As she’s grown up, she’s discovered that she doesn’t have any true talent, so she reverts back to those days of playing dress-up as her only way to feel creative. She holds a lot of anger and jealousy towards those who are talented. She also lacks any control over her life and talents, so she tries to control others. It gives her that power trip. It gives her something to be passionate about and it gives her something to be crazy about.
Great! We’re always getting great feedback on the film. We recently decided on a distributor for the film so we’re in the process of finishing the deliverables and signing the contract and it’ll be official. We’re also starting to explore the film festival circuit.
You mentioned SBD was producing a webseries too, right?
It was originally with Numa Network. I was working on another show of theirs and they were excited about our all female company and asked if we could create something. I told Rachel, and we both wanted to do the same kind of a series about roommates. It only played a couple of episodes before they decided to change their network to G-rated material instead of PG-13, so we decided to post the rest of the videos ourselves on our YouTube channel. We do hope to do a second season, but it’s shelved right now as we focus on our films.
What is your opinion on the future on the internet as an entertainment delivery system?
I think it still has some growing to do before it becomes one of the main sources of entertainment, especially for films. Films are not made to watch on your computer; they are made to experience in a theater with surround sound and big screens so you feel as though you are a part of the film. I don’t think the internet has to change, I think films will have to change for them to be experienced appropriately on the internet. The stuff that is successful on the internet are not movies, they’re videos for entertaining—not films meant to be experienced. I personally hope that it doesn’t come down to watching movies only on the internet.
Yes, I have a couple of features that I hope to direct. Both are in the writing stages. I love directing because I can connect with the actors. I can push them out of their comfort zones to help them discover new limits. I loved that as an actor, and I pride myself on being able to do that as a director for other actors. If I do find a director that fits one of these projects better than myself, then I’ll let it go and just produce it. I want these movies to be great, and I’ll let go of the director role if that’s what it takes. I love producing a lot, so I won’t feel hurt.
I am very proud of women in horror, especially when they do what they want and stand up for their roles. I get asked a lot if having Rachel as a horror scream queen hurts Silent-But-Deadly’s image, and I always say “no.” SBD is about strengthening women in film. Rachel is a prime example of that. She chooses projects that she is passionate about, and she gives them her all. I would rather have a co-producer doing horror and doing good with it than a co-producer that does trashy roles “just because.” I think women in horror have a lot of power in their hands and they need to embrace and utilize it. You can be a scream queen and still have a positive impact on the industry and other women!
Well said! Okay, I guess I should let you get back to work, Brooke. Silent-But-Deadly Productions is doing a lot for women in the film industry. You and Rachel should be proud.
Thank you for your interest and support in Silent-But-Deadly. It’s because of you that we’re able to pursue our goals and inspire other women!