When Brooke Lemke decided to become an actress she did something most young actors don’t do; she helped start a production company in Minneapolis called Silent-But-Deadly Productions with fellow actress Rachel Grubb. Now Brooke Lemke is not only making a name for herself as an actress, writer and director, she’s also helping women aspiring to work in front of or behind the camera to make their dreams come true as well. Having just finished directing her first film, Brooke is already busy preparing for her next project. As if that weren’t enough, Brooke even helps out with www.minnewood.com, a website dedicated to helping promote independent film in Minnesota. Despite this hectic schedule, Brooke still finds time to promote her new film “Cave Women on Mars” and even take a little time to talk with B-Movie Man, Nic Brown about her work on both sides of the camera and why you may find a German language course book in her hands if you chance to meet her.
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Nic- Brooke, how did you get your start as an actress/filmmaker?
Brooke- I first got introduced to acting when William Shatner came to a town near my hometown in Iowa to shoot a "film". My mom and I were familiar with films being made in Iowa ("Field of Dreams") so it wasn’t unheard of and we decided to go check it out and possibly be extras. It turned out that they wanted locals to audition and I said I would. I had no previous experience, but they offered me the "leading role", which happened to be Shatner’s character’s "love interest". In the end we all learned it was a reality TV show about small town America meeting big crazy Hollywood. It was just a bizarre experience, but a ton of fun! What was most ironic about the entire experience, was that a week before they came to town I mentioned to a friend of mine that I wanted to get into acting. A few months after the show, I moved to Minneapolis for different reasons and began to take acting classes and began auditioning. I did a ton of work as an extra and started landing lead and principal roles. I had become good friends with Rachel Grubb and eventually we created an all women non-profit production company, Silent-But-Deadly Productions, so we could learn even more about filmmaking and have more of a say on what we did in the industry and to allow more women the same opportunities we wanted.
Nic- What has been your favorite on screen roll to date? (and why?)
Brooke- This is always the toughest question I ever get, since I try to never do the same type of roles. I definitely loved taking on the role of a cave woman in "Cave Women on Mars" by Christopher Mihm since it pays tribute to the 1950’s Sci-fi films. I also enjoyed my role as a gypsy in a film with no script called "The Telephone Game" by Jason Schumacher. That really pushed me as an actor to expand my skills in improv. I also had two small roles in a film called "Group Home" by Ted Dewberry. One role was a hospital worker and the other was a day placement worker, both complete opposites of each other! I enjoyed playing Sue Mistling in "The Spooner Sisters" by JP Wenner since she’s your typical no nonsense country girl, but she gets possessed and completely transforms into a killer. But I think my all time favorite role would have to be Paige in "Why am I in a Box?" by Rachel Grubb that I co-produced. For the first time I was the lead antagonist and boy, was she ever a character. She was trapped in the 1980’s when it came to her hair, makeup and wardrobe and she thought of herself as a threatening person, but she comes across as funny, cause she’s far from threatening. She’s more crazy than scary. I loved that character on paper and I felt I was really able to bring her to life more so than any other character I have portrayed.
Nic- I understand that you have recently finished directing your first film. Can you tell us a little about the project and what it was like sitting in the director’s chair?
Brooke- This project was a big one for me, as it was my first time writing and directing on top of being a producer. The idea for "A Broken Family" came to me in November after shelving a ton of ideas. I wanted to make a film about relationships and happiness, primarily as "therapy" from some past relationships and how I found the strength to end them to become the person I am today. Too many people get stuck in a rut and quit trying and before they know it, they’re down the aisle with a complete stranger. So I turned to a really close friend of mine, Ryan Strandjord and we sat down and discussed my rough draft and ideas. Before I knew it the story became its own and we had a new story, a better one. I decided I didn’t want to act in it, I really wanted to learn how to direct and from January through the weekend of shooting, I learned so much about film and myself. It really comes down to every little detail, every meeting and every person. I made a point to have as much figured out as possible before production. I chose crew members I could trust and cast members I could relate to as well. Ryan Strandjord came on the project as AD and Rachel helped produce it. Being in the "Director’s Chair" (though I stood the whole weekend) was a trip, a very rewarding trip. I can say I’m very proud of myself and every crew and cast member on the project. We had a tight schedule, 50 plus extras and a 2 1/2 year old on set. Not something most people try to deal with when they make their first film! Plus, we were working with a very sweet camera setup that took more time and more lights, but the picture quality is so beautiful! Over all, I’m very happy and very proud! I’m definitely ready to take on my next project as a director called "Young Eyes"! I can’t wait to see what I can learn and accomplish on this project!
Nic- You mentioned your next project, “Young Eyes”. It sounds like you’re not sitting on your laurels from your first job as director. Is this one also a project that you wrote?
Brooke- "Young Eyes" actually came about in November 2007, when Silent-But-Deadly was contacted by a lady in Canada, Heather Beck. Heather is an award winning novelist and she’s trying to break into screenwriting. She said that she loved what we were doing and wondered if we would take a chance on her project. I read the screenplay and loved it. I gave it to Rachel and she approved it as well. Rachel loves writing her own stuff and I’m not into writing that much, so I said I would love to produce and direct it. I enjoy writing, but if someone approaches me with a screenplay, looking for an opportunity to get their screenplay made into a film and I love the concept, I’ll give them that opportunity. That’s what Silent-But-Deadly is all about. Rachel and I wanted the chance to expand our skills while providing the same opportunities to other women.
Nic- You are involved in many different aspects of filmmaking, actress, director, producer, crew, etc…. If you could pursue just one of those, which would it be? (and why?)
Brooke- I hate to say this because my passion for acting is so strong, but if I had to choose just one, it would have to be director. The reason for this is because of the range of responsibilities. As an actor, you don’t get to have much say except for your character and even that can be limited depending on the director, though it is so freeing to act! As a producer, your mind is constantly on the business side of things which I love as well! I love the pressure of making things work on a budget and time restraints. But a director, that is the one person who gets to use both skills. You get to be so creative by taking ideas in your head and making them come alive through day dreaming and working with people and equipment, and that to me felt really good. Luckily, I own a production company, so my roles in all aspects are only limited if Rachel and I allow it, and we won’t allow that to happen!
Nic- Speaking of your company, Silent-But-Deadly, what do you find to be the most challenging aspect of having a production company and making your own films?
Brooke- I definitely won’t say it’s my business partner. Rachel and I are extremely passionate about our company and we’re both very honest with each other, so we work extremely hard to see this through. I would say the most difficult thing would be time. I would love to commit more of my time to the company, but I have a job to pay my bills that takes up my time, like so many independent filmmakers. I don’t find running a company challenging, but that’s probably because I love doing it and I tend to be extremely organized and pay attention to the details. It also helps that we have a lot of people who work with us and who are so supportive of us.
Nic- What about distribution? Silent-But-Deadly is making the films, what do you do about getting them out there for the public to see?
Brooke- Once we’ve completed all three films, "Why am I in a Box?", "A Broken Family" and "Young Eyes", hopefully by this fall, we’ll submit to film festivals, both smaller and larger film festivals, locally and throughout the US. After we get them into a few festivals, we plan on having a local premiere of all three films in one evening sometime in January/February 2009. After that, we plan on selling a DVD of all three Silent-But-Deadly films.
Nic- If you had the opportunity to direct your dream film, what kind of film would it be?
Brooke- It would be a horse film. For two reasons. One, I love horses and have always wanted to ride in a movie ever since I was a kid. Though I would be directing, I would want a few riding scenes for myself to do. Two, it would definitely challenge my filmmaking skills and knowledge. We would have to deal with more complexity in all the elements such as weather, locations, animals, lighting, equipment, extras and it would have to have a bigger budget. I’m in the process of writing the screenplay, but I don’t anticipate on making this for at least 4-5 years down the road, minimum. I really want to make sure we have the experience, the money and the people behind it and I think that will all come as Rachel and I continue to make more films, both shorts and features.
Nic- When you’re not making movies, what does Brooke Lemke like to do for fun?
Brooke- My two other passions, besides film, are horses and figure skating. In my ideal world, I would be a Dressage (a style of riding) Trainer and a Filmmaker. I would have a place in the country with a studio/sound stage/offices and a barn. When I would be done riding for the day I would go to the studio and make films. And in my free time I would go figure skating. Man, that sounds so nice!
Nic- One last question. Brooke can you tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know?
I never know how to answer this question…but I bet not many people know that I would LOVE to live in Germany for a year or more working for an Olympic Dressage Trainer, probably after I learn to speak German so I could enjoy the lifestyle completely.