Interview: Paulina LagudiNovember 14, 2018
Director, actor, writer, producer, Paulina Lagudi has done them all in her young career. Recently, we had the chance to chat with Paulina about life in the entertainment business and her new film Mail Order Monster.
Did you always want to work in the world of entertainment or did you discover this interest later on?
Paulina: I always wanted to be in the entertainment business but I didn’t always know about the option of filmmaking. I was dancing growing up and no one in my family was in the entertainment business so I only knew the world of dance, really. What happened was right before I graduated college I sustained a terrible foot injury that caused me to pretty much stopped dancing, which didn’t leave me with a lot of options. I planned on dancing through school and onward so instead I ended up taking theater, which is unstable and the degree is useless but here we are! (Laughs) Honestly, Chapman University, which is a phenomenal school for the arts especially for film, that’s where I discovered independent filmmaking. Two months after graduating I met my now fiancée who is a cinematographer, we met on set and since then he has been the one encouraging me, saying hey, you’ve got a voice, you’ve got some stories to tell, I think you should give this a go and we can make them together and we’ve been doing exactly that ever since.
You’ve tackled acting, producing, directing and writing. Do you have a favorite or do they all have their own individual charms?
Paulina: It’s weird, as much as they are all individual, they all really blend and kind of feed off of each other. I love directing, it’s probably my favorite part of the whole thing but at the end of the day, no matter what you are doing, you’re a storyteller. It’s been great to wear all of those hats under the same umbrella of storytelling because it’s given so many different perspectives, so many different ways to tell a story.
Ok, so let’s talk about your film Mail Order Monster. Where did the idea come from for this movie?
Paulina: Originally, I was set to line produce on Mail Order Monster under a different director/producer and the film originally had a completely different storyline, this was Marc Prey’s original script. It was really a more traditional story that I’d seen before and I didn’t personally relate to in a lot of ways. What happened was the original producer/director lost funding and lost the action on the film and I ended up buying the script outright from Marc. At that point, I knew there were some people that really wanted to invest in a film, some distributors I knew who loved the title of Mail Order Monster and knew the family idea had some sort of demand, so I made it. I rewrote it to be a story that I needed to see when I was growing up, a positive family movie.
The actors seemed to work really well together making the story flow very naturally. Can you tell me a bit about how this cast came together?
Paulina: Absolutely. You hit it right on the head there, the cast is just phenomenal. We got through traditional auditions and Madison came in and auditioned and she was just perfect in every way, I knew it right from the get-go. Emma actually reached out to me, she’s originally from Kentucky and lives there, and she said she rarely gets to work here, can I audition for a role? I said absolutely, she sent in a tape and was perfect. I actually interviewed for Josh and Charisma through producer Robert Ulrich and they were great, understood the characters very well and also gave me insight on some things they thought I could include in the character in the story. On set the chemistry was great, it’s always hard with independent films because I didn’t have any money to do commercials or chemistry reads so I had to just cross my fingers and hope everything worked out when everyone was together on set and it did.
I’ve had the opportunity to talk with some child actors over the past year and I’ve found them very well spoken and frighteningly mature. How was your experience directing both Madison and Emma?
Paulina: (Laughs) They are exactly that, exactly what you said. They are very mature, professional, they’re little machines. I always joke with Madison because I’m like, you have the most wonderful, loving family, where do you get all this crazy emotion and trauma from? She just has this great imagination and she’d tell me about some horrible thing she just thought of, to get in the moment, it’s amazing. They both execute their lines so well and are such great collaborators, yes, I’ve heard horror stories about child actors but my experiences have been wonderful.
I really like the look of the monster, or ‘Mom’. Did you have an idea from the beginning about how you wanted the monster to look or did that sort of evolve over time?
Paulina: A little bit of both. I knew this was a vintage comic book kind of backstory and I wanted the monster to be a sad version of what was in the comic books. I ended up getting some inspiration from older family movies and my personal effects artist and her graphic artist would get tighter with me and look at all these drafts, what could we change, what should we change and then just go from there. Also, I loved practical effects family movies from the eighties, with puppeteers, and there’s no way on a small indie budget there’s going to be any CGI, which doesn’t always help a child actor, so I wanted to give it a kind of retro feeling, like E.T., The Goonies, and Gremlins.
You have many duties in this film, many responsibilities. Did you find it hard juggling everything or is that just the nature of the beast when doing small films?
Paulina: Honestly, it’s just the nature of the beast. I knew from the beginning I couldn’t afford a writer so it was like ok, I’m going to write this movie, and I wanted to move very fast, I didn’t want to wait a year to make the movie. Turnover is very important and the indie film market is constantly changing so I wanted to capitalize on the timing that I had so I wrote it, I enjoyed writing it and ended up getting hired to write a family movie after this movie because of it. I always want to direct, that’s number one and the reason I produced it is when you’re moving so fast on set, and you have child actors, you only have at best eight hours a day for seventeen days, you’re shooting like thirteen scenes a day. The fact that I wore so many hats in this film actually helped it moved faster because I knew most of what was going on in all aspects of the shoot. It is entirely masochistic though, I don’t recommend it to anyone as you won’t sleep for an unhealthy amount of time.
Making small independent films is hard work. You have time issues, money issues, the marketing. What were your biggest challenges in regards to making this movie?
Paulina: Well, all of that. (Laughs) What’s hard with an indie film is, some of the big films are now competing in the same marketing space. Social media used to be a nice home for indie films as big films were just using traditional marketing but now there’s so much content that breaking through that noise is hard. You need to know your specific audience and be speaking to that specific audience, which we have, the stepparent, stepfamily and blended family which is a very niche audience and we speak to them which is really, really nice. It is hard though, that’s a lot of time you put in and when you don’t have a lot of money you don’t always delegate to a team, you’re doing it all yourself. Time and money will always be huge challenges in indie films but it also allows for some wonderful creativity as well.
So what other projects do you have coming up?
Paulina: Currently, I’ve done a lot of smaller projects ever since doing Mail Order Monster because I was into making a lot of different stuff after being on one movie for a while. Like I said before, I was hired to write a family feature film so that’s my biggest project I’m working on and then I’m developing some smaller projects with other people as well.
I want to thank Paulina for taking the time to talk with us