Carrie Ormond: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker

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You have to take care of yourself. As the daughter of a flight attendant, I hear the standard pre-flight safety instructions in my sleep. And guess what? You actually do need to put on your oxygen mask before helping anyone else with theirs. Without making sure my days on set are planned and my time is protected, I wouldn’t be able to be available to think on my feet and “YES, AND…!” and hold space for others on set who are making the magic happen.

As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Carrie Ormond.

Carrie Ormond (Producer) is a comedian, actor and producer. She has performed stand-up comedy at NYC’s The Comedy Cellar, Broadway Comedy Club, and Burbank’s Flappers Comedy Club. A proud member of SAG-AFTRA and AEA for nearly two decades, Carrie has appeared in numerous national commercials, television shows and films and performed on stages from The New York Philharmonic to Gary Marshall’s Falcon Theater in Burbank. She received a BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Carrie is the President and co-founder of Sauron Hospitality Productions and makes her producing debut with the feature film I’M NOT GAY A MUSICAL.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I grew up in Southern California raised on film and musical theater, from “Rudy” to ruby slippers.

I started auditioning as a child actor, mostly because there was a nationwide casting call for a global soft drink company that was willing to remove my braces for the shoot. By fifteen I was homeschooling myself from my own tiny studio apartment (complete with a very glamorous Murphy Bed, thank you very much) in Burbank. I received, what I lovingly refer to as, a BFA degree (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in Musicals from NYU’s Tisch School Of The Arts.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up, I devoured movie musicals with the voracity that most kids reserve for Disney and LEGO. More than one family holiday card included me standing on escalating numbers of pillows, adjusting my height to whichever von Trapp child I was pretending to be that year. Simultaneously, I was burning a hole in our VCR watching Apollo 13 and deciding that I would marry Tom Hanks. (I still believe I will.) Weekends were marked by regular trips to Blockbuster and maxing out my library card with books about silent movies, Charlie Chaplin, and full of black and white photos of MGM soundstages. I opted out of prom to go to Universal Studios to ride the backlot tour tram until the driver told the same Backdraft joke for the seventh time.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

Being on set with Alejandro Inarritu, Chivo (Emmanuel Lubezki) and the cast of “Birdman,” shooting inside the St. James Theater on West 44th Street, I experienced how a film could be made in a way that incorporated single-take, single-camera long shots, a lengthy rehearsal process and a metronomic pulse that told a story in a way I had never seen before. It was a big mashup of everything I loved, and it opened my eyes to the possibility of telling stories through film that were exhilarating and entertaining, while also examining deeply personal and psychological experiences.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

In the musical theater world I would say dance captains and swings, and on film sets the PA’s and AD’s. The ones who wear all the hats, so to speak.

Working with people who are accountable for every track in a show, or overseeing hundreds of extras, or sticking to a shoot schedule that involves preschoolers at a petting zoo in a downpour not only makes having to pick my jaw up off of the floor but inspires me to continuously bring in skills, techniques and strategies from every “back pocket” I can find. Producing a feature film movie musical during a global pandemic? Let’s go.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The flight attendant who snuck me a barf bag-full of Tabasco minis on my most recent flight from Chicago to Palm Springs.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It is what it is. *eye roll: I know.* Trying my best to stay as present and available as possible in the present moment, and not getting too far ahead is a constant practice for me. It takes work and it is truly a practice, this present moment awareness and acceptance thing. *additional eye roll: I know!* And, heck if I’m able to “walk the walk” on this one, but I’m trying. I find it can be particularly valuable and far more effective to respond to, rather than react to, whatever is happening, whether it’s the day-to-day stuff or rolling sound on set. Plus, it’s a hell of a lot more fun.

I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Simply put, I think everyone should be able to see a movie or binge-watch a TV series and say “Just like me…

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Renovating two homes simultaneously (that whole “bicoastal” thing, I think they call it), being in post-production on a film, while trying to get at least one Final Jeopardy question correct this week.

I am also most excited for the upcoming release of I’M NOT GAY A MUSICAL, which comes out on April 11th on Video on Demand and multiple streaming services including Apple TV, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, and more. The Film also marks my producing debut.

Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?

Bringing a team together to tell a story, and allowing each of those people to contribute to that telling in their own way. It was stunning to watch and hear our composer Benjamin Velez write the music and lyrics for Scott L. Semer’s screenplay (over Zoom, no less). Benjamin took the characters, dialogue, and backstories that had previously only existed in Scott’s head and on the page, and created a musical theater soundtrack with abstract storytelling, complex emotional layers and dynamic musical styles. It blew my mind to witness these two creatives and passionate audiophiles bring their visions together on this project.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Every odd survival job, every “gotta pay my rent” job can inform and benefit you in the most unexpected creative ways. From working in restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen to caring for newborn babies to flying remote control helicopters underneath the T-rex at the Times Square Toys-R-Us, I’ve done it. I had no idea what skills I was learning that would be relevant in the future.
    Running payroll for a retail team in a wellness boutique and scheduling the opening bartending shift for New Year’s Day brunch (those bottomless mimosas don’t, in fact, pour themselves) evolved into bringing together a creative team, creating a shoot schedule, crewing up and running a set. It simply would not have been possible to produce an indie feature film in the way we did without knowing the logistics of team management and operations.
  2. Along the lines of discovering how all the odd jobs and life experiences can inform your creative career, I wish I had known that it’s okay to wear many hats! Embrace your many sides, lean into your quirky, seemingly all-over-the-place interests.
    Fast forward to me helping an actor on set hide their microphone wire for continuity between takes and thinking, who would have thought that while I was panicking through wardrobe fittings as a child actor, muttering “please, wardrobe gods, let them put me in flats,” that I was subconsciously absorbing valuable tricks of the trade… like mic tape and a well-placed undershirt. Roll camera!
  3. You’re not missing out. You have time. I spent much of my teens and twenties anxiously awaiting what comes next. I obsessed over the anticipation of the next move. And listen, I’ll be the first one to tell you that preparation is essential, but it isn’t everything.
    Instead of experiencing what most of my teenage peers now look back on with nostalgia and a big “LOL” emoji, I was focused on getting to the next thing. In LA all I could think about was getting to New York. Then I got to NYU and I feared I was “wasting time” or “not doing enough” to get my career going (insert my big “LOL” emoji) rather than just being there and doing it.
    Not to say that the entire experience was that way, thank goodness, but what a waste of energy and bandwidth! I wish I had believed everyone who told me to take it one step at a time, as it comes, to “be here now.” Now I’m definitely repeating myself, but it’s okay to lean in to what’s happening and fully experience that moment. The next moment will come. And when it does, be there.
  4. YES, AND…!” This mantra is a staple of improv comedy, the idea being that whatever is thrown at you, lean into it. Embrace it and go with the flow as best you can.
    My seemingly unrelated improv and stand-up. comedy side, the side that handles the heckler who calls me Carrot Top in the middle of my set, is one-and-the-same with my producer side. *Here we go again with the hats, right?* The ability to think on my feet, with curveballs from casting sessions over Zoom to COVID-compliant craft services on set, kept me afloat while producing I’M NOT GAY A MUSICAL.
  5. You have to take care of yourself. As the daughter of a flight attendant, I hear the standard pre-flight safety instructions in my sleep. And guess what? You actually do need to put on your oxygen mask before helping anyone else with theirs. Without making sure my days on set are planned and my time is protected, I wouldn’t be able to be available to think on my feet and “YES, AND…!” and hold space for others on set who are making the magic happen.
  6. And you don’t always have to use complete sentences.

When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?

For me, it’s all about the artistic vision of the team; this naturally includes my personal vision, but more importantly the storyteller’s and (ultimately) the storyteller’s vision. I’m drawn to projects that make me ask questions, make me think, challenge me, excite me, scare me, and get the juices flowing. Whether or not these appeal to viewers or critics is not only out of my control but way beyond my bandwidth to even consider. You don’t get a BFA in Musicals if you want to please anyone or fit into anyone’s vision of you, believe me. I have the student loans and therapy copays to prove it.

The same goes for the creatives I sign on with for a project. Scott L. Semer (writer and director) had an incredibly specific idea for I’M NOT GAY A MUSICAL, and he knew what that idea sounded like, looked like, and felt like.

When he first described the song that would become “Take the Light,” he equated it to the final number from Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz (“Bye Bye Love”), thrown into a juicer with the dream ballet sequence from Singin’ in the Rain.

My mind instantly went to the visual and artistic style that Emmy Nominated choreographer Stacey Tookey oozes. I showed a few minutes of her memorable routines on So You Think You Can Dance to Scott and, without hesitation, we knew it was a fit.

And I knew that my years of reality television viewership had finally paid off. Now, if I can only figure out how to work in “The Bachelor” and “House Hunters” I can confidently clear my DVR.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Almond milk is a right, not a privilege.

*ahem, Starbucks*

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Godot. Still waiting.

How can our readers further follow you online?

IG: @carrieormond

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Carrie Ormond: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.