9 Questions with Suki Lanh

1. Who are you and where do you come from?

Somar Van Lanh or if you can’t pronounce that, Mr. Professor Suki. Normally I make fun of people that say “Oh I’m from X, but I’m REALLY from (insert cool cosmo city where they spent probably two seconds in as a fetus).” I spent the more formative years of my life in Tampa, Florida but I lived in Atlanta until I was 8 and it had a pretty significant effect on my cultural identity. 

2. In terms of filmmaking, how would you categorize yourself?

A…writer? A WRITER. Although I’ve volunteered myself as casting director to a lot of projects because I get so frustrated when good films have unsuitable talent.

3. Why Miami?

Miami has one of the few MFA Film programs that encourages learning everything about everything. 

4.  Complete this thought: As a woman in the film industry, _______________

You get asked if you need help carrying that a lot.

5. When are you happiest?

When I’ve made someone laugh. And when my students write great scripts.

6. Share a photo of something you love.

Can’t find a good picture that represents women in comedy so I’m attaching pho. 

7. What is a movie you’ve seen that you really wish you had made?

1) Bridesmaids 2) Lost In Translation 3) Taylor Swift’s Blank Space music video

8. What do you want to do when you leave the MFA program?

Write something funny, do funny things, and teach humans how to funny. 

9. What’s your biggest fear?


9 Questions with Karli Evans

1. Who are you and where do you come from?

My name is Karli Evans, I grew up in the suburbs of Charlotte, NC. I am a visual storyteller, currently sitting on the fence between still photography and film. 

2. In terms of filmmaking, how would you categorize yourself?

I am interested in screenwriting, directing and editing, but I would categorize myself as a director of photography - I think it’s my strongest skill. I love light, framing, and figuring out the best way to visually depict the narrative. 

3. Why Miami?

Miami is loud, colorful, and eccentric with a burgeoning art & music scene - all of that informs my personal photo & film work, but it’s also smaller and less overwhelming than NYC or LA. The longer I’m here, the smaller Miami feels in those communities, I like that. I feel like it’s easier to break into the scene here than in those bigger, more established cities. 

4.  Complete this thought: As a woman in the film industry, _______________

I need to work twice as hard and support my fellow female filmmakers. We cannot see each other as competition.  

5. When are you happiest?

 I am happiest when I’m behind the camera shooting and we get that perfect shot.

6. Will you show us something you love?

People watching and New Orleans. (See below.)

7. What is a movie you’ve seen that you really wish you had made?

Pi by Darren Aronofsky, the first film he made coming out of grad school. It’s gritty, black and white, low budget but well-shot and thought provoking. 

8. What do you want to do when you leave the MFA program?

I need to do something that’s personally fulfilling, not just pays the bills. I’m not sure if that will be photo or film based as soon as I graduate, but the goal is to hone the skills I need to figure out how to make a career by creating. 

9. What’s your biggest fear?

Not making the most of my precious time.

April Dobbins to be Guest Artist Speaker at South Miami Arts Charter

Girls & Gear will be heading to South Miami’s art charter school to talk to students in the Cat & Cie program about filmmaking. She’ll be screening work from Alabamaland and discussing some of her photography projects. The guest artist lectures serve to inspire students by providing them with real-life examples of working artists. April will also discuss the tools she uses to make films and show the students some examples of how to set up a scene. 

From the website:

South Miami K-8 Center Expressive Arts Magnet is a school which recruits talented children entering 3rd, 4th and 5th grades. Students who demonstrate talent in ART, DANCE MUSIC and THEATRE are encouraged to apply. In addition to the regular curriculum, magnet students receive up to six hours each week of arts instruction by professional artists/teachers in fully equipped studios while 6th-8th graders attend CAT and CIE (Double C) for two periods a day.  Individualized arts programs, high student achievement levels and a warm, nurturing environment, make South Miami K-8 Center a very special place. Students entering the 6th grade, who are already students of South Miami K-8 Center and demonstrate an interest in Computer Art Technology and Culturally Inspired Education are eligible to apply for our C@T and CIE (Double C) Magnet program.

Featured Grant: Cannonball’s WaveMaker Grant for South Florida Artists

Last year, April Dobbins was awarded Cannonball’s WaveMaker grant for her Alabamland documentary film project. The funding helped to cover production costs for the film’s summer shoot in July 2016. Without the grant, Dobbins would have had to find alternative funding for her project. The Cycle 3 application for the grant is opening soon. 

From the WaveMaker site

WaveMaker Grants brings critical support to the growing number of innovative, artist-driven endeavors that make up Miami-Dade County’s burgeoning cultural landscape. WaveMaker Grants focuses on experimental, artist-centric projects and activities that operate without traditional funding sources and outside the demands of the marketplace.

WaveMaker Grants provides monetary awards—individual grants of up to $10,000—to foster the development of non-commercial, non-institutional projects that are accessible to the public via process, presentation, production, or publication, and profoundly impact the critical, intellectual, and creative depth of Miami’s vibrant arts community.

Though remaining flexible and responsive, WaveMaker Grants presently offers support in the following three categories:

New Work/Projects: To support the creation and presentation of new work or projects that are artist-driven, artist-centric, and innovative in concept and form.

Long-Haul Projects: In response to Miami’s seemingly insatiable appetite for what is new, fast, and fashionable, this category supports the continuation or completion of existing long-term projects, highlighting the value in the time, focus, and determination required to take-on and ultimately finish lengthy artistic pursuits. 

R&D/Implementation: To support research and development for ambitious new projects that require a longer period of planning. Upon completion of the R & D phase of this category, grantees will be invited to submit a short-form proposal to receive additional funds to implement their projects. 

G&G’s April Dobbins takes Alabamaland to the Sundance Institutes Documentary Lab in Miami

Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program
Rough Cut & Screen Selects Feedback Session
Sunday, December 11, 2016
9:00 a.m.–3:45 p.m

The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program (DFP), in collaboration with the Miami Filmmakers Collective, hosted a special Rough Cut & Scene Selects Feedback Session, which gave filmmakers from the Miami, Florida, area the opportunity to present projects at the rough cut stage or selections of edited scenes for feedback from DFP staff, creative advisors, and other experienced filmmakers.

April Dobbins was one of four selected participants for the Rough Cut and Feedback session. She was invited to screen scenes from her documentary film project Alabamaland for Sundance staff and documentary filmmakers Catherine Tambini and Rachelle Salnave. Barrett Dennison joined her for this screening. April discusses the challenges with the making of her film and her goals for the finished product. The panel provided advice on developing a more compelling story. 

Let’s Talk about Rejection: Knight Arts Challenge Grant and Sundance Documentary Film Fund

Earlier this semester, Girls & Gear applied for the Knight Foundation Arts Challenge grant with the hope of receiving funding to support the Fall workshops. Sadly, we were rejected. (It’s OK! This is a natural part of applying for funding.) While we weren’t able to conduct all of the programming that we originally had planned for the semester, we did forge a new connection with Reading Queer through the grant writing process. This connection led to collaborative programming. 

Rejection is not easy. It’s even more difficult to stomach when you worked really hard and put your best work out there and somehow you aren’t selected. Personally, I have received enough rejection letters in my lifetime to wallpaper a house–not just any house, but a house the size of Vizcaya. 

I have learned a few tricks over the years. I’d like to share them with you:

1. It’s OK to wallow in self-pity, the key is to minimize that wallowing time. Dust yourself off, recover, and look for new opportunities. 

2. Every time I get a rejection letter, I must submit for something else. This keeps hope alive.

3. Take a long hard look at your application. What could you have done better. Fix it.

4. Read the biographies and interviews with the winners of the award. What things do they have or have they done that you haven’t? Look for ways to strengthen your resume. Use their accomplishments to chart your path and see how you can become more competitive. 

I was rejected for the Sundance Documentary Film Fund, and I felt that I put forth a strong application. It was an application that I worked on for a year. I picked people’s brains, revised, ask advisors and mentors for feedback…by the time I submitted, I just knew it was a winner.

It was not.

And that rejection had me down in the dumps for an entire week. 

Still, I dusted off the grant application and looks for ways to strengthen it. I read all the bios and write-ups for the winning projects. I saw that many of them were accomplished directors–something that I had yet to achieve. I could see from their experience that their sample reels were probably much stronger than mine. So, I set out to make my trailers better.

After doing that, I applied for the Sundance Documentary workshop in Miami. I got in! Then, I was invited to interview for the Sundance Knight Fellowship, which picks 4 filmmakers to attend workshops and screenings at Sundance. All this to say that most times rejection helps to highlight the areas that you can strengthen. If you are open to listening to that message and to growing, you will succeed at some point. 

G&G Presents on Gender Bias in Film Industry

As part of the professional development of the staff of the Office of Academic Enhancement, April Dobbins presented on gender bias in language and in letters of recommendation on December 5, 2016, in the Hecht Faculty Resident apartment at 10 a.m. She presented a guide for avoiding unintentionally biased language in letters and in professional settings. To tie in how language can influence people’s opinions, she explored the issues that women often face in the film industry in front of the camera and on set. 

There were twelve attendees at this professional development meeting. Topics covered included: female characters and the male gaze; lack of women in directing and director of photography roles; pay discrepancies between male and female actors. 


Gender Inequality in Film

Avoiding Unintentional Bias in Recommendation Letters

Spring 2017 Girls and Gear Trainings and Events

1/20-1/25 - Girls & Gear goes to Sundance! We’re off to Sundance. G&G’s April Dobbins has been selected to attend the festival as a Sundance Institute Knight Fellow. She’ll be representing Alabamaland and G&G in Park City. As a fellow, she’ll be paired with industry mentors, attend screenings and events, and promote Girls & Gear beyond South Florida!

1/27/17 - Girls and Gear Meet and Greet at the Rathskellar 6 p.m. An opportunity to unwind with your fellow filmmakers. 

2/8/17 - One-hour Audio - Learn production sound basics in an hour. Location TBA.

2/15/17 - Roses are RED - (We had to work Valentine’s into this session somehow).  Learn RED basics in this 6 p.m. session. Location TBA.

2/20-2/24 - Women in Film Screenings. Come see films written, directed, and shot by women and talk to the filmmakers after the screenings. Shoma Hall. Times to be announced in January. 

3/15/17 - Lighting Basics. This session will focus on the basics of lighting your scenes. We will go over the equipment available at the SOC, discuss lighting pitfalls, and light a few practice scenes. Location and time TBA in January. 

Screenwriting from the Fringes Workshop with Girls & Gear’s April Dobbins

The RQ Writing Academy presents: “Screenwriting from the Fringes” with filmmaker and artist April Dobbins, November 5th @ O Cinema Wynwood from 10 am – 1pm.

Have you always wanted to write a film script, but have no idea where to begin? Are you an artist who would like to segue into motion pictures? This workshop is for those who dream of the big screen.

Participants will receive a crash course in script formatting and character development with a particular focus on characters from groups who are often underrepresented and/or misrepresented in Hollywood. We will briefly read, watch, and discuss a few scenes from popular films, reengineer those scenes, and begin work on an original short screenplay. 

Participants will also learn about the technical and organizational resources that are available to do script breakdowns, shot lists, and storyboards. This section of the workshop will demystify the process of producing and AD’ing a film. 

This workshop is in collaboration with Girls & Gear—a film initiative that aims to diversify the film industry at every level.


Reading Queer


Movie Magic Scheduling

Featured Grant: Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship

The Fulbright U.S. Student program provides opportunities for students, recent graduates, and professionals to pursue research, study, teaching, and arts projects abroad. The National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship is a specialized Fulbright award. The next application cycle opens at the end of March 2017. Students who wish to apply must submit all of their applications by the UM campus deadline of August 17, 2017 to the Office of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships (PAF). Campus submission instructions can be found on the PAF website at www.miami.edu/awads under the Fulbright scholarship listing. 

More about the National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship from the website

The Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship, a component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, provides opportunities for U.S. citizens to participate in an academic year of overseas travel and storytelling in one, two, or three countries on a globally significant theme. This Fellowship is made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the National Geographic Society. Storytellers publish stories on the Fulbright-National Geographic Stories blog.

The wide variety of new digital media tools and platforms has created an unprecedented opportunity for people from all disciplines and backgrounds to share observations and personal narratives with global audiences online. These storytelling tools are powerful resources as we seek to expand our knowledge of pressing global issues and build ties across cultures. 

In addition to receiving Fulbright benefits (for travel, stipend, health, etc.), and materials and reporting special allowance, Storytellers will receive instruction in story-telling techniques, including effective blog writing, video production, photography, and other relevant training by National Geographic staff prior to their departure. National Geographic will also provide editorial mentorship for Storytellers during their Fulbright grant period. Storytellers will provide material for the National Geographic website on a frequent and ongoing basis throughout their grant term.

April Dobbins featured speaker at Eaton Residential College

Dr. Joy Beverly, one of the resident faculty members at Eaton Residential College, invited Girls & Gear’s April Dobbins to be the featured speaker for their college speaker series. The goal of the series is to introduce residents to faculty and professional staff from all areas and to open a dialogue about careers paths and creative/academic work. Dobbins was asked to talk to students about the School of Communication’s film program and her own film projects. Students were from a variety of schools and backgrounds, but most of them had some interest in film or the arts–possibly as something to pursue later in their academic and/or professional careers. Dobbins spoke about her experiences as a woman working in a predominantly male field, and also about the struggles and benefits of her non-traditional path to filmmaking and artistic creation. 

She screened footage from her Alabamaland project, and she also screened clips from her short films. She discussed ways that women could be more confident on set, and the challenges of working a full-time job as an artist. 

A Change of Plans

Initially, the idea was to start Girls & Gear in the Fall 2016 by offering 3 hands-on technical workshops in an environment where those who identify as female and their supporters could sharpen their production skills in a judgement-free zone which would be conducive to all participants learning set and tool basics. However, early on, we discovered that third-year graduate student Andrea Garcia Marquez was tapped by the Department to conduct technical workshops for students every Friday in Studio A. G&G spoke with Andrea to gauge the need for more tech workshops in the fall, but forging ahead would have been a clear duplication of effort. 

As such, G&G decided to focus more on screenings, workshops, lectures, and grants in the fall semester and technical workshops in the spring. This way, the overall technical offerings for students will be spread evenly over the academic year. In the meantime, G&G is still available to provide any technical workshops/trainings on a one-on-one basis to any students feeling like they need a primer. 

Girls & Gear launches at UM

Girls & Gear is an organization based at the University of Miami that aims to address the gender gap in the film industry through hands-on film workshops, screenings, and lectures throughout the University of Miami community and beyond. G&G aims to forge lasting connections with South Florida art organizations by participating in both conventional film projects and in art projects and presentations in other fields. 

Often women are marginalized on film sets due to a presumed or real lack of technical knowledge. Over the course of the next year, G&G will address these issues and potential shortcomings in training. April Dobbins, founder of Girls & Gear, will facilitate workshops, discussions, and screening at a number of venues in Florida and beyond. 

At the heart of Girls & Gear is a commitment to teaching, which we hope will lead to diversity and confidence on set. While technical training will be offered starting in the Spring 2017 semester at the University of Miami, the Fall 2016 semester will focus more on film screenings, lectures, and presentations to students who are not necessarily film students in the hopes of identifying storytellers of all academic backgrounds. 

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