deadCenter 2020: Q&A with director and screenwriter Ella Janes 

click to enlarge Code Red stars Chloe Wyatt as Kiara Folsom, a teenager navigating everyday life while her mother is incarcerated. - CODE RED / DEADCENTER FILM FESTIVAL / PROVIDED
  • Code Red / deadCenter Film Festival / provided
  • Code Red stars Chloe Wyatt as Kiara Folsom, a teenager navigating everyday life while her mother is incarcerated.
Oklahoma Gazette: At 13 years old, you're the youngest filmmaker accepted to deadCenter Film Festival. How did you become interested in filmmaking?

Ella Janes:
I became interested in filmmaking because I grew up around it. My parents both are in the film industry, and so I always knew what to do and always had access to the resources I needed. When I was 7, I found a script for my favorite TV show and I got my friends together to film it with me. I quickly taught myself Adobe Premiere and then posted it to YouTube. Next thing you know, I had 2.8M views and a passion for filmmaking. I really haven't stopped since.


OKG
:
What inspired you to make Code Red?

Janes:
I moved to Oklahoma two years ago from Los Angeles, and I became interested in politics very quickly. I remember learning about women's incarceration rates in Oklahoma. Around that time, I also had my first period and so I connected the two to tell a story because I realized how important my mom was during that transition in my life. When I dug further, I found out that 80 percent of the women incarcerated here are mothers. So naturally, I wondered what would have happened if my mom wasn't there. That inspired me to write Code Red.


OKG
:
How did you raise funds to make Code Red?

Janes:
I put together a GoFundMe and shared it through all of my social media platforms. With the help of friends and family, we made this movie happen. I am very grateful for each and every person who backed me up on this film. Working hard and then finishing a product is always an unmatchable feeling, and I'm proud to say that that happened with the help of every single person who donated to our campaign.


OKG
:
How did you find the cast?

Janes:
With the help of the amazing Ricki Maslar, we put together our cast at Castle Row Studios. We saw so many talented Oklahoma actors! When I first saw Chloe Wyatt read those lines, I just knew she was the one. And we were thrilled to meet John Finlay Kitchen. He tried out for another role, and we took a leap of faith and asked him to read cold Luke. He nailed it, of course. JJ and Phil made the perfect family. I could not be more impressed with this cast.


OKG
:
Where did you film the movie?

Janes:
It's an Oklahoma-based movie, so Oklahoma only made sense. Most of the film was shot in Chandler, and the rest was shot here in Oklahoma City. These two cities proved to be the friendliest towns to shoot. Everyone was so helpful and excited for us, which made the whole environment feel so much more driven.


click to enlarge Code Red is available to stream with a deadCenter pass 10 a.m. June 13 to 11:59 p.m. June 21. - CODE RED / DEADCENTER FILM FESTIVAL / PROVIDED
  • Code Red / deadCenter Film Festival / provided
  • Code Red is available to stream with a deadCenter pass 10 a.m. June 13 to 11:59 p.m. June 21.

OKG
:
Did you edit the film yourself, or did you have help?

Janes:
I had the final say on all of the cuts, but I did not edit Code Red. I have to give that credit to my wonderful mother and the amazing Kyle Roberts.


OKG
:
What was your favorite part about making Code Red?

Janes:
My favorite part about making Code Red was working in an environment where everybody was there with a passion. From our wonderful DP, Steven Purvis, to our amazing MetroTech student-based crew, along with Harry Wolohon and Noble Banks, we were all there ready to make a movie and tell a story. Watching a story get brought to life is always a magical moment, so I think that is always the best bit about filmmaking.


OKG
:
What is the most important message in Code Red? What's the thing that you want audiences to take away from the film?

Janes:
The most important message in Code Red is that every girl needs her mom and there has to be a different way here in Oklahoma. There are two things that I would wish for every person to do as soon as they finish my movie: Go out and make a difference, and then give your own mom a hug.


Synopsis

Life in rural Oklahoma can be beautiful, filled with the freedom to roam and time to grow up slowly. Unless you are Kiara Folsom and your mother is incarcerated. With the small town knowing everyone’s business, Kiara finds safety in her one close friend. She builds a wall around the outside world that comes crashing down on her the day she gets her first period and the entire lunchroom is made aware of it.

Code Red is the story of one young lady becoming a woman, all alone.

Visit deadcenterfilm.org.
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