BABE #74: KEAGAN ANFUSO,
Keagan is a Jacksonville enigma in all the right ways. She's a freelance filmmaker, writer, producer and creative director extraordinaire who, quite frankly, is way too cool for us here at BWH. She's making huge waves with her current documentary short film, The Grey Area, but more importantly, she's using her art to compel and educate others on the issues she's most passionate about (in a really beautiful and intentional way.) We can't think of a career or life more fulfilling than that. Thanks for chatting with us, Keagan. Keep being a babe.
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
Current city: Jacksonville, FL
Alma mater: The Art Institute of Jacksonville (But I left early! Considering finishing my degree elsewhere.)
Degree: Film & Digital Media
Hustle: Freelance Filmmaker
Babe you admire and why?
Marina Abramovic. She fearlessly experiments with the limitations of the human condition. I believe that it is possible to experience so much that you transcend and are on a different plane of existence. I think that she has achieved that, so much so that other people can feel it from being in her presence.
Favorite app, website or blog?
Atlas Obscura. You can go to the website and put in your location and it’ll generate a list of strange things nearby to go see or experience. I use it everywhere I go.
Go-to adult beverage?
Old Fashioned with no orange peel. (I’m allergic to oranges.)
What would you eat for your very last meal?
I can’t eat when I’m stressed. I would probably just ask for one last strong black coffee.
Biggest pet peeve?
Burping. I can’t handle it.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world (alive or dead,) who would it be?
Freud and I would have quite a conversation, but I would choose Alice Dreger. Her work feels very personal to me and I would love to meet her/convince her to let me move in with her.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
Biking through the Sequoia Forest.
By definition, I’m pretty sure I qualify as a Phantogram groupie, but don’t judge me for what I would be willing to do to be front row for Lana Del Rey (again.)
Pizza or tacos?
Tacos. But only crunchy tacos. A soft taco is not a taco.
Tell us about your hustle:
I do freelance film and video production work for several different local agencies and I also take on my own clients and personal film projects. I’m usually managing both passion and client projects simultaneously. With corporate client work, I predominantly get brought on as a creative director, which involves concept development and execution, or as a post-production editor, which is utilizing all of the creative elements and assets to deliver a project. With my passion projects, I’m very collaborative. I start off leading those projects by assembling a crew I feel will also connect with the project and then we all work together, with myself usually directing, to execute it.
What does your typical workday look like?
Sitting at Bold Bean, surrounded by empty coffee cups, vigorously typing on my MacBook, while also on my phone, having spur of the moment meetings with other freelancers doing the same thing. (Shoutout to sound engineer, Jey Mayberry, who just sat down next to me, in Bold Bean, as I typed this sentence.) If I am in an editing block, though, which involves sitting in a hunched goblin-like position for 8-10 hours straight, I usually wake up, work out, get several coffees and then lock in until things start getting blurry and my decision-making isn’t reliable.
How did your passion for film come to be? When did you know you wanted to pursue it as a career?
When I was in my early 20’s, my best friend at the time bought a small handheld video camera. I started taking it with us everywhere and filming everything that we were doing. At the time, Windows Movie Maker was all the rage, so after a few months I took all the tapes and figured out how to ingest them into a timeline. I shared the montage on Myspace, which was also all the rage at the time, received really great feedback on it, and kept making them. Along the way, I was gifted my own camera and made one video a month for almost two years. I stopped making them when I got a corporate job that was time-swallowing. (I was also injured on that job by a nurse practitioner who accidentally used acid for treating an ear infection to rinse out my eyes. When I returned after the accident, that company let me go, which led to a conversation between me and an attorney.) Right after that settled, I was talking to a friend who mentioned “those videos I used to make” and how he missed them. He then told me that the Art Institute of Jacksonville had just opened up a film program. I went the following week and enrolled.
What was your education and training like? Would you recommend others in the industry to do the same?
You do not have to go to film school to get into the film industry. I regret that I didn’t have a different mindset going in, but I don't regret going. My time in film school did a lot for me. I was introduced to friends that I will have and continue to create with for the rest of my life. I was also introduced to professors who became mentors and are involved to some extent in all of my major projects. My advice is, if you just want to work on film sets, don’t go to film school. Move to a place where those jobs are consistent and start taking them. Same advice if you want to be a cinematographer. Get a camera, learn everything about that camera, and then move on and learn another camera. If you want to write, direct or produce your own films - especially if you have a film concept you’re passionate about making - film school could benefit you greatly. It’s an opportunity to have access to all of the production crew, gear and mentorship you need to make a film. So if you’re going to go, make a film while you’re there.
What are your favorite types of films to work on? Why?
I love documentary/video journalism content, music videos and short form media. With documentary and journalism work, I love digging into someone’s story and pulling out the most interesting, inspiring and brain-breaking parts of who they are. With music videos and short form media, I deeply enjoy collaborating with artists to create concepts that represent who they are as a musician or as band. The same applies to collaborating with a business or brand to create social media or ad content that represents their personality.
Off the top of your head, what/who are some films/filmmakers that have influenced you + your work?
Since film school, I've said that I want to make documentaries that are VICE-like stories that look like Aronofsky films. As far as women in film, I am in awe of Ava DuVernay right now. 13th, in my opinion, is a perfect documentary and I am anxiously awaiting to see what she takes on next.
What keeps you here in Jacksonville? What is the local film scene like, and where do you see it heading?
On a weekly basis, someone tells me that if I really want to do this, I need to move. I love Jacksonville. This is my home and I believe in it and I believe in the people that are here. I do not believe that there is going to be a huge film revolution in Jacksonville that grants us all dream jobs and opportunities in the near future, however, there is amazing talent here. We have filmmakers here who have produced films that premiered at Sundance and won both Emmys and Oscars. They made those films here in Jacksonville. I’ve also worked with crew members from “bigger cities” on several projects who have all commented on the surprising work ethic and passion they were introduced to while working here. It’s a mindset. If I can’t make a good film wherever I am, then I need to work on being a better filmmaker. I want to work everywhere, but keep Jacksonville as home for as long as possible.
What is your advice in terms of networking and making contacts in the industry? Particularly, in a smaller town that might not be booming with work?
Social media is essential right now whether you’re fond of it or not. Join a social media film group and volunteer to be a production assistant. Make a business card and if someone asks you what you do or what you’ve done, hand them the card and tell them you’re just getting into production work, and that you’re interested in learning everything you can. You’ll start hearing from people. From there, you’ll find yourself gravitating toward what you want to learn more about and focus on while making contacts at the same time.
What has your experience as a masculine female in the workplace been like? What are some of the road blocks that you’ve dealt with in terms of your work and professional life?
No matter what I’m doing, the same anxiety of being introduced to new people that I’m either working with or for exists. Aside from that, I know that with every new project, someone unfamiliar with me is going to mistake me as male and we’re going to have to have that conversation. Sometimes that conversation is very easy and lighthearted, and sometimes that conversation results in discomfort throughout the project. When possible, I will actually have whoever my producer on the project is discuss my gender expression with the client or new crew ahead of time, so that no one is caught off guard. Being someone of my demeanor, it can be difficult to notice when something like misogyny is present. From my personal experience, my masculine expression in professional environments often leads me to being “one of the guys” in a social sense, but when it comes to the delegation of major roles, compensation, or putting ideas on the table, I’ve absolutely been belittled or looked through in the way that I’m sure most women relate to in the workplace. It’s a strange feeling. I will often realize I’m trying to convince myself I’m being too sensitive or I’ll try to rationalize it by criticizing my own work or work ethic. Which again, I think a lot of women can relate to.
On that note, tell us about The Grey Area!
The Grey Area is a documentary short film intended to provide a unique, intimate, and engaging perspective on being a “masculine female.” I’m co-directing the film with fellow Jacksonville filmmaker, Drew L. Brown, and I’m also the main subject. I’ll be recounting my childhood and discussing present life circumstances through interview segments that are focused on my personal battle with social conformity and the idea of the “traditional woman”. We are developing the film with a mission to expose how the pressure of gender stereotyping oppresses the natural and distinct character of an individual. Rather than having the film focus on the ever-evolving gender language that often overwhelms an audience with new terminology and in-depth analyzations of gender, the film will be comprehensive and emotionally relative. We believe that gender stereotyping affects every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression, and we want the film to reflect that belief. Additionally, I hope for the film to pose the idea of progress being the widespread acceptance that an individual’s characteristics and personality shouldn’t limited by their sex.
What are some standout stories + experiences from your career so far?
One Spark 2015, despite it’s negative aspects which I acknowledge, was a phenomenal experience for both Drew and I, even before the win. It was my first time pitching any project to a large audience, and being The Grey Area, it added another level of possible nervous breakdown. I remember the night before, sitting in my home office shaking with anxiety and asking Drew and Ramona Ramdeen, one of the films producers, if they were sure this film was important. I asked them what we were going to do if no one cared. They said whatever happened, we’d make this film anyway. After our first pitch, we had a line waiting outside of the MOCA theatre of people wanting to meet us, wear our stickers and donate to our project. I was stopped in the street by a woman in her 70’s who said she was a heterosexual woman happily married for decades but she had been calling herself a masculine female since she was a teenager, and hearing me use that language on stage brought tears to her eyes. I will never forget that moment. I will also never forget that the night before we found out we won, Drew and I were sitting in a bar sharing the last $10 we had to our name to try and figure out what we were going to eat. The people next to us forgot their leftovers on the table and we both shrugged at each other and went for it. On the way home, we agreed we wouldn’t look at any of the results before bed and that we were both sleeping in. My phone buzzed me awake with an email at 7am telling us we were finalists. Drew was initially very annoyed that I woke him up. Then we cried a lot and then got dressed.
What are your future goals for the brand? For yourself?
Once The Grey Area is finished, I’d like to move on to a much bigger documentary project and I’m hoping that I'll have the leverage to do so. I want to continue to make documentaries that focus on the stories of the marginalized. If I can reach a point where I’m going from amplifying one person’s voice to the next for the rest of my life, I will consider myself successful.
What's the best way for us to support you and your work?
Other than my website, following The Grey Area on Facebook is the best way to currently support the film. We keep up with the page regularly to update our following on the progress of the film and also to share information on other women doing amazing things around the world. We can also be reached through that page by anyone interested in investing in the film or providing any additional funding.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Take whatever you have access to and make something with it. Make something out of nothing, put it out there, and then do it again.
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