IT’S SIMPLY FILMMAKING: A Conversation with Tower 15 Productions Founder Cali Gilbert
Cali Gilbert is an International bestselling author, award winning photographer, and filmmaker. She has travelled the globe as a former figure skater and magazine publisher, and has contributed to the Huffington Post. With an extensive background in event management, Cali assisted the Canadian Olympic Committee at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and most recently served as an Event Ambassador for the 34th America’s Cup sailing regatta in San Francisco. Cali is an accomplished photographer, whose work has been showcased in galleries across the United States. As the creator of the IT’S SIMPLY book series, Cali has published several bestselling books of her own and now serves other writers through her company, Tower 15 Productions. In addition to continuing to write and publish books, Cali is now adapting some of her books to film and supports others as a social impact filmmaker. Cali resides in Santa Monica, California where she enjoys serving her community, especially women in transition and youth programs.
The Fan Carpet’s Marc Jason Ali had the pleasure of speaking to Cali following the launch of Tower 15 Productions, we talk in depth about her driving force to get into the industry, her writing and what she plans to do with Tower 15 Productions…
If we go back to the beginning, was there a defining moment for you to get into the Creative Industry?
Oh ABSOLUTELY! I’ve always been an artist, yet it was never something I thought of in terms of a career. It was a hobby that I simply loved. I was groomed to go to university, get the fancy degree, get the top job with the best title, etc. I did all of that, and then ended up homeless because all of the sudden I was deemed “over-qualified”. I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time and trying to survive off of saving, which didn’t last very long. In 2011 I lost everything (child, car, relationship, money, home). After spending endless hours sending out resumes trying to find a job, I didn’t know what else to do. I looked to the heavens and asked. The answer I got was DO WHAT YOU LOVE! That is when I decided to shift gears and focus on my writing and photography which were my passions. That’s when everything changed.
You’re known as an author with your Simply series, the latest being It’s Simply Filmmaking, was this something that you always wanted to do?
Yes. I’ve always loved to write and share stories, but it was a hobby. When I wrote and published my first book IT’S SIMPLY SAUSALITO: An Inspirational Journey, I needed an outlet for my pain to fill the void from all the loss I had experienced in 2011. The photographs and words of inspiration became that outlet. I ended up writing and publishing four books in one year when I started out. It was something I loved and filled me with hope.
You recently launched Tower 15 Productions, what can you tell us about the company?
Tower 15 Productions has been a dream I’ve had for a few years now. When I arrived in L.A. in 2013, I met my very first friend and now partner at Tower 15 on Santa Monica beach. He’s also a very gifted writer/photographer. We collaborated on one of my books together in 2016, and it seemed only fitting to name the company after where our story first began. Tower 15 is a platform for inspiring creatives through education and collaboration in the areas of publishing, photography and filmmaking. We share resources for the aspiring and emerging filmmaker as well as offer classes for those interested in writing/publishing books. We currently have three film projects in the works and eager to connect with other creatives we can either support or collaborate with.
What is your preferred genre, and do you have any favourite films?
I enjoy drama, romantic comedies and musicals. I like to laugh. Some of my favourite films are SOMEWHERE IN TIME with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve, MARY POPPINS, and THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Some of my favourite current films have been GREEN BOOK, MARY POPPINS RETURNS, LA LA LAND and BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY.
Are there any other aspects of the Film Industry that you would like to pursue?
At the moment my focus is on writing/directing, but I’m eager to learn as much as I can. I love being behind the camera, but would rather hire a gifted cinematographer to create my vision. I also love editing and could spend hours on the computer piecing a film together, but again, very time consuming and could certainly be delegated. I love to learn and I love to teach, so I’m just trying to take as much in as possible and then focus on what truly makes my heart sing. I’d like to explore streaming series a bit more as that seems the direction the industry is going.
You’ve worked with a great crop of talent, do you have a wish list of who you’d like to work with?
Oh yes. The BIG three I call them – ANGELA LANSBURY, BETTY WHITE and DICK VAN DYKE. I’ve admired their work since childhood. I’m actually currently writing a TV movie with Angela and Dick in mind for two of my main characters. That would certainly be a dream come true.
Who inspires you within the industry?
SO many amazing individuals, but if I had to name two, it would be SARAH MOSHMAN and DANA MICHELLE COOK. These extraordinary women are the reason I’m in film. I first met them back in 2014 when I was fairly new to L.A. They were releasing their documentary, THE EMPOWERMENT PROJECT and I was so inspired. Not only by the film, but by their character and passion for filmmaking. Towards the end of 2014 I attended the Lady Filmmakers Film Festival in Beverly Hills for another screening of the documentary. It was then where I could clearly envision myself as a filmmaker and taking my creative gifts and talents to the next level.
Fandoms are a big part of the industry, who or what are you a fan of?
I’m a fan of any person who chooses to take their creative gifts and share them with the world, but also stay true to themselves and lives a life of integrity and respect. Each of us is unique with amazing gifts and talents. It’s hard sometimes looking around at all the competition. Yet I feel the key is to not view others as competition, but as collaborators. Imagine if we all supported one another, encouraged one another? Imagine what we could create together? That’s what I hope to create with Tower 15 Productions.
With the emergence of streaming services like Netflix, what do you think the future of Cinema is?
I still feel Cinema (the viewing of films on the BIG screen) will continue to have its place regardless of streaming. Here in Santa Monica we have our little neighbourhood theatre, the AERO. It’s simply a one-screen house, but it’s everything. They show classic films and current ones as well, and yet they also bring in the cast and crew for Q&A sessions or to introduce the films. For a filmmaker, it’s amazing because you can learn so much about the craft and what actually goes into making the movie. I would compare streaming services to E-books. They are great and easy and you can watch/read them on your mobile devices, yet some days it’s nice to just pick up a BOOK, and some days it’s nice to visit the local theatre and experience a film surrounded by others who appreciate the same.