Filmmaker Spotlight: Blake and Camille West

 

Camille Profile PicBlake directing what a lifeblakemilleBlake and Camille with Phil LaMarr

 

Could love at first sight be real, or possibly love at first interview? For award-nominated director, producer and Founders of United Film House Blake West and Camille LaBry’s story is nothing short of kismet, a Nora Ephron script would draw inspiration.

While Blake was looking for a producer for his film Ride the 9he found more than a highly competent co-worker in Camille, he found his wife. Ever since then the couple has collaborated on numerous projects and together they birthed their brain child: United Film House. Making them ‘Blakemille’ or 'West’s’ of the filmmaking industry. Today the power couple team up on features, commercials, music videos, and their short  Alone Together, written by Camille and directed by Blake.

So lets go back before you two met, Where did you two grow up and how did you get into the industry?

Camille: I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, I first started performing at six years old. I moved to Los Angeles in 2004, and have loved every minute of it!  I’m passionate about collaborations, sustainable relationships, and telling a good story - one of the most wonderful feelings is to be with an audience who is watching our work, and going on the ride together.

Blake:

I was raised on a Navajo Reservation, where my parents were teachers on the reservation.

My start in the entertainment industry began when worked as an extra on a Budweiser commercial in Phoenix.  I asked the crew how they got to do what they do and was told about the film program at Scottsdale Community College. I quickly dropped the business program at Arizona State University and went to SCC.  Interestingly, I was classmates with Bill Hader - who has done some amazing and funny work.  He was always a really cool guy. 

From there I luckily landed editing work for the HBO Network and moved to Los Angeles in 1998. From there I parlayed my editing experience to directing and often claims that fixing other people’s mistakes for years was the best teacher ever. Some highlights of my work include a Grammy nomination, the Oscar Shortlist, and the Weinstein’s and Quentin Tarantino produced film, Hell Ride.

Tell me about how you two met:

Blake and I met on a teaser / trailer that was filmed New Orleans for a feature in development called Ride the 9.

Blake’s producing partner on the film, Jordan Marder, put an ad on Mandy.com, which I answered.  They interviewed me, and during the interview Blake told Jordan to call the other candidates because they had found their producer.  At our wedding in New Orleans, Jordan was our best man.  The first words of his toast: “Camille, you had him at 'hello.’”

How do you two collaborate together? Any tips? Tell me about your process together.

We have an excellent collaboration together, like two sides of the same brain. We’ve both said on many occasions that this is the best collaborative partner, we’ve ever had - we’re like the Coen brothers. But married. And not related…

Whose idea was it to start a business together? How did United Film House come to be?

For years Blake had the vision that he wanted to be in business with someone he was close friends or involved with - we just happened to work together before we were involved instead of the other way around. Which worked out great for us, having that trust, friendship, understanding, and work ethic first - the love simply blossomed out of fertile ground. We were back and forth with a million names - Blake knew he wanted “house” in the title because we do feel it’s important to truly collaborate with people and it’s not about competition. There’s plenty for everyone, and all success is good for everyone. That’s when we thought “united,” and the rest is history! 

It’s also a nod to United Artists, founded by Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith.

Your short, Alone Together, was at HollyShorts this year, tell me a little bit about it and how you decided to cast your actors:

Alone Together is an 8 minute film without dialogue about a man struggling with his past, only to realize, like many of us, that it is his present and inescapable future.

We were inspired by Ryan Coogler’s short film Locks. His film is without dialogue and leads the audience to believe they are headed towards an expected outcome, then has a fantastic twist at the end.  The visual storytelling is so impeccable, we knew we wanted to do our own take.  Ryan - great work man!

We felt it was very important to have a film without dialogue, especially for Camille in the beginning stages. Our main character, Louis Mandylor (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) brought so much to the character– his pain is truly tangible, and his performance is mesmerizing because of the work he put in.

Casting was interesting; we knew we wanted Louis right away and we were thrilled he responded to the material. Brooke Newton was actually a last minute addition who Louis brought in- we lost our original actress on the first day of shooting and it ended up costing us about a half a day of filming. 

We’re very grateful that to have Brooke added to the film in the end…she worked out fantastically.  And in a wonderful twist - her physicality actually adde a dimension to the film that was unexpected.  Perhaps we had a higher power looking out for us?

Camille, tell me about your early start as a performer:

I loved performing! I started out with stage, literally telling my mom at the age of 4 I was going to be an actress in the movies. I ended up doing a bit of singing, soloist at Carnegie Hall at age 17, and voiceovers, anime, foreign films, video games, etc. In my early 20’s I was also a Project Manager for a number one Fortune 500 company in San Francisco before moving to Los Angeles. I was also a makeup artist for a few years before rolling all that knowledge into where I truly feel like I am now meant to be - writing and producing.

Blake, tell me how growing up on a reservation has influenced your filmmaking style:

The Navajo reservation and the experiences growing up there lended a unique understanding of Native culture. It definitely influenced my style as well, I’m fascinated by Southwestern folklore, the landscapes, and the wild west.  We actually have a project we are currently packaging that takes place in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona - Superstition, based on an legendary cursed gold mine called The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.  My spec work on Hell Ride actually gained the interest of Quentin Tarantino & the Weinsteins, since it has a raw and dreamy Southwestern aesthetic.  I was Editor and 2nd Unit Director on the film and I directed the Peyote Trip.

Blake, your work has been recognized for some Grammy and Oscar awards. Tell me about those nominations:

Yes, a couple projects I edited were recognized:  Grammy nominated for Johnny Cash’s America (directed by Academy Award-winner Morgan Neville) and the Oscar Shortlist for Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh, where I worked with Friends co-creator, Marta Kauffman.

What will come out of the works next from United Film House?

We have many projects in the works. Right now Blake is directing, casting, and packaging The Flyer Hold Up, a 1930’s surreal comedy mystery. He’s also directing, casting, and packaging a thriller/horror that I wrote, Superstition. We’re also about to start casting and packaging Ride the 9 a contemporary pool hustle film.

We have many projects in the works. Right now Blake is directing, casting, and packaging The Flyer Hold Up, a 1930’s surreal comedy mystery. He’s also directing, casting, and packaging a thriller/horror that I wrote, Superstition. We’re also about to start casting and packaging Ride the 9 a contemporary pool hustle film in the vien of The Color of Money.

We just completed shooting a comedy television pilot presentation called, That Guy, starring Kelly PerineMaya StojanBrooke NewtonShondrella AveryKevin Weisman and Phil LaMarr.

About United Film House:

The Name of the Game is Connection.

Our intention is to build sustainable relationships, provide a quality experience for everyone who shares involvement in our films, and to tell stories that inspire positive transformation.

At United Film House, we consistently evolve our business, and ourselves - sharpening proven tools, and gathering new ones along the way.

We are developers, contributors, and collaborators with a foundation built from integrity and inspiration.

Who Are We?

May Our Work Speak for itself.

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