At Studio Carry On Harry : Meet Savannah Ostler, a talented filmmaker with a passion for storytelling that dates back to her childhood. Growing up in the 90s, Savannah was captivated by classic Disney movies and knew from a young age that she wanted to be involved in the film industry. After studying film production in high school, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of telling stories through film and television. In this interview, Savannah shares her experiences, including her journey to becoming a successful filmmaker, her approach to writing and casting, and her latest film “Even in Dreams” which premiered in 2021 and received positive feedback. Get to know more about Savannah’s story and how she turned her childhood dream into a reality.
About You and Your background?
Much like other creatives, my storytelling journey all began with a dream.
As a kid growing up in the 90’s, I was completely captivated by the classic Disney renaissance movies, particularly The Lion King and Beauty and The Beast. I became so obsessed with these movies that I wore out the VHS tapes. I begged my mother for replacement copies, and being the wonderful mother that she was, she surprised me with brand new copies.
Even at the early age of six years old, I knew I wasn’t just a fan. There was something else driving me to watch those movies again and again. The stories. The characters. The music. The emotion. The journey that was being told through these characters made me feel so deeply emotionally connected to them. From that day forward, I knew I wanted to be involved in the movies and tell stories for the screen.
I believe that there is something magical about finding your dream at such a young age. I feel fortunate that the deepest desires of my heart didn’t come to me as an adult, but rather, as a child.
Years later and still fueled by this desire to tell stories, my parents transferred me to a charter high school that had an emphasis on film, East Hollywood High School. Ironically, it was not actually in Hollywood, but rather, the biggest city that was close by: Salt Lake City.
At East Hollywood High, I began studying acting, screenwriting, and film production. I was fascinated by all elements of film production, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I knew without a fathom of a doubt that my mission in life was to tell stories, and to tell them in my favorite medium: film and television. At that time, I was just searching for the right story for me to tell. Then one day, in math class, it hit me, much like a bolt of lightning. My mind was buzzing with this inspiration:
Two Sisters. A shared dream of singing. Their inseparable sisterly bond. Family tragedy strikes. Their dream lives one.It was so sudden, but my mind wouldn’t stop. These words flew out of me, and this is where I began writing my story, “Twice The Dream”.
It was purely instinctual. This particular story had lit a fire within me, and I was from then on at its mercy. I graduated East Hollywood High School, packed up my bags and moved to Los Angeles, with just the clothes on my back and my script “Twice The Dream” that I wrote in high school. Dozens of revisions later, I produced, directed, and acted in that feature “Twice The Dream”, which premiered theatrically across UT, CA, and AZ.
In 2021, I directed my latest feature film, “Even In Dreams” starring “Little House On The Prairie” star Alison Arngrim, Monica Moore Smith, and Nathan Osmond. It was distributed theatrically through Purdie Films and thoroughly enjoyed by audiences, receiving a 96 percent Audience Rotten Tomatoes score on its opening weekend. It’s also an official selection in the 22nd annual Zions Indie Film Fest and will screen at that festival in March 2023. I’m stoked!
Watch the trailer to “Even in Dreams” here –
How do you convince yourself with things that you have to shoot for a film but you actually don’t otherwise believe?
With any creative endeavor, there will always be sacrifices. For me, it’s about finding a story that you are passionate enough about that you are willing to make those sacrifices.
Your Scripting Process? Your approach to casting?
All writers are different, and I don’t think there is any “right” way to approach writing a screenplay. For me, my characters come first. I visualize the main character. I am extremely into character driven stories. I took an incredible workshop in LA with some of the best screenwriters around, and I’ll never forget these golden nuggets they shared. Every story has to start with these three questions.
These questions are:
“Who are they? What do they want? Why can’t they get it?”
Once I can answer those questions, everything else falls into place. Structure is important, of course- but for me, if I have fleshed out my lead character, their motivation, and their obstacles, then the story finds itself in the structure naturally.
How much does your life influences your story telling and the characters that you bring to life ?
Art imitates life, and life imitates art! My life influences my story telling tremendously. You write what you know. To fully flesh out my characters, I find a part of that character that I can relate to, and my voice sneaks in sometimes.
How do you work on yourself to become better in your field learning, observing, reading?
I watch a movies. A LOT of movies. I also read a lot of screenplays, books on the craft, and take workshops. Always learning!
Filmmaking is team work. Tell us about your team and what sort of pre planning gets done before you decide to make a film. Tough things about making films and what keeps you going despite those tough things ?
Honestly, teamwork makes the dream work! I wouldn’t trade my team for anything. First off, my producing partner is my amazing husband, Steven D’Alo. He also has an extensive background in film. My go-to 1st AD and line producer is Mario DeAngelis. Him and I go way back to my days at East Hollywood High School. He was my film production teacher! Now we are working together. How fun is that?
Speaking of going a ways back, Dallas Ashton, a producing partner and I met in acting class when we were both just 16. We both get each other on an intimate, creative level and I love that!
There are many people to thank and mention, but I’d also love to give ABC4 and Talking Pictures’ Tony Toscano a shout out as well. I became acquainted with him at East Hollywood High school as well. He is another one that has kept me going through this crazy industry.
Yes… let’s talk about this crazy industry!! I have basically been to Hell and back(twice) on the pursuit of my dreams. I have two feature films that I’m stupid stupid passionate about and it makes my filmmaker heart smile every time I hear someone enjoyed watching them. I LIVE for this kind of stuff!!
However, underneath all of the cameras, the lights, the excitement, there’s the stuff that no one else sees. The late nights. The early mornings. The years of trying to get something out there in the universe. The rejections. The “close calls”. The “Almost, could haves, the would haves….” You name it. It is blood, it is sweat, it is tears, and it is damn hard work. It is stress upon stress upon stress. And that’s not even taking in consideration the financial stress that you have to tackle as a filmmaker.
BUT…. (Yes, of course there’s a but) the key is to find something that you are so ridiculously passionate about. Something that you can’t live without. Something that you are willing to take on that stress, blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifices for. Ya feel me? You know where this is going…..
When you find this “something”… JUST. DO. IT. For me, this “something” that lights my heart on fire has and will always be storytelling. I am a filmmaker and I live to tell my stories. If not me, then who? If not now, when?
Title Of Your New Release
Even In Dreams
What is the central theme of film ?
A talented young singer named Sam (Monica Moore Smith) is grieving the loss of her older sister Amber, who was a singer in a band of her own when she passed away. When Sam steps in to fill her sister’s place in the band, they decide to pursue Amber’s dream of making it big in the only way they know how: They are going to Nashville! Their dreams begin to come true faster than expected after they sign with a music manager (Alison Arngrim) who shows them the way to success — but at a deep personal cost. As the taste of fame draws near, tensions begin to rise within the band. Will the vicious music industry tear them apart or will they find Amber’s song and truly live their dreams? EVEN IN DREAMS is an inspiring, feel good, musically driven family film.
The central themes are finding comfort through the grieving process, following the dreams that matter to you, and sticking up for what you believe in.
how many days it took you to shoot ? What locations it has been shot at ?
By some miracle, we shot the feature film in 18 days! We mostly shot on location in Utah- however we had a second unit in Nashville as well.
Share your thoughts about production process. Any interesting trivia about its making?
We shot this film in the fall of 2020- so the Covid pandemic was still going strong. To put it bluntly- shooting in 2020 was a nightmare! Hahaha but we did it. We were constantly Covid testing, sanitizing, masks, everything. It was brutal. It was the most insane, stressful, but also most fun time I’ve ever had shooting a film.
You have to look for the “Bright side” in everything. There were so many memories being made. Funny enough, one of the lead actors met our key makeup artist on our set, and they started dating. Now they are engaged! I love how movies bring people together. 🙂
What platforms will the film be released? Date of release?
The film already had a limited theatrical release, but it has been selected to play at the 22nd annual Zions Indie Film Festival- which takes place on March 15th-18th.
Before then, it has its streaming premiere on the UP Faith and Family Channel on January 20th.
Any other project you are working on? Some details about the film?
Absolutely!! I’ve had my heart on a screenplay that I started writing in 2021. It’s called “Buster Brooks”, and it’s a fish out of water comedy.
It’s about a naive farm boy who moves to Hollywood with his rooster to try to make it in the movies. Ultimately, Buster has to make the difficult choice between his family life back home and his Hollywood dreams.
We are beginning pre-production now and will be filming this summer!
How do you deal with Negative Feedbacks? How do you stay balanced with Positive Feedback?
Art is subjective. There is always going to be someone who doesn’t particularly respond to your art. And you know what? That is 100% okay! Some of my favorite movies were critically panned. Some of my favorite movies critics loved. Guess what? It honestly doesn’t matter. Everyone has difference taste.
In 2019, when my first film “Twice The Dream” was released, I think negative feedback bothered me more. I took it personally, when it really wasn’t. What I dislike is negative feedback just for the sake of being negative. If you have feedback, in the least be constructive with it. I am always up for constructive notes and criticism. If you tell me how I could improve that scene next time, for example. I will listen to that more than someone just being hateful and saying “You suck”.
Lol. But it’s true! There are people like that. You just gotta move on. On the other side of the spectrum, I do love hearing any balanced and positive feedback. I am lucky to have received a great deal of it, and I live for people who enjoy my films.
How did you hear about CarryOnHarry ? Any message for Studio ? Any Suggestion that we can make it better?
I heard about CarryOnHarry from my awesome publicist, Josh Mitchell! My message is- keep on rockin’ it! I think what you guys are doing for filmmakers is fantastic.
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