Donna LoCicero is a writer, producer and documentary filmmaker with more than 15 years experience working on dozens of groundbreaking film projects for network, cable and international television. LoCicero’s film “Hunting in America,” for National Geographic Channel, won a Best Documentary Genesis Award. Her Emmy-nominated landmark series, “Looking for America,” aired nationally on ABC News and introduced fresh voices to the screen as a news correspondent hitchhiked across the country, telling the story of each person who picked him up. LoCicero founded Beanfield Productions with her husband Robert Campos. (Press materials)
W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.
DL: Inspired by the meteoric rise of Robin Williams, wannabe comedians flocked to San Francisco in the ’80s. This is the story of three very talented guys — Will Durst, Larry “Bubbles” Brown and Johnny Steele — who rode the ups and downs of this comedy movement. Their story is told with the help of their more famous friends: Dana Carvey, Paula Poundstone, Rob Schneider and Robin Williams.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
DL: I’m a big fan of stand-up. Initially, I thought that I’d be making a short and sweet valentine to San Francisco comedy in the ’80s, but right away I found the challenges of today’s comedy scene even more compelling.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
DL: It’s a toss-up between finding financing and editing Johnny Steele. He’s a bit of a motor mouth.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theatre?
DL: I’d love it if people thought: Hey, it’s similar to what’s happening in the music business. Or hey, it’s similar to what’s happening to journalists, or even filmmakers, for that matter. Something really valuable is lost when decisions are made based on economic models that squeeze out quality.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
DL: Network. Talk to each other. Attend events like the Female Eye Film Festival. In the early ’70s, consciousness-raising was a common practice. Women talking and sharing with other women helped increase awareness that a lot of problems weren’t just personal — they were part of a larger picture. It’s a tool that’s helpful today in identifying and combating sexist practices.
W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?
DL: Most of what I do flies under the radar. It’s more yin than yang. Yes, there’s filming, interviewing, writing and editing, but a lot of my energy goes toward navigating — and that’s a skill that’s not very flashy. What stories to tell? Who should tell it? How to tell it? Who is this for? I may look like I’m just standing around, but I’m pretty stealthy. I’m quietly assessing the story potential of people and situations a lot of the time.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
DL: At first, I thought it would be a short film — a valentine to a time and place I loved. I thought I could do it cheaply and quickly in my spare time. And then when I realized that the film should tackle the challenges of today’s comedy scene as well, the costs began to slowly but steadily escalate. We did a Kickstarter that was successful. We had a couple of comedy fundraising events that were successful. And we got some wonderfully generous help from friends, family and comedy fans.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
DL: My current favorite is Laura Poitras’s “Citizenfour.” It’s such an important and timely doc. I really admire the way she filmed an evolving situation that had no clear endpoint. I was also tremendously impressed by the tension and claustrophobia that emanates from every scene — especially the shaving scene.