Autumn Bailey-Ford is a Georgia-based producer and CEO of Autumn Bailey Entertainment for over 16 years. Her production company produces documentaries, short and feature films, reality TV shows as well as provides assistance on casting, location scouting, crew hiring, and overall film production needs.
Her upcoming film project with MGM Studios entitled On A Wing And A Prayer is a faith-based narrative starring Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham that is set to premiere next fall.
Autumn thoughtfully shares what it’s like to walk in her shoes as a successful producer as well as how her struggles and faith helped her overcome the challenges of breaking into the entertainment industry.
How did you start your career as a producer? What inspired you to become a producer?
I want to say that I was born into this business; however, that is not the case. I just always had a love for movies. At the age of 8, I had developed an increased interest in films, and I understood that I had a passion for the entertainment industry.
When I saw Roots and Gone with the Wind, I thought, “Oh my God, I want to do that.” I knew that I didn’t want to be an actor. However, I knew that I wanted to be the person to put it all together. I always questioned how things were put together behind the scenes, and I wanted to learn, so I started to self-educate by going to libraries to explore the history of filmmaking. Eventually, I decided to go to college, an HBCU, shout out to Shaw University, to major in Mass Communication with a concentration in Film & Television minor in philosophy.
What was your first project as a professional producer? What were the challenges and breakthroughs you’ve encountered along the way, and how did you overcome them?
My first project was a faith-based film in 2010 by the name of Prodigal Son, but it never came out. I have experienced a lot of nos along the way that was overcome by my faith. If it had not been for my faith in God, I would not be where I am today.
What films and which producers have been the most influential to you?
Dream Girls, Harry Potter Series, Body Guard, Rudy, and White Christmas are my favorite films that have influenced me to shoot for content that resonate with my audience. As far as producers go, I am inspired by Debra Martin Chase, Devon Franklin, Gary Marshall and Reggie Hudlin.
You’ve been producing films for many years. What is your typical day like? Can you give us an overview of the process of producing low-budget and high-budget films?
Day to day primarily consists of Reading and researching, reading scripts, calling agencies: emails, phone calls, zooms. Rinse and repeat. Low-budget and high-budget films don’t specifically have a difference other than the budget you have to put more money into your movie in my opinion.
How has producing evolved over the years?
Producing has evolved drastically over the years. Technology has advanced in ways that has given producers the opportunity to expand into new markets and making it possible to make movies from anywhere. This has allowed us to tell many different stories that may have gone unnoticed in the past. The current way of producing has allowed me to connect to diverse individuals to give their stories the platforms they deserve.
Where do producers usually find material? What do you usually look for in a screenplay? How do you know a material has the potential to be made into a film or TV series?
Producers can find material from anywhere. Novels, newspapers, up-and-coming screenwriters, significant life stories, literally anywhere.
In your opinion, what makes up a good pitch? Does it involve a proof of concept, pitch deck, or some type of presentation?
A good pitch is just plain ole good storytelling. If you are a good storyteller you can give a good pitch and the presentation varies by producer, however, I prefer to have a pitch deck with visuals.
Were there circumstances in which you had to make difficult artistic choices or alter scenes/storylines?
Some actors like to make the role more personable, so they request things in the script to maybe make it more fun or more like they imagine the character to be, so sometimes we have to go through multiple drafts and edits before going into physical production. I don’t find it difficult to compromise on these things because I value the opinions of my cast and crew, as filmmaking is a collaborative creative process.
The pandemic has greatly affected the entertainment industry. How did it affect your side of things?
For the most part, production went on as scheduled, however, the pandemic made the set environment change drastically with the way that we’ve had to adjust.
There couldn’t be a more perfect time to be a female filmmaker in the entertainment industry. What would like to share with aspiring or emerging female filmmakers and/or creatives in general?
Never give up! Never be intimidated by the “no’s” and stay the course. Eventually, things will work out even when they seem as though they aren’t working.
What do you think the future of filmmaking would look like?
The future of filmmaking will evolve with whatever is going on in the world at the time. The industry will continue to tell stories of its time.
What’s your advice to aspiring filmmakers who want to break into the entertainment industry?
Trust the process. If you work hard and stay diligent, you will accomplish all that you set out to do. Keep striving onward and upward.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind as a producer?
I want to leave a legacy that motivates others to never give up and to always seek opportunities and projects that speak to their heart. I want to also leave a legacy that inspires others to believe for what you believe, you can achieve.
Do you have other upcoming projects you want to share with us?
I have a film with MGM by the name of On a Wing and A Prayer starring Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham that is set to release next Fall and many other exciting projects that will be announced very soon.