Did you know TRW was selected as a finalist for Rent The Runway’s Project Entrepreneur?! Check out this interview with Jenny as featured in Halfstack Magazine–
Written By: Jennifer Veguilla-Lezan
The Royal Wild: Female Voices in Media Diversity in the work place is something that many companies are pursuing more of. Yet, in some industries, the reality is that there isn’t as much diversity as some would like to think. Hollywood is one place that has been in the spotlight for the lack of diversity when it comes to females in lead positions such as direct ing and cinematography. There were a slew of speeches over the last few years and out-cries over equal pay and diverse working situations. Yet, things don’t seem to be getting better. In fact, women comprised of only 7
percent of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases in 2016. That was a decline of two percentage points from the level achieved in 2015 and in 1998, according to the latest report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. There has been a loud debate going on over the lack of female and minority voices and possible gender discrimination in the film and television industry. The numbers don’t fare well. According to the same report, of the top 250 highest grossing films last year, thirty-four percent of the films had no female producers, 79 percent lacked a female editor, 97 percent of films had no female sound design-
ers, and 96 percent didn’t have a female cinematographer.
So, where does all of that leave young, hungry and innovative female filmmakers and media mavens? While the industry has shown very little will to change, more and more women are graduating film, new and digital media school ready to create change for themselves. More women in leadership roles are taking it upon themselves to help other women by promoting community support, industry advocacy, and increased recognition amongst one another while continuing to strive for equality in pay and in the work place. Media brands like The Royal Wild are setting out to be a creative catalyst in the media and film industries. What launched as a brand focusing on production and creating media content for businesses has grown immensely over the last few years. They are creative storytellers looking to weave a new narrative in their perspective industry. Founded by Jenny Kleiman and Kayla Morrisey, The Royal Wild, focuses on both narrative and commercial work. Their goal is to create female driven content with an eye toward futurism and wanderlust. The work they create aims to empower. The ladies took some time to answer some questions about their work.
Read on to learn more:
1. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what led you to pursue launching The Royal Wild?
My name is Jenny Kleiman, and I’m a film and commercial director/ producer based in NYC. I run a production company called The RoyalWild, and we are in pre-production for our first feature titled: TUER LES FLEURS, which is shooting summer 2018 in the South of France.
ABOUT THE FILM: Two wild co-eds embark on an outrageous and terrifying journey through the South of France. TEUR LES FLEURS is a psychological thriller that follows Lindsey and Lydia as they spin out on a joyride of poor choices and moral obliviousness on a quest for the “Best Spring Break Ever.” Mysterious omens pepper their trip as they make their way to the medieval town of Vence, where the unapologetic rebels settle in at an ancient Bed and Breakfast. They soon learn of the home’s dark past and discover that they too, have kept secrets from one another. Lindsey and Lydia’s jealousy and manipulative nature pit the girls against each other in a darkly humorous tale of teen angst and
betrayal that culminates in an extraordinary and unexpected ending.
The Royal Wild is myself and my co-director/ producer, Kayla Morrisey. Kayla and I grew up in Charleston, SC and studied theatre together at the School of the Arts in middle school- we actually helped start an improv troupe at the school which is still around today. We then lost touch for about 10 years, but the funny thing is that we were both living about 3 blocks away from each other in LA. We separately decided to move back to Charleston for a change of
pace and re-met in a dog park shortly after the move. Kayla and I immediately started working together after that day, and we launched The Royal Wild within a few months. We had similar styles of storytelling; we have remarkably similar taste in movies. It was a natural fit.
2. Can you tell us more about your brand, the idea behind it and the purpose and mission driving it?
I think most people at this point are familiar with how present and real the glass ceiling is for women in film. Because of the lack of opportunity presented to female filmmakers, when Kayla and I started TRW, there was very little precedent of women making edgy, sexy, mind bending content- it was a lot of Lifetime Channel and Nancy Meyers (who’s work we love!). In the meantime, we can make what- ever we want! The Royal Wild is future-forward: films for women by women who want real and sometimes abstract stories told from a female perspective. In the very early stages of Royal Wild, Kayla approached me with the TUER LES FLEURS script, and it was such a perfect mirror to all of the things we stand for: it’s like if Jawbreaker and Heathers had a baby with Spring Breakers. I get really excited about script and our brand because it’s “us” through and through.
3. What led you to focus on creative story telling?
I grew up in the theatre, but at the end of high school, I realized pretty quickly that I wanted to move off the stage. However, at the time, I didn’t really think of film or working behind camera as an option. I went to University of Colorado at Boulder as a theatre major, and about a month into school, I was running late to class. I threw on
these really ripped up jeans and scooted out the door. After this theatre class, I was feeling really confused about my path. I posted up on the quad, and my dad called me to say hello. In the meantime, a yellow jacket crawled up my pants and ended up stinging me twice on my bikini line! I was jumping up and down trying to get the bee out of my pants screaming about how I wanted to change my major. It was quite the scene. While I was recovering (it turns out I’m slightly allergic to beestings), I watched a bunch of movies that I missed for a class called “Women in Film,” and it hit me! I have basically been set on becoming a director ever since. I don’t know if it was the bee or the Benadryl, but it was definitely a breakthrough.
4. Where do you get your creative inspiration and what does your creative “process” look like as you develop your concepts?
I get really energized by my surroundings I moved to Chinatown in NYC about six months ago, and I’ve been insanely inspired by the city itself lately. I really love to travel for the same reason because I really connect with my environment. I always loved the quote from Almost Famous about “whenever you fee lost, just go to a record store and visit your friends.” When it’s a grey day or things just feel a little stale, I really escape in music. I really love watching movies- even though I know how they’re made, I really get lost in storylines and the magic of cinema. My creative process is a little all over the place- to be honest, I’m a bit of a procrastinator, but I tend to do really good work under pressure. I think a lot of people beat themselves up for not working in some remarkable or holistic way- sometimes you just have to get things done, and you make it work. I would love to say I write or shoot everyday, but I do it when it feels right.
5. Are there people, mentors or figures that have made an impact in your life and career? If so, how?
Reconnecting with Kayla was a huge turning point in my career, and it’s been amazing to have a peer who really challenges me to work at my highest level. She is one of thehardest-working creatives I know, and it is so motivating.
My mom is a huge inspiration to me- she has worked to help others since the day she couldcash a paycheck. My family is full of strong women who are movers and shakers. I like to joke that my aunt is the Leslie Knope of our small island community in Charleston called Isle of Palms, but I’m really not far off with that comparison. I also am so lucky to have friends that truly look after my well-being. My best friend just gave me a tincture to make sure I’m not over-
working myself. I’m not even sure what it does, but I take it everyday.
6. What are your goals for your brand inthe next 2-5 years? How do you hope to bemaking an impact or what kind of growth are you looking forward to?
The Royal Wild started as a commercial production company in Charleston- we worked mainly on short form projects like commercials, music videos, short films, etc. Our roots in these quick, yet intense projects helped us establish a working report before jumping into our feature. Most of our future work at The Royal Wild is hyper-focused on creat-
ing features, series, and new media projects, and further Kayla and I are spread physically between New York, Miami, and LA most of the time. It’s insane to see how much we’ve grown already, but TUER LES FLEURS is really the game-changer. We have spent about two years raising our budget for the film and are on schedule to meet our full goal in the coming weeks. After we actually go into production, we still have post-production, festivals, and distribution. By the time you see it in theaters, it will likely be about 2 years from today. After that- I just want to start the process over again! The goal is always to keep creating smart, interesting content.
7. How is your company remaining innovative and what are you working towards when it comes to changing the standards within your industry?
It’s so sad that just being a woman in most industries is still challenging the norm. The film industry is absolutely no exception. Kayla and I have a few passion projects under the umbrella of Royal Wild to do our part in closing
the gender and wage gap. One of these projects is the Women’sIndependent Film Channel (WIFC.tv) which we recently launched in beta version. WIFC.tv is the home for women-directed narrative content. We have amazing films you can
stream, links to a crowdsourcing resources and women-led projects seeking funding. We are partnering with different women-centric brands to promote Free the Bid (the advertising industry’s dedication to hiring female directors for commercials). Our goal is that even our on-site advertising will be directed by women.
In addition to the gender and wage gap, there’s a visibility problem for the female directors that do exist. Sundance did a study a few years ago and found that women represent 9% of directors. Not only are there few opportunities
for women, but the ones who are working hard have a hard time getting their work in front ofmainstream audiences. WIFC is dedicated to showcasing women directors and doing our part to make more women directors house-hold names.
Last but not least next year, we’re teaching the next generation of filmmakers at WIFC Bootcamp. We are teaching young women and girls how to work the camera, the basics of filmmaking, and hoping to inspire the next Ava DuVernay or Sofia Coppola.
8. What kind of obstacles do you see women facing when it comes to entrepreneurship and growth as business owners specifically within the film industry?
Entrepreneurship is a struggle despite gender, but women certainly have a different set ofchallenges. For many industries, it’s still a white, old men boys club. Women and POC are natural disruptors to this structure, and there’s so much power in resistance to the norm. In the film industry, if you’re a male director that has a bad movie, you’ll still likely work again. If you’re a woman/ POC- that’s it!
Kayla and I have been asked straight out, “How will we make a movie together because we’re both women?” Like that’s even a real question… We’ve been mansplained how to make a movie too many times to even count, and we had plenty of offers along the way for financing if we’d allow them to replace us with a white, male director. Women and POC are truly still working double-time to be at the exact same position as their white, male counterpart- it makes days harder and work more grueling, and you’re constantly trying to show that you’re worth it.
9. What has been your greatest success or proudest moment to date?
My first job was working for the Coppola family, and at the time I thought it was the best thing I was ever going to do because I respected and worshiped them and their films so much. However, at the end of the day I was working
as a director’s apprentice (who also picked up their laundry from dry cleaning and took lunch orders). Now, I’m about to direct my first feature film, and that’s the best feeling in the world. I thought I would just work for the best
directors in the world, and now my goal is to be the best director I can be. Kill your idols.
10. What kind of advice would you give to someone looking to launch his or her own business?
It’s going to be a LOT of work, so you better really make sure that it’s the idea that keeps you up at night. Listen when other people give you advice (although maybe not to me haha),but listen to your gut and follow that instead.
You can learn more about The Royal Wild
at: www.theroyalwild.com and follow the
ladies on social @theroyalwild.