Alexandria graduate establishes a career in the film industry
Dreams are the essence of life; some fade away while others blossom into reality.
2007 Jefferson High School graduate Lauren Minnerath isn't letting her dreams slip away - she's taking control and turning them into reality.
"I've always wanted to be a director for as long as I could remember," she said.
Growing up, Minnerath often made movies with her video camera. And while she was a junior in high school she won a national writing award for a short story - accepting the award at Carnegie Hall in New York.
"I knew she was interested in film, but I always thought she would go into writing a book or something," said Lauren's mother, Barb Minnerath. "But later, she told me that she knew from when she was really little what she wanted to do with her life."
A STRONG FOUNDATION
"While in high school, my English teacher, Scott Fodness, was such a positive influence and great mentor," Minnerath said. "He was always encouraging us to be individuals at an age when we were very delicate."
Unfortunately, not all people were so accepting. Throughout elementary and middle school, Minnerath was bullied, and would stay home "sick" and watch movies her mother rented for her.
"The movies left an impact on my life," she recalled. "My mom was always very supportive of my passion for directing - I guess she's the reason I love movies. My dad is more pragmatic about it all - he's the realistic voice in my head - which is great in this industry."
OFF TO THE BIG APPLE
After high school, Minnerath attended New York University (NYU), graduating in May 2011 with a major in film and television production.
NYU is known to have one of the most prestigious film studies in the U.S. Oscar-winning actors and directors including Susan Seidelman, director of Desperately Seeking Susan, Spike Lee and John Canemaker are professors there, along with Robby Benson, who recently voiced the Beast in Beauty and the Beast.
"Seidelman was my professor and mentor when I was working on my senior thesis," Minnerath noted.
A CAREER TAKES FLIGHT
So far, Minnerath has written, produced and directed two films. Her first film, Death Goes to Therapy, was shot during her junior year of college and has been in numerous film festivals.
It is about a grieving, widowed psychiatrist who gets the surprise of a lifetime when his newest patient turns out to be Death himself.
The idea for the film came to Minnerath in the shower one morning. Initially, it was conceived as a broad, Mel Brooks-style comedy.
"But then a few months later my grandpa had a massive stroke that paralyzed most of his body," Minnerath recalled. "An event like that obviously made me think about mortality and the human life cycle a lot more, so the story became much darker. My grandpa died a year later, right before I finished the movie - so it's dedicated to him now."
The following year at NYU, Minnerath produced her senior thesis called Sicky. Taking an entire academic year to complete, the film ran only 20 minutes.
Sicky is told through the eyes of 6-year-old Sarah, whose mother is battling cancer. Sarah doesn't understand what the word "cancer" means, but she does know what the word "sick" means.
With no one to talk to and powerless to help, Sarah invents an imaginary friend, a sick boy named Sicky. Her relationship with Sicky grows and changes, inevitably ending with Sarah finally learning to face reality.
"This film is really a personal story that I wrote during my sophomore year in college after watching a Swedish movie called Let the Right One In," Minnerath explained. "For some reason, that movie brought back all these vivid memories of my mother having cancer when I was 8 years old and the feeling of not really knowing how to process information like that at a young age.
"I wrote the script in a night, but didn't touch it or look at it for two years because I was afraid I had written something terrible."
She only pulled the script back out two years later because she needed one to enroll in the class to make her senior thesis.
"I expected my classmates to hate it, but it got really positive responses from everyone, and my professor encouraged me to keep working on the story," she noted.
A TASTE OF THE INDUSTRY
Aside from directing, Minnerath has also worked on movie and film sets to gain experience, raise money for her movies and get her foot in the door.
"It's all about climbing the totem pole and gaining experience," she said. "The smaller sets are more fun to work on. I was in a set in Pennsylvania Amish Country and the cast and crew were so small that everyone had really great chemistry - it was like a small vacation."
Between her junior and senior year at NYU, she also helped at the administration office of musician, songwriter and founding member of The Rolling Stones, Keith Richards, while his memoirs were being written and at Martin Scorsese Production Company during post-production for the movie Hugo.
"The hours are long and once the glitter wears off - and it wears off fast - then it just becomes a regular job," Minnerath said.
There isn't much work in New York during the winter, so Minnerath is currently writing and making short videos for a website called "College Humor," that posts comedy sketches and humor videos. But she hopes to start directing again soon.
"When you are a writer, you put yourself out there," she said. "If you want to direct, you have to direct. The industry is tough, but when people say they really like what you did, it keeps you going, knowing people appreciate your work.
"The next movie I plan to make will be small, but hopefully it will gain recognition and then the next movie I make can be a bit bigger and continue on in that fashion. In 10 years I hope to be making movies that I am proud of."
For more information on Lauren Minnerath or to watch her film trailer, visit the website http://vimeo.com/34549215.