Photo courtesy of Gail Pischak. Sue Neal holding a Monster Olympics movie poster.
BY GAIL PISCHAK
Sue Neal has been a storyteller since she was a four-year-old girl. As that little girl, she liked writing short plays, playing dress-up and bribing her little sister to help her perform them.
Flash forward to October 2019. Today, you will see this young-at-heart 74-year-old “girl” still telling stories. Only the medium has changed. Sue has moved from writing and starring in her creations to writing and directing her first indie film titled “Monster Olympics.” It premiers in Indio Oct. 28, 2019.
Sue originally trained as an EEG technician. Part of her responsibility was to provide educational presentations to a variety of audiences. Always inventive, she took even that opportunity to incorporate stories to give them interest. While her day-job paid the bills, it was her love for acting and writing that propelled her into growing her artistic career.
While she lived in the windy city of Chicago, she took improv classes, which helped release her creativity. It’s those classes that gave her the confidence to try acting and more serious writing. It’s easy to see why filmmaking would be part of Sue’s destiny.
When she moved to Palm Desert in 2014, she discovered a world that was as rich and as vibrant as the city she had left behind. Sue immediately began performing improv and acting on stage. Her impressive portfolio of plays includes “A Christmas Carol,” “Harry Potter, The Cursed Child”, “Marriage of Figaro” and others.
She has also acted in other independent filmmaker’s movies and won Best Supporting Actress at the CV Film awards for “Rose England” in 2018. Up to this time, Sue was satisfied with writing and acting. Making indies had not occurred to Sue.
The idea for the “Monster Olympics” started with writing prompts she used from Writers Digest. After seeing the reaction from the audience after five actors performed a 10-minute version of “Monster Olympics” at a writing salon, she knew she wanted to make it into a movie. It’s at that time Sue and her son, Donnie Earl, started their company, Qwest Productions.
The film did not start as it is now. There were many rewrites as the characters came to life on the page. The premise of ‘Monsters Olympics’ is overcoming being bullied and having the courage to be who you want to be in life. Sue affectionately talks about her movie as being about “a monster who comes out of the closet…literally.”
“Monster Olympics” is a short that runs approximately 35 minutes long. It will be an appeal to the younger crowd, the LGBTQ community and anyone who loves monsters becoming who they really are!
Sue drew on the local pool of freelance actors who are not in the actor’s union. “My actors in this movie are so special to me. I offered for them to be a part of my dream, and every one of them gave their all!” She also found a talented makeup artist who jumped on board when he found out he would be making up monster faces. Her son, Donnie, was her cameraman and co-director.
Sue’s original budget was $1,500, but it grew to $3,600, not including the marketing budget. All of the shoots were done in either Sue’s or her sister’s home in Palm Desert. Everything was shot on iPhones and a Canon Camera.
The movie took approximately 30 production days to shoot. Since everyone volunteered, scheduling times was always a challenge. To date, Sue and her son Donnie have spent almost 90 days editing the movie.
With “Monsters Olympics” being in the can, Sue is currently shooting her second movie. This time it’s a feature titled, “Rasputin’s Curse,” and it will premiere in winter 2020. Sue is also currently writing her third screenplay along with writing a play she hopes to submit soon with the hopes that it will be featured in an upcoming writer’s salon.
The best advice Sue offers anyone who is interested in making films is “know it’s going to take time, dedication and perseverance. If you believe in yourself, go for it. Just keep going.” It’s Sue’s belief in herself and her vision that kept her going and dealing with all the challenges that come with learning and doing. Bravo Sue. Well done. Now keep going.
“Monster’s Olympics” premiers Oct. 28 at the Desert Works Theatre, 45175 Fargo, Indio. Tickets can be purchased at the door. There are a limited number of free tickets available for the 8:30 p.m. screening. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for free tickets.