By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– To go to New York to work in theater or stay in Los Angeles to direct in film?
This was the vital question Cal State San Bernardino communication studies professor Lane Shefter Bishop had to answer when deciding her career path. No matter what route she chose, she knew she wanted to work with actors.
“When I was very young, I knew what I wanted to do,” Bishop said.
After working as a theater director in Los Angeles at only 20 years old, she ultimately decided to take her chances in the film industry and managed to get accepted into USC’s School of Cinematic Arts to obtain her master’s in production.
Her decision has proven fruitful; Bishop has not only been teaching film analysis and film production classes at CSUSB since 2015, but is also a multi-award winning producer and director. Her accolades include an Emmy, six Telly Awards, a Videographer Award, three Communicator Awards, a Sherril C. Corwin Award, an Aurora Award, a Davey Award, a New York Festivals Award and the Directors Guild of America Fellowship Award for Episodic Television.
But before Bishop found her success, she initially had difficulty immersing herself into the directing world that was dominated by men. “It has always been a boys club,” she said.
Despite early setbacks, Bishop worked hard and still managed to start her own production company when she was halfway through film school, developing a reel by shooting anything that she could direct.
“I would literally knock on people’s doors and ask them if I could use the front of their house to film a PSA,” Bishop recalled.
After numerous smaller-scale directing gigs, Bishop had her first big break as a director in the 2003 movie “Los Jornaleros,” or “The Day Laborers,” about three young Hispanic men who come to the United States to pursue the American dream, but instead, end up struggling as day laborers. The movie was shown at a number of film festivals across the country and even received official selection at the Milan International Film Festival in Italy.
“I was nervous, of course, and incredibly thrilled,” Bishop said about her breakout film. “The fact that a primarily Hispanic production company would take a chance on a female director, at a time when practically no one else would, was truly exciting.”
In 2008, she started Vast Entertainment, which specializes in book-to-film adaptations. This helped Bishop, CEO of the company, pitch her first Lifetime movie called “The Choking Game,” based on the original book titled “Choke,” by Diana Lopez. The movie, on which Bishop served as both the director and executive producer, premiered in 2014 and pulled in more than a million viewers for the network. It also debuted at No. 4 in the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings “Top 5” for the night, and the hashtag #TheChokingGame took 15th place out of 454 United States trending topics for the day it premiered.
“I produced and directed ‘The Choking Game’ in Winnipeg, Canada, in absolutely freezing temperatures in the heart of winter, which of course, provided a bunch of challenges,” she said. “We had terrific actors and an amazing local crew, which made it all worthwhile and ultimately helped create a film I am truly proud of.”
Following her first success on Lifetime, Bishop served as the executive producer of the popular 2015 teen comedy “The DUFF,” featuring Mae Whitman and Robbie Amell, based on the novel by Kody Keplinger, in which Bishop had discovered and optioned years earlier.
Bishop jumped back to Lifetime in 2017 when she was asked to direct the movie “Wicked Mom’s Club,” about a mother who must take down a group of bullying PTA moms before they destroy her life. Within three weeks after being approached by the production company MarVista Entertainment, Bishop found herself in Lexington, Ky., ready to direct, but was immediately introduced to “a million and one issues.”
First, Bishop and her crew had to “hit the ground running” as they had only two weeks of pre-production time, when the norm is about a month. They were also still in the midst of casting when Bishop arrived, they had only one stunt double for two different characters, and Bishop had to practically rewrite the script. They even lacked a wardrobe supervisor for one day, forcing Bishop to ask the homeowners of the mansion they were filming in if they could borrow their clothes for the movie — luckily, they agreed.
“I have never been through a shoot so crazy,” Bishop confessed, who even had to make last-minute scene changes due to the 17-degree weather they were working in. “I had to be super creative and flexible. There was no other way to get it done.”
Despite all the complications, Bishop was happy with how the movie came out, which debuted on Oct. 7. Lifetime liked it too, so MarVista asked Bishop to direct “The Personal Trainer” for the network as well, which has finished post-production and is due to debut sometime in early 2018.
Although directing can be hectic, Bishop enjoys the fast-paced nature of the work. “It’s kind of like an adrenaline rush,” she explained. “When you’re directing, it becomes your whole life. There’s nothing better than being on set.”
Bishop, who also has experience directing and producing reality television for Bishop-Lyons Entertainment and is author of the book “Sell Your Story in a Single Sentence: Advice from the Front Lines of Hollywood,” says her favorite part about directing is working with the actors. “When you have a vision and the actor does it — it’s a thrill!” she said.
In fact, Bishop credits her theater experience for her unique way of directing, which she says helped set her apart from her peers at USC. “My theater background was very helpful because I focused on the actors — not just on the camera shots like the film majors,” she said.
Now with more than 20 years of directing and producing experience, Bishop brings a wealth of firsthand knowledge to her production classes at CSUSB.
“I can bring things here to show composition and show students audition tapes. They get a real-life, hands-on experience,” said Bishop. She also has her students develop pre-production notebooks so they can learn “what it takes to produce.”
Bishop has a number of projects in the works, including three television series where she will serve as the executive producer, and three Lifetime movies where she will serve as both producer and director.
Whether she’s producing a television series, directing a film or teaching her students, Bishop enjoys the busy chaos. “With all the craziness,” Bishop said, “it’s been such a good experience.”