LA Indies spoke to Laura “L.A” Barbato, an award winning American producer, director, screenwriter, and the owner of Twelve 83 Entertainment. Laura’s style is most influenced by screenwriter and producer Rod Serling, director David Lynch, David Fincher, Alfred Hitchcock, and by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells, and Ernest Hemingway. Laura is the writer and producer of the award winning documentary titled, “The States of Emergency: New York & New Jersey”, which takes us through the financial hardships faced during the COVID-19 Pandemic. She's also the award winning writer and producer behind the film, “The Man Who Sold The World (2019)”, starring Giancarlo Carmona and Meilin Gray and the creator, writer, producer and director of the anthology series, “The Unorthodox Series”, now on YouTube TV. Laura is a retired New York City police sergeant, and is currently studying screenwriting at the New York Film Academy in New York.
What was the inspiration behind the making of your film documentary film?
New York City, and what it’s become! Back in June of 2020, I had to head into lower Manhattan to drop off some paperwork, and that’s probably when the idea to make the documentary hit me. Manhattan had changed so much from the time of the shutdown in March, to what it was in June. The homeless population was much larger. Stores were boarded up and locked down--the City was a ghost town. It wasn’t the New York City that we all fall in love with, and I wanted to shed light on the hardships and financial challenges that people were, and still are, facing during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
What were some of the challenges of making the documentary?
Safety is always our first priority. We were able to film in between the first and second “waves” of the Pandemic, so the “curve” was flattened during our filming. We made sure the crew had enough sanitizers, masks, and whatever we needed to be safe in the streets of New York City and New Jersey. In addition to that, we also needed to make sure we were socially distancing not only with the crew, yet with the people we were interviewing. Sanitizing microphones and equipment is paramount. We followed all of the protocols and guidelines, and thankfully, nobody contracted the virus during our filming.
When did you realize that you wanted to work in media and what was the first film project that you created?
I always loved writing and art, even as a kid. It wasn’t until I started becoming more involved in shooting music videos, five or six years ago, that I really fell in love with film. I wrote and produced my first short film, “The Man Who Sold The World”, that was released in 2019 which will always be special to me. We started to shoot in 2017, right before I was involved in a near fatal car accident while I was on-duty as a New York City Police officer. After I went through recovery and rehab for my injuries, we got right back into it and finished filming in 2018.
Which directors have been influential in your work and why?
I’ve always loved M. Night Shyamalan’s form of storytelling and directing, even when I was in high school. Alfred Hitchcock, of course, from when I was a kid. David Fincher, David Lynch and Christopher Nolan are a few others that I find to not only be phenomenal directors and storytellers, yet directors I love that work in my favorite genres.
What genre of filmmaking do you like to work on? Do you prefer to only work on documentaries?
I love psychological thrillers. I’ve written several feature and short film scripts in the “psychological thriller” genre over the past couple of years. The documentary, “The States of Emergency: New York & New Jersey” is actually my first documentary, and I have to say it was an amazing experience. I would definitely do more documentaries in the future!
What is the most challenging aspect of making an independent film?
Speaking before COVID-19, just having the funds to even make an independent film was challenging in itself! As an indie producer and screenwriter, sometimes what I have in mind may not always match the budget. Time management is another challenging aspect, because again, time is money on set. Making sure everyone is on the same page can also be a challenging aspect, but once everyone gets going, it’s an amazing experience. Now during COVID, and eventually post COVID, sanitizing, distancing, and wearing masks have been incorporated into the challenges of filming.
How can cinema and documentary films change the world and have an impact on society?
I really believe that documentary pieces on COVID-19 and the pandemic will eventually be a part of our history. To be able to “capture the moment” is something that I found to be extremely important for society and its future during these challenging times. A documentary on the COVID-19 Pandemic is something that younger generations can look back on, and realize just what was really going on. It’s quite fascinating, I guess I could say!