Profile: Annabel Durst

Annabel Durst at work on a film set. Photo by Nikki Gottschalk

Annabel Durst, film major and aspiring producer, plans to work on at least 10 films this semester in hopes of gaining as much experience as possible. Her focus lies on the side of production, a newfound interest in her career path, where she hopes to show that a woman of color can and will make her way in the film industry.

“The racism that surrounds everyone in this country is painful and the film industry is primarily white men. And so I want to get up there and I want people of color, even children, to see that we do have a voice and we can make it in a tough industry,” she says.

While some film majors focus on one aspect of filmmaking, such as directing, Durst sought to learn as much of the filmmaking trade as possible. Expanding her skills in directing and costuming, she has served in several first assistant director positions in student films as well as the head costume designer in Shoot the Stars last November. This semester, however, she plans to focus on the production side of filmmaking. Her first step, she believes, was serving as the production coordinator under producer Claudio Ruben during the filming of SFUAD’s first feature film, Final Cutz, over the summer.

Of the films she will be producing during the semester, two are directed by student Sam Smith-Boyle. From his experience with Durst on Final Cutz, for which he was production designer, Smith-Boyle says Durst’s excellent work ethic is one of the reasons he chose her as producer on his films this semester.

“She showed interest in the projects and she showed interest in working with me,” Smith-Boyle says. “She’s been proactive, which is good because it’s always been hard for me to find someone who joins the crew and is proactive about it.”

Durst, who believes she can pave the way for minorities in the film industry, states, “Being a woman of color is a struggle but I deserve to have my voice heard, because it’s important and times are changing in the film industry.”

In January of this year, Durst traveled to Washington D.C. to shoot a documentary on the women’s march. “I want to tell stories that are true to the lives of real people. How people actually live and not a made up, sanitized version of life,” she says. In her films, however, she plans to focus on the lives of people in under-represented populations: people with different abilities, incomes, and who have not necessarily been the mainstream in film. 

“My main focus is being a woman of color and sharing my story with individuals and just my experience in finding my voice,” she says.

Claudio Ruben, Final Cutz producer, also speaks well of Durst. Her job as production coordinator was crucial in making Final Cutz because she was in charge of the legal documents, organizing extras, ordering lunch and filling in for administrative duties.

“She’s a very important part because on the one side, in terms of managing documents and paperwork, she’s responsible for making sure all the actors and the extras sign releases, for example,” Ruben says.

Ruben also praises Durst for her proactiveness. “She’s already thinking several steps ahead. And by thinking ahead, she just makes things, all the gears of production work more easily and smoother,” he says.

Of the 10 films Durst hopes to produce this fall, she is currently working on five. However, these are still in the early stages of pre-production. “I just want to obtain all the knowledge and advice and tips from my professors, mentors, and friends,” Durst says. “I don’t want to be scared, I don’t want my voice to be shut down, and I won’t stand to be oppressed,” she says.

Despite the numerous films she intends to work on, Durst also plans to take time for herself and balance her life as much as possible during this time. “I want to make time for my films, my personal projects, school, friends, family, and significant others. But I definitely need to keep myself levelheaded so I plan on working out everyday, doing yoga, and going to the mountains,” she says.

Another tactic she uses to stay on top of life is taking time each night to shut down her electronics and use the time to journal, where she processes her day and makes a list of goals for the next. “It really helps,” she says.

For aspiring minority filmmakers, Durst encourages bravery and imagination. “Don’t be scared,” she says, because imagination is “the most powerful thing we have.”