Meet Vanessa Nottingham, a third year BFA acting major at the University of Florida. At the age of 7, she was introduced to acting after her parents enrolled her in an acting program. Their attempt to get their shy daughter out of her comfort zone led Vanessa to find her passion and future career.
After the pandemic hit, Vanessa’s whole life was put on hold; All of her shows were either getting canceled or done via Zoom. Vanessa realized this was far from what she had signed up for. So, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
Over the summer, she focused on writing the script for her new miniseries Public Policy with help from Noah Seppanen. Not only did she help write this series, but she filmed and played the lead role, Brie. Talk about a triple threat!
Public Policy is about a 21-year-old woman named Brie, who is looking to make her town more progressive. In search for a purpose in life and inspired by the book The Alchemist, Brie decides to run for mayor. But to win, she realizes that she must switch political parties. This story follows the story of four friends — some of whom are lying about their true identity — as they navigate the political playing field.
Although Brie is the lead, she is considered the antagonist. Vanessa describes her as “not a great person,” but she admires her “drive and positivity.”
“Even when everything is not going right,” Vanessa said, “she still has a positive attitude and does everything in her power to make something.”
The biggest obstacle Vanessa faced was figuring out a safe plan to film while adhering to CDC guidelines. She needed to minimize the crew and cast size as much as possible, recruiting people from her inner circle such as students in her classes. This meant many people had to double or even triple the number of tasks they were usually responsible for. Their crew was limited to five people: a producer, two directors, a lighting designer and a scenic designer.
Everyone had to get tested, have their temperatures checked daily and wear masks at all times possible. The problem that came with masks was when actors would start sweating, which meant filming had to stop to retouch their makeup. That didn’t stop them from following the proper guidelines for everyone’s safety, though.
Things got complicated when the crew had two COVID-19 scares during filming, however. When a crew member came into contact with someone who had tested positive, filming had to come to a complete stop until everyone came back with negative results.
The last challenge she faced was finding locations to film since most places were put in lockdown. In the end, they were able to shoot in local Gainesville businesses like Sweet Berries, Opus Coffee and some graduate offices in our very own football stadium. But without a proper studio, their creativity came into play in transforming their apartments into different scenes. In their bedrooms, balconies and a basement, they created a debate stage, nightclub, puppet show and even an abyss.
After many sleepless nights and a crazy three weeks, she finished filming and is beyond ecstatic for the finished product. She was motivated to start this project to venture into the directing field and dabble into her other interests in film. She hadn’t directed to this extent before and was able to learn new techniques and communication skills from her co-director, Noah. Balancing her priorities between this project and school was difficult, but her dedication and drive led her to succeed.
Vanessa hopes viewers of the mini-series “learn that it is important to follow through with what you say.” Vanessa became inspired to write Brie’s character as she observed people participating in performative activism on social media — when people talk about important movements, like Black Lives Matter, but won’t follow through with any action. It is important to spread awareness and support different movements, just don’t let it stop when you log out of Instagram.
Vanessa also wants viewers to have fun and laugh. This series is a comedy, after all! She hopes to shock close friends and family as they watch what the cast and crew were able to accomplish in the three-week duration of filming.
Currently, Vanessa is in the process of editing her series, which is expected to be released in January. For more updates and information about her series, you can follow their Instagram at @publicpolicy.miniseries. She is also working on a new script for a movie for next semester and is currently looking for locations and cast members.
As for plans after she graduates this spring, Vanessa plans on moving out to LA to follow her dreams in acting and directing. Being a Latina woman, she sees a definite need to diversify Hollywood's directing industry, considering women only made up 10.6% of directors in 2019.
And there you have it! One of our very own gators, Vanessa Nottingham, has been able to utilize her resources and passion for bringing viewers a delightful mini-series that can bring some light into your day. This pandemic has been hard on all of us and, I, like many, have turned to the entertainment industry to cope with the hardships this year has brought us. Starting in January, you can add Public Policy to your list of shows to watch.