Melissa Caswell holds a Bachelor’s of Music from Cameron University. She enjoys working both in front of and behind the camera, and while she will basically say yes to any job she’s offered, she enjoys being a wardrobe assistant the most. Most recently Caswell has worked on “God’s Not Dead 4”, “Hostage House” and “Sinister Sorority”.
What departments or positions have you worked?
I have worked as a wardrobe assistant, basecamp PA, office PA, set PA, APOC, and script supervisor. I love getting a chance to try out all the different departments I can.
How did you get started in the film industry?
In June 2018, I enrolled in an online program called “Friends in Film”. At the time, I was wondering how someone from Lawton, Oklahoma, could break into the industry to become a screenwriter and actor. That program promised to help people find work in film from wherever they live. Less than a year later of using their methods to find work and connections, I was hired to work as a set PA on the film “Lady Usher”, where I met several local professional crew members. The first AD from that film got me a position as basecamp PA on “Minari” and my film career just took off from there!
Did you have any formal education or training related to the film industry before starting?
I had very little film experience before I joined “Friends in Film”. I had taken some online screenwriting courses and had experience acting in community theatre productions and a couple student films, but that was the extent of it.
Did you have any formal education or training related to your specific department on-set?
My experience working as a data entry clerk and office assistant has helped me when I work as an office PA. I also attended one of NGP’s workshops to learn script supervising. The rest I’ve learned through getting to work a particular job on-set (and having some very patient crew members guide and help me out).
What are some of your most recent successes (credits or accolades) related to your career in the industry?
Since I started working in film at the beginning of 2019, I’ve been wanting to try my hand in the wardrobe department. I finally got the opportunity to be a wardrobe assistant at the end of last year and I can’t wait to see where that goes from here!
What has your career in the state’s film industry taught you?
I have really learned the importance of going after your dreams and not settling for anything less, no matter how long it takes and no matter how many setbacks you face. So often I was tempted to give up on my acting and filmmaking goals because they seemed like such a crazy dream that I would never achieve. Now I have an agent and have gotten so many amazing opportunities in film just because I have been too stubborn to give up.
What is the highlight of your career thus far?
Getting the opportunity to work on “Minari”, especially when I learned it would be starring Steven Yeun! That was when I really felt I had finally broken into the industry. It was already really exciting at the time, but now that it’s just been released and has gotten so much attention I am just blown away and so thankful that I got to play a small part in the making of that film.
What is your favorite aspect of working in Oklahoma’s film and television industry?
The people! The film industry here feels like one big family. They’ve just been so warm and welcoming. I’ve also been inspired by them. For so long my dreams of screenwriting and acting felt out of reach for me. Now I’m surrounded by people who are doing exactly what I want to do and I finally feel like I can actually achieve those things too.
What’s the best piece of advice you have for someone starting their career in Oklahoma’s film industry?
The most important thing is to show up to any and all film-related things you can find. So many times I found myself nervous to go to an event or job I had volunteered for and it would have been easy to give into those fears and stay home, but I can’t tell you how many opportunities I’ve gotten just because I showed up. This industry is largely word-of-mouth, so getting out there and meeting people is the best way to find your next job. Most of the work I’ve gotten has been because I was recommended by someone I had worked with on a previous gig.
How does someone in your field/department best promote/market themselves to those hiring in your industry?
I have found that just letting people know what job you’re hoping to have on-set is the best way to find work, at least at the level I’m at. People on set will ask you what department you want to work in. Don’t be shy about sharing exactly what you want to do!
Are there any local film organizations, resources or events that have been beneficial to you in your career?
The Oklahoma Film + Music website is probably the one I use the most. I check there for crew calls when I’m between gigs and make sure to keep my [Oklahoma Production Directory] listing up to date just in case someone is searching for crew. The NGP workshop I attended was also great for learning script supervising and making connections in the industry. I also follow several groups on Facebook that post cast and crew calls: Oklahoma Movie Makers, United Filmmakers of Oklahoma, Professional Filmmakers of Oklahoma, Casting Calls of Oklahoma, just to name a few.
What’s the one item you can’t live without on-set, and why?
My portable phone charger has been a life saver. I use my phone all day to communicate or take photos for continuity and I can’t leave it plugged in somewhere away from me. I also loan it out often, so it’s definitely one thing I make sure to always keep in my fanny pack.
Would your career be impacted without the state’s film incentive program? If so, how?
I imagine we would not have near as many projects come through without the incentive program, so I would not have nearly as many job opportunities without it.
Where do you see yourself – AND – Oklahoma’s film industry in the next five years?
In the next five years, I would love to be working mostly in wardrobe on the crew side of things, receiving bigger acting roles, and finally creating my own films as well. Oklahoma’s film industry seems to be booming right now! I think we’ll be seeing just more and more projects coming through here, especially with the new film schools and sound stages that recently opened.
What are you working on now or next?
I just wrapped as an office PA on “God’s Not Dead 4″. Next I’ll be helping one of the accountants in the industry with some post-production.