Rhonda Parker, writer and filmmaker breaking new ground in western New York

You first met Che in Rochester works for actor Che Holloway, an impromptu interview and amble through the Neighborhood of the Arts.

An aspiring and successful actor, Che is deeply immersed in the Rochester cultural scene. So much so, we’ve named him Che of The Town!

Exclusively for Talker, Che has solicited and is conducting interviews from about 100 Rochestarians working in a diversity of creative fields.

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Photos courtesy of Rhonda Parker. Rhonda in Beaver Alley, Albion, NY

For the full series, see Che of The Town: Interviews

Tell us a little about yourself, where you are from, grew up, what H.S./College you attended etc. 

I was born a coal miners daughter in the mountains of Virginia. Actually, I was the daughter of a restaurateur and theater manager.     I was the youngest of five, with a tendency to be artistically inclined. After graduation,  I moved with my parents to New York to study Journalism at NCCC.   My goal of being a writer was delayed by nearly two decades as I left college to raise a family. An ongoing legal battle caused me to go back to college in 2012 to get a Paralegal degree at GCC. While at GCC, I was tempted by courses in Film, Photography and other Arts.  I decided to take these classes and obtain a Communications degree, as well.

What inspired you to be an artist? Early experiences worth sharing?

When I was very small,  I looked similar to Shirley Temple. My mom entertained her friends with my rendition of “Good Ship Lollipop”. She would have me do local modeling jobs and march in parades as various characters, including an Ewok. There was talk about taking me to California to be a star, but  practical concerns of having food on the table and clothes took priority.  I began writing creatively at the age of nine. These writings included; Weird Al inspired songs, Mad Magazine inspired comics, and plays that I would direct with neighborhood children. By high school I was writing screenplays and borrowing video camera to make films for school projects as well as my own amusement. I was given my own video camera for graduation, and used to to capture the exploits of me and my group of friends in New York. In college, I wrote for the school newspaper and developed a fan base for my humorous articles on the lives of students. My Journalism teacher loved my style, but told me I could ‘never’ write bland impersonal newspaper articles. Soon, my camera was capturing the coos and first steps of my own children. My escape from the virtual hell of a June Clever inspired existence was the writing of the stories of my youth. I thought those scripts would never see the light of day.

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Rhonda directing Friends Don’t Let Friends Date Friends.

Tell us about your production company? What inspired you to pursue it?

My production company, Beaver Alley Studios Inc, was a long time coming. For our 10th wedding anniversary, My husband and I created a very punny movie with our kids as super villains, and ourselves as Wonder Woman and Superman.  We continued making movies for our own entertainment and commercial submissions for contests for years. It was not until 2014 when I was taking my film class that we became serious and starting hiring actors to be in our projects.

My Zombie Movie, “Biting off More than you can Chew”, was appropriately named because an ‘experienced’ peer told me it was “not possible” to shoot three diverging story lines, over 30 characters in a 27 min movie, complete with special effects, in one winter day. I did it anyway, and my professor was blown away by the final result. Next, I took on filming my first feature film, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Date Friends”, as an Honors Program thesis. This was a 20 year old script that I had written about the Friends I had in my youth. These early projects were done under the name Kaleidoscopic Productions. Since this name was not only difficult to spell, but was also used by other companies, we needed a new name. We settled on “Beaver Alley Studios Inc.” for two reasons. 1) It spoke to me as having rather ironic undertones of female empowerment. 2) Nearly every movie, commercial submission, or music video we filmed had a scene on the historic brick road of Albion’s ‘Beaver Alley’.

Our second film, Lonely Bananas was a collaboration of many of the areas best actors. It is the story of a dating service that is known for ridiculously incompatible match-ups. I portray a crazed cop, “Dana Bookum”, in the screwball comedy.  In recent years, Beaver Alley Studios Inc has developed into a non profit organization for the Arts. Our non profit group is in a fledgling phase, primarily self funded, but we are looking to grow in community support. Our organization hosts a yearly festival, WNY F.A.M.E. to celebrate the work of local and international Musicians, Artists and Film Makers. The Film, Art, and Music Event takes place from Sept 15-17 at GCC in Batavia. Donations can be made on our website towards our films, festival, and art education ventures.

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On the set of Lonely Bananas

 Talk about a time where you have faced adversity/conflict and have triumphed.

My family was engaged in a 5 year long civil rights battle against a municipality. We fought back very publicly, video recording a wide variety of evidence, our speeches at board meetings, and heated live encounters with public officials. Although, there are no winners in this type of struggle, we felt very much vindicated in the progress we made against our oppressors.

What do you believe sets you apart from other artists/entertainers and figures in media?

My wide variety of real life experiences sets me apart from the rest. It has been said a writer should write what they know and the reason there are so few good writers is because anyone who knows how to write, hasn’t experienced anything. I am multifaceted as a film maker; I write, direct, produce, cinematography, and edit. I am a student of people, and my understanding of the human mind is vital to my creation of realistic characters. Many indie screenwriters struggle with creating multidimensional characters and realistic dialogue. My sense of of humor is an important factor in my ability to write comedy that is appealing to a wide variety of people. Life provides so much inspiration for comedy.

Do you have other interests or hobbies?

I enjoy photography, drawing, painting, wine tasting, kayaking, singing, dancing, snow skiing, hiking, board and card games. I’m pretty much up for trying new things. Any projects you have out or currently working on?

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On the set of Nuke Um High

I am in post production on my third feature film, Message in a Bottle.

(Adventure) A trio of young teens’ lives are changed forever when they go on a journey to rescue a kid sending eerie notes down stream in bottles. Johnny Tatro (Matthew Owen Kozak) is a passionate young teen that has been mislabeled due to skeletons in his family closet. His sarcastic, socially immature best friend, Timmy (Jack Champion) has been sheltered his entire life due to medical issues. Emily (Emma Morrison) is a young women trying to get out from under her sister’s shadow and find her own identity. Each set out on this Journey to an unknown destination for their own reasons and a shared bond of friendship. Can the optimism of youth survive the harsh light of day?

Message in a Bottle is scheduled for a September release. We are planning a VIP dinner at the Screening Room in Buffalo for Saturday Sept 9. The premiere is planned for Sunday Sept. 10 at the Cinema in Rochester. A third screening will be Friday Sept 15th at 9:00pm at WNY FAME.Rhonda 4

I am also in pre-production on my forth feature film, Lifeboat. This is a psychological thriller about a man faced with an impossible ethical decision on a doomed vessel. This project is currently seeking producers, investors and donations. Inquires can be made to rhonda@beaverallystudios.com  Donations can be made on our website.

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

At peace with my life. Life can be very hectic. My five year plan is to simplify my life so I have more time to enjoy the things that matter. I would like to continue to grow my nonprofit and have completed at least two other films in that period of time.

What advice can you give to aspiring artists/entertainers?

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On the set of Biting off More than you can Chew

Someday might never come, so do what you can do now. Do not burden yourself with goals of fame an fortune. Do not chase every available project that you can be in.  Instead, focus on creating work that you can be proud of.

How can we follow along in your journey? Social media?

Beaver Alley Studios Facebook

Website

FDLFDF facebook

Lonely Bananas Facebook

WNY FAME

Message in a Bottle

Lifeboat Facebook

Message Trailer

IMDB

SEE ALSO

Says who you can’t get rich being a writer.