We were all hoping for letters on our eleventh birthdays. When they didn’t come we were all a little disappointed, but also felt silly for having hoped in the first place. Because we couldn’t go to Hogwarts, we went to muggle school and now we’re in our 20s at college wondering what degree to get and how to use that degree in the real world. People in the arts and humanities are particularly concerned about this question. While teaching is a worthwhile profession, not everyone wants that life. Apple Juice Productions shows students in these fields exactly what they can do with their degrees while empowering women in male-dominated fields.
Taking inspiration from popular books and movies, Apple Juice Productions decided to make films centered around the female characters many of us remember from some of our favorite books.
Amanda Taylor, founder of Apple Juice Productions, said of AJP’s beginning, “We wanted to make something. We wanted to make a web-series based on ‘Northanger Abbey.’ One of my good friends had this really fun script idea and there’s this community … of literary-inspired web-series, and there was one called ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’ that got really big and it was kind of an entry point for us … because it’s a simple set-up. It’s following a story that already exists and characters that people already know. So we had this idea and we knew we would need to be able to produce it and just out of necessity the production company itself was sort of created. Then after we did ‘The Cate Morland Chronicles,’ we realized we had such a fun time we wanted to carry on.”
Carry on they did. After writing and filming “The Cate Morland Chronicles,” Taylor and co-writer Katie Kaniewski began working on the first installment of Apple Juice Productions’ current project, “Lily Evans and the Eleventh Hour.” This web-series is a non-commercial fanfilm that focuses on the Marauders era of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. Instead of focusing, as many would, on James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew, Taylor and Kaniewski combined two ideas to create a film series from Lily Evans’ perspective. Set in her sixth and seventh years at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, the first installment details the friendship between Lily and Alice Fawley, the developing relationship between Lily and James and how these characters react to the beginnings of the first Wizarding War.
Taylor and her friends decided to create female-centric films when forming Apple Juice Productions because they wanted to inspire feminism in fandom and explore the relationships women build with each other.
“I just am always hanging out with incredible, impressive, intimidating women and I like being able to represent them in my writing and in my acting wherever I can. I think it’s something that’s lacking, always,” Taylor said.
The “Harry Potter” series features several strong female characters. However, these characters are often only given implied friendships. Audiences aren’t given the opportunity to see these characters’ relationships and friendships develop, and are typically supposed to assume events and conversations have happened behind the scenes to create these bonds. Requiring readers or viewers to make these assumptions isn’t a bad thing, but writing realistic examples of how these friendships developed allows Harry Potter fans to better relate to these characters.
“I think it’s important because, traditionally, all the stories leading up to now have been written by men, so they have a very one-sided view of females and how they portray them. When you get a woman writer, it becomes ‘we have many layers,’ which isn’t to say men do a bad job, but it’s important for the next generation of females to see more realistic examples,” Cassandra Taylor, co-director of photography, said.
As AJP continued to expand and incorporate more people into their company, Taylor, along with executive producer and marketing director Chelsey Saatkamp and technical director Kailee Brown, still maintain a mostly female crew on camera and behind it. Over the last two years, they have worked with 94 people, 75 percent of whom have been women, keeping in line with the mission statement on their website: “Apple Juice Productions is a group of women dedicated to telling female-centric stories by giving women a voice both on-screen and behind the scenes.”
This mission encourages women of all skill sets and levels of film or acting education to join the production company to learn and grow as actresses, photographers, writers and videographers, among many other positions.
Running off of enthusiasm and learning as they go, these women are encouraging themselves and others to start getting experience in their field of choice. Taylor’s recommendations for students who want to go into art and humanities fields is to watch a lot of acting if you want to be an actor, read screenplays if you want to write them and watch movies if you want to make movies.
“Anybody who has even an inkling of putting a toe in the water, I say ‘Come on in! The water is okay!’” Taylor said.
The imagination is a powerful thing and is the most important tool for those working toward degrees or careers in creative fields. Apple Juice Productions is one example of the work one can do in these fields, though currently the production company is on hiatus as they raise funds to continue filming the next installments of the Lily Evans series, which will include Lily and James’ wedding.
Those interested in watching “Lily Evans and the Eleventh Hour,” “Lily Evans and the Stroke of Midnight” and “Lily Evans and the Moment of Truth” can find all of their fanfilms on YouTube or through Apple Juice Productions’ website.