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Meet Dayna Noffke

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dayna Noffke.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Dayna. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
It’s been a long and storied path that has led up to where I am today. I have always been a “movie nerd” and particularly attracted to the horror genre, but I didn’t spend my childhood dreaming of making movies. In fact, in my world, I probably didn’t have any frame of reference for that or even consider it a possibility.

I started out going to college for art, wound up in anthropology and ultimately decided that grad school was not in the cards, so I would teach high school instead. I taught in Athens for a few years and ended up taking a long leave of absence to care for my newborn daughter. It was during this time that I was offered a chance to do background work on a film in town – Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2.

I can remember looking around the set and thinking, I love this. I could do it. It all clicked. Within a few weeks, I had written a short film script and we were gearing up to shoot. Andrew Shearer of Gonzoriffic Films (from Athens) was a great supporter through these first few projects and actually shot two of them for me.

My early projects were just-for-fun no budget backyard fare. We had a terrific time making them but I did very little in the way of getting them out into the world. They were truly just for us. There is something very freeing about that.

A few years later, however, I realized that I wanted to do this for a career. I wasn’t certain at that time that I wanted to direct. I only knew that I loved being on set. I began doing Art PA gigs on small non-union projects, eventually joining IATSE 479, the Studio Mechanics Union, as a set dec buyer. I worked in the set dec department for five years and continued to write and direct my own short films on the side.

As of this year, I have cut back on my set dec jobs and am focusing on directing and writing as my full-time career. I have a feature film, Get Chino! in development with Dauntless Studios, a short film in post and recently finished another feature screenplay.

Getting into the movie industry is much more of an art than a science. Everyone has his or her own path to getting their projects made. Mine has been to keep making quality content, regardless of budget and then get it out into the world. I love collaborating with creators and cheering on other peoples’ projects and it follows that people will be there to collaborate and cheer for you.

I am fortunate to have so many wonderful collaborator, artists and friends in Atlanta who have helped make all of this possible for me.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has been a roller coaster. “Anything worth having doesn’t come easily” has proven itself over and over again. Producing quality content with limited funds is a huge challenge, as any filmmaker can tell you. At the same time, I recognize my privilege in having access to people and equipment through my work in the film industry and I am fortunate in that regard.

As to getting to the point of getting a feature in development, it took years of working at screenwriting to get to the point that I was capable of producing something that could be taken seriously. Once I had a few scripts that fell into that box, I was faced with the next challenge: finding someone else to believe in my project and help me produce it. I had a few different projects get barely off the ground, then crash and burn. At the time it was heartbreaking, though I realize now that this type of thing is far from unusual. Making it in this business is largely a game of perseverance.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I write and direct short film content. I also write feature screenplays and I have a feature, Get Chino!, in development. Although I started out working primarily in horror – and still love it! – my latest works have been skewing more towards dark comedies with action and satirical elements. There’s always plenty of blood to go around!

My focus has always been to produce the best quality content we can, whatever the budget. I work hard to ensure that every project gets finished and does everyone on the crew proud.

I am putting a lot of time into honing my craft right now. Taking master courses, attending workshops, working through online cinematography courses, soaking up all the information that I can and then creating projects that allow me to put those skills to work. I am also a huge believer in pre-production. It’s my feeling that the entire project should have solid pre-vis and a strong vision already in place. That way, when you are on set the foundation is already built and you can focus on adjusting to needs, opportunities and problems as they arise.

I put a huge emphasis on maintaining a positive and inclusive set, where everyone feels heard and respected. I do not ever want to put the production of a movie above the mental health or safety of any of the cast and crew. I am grateful and in awe of the talent of the crew who come out time and time again and work so hard to give these projects life.

There have been many highlights and firsts for my team these past few years. First, we were very lucky to be chosen as one of the filmmakers for Jen and Sylvia Soska’s Women in Horror Blood drive PSAs for 2017. They are so talented, lovely and supportive and it was a great honor to have the chance to make a short to support this cause. Our film, Sanguino, was a blast to make and very well-received.

Secondly, we have had wonderful screening opportunities. Nightmares Film Festival is fast becoming a high-caliber horror destination and was at the top of our ‘wish list’. I premiered my film “Gentlewoman’s Guide to Domesticity” there and received a nomination for “Best Writing in a Short.”

Our latest short film, The Mondays (currently in post) marked a lot of “firsts” for me as a director. This was my first time working with Steadicam, significant amounts of dolly shots and stunts. Both our star, Damita Jane and her co-star, Derek Russo (who also served as stunt coordinator) were a joy to work with and I learned a lot from them. This film really stretched my creative and technical boundaries and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

What were you like growing up?
I’m not certain that such a thing as a “typical childhood” exists but if it does, I like to say I’m “from” the St. Louis area as I spent my formative high school years there but prior to that we had lived in Madison, Wisconsin, Effingham, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee.

I was a bit precocious insanely imaginative and entirely too sensitive for my own good. I spent the bulk of my childhood in a Milwaukee brace for scoliosis. If you aren’t familiar with this type of brace, it has a plastic shell that encases your torso and is cinched up with leather and metal straps. It also has a rounded bar that sits under the chin.

As you can imagine, this did not make me very popular. Although I was an extroverted kid, I still ended up spending a lot of time by myself. I was hospitalized multiple times as a child – mostly for respiratory infections and later for back surgery. During these times, I lost myself in drawing, reading and watching movies.

My brother and I used to get up and watch things we had no business watching on HBO in the middle of the night. (Sorry, mom!) and later we spent a lot of time perusing video stores. We were really into Star Wars and had ALL of the figures and toys – The Millennium Falcon, Ty Fighters, Tauntauns, EVERYTHING! I also recall playing with Castle Grayskull a lot. We were quite imaginative and although we fought, we also played together a lot.

I am also fortunate to have a large family on my dad’s side. Going to my Grandma Betty’s house was always a wonderful diversion from whatever else was going on in my life at school. I have almost thirty cousins and a bevy of aunts and uncles. We spent a lot of time playing outside, skating and generally looking for trouble.

In high school, I was briefly into drama and art clubs. But mostly, I spent my time at the mall, movies and matinee punk rock shows. I was always bringing home stray pets. I had (and still do) a soft spot for animals.

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Image Credit:
Robin Henson, Ed Selby, Superficial gallery.com

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