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New Hampshire filmmaker learned a lot from her "On the Lot" experience

New Hampshire filmmaker learned a lot from her "On the Lot" experience

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Hilary Graham didn't quite get the Hollywood ending that she was hoping for.

If she had, this 37-year-old filmmaker would be the one standing center stage during tonight's "On the Lot" finale, listening to the cheers as she was handed that $1 million DreamWorks contract. It will, however, be another lucky filmmaker taking home the prize from this Fox reality series produced by Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg.


Copyright 2007 On The Lot Partners, LLC

Still, this Francestown, NH resident looks back with much fondness on the eight weeks she spent in LA where she went head to head with 18 other talented filmmakers (selected from 12,000 submissions) in "one of the most challenging, wonderful, and surreal experiences in my life".


Copyright 2007 On The Lot Partners, LLC
Courtesy of
HilaryGraham.com

Hilary was voted off back on July 17th, but still values the time that she spent in what amounted to "director's boot camp."

"It was hard both emotionally and physically. It was extremely hard being away from my family, (all contestants on the show were kept sequestered. Hilary used her one 15-minute phone call per week to talk her husband Andy and her 3-year-old son, Henry), " I missed Andy & Henry sooooooo much."

The compressed shooting and editing schedule took its toll as well.

"We had Wednesday and Thursday to lock down a script -- which was either a re-write of script ideas from Dreamworks or an original story -- that couldn't change once the pre-pro[duction] people started putting together the sets and props. Friday and Saturday were very long days of trying to get all the shots we needed. We then had to have picture lock by 4 a.m. on Saturday, an incredibly unrealistic schedule in the real world. The first time we walked out of one of those sessions we all looked like we had just been beaten."

Even with the long hours, Ms. Graham said that the time that she spent on "On the Lot" was " ... "a dream come true."


Copyright 2007 On The Lot Partners, LLC

"All of my other films I had to do everything myself including hauling props in the back of my car and imploring my friends to be actors.
It was just such a pleasure to really direct with a professional crew and amazing sets and a whole repertory company of actors. You know, I never really had a dream this good."

Though it was hard being away from her family, the best part " ... was meeting and being with all of these young directors."

"For a writer like me, being able to walk out of my bungalow any time day or night and pitch an idea to one of my colleagues was like my geeky little dream come true. We [are now] truly all friends and collaborators."

And though being voted off of this reality show was a disappointment, Ms. Graham did manage to make a few industry connections along the way. She recently returned to LA and met with "On the Lot" judge Garry Marshall. TheTV and movie veteran pronounced the New Hampshire-ite to be the show's most improved filmmaker and invited her to his office to discuss her writing and directing career plans.

"I never really wanted to be a reality show, I just wanted to get my films out there," she explained. " And being on 'On the Lot' actually gave me the exposure that I was looking for."

Speaking of exposure ... Ms. Graham was startled to find herself back up on stage as part of the "On the Lot" finale.

"One of the last three directors was asked to select his favorite film from the series and he chose one of my movies," Hilary continued. "So look for one of my films to be shown as part of the show's finale."


Copyright 2007 On The Lot Partners, LLC

And -- yes -- Ms. Graham already knows the name of the show's winner. But due to the very hefty confidentiality contract that she signed, Hilary is forbidden from revealing that info in advance. So don't ask, okay ?

Anyway ... Getting back to that Hollywood ending now ... No, things didn't play out quite as Ms. Graham had planned. But given that this New Englander now feels like that her film making career is just getting started, she's not going to let a little thing like being bounced off "On the Lot" stop her now.

" Even though 'The Legend of Donkey-Tail Willie' didn’t get enough votes to keep me on the lot, I made a film that I’m proud of, so I can’t really ask for much more than that."

"To have something as your vision and to really have the resources to enable that fantasy that lived in your mind, it's just been like a dream come true.  It's just not the end of my dreams, it's the beginning."

"I've come away from this competition as a stronger, better person. Plus I got my work out there for the whole world to see."

And you can see some of Hilary's work tonight on Fox's "On the Lot," which airs at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Central Time). To take a look at the movies that Ms. Graham created for this reality series, follow this link.

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  • For those of you that missed this show, it was REALLY good! Some of the shorts were very good and inventive. I hope that they do this again.

    I'm not sure it would be possible, but it would be cool if Disney did something similar with animation.

  • Nice article and great that she's able to use the experience to move forward. Would have liked some insight from a contestant's point of view, though, on when the show started falling apart after the second episode. I really felt for them when the entire format was changed and the producers starting showing their entry films for three weeks straight. What did they do all that time? Did they get a chance to complain? Were they threatened with expulsion (or worse) to keep any of them from complaining on air? I was really hoping Marty would cut loose when he got jilted, but he kept his mouth shut. I'm hoping somebody talks after tonight.

  •  I only saw this show once for  a short amount of time.   I was able to see the film that was so neat.  A male doll and many female dolls and at the end you see  little girls playing with the plastic  dolls in  the doll house, but you only see it at first with  the  Live actors doing this.    You had to see it  was a cute sexual ending .

    sorry I missed seeing her films on  that show.

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