Recent Producing graduate from the New York Film Academy’s 1-Year Producing Conservatory, Heidi Segal, is a shining example of how it’s never too late to change your career and pursue an endeavor that is much more fulfilling. The former government contractor of 25 years rediscovered her creativity and hit the ground running while learning the craft of producing. She’s been busy working on several projects since graduating from the program, and was able to catch us up with her new career in a recent interview.
What made you decide to transition from government contractor to producing for film and TV?
After escaping an abusive marriage in early 2015, I relocated from Annapolis to Baltimore, MD to be closer to my client base. That summer I discovered “House of Cards” season 4 was shooting in the city and was curious about what it’s like being on set. So I signed up to be an extra and ended up working on the show 9 days over the next couple of months, to include being Robin Wright’s stand-in for a day. Since my industry had become so standardized, there was no longer anything creative about it, so I started crewing for friends on their first films or web series and taking acting classes. Quickly realizing that I preferred being behind the camera instead of in front of it, and enjoying the creative process of filmmaking, I decided to take a couple months off work and attend the 8-week Filmmaking program at NYFA with the intention of returning to Baltimore and my career. However, halfway through the filmmaking course, I realized producing films and TV series was exactly what I should have been doing years ago. Between my natural creativity and 25+ years of directly-relevant business experience, I immediately signed up for NYFA’s 1-Year Producing Conservatory, quit my consulting business, moved to NYC, started Mixed Sygnls Productions, LLC, and went back to school. I’m glad I did.
Would you say the producing school at NYFA was useful in terms of what you’re currently working on?
Absolutely. There is no way I could have executed this career transition as completely and efficiently as I have. Without the formal training and networking opportunities provided by the program, it would take me years to figure out I’m doing. I would not have been able to quit my career and focus solely on creating films and TV series.
Can you tell me a little bit about your short film, “Matthew’s Monsters”?
The logline is: Happy-go-lucky by day, a young boy is haunted by the sounds of monsters stomping around his room when the lights go out…until he discovers the source of the monsters’ footsteps.
I adapted “Matthew’s Monsters” from a story in the book “Icarus of Brooklyn” by Matthew Alper. I wrote the screenplay, cast the two characters (a 4 year-old boy and his mother), directed, and edited the film. I also optioned “Icarus of Brooklyn” for my thesis project and am now developing it into a feature film.
“Matthew’s Monsters” will be screening at the Cannes Short Film Corner and is being considered for 35 other film festivals worldwide.
Can you talk a little bit about your series, “Rough Cut”? Where did the idea come from and what is the status of the project?
We had a reality TV sizzle reel assignment in the Producing Conservatory 2nd quarter. Each student had to come up with their own concept and pitch to the Producing Department Chair, Neal Weisman. I came up with an entertainment industry-related competition/reality series. I apparently went overboard on my assignment and produced a full pitch package. Neil and Richard D’Angelo suggested I take the project out of the school and find an experienced reality TV Showrunner to attach as a Co-Producer and start marketing the series. I pitched the project to Eric Leemon after he came in for a guest lecture. He loved it, we inked a deal, and he handed it off to his agent at William Morris Endeavor (WME) to shop around for a buyer.
You’ve recently been working with ID/Discovery. Can you tell me what your position is at the network?
We had an internship requirement in the Producing Conservatory 4th quarter. Eric Leemon facilitated getting me onboard with HudSun Media here in NYC to work on the development team on the Discovery ID Channel crime reality show Bad Blood season 2. I worked as a researcher to identify murder cases that met the show’s concept for episode consideration. After graduating from NYFA, HudSun Media hired me on an as-needed basis to continue episode research support and to help the production team prepare to shoot and produce episode 5. All 6 episodes are in post production – so my work there is complete.
What do you hope to achieve at Cannes, especially with your involvement in the Cannes Film Business Program?
The networking opportunity at Cannes is my primary focus. I’m hoping to find financing and distribution deals for my upcoming feature films and possibly for “Rough Cut” and the other TV series I am creating.
What else are you currently working on?
Under my company, Mixed Sygnls Productions, LLC, I have optioned four feature films. I am currently developing and preparing to produce two of the smaller budget features — “My Name is Velouria,” a $2M action thriller that I plan to shoot in upstate NY this fall, and “Icarus of Brooklyn,” a $3M coming-of-age drama set in Brooklyn in the late 70s, early 80s that I plan to shoot in NYC next spring.
The other two features will be in the $15-25M range with production planned for late 2018 into 2019. I am also producing a teaser for Michael C. Bryan’s book “Creepy Kid” that will be published later this year. We plan to co-produce a feature film and TV series based on the book. In addition to “Rough Cut,” I am also creating a comedy reality TV series called “Kinda Sketchy” and two narrative TV series. I am creating “Bad Wolff”as a limited series about domestic abuse and domestic violence with the plan to launch a follow-on drama series called “Closure.”