MDE Mother & Daughter Entertainment Empire

MDE Mother & Daughter Entertainment Empire

Unveiling the Dynamic Duo

Unveiling the Dynamic Duo: MDE Mother & Daughter Entertainment Empire.

In the realm of entertainment, there exist stories that not only captivate audiences but also inspire future generations to carve their paths in the industry. At the heart of one such narrative lies Elizabeth Blake-Thomas and her daughter Isabella, the formidable duo behind Mother & Daughter Entertainment (MDE). Their collaborative venture transcends conventional boundaries, intertwining familial bonds with artistic endeavours to create a legacy that resonates with audiences worldwide.

MDE Mother & Daughter Entertainment Empire

In an exclusive interview with Women Talking Elizabeth and Isabella graciously invite us into the captivating world of MDE, offering insights into their creative process, shared aspirations, and the profound impact of their unique partnership. From humble beginnings to burgeoning success, theirs is a journey imbued with passion, perseverance, and a profound appreciation for the power of storytelling.

Can you both share a bit about yourselves and your roles in the filmmaking industry?

MDE Mother & Daughter Entertainment Empire

Elizabeth: I was a theatre actress as a child and then became a theatre director as an adult whilst attending college and then university. My theatre career was based solely in the UK. My daughter loved attending my drama workshops and so by the age of 4 due to her having experienced the industry in this small way through me, she auditioned for a TV show. She was given the role of presenting a children’s show called “The Green Balloon Club”. From the age of 4, she became an actress on British TV. I then became the chaperone mum. Attending every audition and set with her. Still loving all aspects of the creative world meant I could not only support her as a chaperone but encourage and guide her creative journey. She got her first film role aged 7 and I was then thrust into a different world, the independent film world. This new area of the industry began teaching me. I really enjoyed acting coaching, and I realized I was good at it. The only things I didn’t yet know where the technical aspects of the film world. But I could see that that could be learned by being on set. I naturally became a film director. I enjoyed working with my daughter and so it made perfect sense to set up a production company together so that we could support each other and grow together.

MDE Mother & Daughter Entertainment Empire

Isabella: I started acting at the age of 4 after attending my mum’s drama classes. I was super fortunate to work on a kids show as it meant I could stay young while in an industry that was focused on adults. After that first show, I was lucky that my career continued, and I kept working and have continued working wherever I’ve lived and through all stages of my development. At the age of 13, I started producing with my mum and we founded Mother Daughter Entertainment. This meant we could make films that I could act in as well as work on behind the scenes. I’ve become an even better actress because of my awareness of all aspects of producing a film, from casting decisions to each crew member’s roles, I’ve experienced most positions on a production. I really enjoy working in this collaborative way. It’s how we intended the production company to run, collaboration with creatives.

What inspired you to pursue a career in filmmaking?

Elizabeth: I wanted to work alongside my daughter but also have my own interests. Directing appeared to be the natural step. Isabella could act and write, and I could direct while we both could produce. It feels like a bit of a dream team. To give myself permission to become a director and believe in my skill set was all down to a mindset. I was told to become a director; you just say you’re a director! So, I did! I also feel very fortunate that I get to inspire other filmmakers. Making content and having that responsibility to put out something into the world that could have a positive impact is not something we take lightly. I feel very privileged that I get to do that.

Isabella: Since I started at such a young age, I have always known what I wanted to do, perform, tell stories, become other people by playing interesting characters. I love being in film and I can’t imagine myself being in any other industry. I have stayed in film because of the creativity and opportunities that it affords me, as well as the friendships I’ve developed along the way. We are fortunate to have built some amazing relationships with the crew and cast through each project we’ve completed. In fact, even yesterday I reached out to an actor who I had worked with over 10 years ago to be part of our next project. It’s a unique family that gets built. It’s our film family.

Do you prefer the lifestyle and opportunities in LA?

Elizabeth: When we first came to LA, we had no idea if it was for long, I had no preconceived ideas other than I liked the weather, enjoyed the lifestyle and the people seemed so positive. Isabella kept getting job after job and so I wanted to see what it would be like for us to stay permanently. I realised the only caveat was to make sure Isabella never felt like she had the burden of responsibility on her for us living here, so I knew I needed to create a feeling of normality and then her acting was just part of that. It continues to serve us in this way. Each day we meet new and exciting people and new opportunities arise.

Isabella: I definitely prefer LA because of the weather. But that’s just the surface part. The fact that there are so many opportunities and possibilities available here, especially for the industry I’m in, is another thing I love. The people here are helpful and encouraging and believe in those possibilities, I feel that’s why there are more opportunities for everyone. It doesn’t matter how or where you were trained, it’s down to your dedication and hard work. People want to help you grow and so the support here is fabulous.

What are the advantages and challenges of working as a mother and daughter team?

Elizabeth: The most amazing thing is we can work on our ideas and films wherever and whenever, the challenge of that is that it means we don’t really have specific working hours. Fortunately, we love what we do! We are best friends and have our natural roles within the company. With our different voices and experiences, it enables us to constantly hold each other accountable for our thoughts and ideas. By being from two generations it also means we have knowledge from experience and knowledge from the current world. This allows some balance in our decision-making process.

Isabella: I think the advantages come from the fact that we speak without speaking. We have the same thoughts at the same time, and we finish each other’s sentences. My favourite part is how our workflow is fluid as if we are the same person. This really helps on set. It means we work efficiently and cost effectively.

MDE Mother & Daughter Entertainment Empire

How do you navigate creative differences or disagreements during the filmmaking process?
Elizabeth: We genuinely never really have these because we work on things from the beginning together, so everything is automatically worked through as a team. We really make an excellent team as our skill sets are so different. I’m the bigger picture and she is the details!

Isabella: As my mum said, we genuinely don’t have disagreements. If we have different ideas or opinions, often they are for good reason, and we find a way to combine them and make the best product we can.

Who are some filmmakers that have influenced your work individually and as a team?
Elizabeth: We have several mentors who support us; Cindy Cowan, a producer who is a badass woman, which is wonderful for my daughter to see, Sean McNamara, who is a constant support to us, and Larry Schapiro who changed the trajectory of my filmmaking. I then also enjoy mentoring and being the filmmaker that can influence and inspire others. I created a book and podcast called “Filmmaking without Fear” to encourage other people to do what we’ve been able to do, maintain a solid filmmaking career. I feel very fortunate to have achieved this.

Isabella: Ditto to what my mum said. I will also add that every filmmaker we have worked with has taught us something important and influenced us. We take pride in being able to learn from everyone’s experiences. Recognising that every project teaches us something or introduces us to a new person to add to our film family, this means it’s about constant growth. We also like to support first time filmmakers. We have a very exciting LGBTQ+ film that we are executive producing with first time feature filmmakers. That development process is so exciting.

Are there any specific experiences or moments from your personal lives that have inspired your work?
Both: Our life is where we get constant inspiration. Either through our own experiences which add to character or world building, as well as how our experiences affect us as a company. Often recognising how we want or don’t want to be treated as women in the industry. We can come up with an idea one morning and by the evening we’ve developed it and written it in our ideas book, ready for use at a later date. Being a single British mum, who left the UK with 6 suitcases and came to a country where we knew no-one, influences our mindset and choices and that extends into the way we work and how we work.

How do you divide roles and responsibilities when working on a project together?

Both: It’s a clear divide once we begin filming but before then it’s collaboration and teamwork. I can create ideas and images and feelings; Isabella turns that into a solid script. Then we work together to mould something into a product. It’s then important that we get external thoughts and opinions. Then we assume our individual roles, producer/director, or actress. It’s important to be aware of our individual skills and let the individual shine in those areas.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a mother and daughter duo?
Elizabeth: I think it’s about keeping each other motivated all the time. Sometimes one of us might feel like we are not getting anywhere and then the other one will remind you of what we’ve achieved and how far we’ve come. People also tend to think I only want my daughter in a movie because she’s my daughter as opposed to being a fabulous actress and vice Versa!

Isabella: I think the biggest challenge has been when we’ve had to work with people that aren’t on the same page as us. We pride ourselves on being collaborative and wanting to encourage others to be part of our team, so when new people we work with don’t understand this, it can be really challenging.

On the flip side, what have been some of the most rewarding aspects of working together?
Both: Time. Time is so precious and by having the same interests and working together we get to spend this incredible time together. We travel together and create together. We can’t imagine not having this connection. We also love inspiring others to do what we do.

What are your future plans and aspirations?

Both: To continue to make content that matters. To work together and build on our slate of projects. To work with amazing people and put beautiful and inspirational things out into the world. To learn and grow constantly. We want to continue to work in this industry while creating a lifestyle that maintains our ethos of making content that can positively affect the world.

Are there any upcoming projects that you’re particularly excited about?

Both: We are so excited by one of the true stories we’ve been given as we are working with the academy award winning writer Ron Bass who is a genius! Also, a romcom that is based on a friend’s book, and then a true short story based on a real-life experience of Elizabeth’s. But the best thing is that we never know what we are going to be given or asked to be part of and so developing ideas with other people is also such fun.

For more information visit MDE here.

Poppy Watt

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