Naked Ambition is a 15-minute short from Candice Edwards-Marchrones of CEM Casting, who wrote and stars in the piece, which was inspired by her own experience as a New York City stripper trying to break into mainstream acting. The short appeared in a number of film festivals and is now being released in Vimeo, for viewing at no charge.
For Edwards-Marchrones, Naked Ambition was an opportunity to showcase her acting skills as well as those as a writer.
“It's hard to get cast in anything and everyone's always saying, ‘Make your own things!’ So I was like, OK, great, I'll make it.”
The timing seemed right, she adds. Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez, had just come out, and later, Starz’s P-Valley, so the subject matter was something audiences were embracing.
“I was kind of thinking, ‘Oh, I can make this into a series. This would be a great web series or TV show,’” she adds.
Edwards-Marchrones tapped Mai Iskander to direct the project. Already a commercial director, Iskander saw Naked Ambition as an opportunity to showcase her skills as a narrative director.
“I was really drawn to the script,” Iskander explains. “I met Candice and I really liked how it was based on her true story and her real life. I feel that when people write about [stripping], it's from what they think that world would be, rather than actually having an inside view of it. As a director, it's always great to direct people that are living the experience, so I thought that was really inspiring.”
Iskander called on director of photography Luca Fantini to shoot the project, which made use of the same club featured in Hustlers. The shoot spanned three 12-hour days and was captured using a single Arri Alexa. Footage was then sent via FedEx to editor Andrea Mendoza in Austin, TX, who cut the piece.
“She edited a bunch of my commercials and I had a great relationship with her,” says Iskander of Mendoza. “I think she edited one or two other narratives before this and I knew that she would be excited to edit a narrative. I thought she did an amazing job. We did it remotely. That was a little challenging.”
Mendoza cut the project using Adobe Premiere Pro.
“She put samples of music on certain scenes to create an atmosphere for us, and a lot of the stuff we ended up using in the final cut,” notes Edwards-Marchrones. “She had a really good ear!”
Iskander agrees. “She's really good with music. She's a great editor. And the great thing is that she's also a great collaborator. She doesn't have an ego, so when things needed a change, she just went for it.”
Technicolor-PostWorks NY provided finishing services for the project, with Anthony Raffaele performing the color grade and Eliott Taylor handling the mix.