We had the good fortune of connecting with Maria Corso and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maria, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I think about risk as something that’s essential to the creative process. Taking risks is what elevates art from something familiar to something we have never seen before. Whether it hits or misses, it created a conversation and helped to move the needle forward for the form in one way or another. My first big risk was when I moved from Michigan to Los Angeles after graduating college. I didn’t know anyone, had never lived on my own, and my only job prospect was a once a week unpaid internship, along with a volunteer position at a film festival. Cut to almost 9 years later, and I’ve directed 3 narrative shorts, 5 music videos, and launched my own independent production company. Every decision I’ve made has had some sort of risk, some more intense than others, but each risk has led to the next opportunity. When I direct, I never want to do something safe. I always go with taking the riskier choice, whether it’s aesthetically or a music cue or a note for an actor. It usually leads us to something more interesting or if it doesn’t, it opens the conversation for deeper exploration of what we are trying to get to. For me, I don’t see risk as something dangerous or daring-I see it as my intuition testing me, guiding me in the right direction.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a director and producer with experience in the narrative, music video, and commercial space. My work is rooted in realism and the human experience, placing audiences intimately in the minds and spaces of the characters. I love collaborating with writers and clients to create not just a product, but a piece that lives on its own and stands out. I’m most proud of the fact that I have really grown my work from the ground up. Moving to Los Angeles I had no connections. From working odd jobs, networking, and using the internet, I’ve found not just work but collaborators that I’ve worked with from project to project. I’ve also managed to make all my projects (pre to post) at least 50/50 gender parity in terms of hiring. I started with an unpaid internship at a production company & a volunteer opportunity with a week-long film festival when I first got to Los Angeles. From there, I moved on to doing background extra work, which really helped me learn how a set is run. It allows you to observe every facet of production close up. I worked various side gigs, like retail and temping, while also doing Production Assistant work for an AMC show. I then moved on to a full time gig at a production company where I started as a PA, then was promoted to Production Coordinator. By this point, I had come to the conclusion that directing was my path. All of this work was helping to pay the bills, but not creatively satisfying and didn’t make me happy. I had gained a lot of knowledge and experience, but realized if I waited for someone to offer me a piece to direct, I’d be waiting forever. I had all the resources, I just needed to make the decision to go forward and make the jump. I used crowdfunding, my savings, and credit cards to finance my first short film. Shot in 3 days and made for under $6,000, I was able to create a strong piece to showcase my skills. From there, I used it to apply for gigs, which led to getting hired to direct music videos. Reaching out to small brands allowed me to create commercial work. And a chance encounter at a vintage sale, got me a directing gig on another narrative project. My latest project came my way by my sister introducing me to a producer she had met on set. To anyone on the path to directing, I would say gain as much knowledge as you can in the real world. I highly recommend background extra work to start as it gets you right in to see how a set works at the professional level. It also allows you to meet and network with other creatives. Watch as many films as you can, study the masters, attend Q&As (its easy to do so now that everything has been virtual). I also recommend gaining some production coordinator or producing experience before directing. It helps you get creative on small budgets and helps you maintain control of all elements on set, whether its being able to afford a crew member or piece of equipment. What I want my story to be, is that I was a director that was inclusive and collaborative, that facilitated a space where everyone feels safe and accepted, and allowed everyone the freedom to utilize their talents to come together to create.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I think the Valley is a highly underrated area of Los Angeles to explore. I’d start my day with a matcha latte at Tea Pop in North Hollywood. I would then head to House of Intuition and grab some crystals or candles. For the best lunch in the valley, sushi at Kabosu in Toluca Lake is the spot. Then I’d make my way over to Ventura Boulevard and do some shopping on the strip. Chance Vintage is a great. For night, I’d go over the hill and grab a movie at the Arclight Hollywood. Then after the movie, a late night drink at Tower Bar. Gin & Tonic, fries, and their chocolate chip cookies. If it’s a weekend, I love the Silverlake Flea Market or to head to Malibu for lunch at Malibu Farm. For a nice weekend dinner out, it’s K-Town for some of the best ramen. If I’m looking for a longer day trip, I’ll take the train out of Burbank to Santa Barbara-it drops you off right in the Funk Zone for the best food and wine tasting. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’ve had so many great mentors and collaborators along the way. From my childhood acting teacher, who ran a studio where I first discovered my love of film and realized that I saw films differently than everyone else, to my close friends for their community and creativity, to my college film professor who encouraged my first film, to my mentors for life and business advice, to my producing partner Nicole for always having my back, and to my sisters for their unwavering support.
Not Sorry Apparel, photography by Anthony Wilson Polly Pocket, shot by Jacob Laureanti All other photos by me.