like a girl - duplicity studios


I came across Duplicity Studios on and then later realised I was already following Wendy on twitter (it's a small world). Kimberly and Wendy are twin sisters and the founders of Duplicity Studios. Together they have produced short films and are in the process of developing more (read more about that below) and between them they have worked on a variety of well known projects including, Marvels Agent Carter, SyFy's 'The Expanse' and Thor. So of course I emailed them asking if I could interview them for the 'Like A Girl' series. So here we are. Enjoy.

P.S. This may be my favourite interview so far, they're both lovely and so very talented.
Tell us about yourselves.
Wendy: We are twin sisters from San Antonio, TX and have been living in Los Angeles ever since we graduated college from the University of North Texas. Our Dad, who is a huge inspiration, mainly raised us on films from the “Golden Age” of cinema. He taught us so much of what we know and all the films we grew up with have really stuck with us. He ran his own animation company for years in San Antonio, so we grew up in a world that most kids don’t get to grow up in. Both our Mom and Dad are very creative and they really engrained that in us. I’ve worked at Marvel Studios for many years (still working there, actually) and even though I’ve learned so much at Marvel, I think having the foundation that our parents gave us is so important. They taught us to never give up and to make whatever you want of yourself, as long as you do it intelligently.

Kimberly: Expanding on the above, our background was definitely unique. We literally were exposed to the best of cinema. Actually, we were exposed to so much that by the time I reached film school in college, I had already seen most if not all the films (several times mind you) that I would be studying. From the camp and cult genres to the classic epics, our dad made sure we watched them. And, unsurprisingly, we fell in love with that era of filmmaking. So it did not shock us our parents when we ended up in this industry. In fact, it’s been since the time I made my first film entitled Bloody Soda (Sam Raimi would dig it…) at the prime age of 10-years-old that I’ve had a clear vision that directing films would be my career. The battle now is continuing to shoot as much as possible to keep the dream afloat. But that’s half the fun - our parents made sure to instill “nothing comes without hard work and passion” in us.

A still from Complexions, our psychological thriller short film starring Lauryn Holmquist
What is Duplicity Studios? 
Wendy: It’s essentially a production company but we have a wide range of projects that span through multiple mediums all tied together with a classic Hollywood style. To us, everything has a story, and it’s our passion to find the essence of that story in every project we do. No matter what we do, we want our audience to be transported somewhere whimsical. It’s completely OK if people ask questions and have a conversation. In fact, we prefer that.

Kimberly: We are trying to evoke a nostalgic era with a modern edge and identity. Duplicity is a company that is solely based on our ideas rooted in the past but contemporized with timeless storytelling and beautiful, stylized imagery. Basically, we’re trying to create stories and characters that have depth and dimension with a very cinematic scope and quality.

A still from Femme Noir, our noir mystery short film starring Talie Massoli and Alex Carroll
What is it like running a business as sisters?
Kimberly: We definitely have a “ying and yang” relationship going on when we work together. Though I am extremely technical, I am also a dreamer and storyteller and need to be told what is not possible. Wendy helps me with the reality of creating fiction, ha, which is truly essential. That being said, we really have gotten a pattern down with our projects. Here’s a quick breakdown of our process: Wendy and I have a story meeting about an idea or a project we want to pursue, then I go and write the idea in script form and we both rework it until we’re happy. Then we have another story/notes meeting, I make revisions, storyboard it, and figure out all my visuals, plus put together a budget and scout out locations/talent/wardrobe. After we decide on all that, Wendy throws together a schedule/call sheet for our cast and crew and then (finally) we go shoot the thing. That’s a very brief explanation, but you get the idea. Then I go and take everything through post-production (which takes months) and Wendy is the one that distributes the final piece. This is our system, and it’s very similar to how the industry works. We’ve just adapted our own method and break down every little piece between us two. It’s a long, exhausting process, but it’s also the most fulfilling thing in the world when it’s done.

Wendy: Being twin sisters and best friends make us great business partners because no matter what, we’ll always love each other because we have to, ha! Running a company and working full time jobs can be very frustrating so it’s good to have each other’s back and keep things in perspective. I’m more of the producer, both practical and creative. It’s amazing how many people don’t consider producing as running a business. You have to be smart with every decision you make, weigh the options and also, try not to limit the visionary scope no matter what budget you have to work with. There’s a lot of factors in producing that really comes down to seeing things a certain way. I’m definitely more that brain and Kimberly is more the initial visionary with our projects. We work so well together because it’s always a challenge for me to make Kimberly’s vision something we can produce without cheapening the production value.

What are you passionate about as individuals? and what are you passionate about as a team?
Wendy: Personally, I love creating something that feels like ours. We both have been working over 5 years in the film industry and it can sometimes feel very stale with the content that’s being produced and regenerated. I love telling stories in a way that feels captivating and beautiful but also keeping a personal touch to it. We know our level – we don’t have massive commercial budgets to work with (yet) – but even still we can pull together something that, we hope, is a little magical and refreshing. In time, we’d love to get to higher levels and produce/direct features, but all in good time. Passion is sometimes about grounding yourself and making the absolute most of what you have and always striving to make it better and better.

Kimberly: Nothing gives me more of a high than taking an idea, sculpting it and then putting it out in the world. Yea, it’s tough to get negative feedback sometimes, but that’s the fuel to keep creating. I always think I have room to improve and that’s what makes me most passionate about my career choice: how I can evolve as an artist. Together, I think we are truly trying to craft our own voice and tell stories that would never get told otherwise. We want to see women portrayed correctly, we want smarter storytelling and practical visual effects, we want to expand our knowledge of cinema by exploring it in its original film medium, but most importantly we want to send a message that we know what we’re doing and we will do it well.

Still from Sensation, our sci-fi short film starring Diana Gettinger and Clint Brink
According to your website you currently have two short films in the works. What can you tell us about them?
Kimberly: We are soon releasing a very short film that was made over a year ago that has been slow to release due to festivals. But it’s essentially a nice little ‘slice of life’ sci-fi titled “Sensation.” And we are now in post production on THREE short films… crazy – right? They are all genre inspired films (a psychological thriller, a horror, and a noir) that revolve around strong female characters. That’s sort of our specialty – highlighting female characters that are smart, beautiful and can make their own way in this world regardless of their male counterparts.

Wendy: We are super excited about all four of these projects and have worked with some incredible talent to make it happen. The three projects in post production mentioned by Kimberly are photographed and/or collaborated on with Jill Beth Hannes. She’s our Director of Photography on “Femme Noir” - the noir project Kimberly mentioned - and has been a wonderful eye and creative counterpart. As for our ‘sci-fi’ film “Sensation,” it is driven by the performances and incredible beauty of Diana Gettinger and Clint Brink. We are currently writing a pilot script off of it that we hope draws some interest. We also have several other ideas in different stages of development because we can’t stop, won’t stop!

Still from Sensation, our sci-fi short film starring Diana Gettinger and Clint Brink
Why do you do and what do you love most about what you do?
Wendy: I’m very much driven by what I see every day around me. There’s so much opportunity even if it seems like an impossible journey. I think so many people get lucky but I’d rather make it to the top by doing something I am confident about and have full creative control over. Working on our projects gives us creative choices that you can’t get working for someone else’s company or a major studio. But creatively, living in the heart of Hollywood now, where we’ve always dreamed of living, is our everyday inspiration in what we do. It’s amazing to live where the greats like Lucille Ball, Erroll Flynn, Cecil B. DeMille, etc., all thrived at one point. We’re completely captivated with that era and love hearkening back to what made Hollywood so beautiful and interesting – and it’s still fascinating here! So alive and complex in it’s own way. Every day lays challenges and learning opportunities but keeping yourself captivated by your surroundings gives it all an extra purpose and really drives what we do.

Kimberly: I think I do what I do because it is in my blood. I cannot remember a time I didn’t draw, photograph or write. I am mesmerized by the cinematic art form and am always trying to expand my horizons in it. I have a lot of background shooting film (not digital) and have been lucky enough to shoot my own Super 8, 8mm, and 16mm films – which I still shoot. Having that experience behind me is the fundamental difference in my style – I know the classic way, and I think it is the best way. And I absolutely love it. Understanding how a lens works, or why you need a faster film speed given the lighting, is an education I think most filmmakers lack these days. My dad and film school taught me the analog version of filmmaking, and it’s honestly the most important information I have ever received. I am a huge advocate of shooting on film and I constantly photograph on 35mm or medium format film just to keep practicing. It is an aspect about this medium that I adore and respect – you literally have to know what you are doing.

Are there challenges you have faced in your work specifically because you're women? If so, how did you overcome them? 
Wendy: No question there, of course there have been challenges. In some ways women’s rights are improving but there have been many times in my career and day-to-day where it’s a major issue still. I’ve got to say that I’ve met so many incredible women out here who are some of the most talented people (PEOPLE!) in the industry and so many men who stand up for women’s rights, which is so positive and important. As a woman in this industry, it’s all about keeping a good head on your shoulders and not letting the issue continue by standing up for what we do and who we are.

Kimberly: Yes, definitely. There have been several occurrences where I was treated unfairly, even sexually harassed, at major studios in the industry. It’s really a bummer things are not where they should be. But I think it’s the awareness of the state of things that makes Wendy and I more determined to stick with it and help change it. It’s not going to happen overnight, but there’s certainly hope. And like Wendy said, there truly are some amazing women in the industry already, there just needs to be more of them. The ultimate challenge will always be to maintain that equality and pursue more entertainment that focuses on women in an exceptional way.

A still from Green Valley Lake, our horror short film starring Kaiman Kazazian. Photo credit: Jill Beth Hannes
Okay, last question, are there any particular people who you would absolutely love to collaborate with?
Wendy: Yes! We’d love to collaborate with Annapurna Pictures. We are so inspired with the quality of films they make. Megan Ellison is such an inspiration and is paving the way as a successful and brilliant female producer. Also, Ann Street Studio! Truly admire what Jamie Beck and Kevin Berg are doing in the way of storytelling with their use of photography, filmography and “cinemagraphs.” They are both so stylish, thoughtful and make it all look so effortless even with the incredible amount of time and energy they put into it.

Kimberly: I mean, if I really could collaborate with anyone I’d say Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger who have made some of the best films of all time but unfortunately, they are no longer around. That being said, I really am drawn to individual artists and companies that are all about artistic development. Luckily there are a handful of studios here in LA that maintains an independent spirit, curating what they distribute and selecting which filmmakers to work with, much like Sony Pictures Classics, Annapurna or A24. We would love to work hand in hand with people who are willing to let us make something extraordinary and give it life.

*all photos used with permission.

Kimberly + Wendy Willming

Kimberly and Wendy Willming are twin sisters and founders of Duplicity Studios, a production company and creative studio based in Los Angeles, California. You can follow their original works and collaborations below.

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