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Laura Hunter Drago talks about ‘The Crime at Camp Ashwood’ podcast series

Filmmaker and content creator Laura Hunter Drago chatted about “The Crime at Camp Ashwood” podcast series.

Laura Hunter Drago
Laura Hunter Drago. Photo Credit: Jessica Robles.
Laura Hunter Drago. Photo Credit: Jessica Robles.

Filmmaker and content creator Laura Hunter Drago chatted about “The Crime at Camp Ashwood” podcast series.

On the idea for this podcast series, she said, “I’ve been toying around with the idea of writing something about summer camp for a long time, because I was a big camper myself and it is something that had a huge influence on me growing up.”

“The series is a mystery about a woman who is trying to solve the twenty year old cold case of her best friend’s murder that happened at a camp, but to me the real heart of the series is about the very intense friendships we have when we are young and how much they shape us even when the person may no longer be part of our lives,” she elaborated.

Daily motivations as a filmmaker and content creator

On her daily inspirations as a filmmaker and content creator, she said, “As a writer, I am passionate about telling stories that are focused on women’s experiences, often through the lens of the thriller and mystery genre.”

“I get excited about creating worlds that are a little bit more heightened than real life is, so I often write things that involve ghost stories or mystical elements of some kind,” she said.

“In terms of filmmaking overall though, what honestly excites me the most is getting to work with other people who are as passionate and excited as I am. The best part of any project to me is finding the cast and the team who wants to help bring it to life,” she said.

“I love writing, but you’re often quite isolated during that process. When you’re in production with a whole time is when things truly come to life for a project,” she added.

Working with Deborah Lee Smith

She had great words about actress Deborah Lee Smith. “Actually, I count Deborah among my dearest friends and have for many years. We’ve always talked about doing something together, and when this came along it was a perfect way to make that happen,” she said.

“Deborah plays the character of June—everyone’s favorite camp counselor who tells all the best campfire ghost stories—and we had a blast doing this together,” she noted.

“When I went to the Austin Film Festival, where this project won the Fiction Podcast Award last year, she was my roommate for the trip which made that whole experience extra fun,” she said.

“Deborah is the best, an incredibly talented filmmaker and writer in her own right, and always has something exciting going on. I’m lucky to know her,” she added.

The digital age

On being a filmmaker in the digital age, she said, “I think that we’re in a unique place right now where I feel kind of 50-50 about it. Between the pandemic and the strikes last year, it definitely feels like the whole industry is in the process of still finding its footing again.”

“That can be a little scary, and even disheartening at times. The other end of the spectrum is that it is very exciting to feel empowered to make your own work with all the tools that are available now,” she explained.

“That’s a big reason why The Crime at Camp Ashwood is a podcast in the first place. I’d made a feature film several years ago (called To The New Girl, which is available on Tubi) and while it was a great experience I knew I wasn’t in a place to try and make a feature again in the current state of the industry,” she elaborated.

She continued, “I started learning about the podcast world when my friend Samantha Macher and I made another podcast called St. Mary’s School (for Children with the Stigmata) and the response to it really shocked me.”

“We found there was a huge audience and a big appetite from listeners for full-cast shows like ours. It’s a bit like running your own television series, but audio-only, and people seem to really respond to it,” she said.

“I think everyone’s time is so limited these days, being able to listen to a podcast as you’re doing something else or even as you’re commuting to work makes it a world a lot of people are getting into. It’s very accessible, which is exciting to me,” she added.

Advice for young and aspiring filmmakers and content creators

For young and aspiring filmmakers and content creators, she said, “I think anyone who is an artist knows that whenever you start with a project you feel like you’re in a bit of a void, and the only way to get past that feeling and get started is to simply take a leap of faith on yourself and your idea.”

“I would encourage other artists to not only keep taking those leaps on themselves, but to do it for others around them too. As quickly as the industry is changing, we truly need to support each other when we can,” she said.

“Whether that just be sharing someone’s project in a post or at some larger level, I believe that energy comes back to you and helps everyone in that circle feel less alone in their leaping,” she added.

Future plans

On her future plans, she shared, “My plan for this year is to direct a short film that I wrote, which would be my first time directing a live-action project (I directed the podcasts as well as a short animated film previously) so I’m excited about that.”

“After that, I have a feature film that I wrote with the intention of filming it in my hometown in Northern Virginia that I’m hoping to get off the ground for 2025,” she said.

“I also plan to keep writing as much as I can, because for me that’s really where my heart is these days. I have two features that I’m jumping back and forth between this year that I’m hoping to finish in the next few months,” she added.

Moments in her career that defined her

On her career-defining moments, she said, “I started out as an actress and did many years of the audition rounds, and to be honest I fell a bit out of love with it. The problem was, it took me about five years to admit to myself that I wasn’t enjoying it anymore.”

“When I finally freed myself of the idea I had about what my passion and career was supposed to look like and adjusted, everything started opening up for me. I realized how much more I like creating worlds, and being a facilitator of a project on a larger scale,” she said.

“I really try to always be honest with myself now, and check in with what feels right. That whole experience taught me to listen to and trust my gut,” she added.

Success

On her definition of success, she said, “Success for me is truly just the opportunity to continue creating. Whether that means winning an award that helps me get interest in my next project, the bigger goal is just to keep having the chance to make art and write things that I think will impact people.”

“I try to look at everything through that lens, rather than focus on the day to day stuff like rejection or feeling frustrated about the state of the industry. I try to think, ‘What can I do today that would help me keep making things tomorrow?’ And then go and do those things one step at a time!” she concluded.

To learn more about Laura Hunter Drago, follow her on Instagram.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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