Meet Dana Boulos, the Director With a Drive to Succeed

Meet Dana Boulos, the Director With a Drive to Succeed

Though she’s been an artist as long as she can remember, Dana Boulos’s foray into filmmaking has garnered the attention of the industry and the internet alike.

Though she’s been an artist as long as she can remember, Dana Boulos’s foray into filmmaking has garnered the attention of the industry and the internet alike.

Photography: Alex John Beck

Styling: Andrew Mukamal

Text: Sara Zion

Dana Boulos arrives to the set of her shoot in New York directly from a redeye flight out of Los Angeles that morning, but you would never know it. She walks in resembling an off-duty actress from the ‘80s in a blue vintage tracksuit jacket with matching leggings and knee-high leather boots, topped with a cherry red lip. “I love the eighties,” she later tells me. “I even found this article [someone] had written about me about [my] fashion in high school and it was called, ‘Eighties Are Back’.” But that adoration for the post-disco era goes beyond her personal style. Though mostly set in contemporary times, much of Dana’s work brings a sense of nostalgia for the decade, to viewers from all generations.

Take Camgirl, Dana’s foray into narrative directing. The story clearly takes place in the digital age, as referenced by the chat rooms and smartphones, yet stylistically, the piece is infused with a sense of timelessness thanks to retro visual elements, like the pink-hued lighting bouncing off of the main character’s cheek or her protagonist's wardrobe of Levi’s 501 jeans and sneakers with tube socks. It comes as no surprise, then, that Dana has been approached for other projects evocative of the recent past, ranging from a music video for an electro-pop band to a film celebrating iconic cars of the 1980’s for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

Dana wears John Hardy Jewelry.

In 2015, Dana took her filmmaking a step further by writing and conceptualizing her first film, Crimson Rose, enlisting her friend Jesy Odio to write the script. She started a GoFundMe to raise money for the project, only to be surprised when a brand asked her to remove it because they wanted to produce the entire film. “I was so excited because they gave me full creative control. It was such a compliment and a boost. I had never done anything this big and having a company believe in you and just do whatever you want with it – wow!” The eerie 11-minute short centers around Rose, who plots to murder her crush after he takes her spot at her dream college, about which he himself is indifferent at best. “I always loved those characters that were really evil but always got what they wanted,” she says. “I love those badass girls who are like, ‘This is what I’m going to do to get what I want,’ but then in the end, [they] can’t get away with it.”

That said, it isn’t only villainous women that have been a source of inspiration for the young filmmaker; her mother has had a profound effect on her decision to pursue her artistic passions. A single mom and immigrant from Lebanon, Dana’s mother brought the family to the United States to make a new life. “I come from a Middle Eastern background where [the question for women is always] ‘When are you getting married?’ so I like that my mom wanted me to learn what its like to work and do your own thing as a woman,” she explains. “As I get older I see why she [moved us to Los Angeles]. We are so lucky to [be in a country] where you can dream as a boy or girl to do whatever you want and it’s not taken as a joke.”

Her grandmother also influenced her journey into photography; “All of my grandma’s friends were Egyptian actors and she would go on set. It was really cool! [Growing up,] I was like, ‘Where are these pictures? I want to see grandma!’ and she would say, ‘Well we didn’t take pictures back then; it wasn’t a thing.’ I remember hearing that as a kid and thinking that I don’t want to have amnesia when I’m older, I want to document everything.”

Even with such strong women in her life, Dana has had her fair share of challenges as a woman in the film industry. In high school and college, she felt that he work wasn't necessarily understood or appreciated. She recalls her senior year of high school, when she presented a body of photography focused on youth culture to a panel of judges and instructors. “They were all super shocked and had the weirdest looks on their faces," she recalls. "The old photography teacher said, ‘Honestly, this isn’t even a project... You really deserve an F; I don’t get what this is.’ And I got an F on that project. When the teacher who created the project [found out what happened], she said, ‘I’m sorry. That is mortifying. We should be getting people who are inspiring youth to go into these professions, not people who are telling you your work is a joke.’”

Dana wears John Hardy Jewelry

Soon, Dana was a member of Petra Collins’s all-female collective, The Ardorous, sharing her photography with a worldwide audience. “It was out of the box and out of order and very raw. This was the first time I had ever seen photography from other girls around the world that wasn’t normal. It wasn’t just pictures of your friends. It was very intimate, very into the girl culture... shocking people with making armpits look beautiful.”

Dana continued to take photos throughout college and decided to attend film school shortly after. “My mom always said, ‘You should go.’ [but] I was really nervous to go into it. I thought it was very expensive to get into it and you had to have a famous last name," she says. "But then, in 2015 I read an article saying how there aren’t enough females in the industry of film and I was like, ‘You know what, they're right!” Still, even on her own sets, Dana has to deal with others doubting her. She tells me about one instance on a commercial set where a member of the crew was openly challenging her decisions: “The producer was making those kind of snarky ‘You’re a girl, you don’t know what you’re talking about’ remarks. And I just looked at him and I’m like, ‘Why don’t you make sure [the production elements are in place] while I stick to the camera work?’ So you have to be motivated, those people are testing you.”

Just like with those teachers in high school, Dana is able to convert any negativity into motivation, telling me, “I like proving people wrong... You’re going to say I can’t do [something]? Well I’m doing it for sure now!” Looking ahead to 2018, Dana has just finished writing her first feature film, Metal Heart, and is beginning the process of finding investors for the project. “My motto is: Just make it happen. Don’t just talk. Find a way to do it.”

Dana wears John Hardy Jewelry.
Credits: PHOTOGRAPHY: ALEX JOHN BECK STYLING: ANDREW MUKAMAL ART DIRECTION + PRODUCTION: SARA ZION CASTING: LARISSA GUNN HAIR: ROLANDO BEAUCHAMP (THE WALL GROUP) MAKEUP: CHRIS COLBECK (ART DEPARTMENT) + HIROTO YAMAUCHI MAINCURE: GERALDINE HOLFORD PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT: BEN WENTZEL DIGITAL TECHNICIAN: YASUNORI MATSUI STYLING ASSISTANT: JERMAINE DALEY HAIR ASSISTANT: ANDY TSENG PRODUCTION COORDINATOR: KAIA BALCOS PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: ANDREW MEISEL CATERING: MONTERONE STUDIO + EQUIPMENT: ROOT STUDIOS

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