In Session: Charity Buckbee

ALBANY – What does it mean to be a producer? For Charity Buckbee, the answer can vary on a day-to-day basis. A co-owner of Dirty Sweater Productions, Buckbee uses her experience in theater and acting, her love for classic cinema, and her passion for filmmaking to create movies that captivatingly push the envelope of their genre. With Dead Man’s Party, the latest film that’s currently in pre-production, Buckbee shows no sign of slowing down.

Wanting to know more about the budding filmmaker, where her passion comes from, and what it means to have a locally owned production company, I took some time to sit down with Charity this past week. What follows is our conversation.

Charity Buckbee. Photo provided.

Lucas Garrett: Charity, thank you for taking time this evening to talk. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Charity Buckbee: I’m Charity Buckbee. I’m a co-owner of Dirty Sweater Productions, along with Kyle Kleege. I say I’m a producer, but it’s a really catch-all for about a thousand different jobs.

I’m not originally from the Capital Region. I grew up in Warwick, in Orange County, about 45 minutes west of [New York City]. It’s right along the border of New Jersey.

LG: When did you come up here?

CB: I did two years of college at my local community college in Orange County, then did my last two at SUNY Albany. After I graduated, I moved up this way and worked the theater scene a bit. I slowly got into film. Even before I met Kyle, I was starting to get into film a little bit. Never producing, just asking. I met Kyle and really liked producing. Producing, organizing, scheduling. That whole thing.

LG: Sounds like my nightmare.

CB: Yeah, it sounds like most people’s nightmares! It’s definitely Kyle’s nightmare. That’s why he loves me, right?

LG: There you go! Where did the name Dirty Sweater Productions come from?

CB: When we were first coming up with the name back in 2017—we wanted to be a legitimate LLC—Kyle didn’t want anything that sounded too “clean.” He said, “Well, we gotta make it sound at least a little rough around the edges.” So, “dirty” was born. Then, I asked, “What’s something we both like?” Sweaters. It’s such a silly… that’s legitimately how we came up with our company name.

LG: Well, it has a nice ring to it.

CB: Yeah, it does. We went through a thousand names.

LG: It sounds very niche, in my opinion. Your movies are niche as well, I feel. I’ve seen Messy Boys, and I thought, “Whoa, what the hell am I watching right now?” Haha.

CB: Yeah, haha. We don’t usually have people start on Messy Boys. If you ever get a chance to see Earworm… I don’t know if Kyle’s told you about it?

LG: A little bit, but can you elaborate?

CB: Sure! It’s what I would describe as a psychological horror. A brief summary is a guy with social anxiety goes to a self-help group that turns out to be something a little bit more, and it all unravels from there. I don’t want to give too much away. We are hot on the path to selling it. We’re expecting good news by the end of the month. If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll be sure to know if that happens.

LG: What made you get into the world of filmmaking?

CB: I actually started in the theater world, first-and-foremost. I went to college for theater: I got a bachelor’s in theater. I decided I didn’t want to go to New York City for multiple reasons. Eighty-percent of the people that I knew who did that moved back broke within 6 months. Instead, I stayed around here, worked menial jobs… I hate to say the problem with the Capital Region – I hate to say “problem” – is that there’s tons of theater, but very little of it is paid.

I did a lot of volunteer theater when I first graduated from college. I got a few paying jobs here and there, but it wasn’t enough to sustain. I met Kyle – obviously he’s very into film… I’d always been interested in film, acting, and movies, but I’d never considered it as a career path. I was the one more convincing to start making it a legitimate business – Dirty Sweater Productions LLC. Once I met Kyle, I felt that if we’re going to do this, we have to make it legitimate.

LG: You brought up a problem in the Capital Region – and it is one – whether you are talking theater, or in my experience, arts of any kind, there’s a lot unpaid opportunities, to the point where you’re almost expected to take it.

CB: I agree with the sentiment.

LG: When the pandemic hit, it seemed people were saying, “Where the hell is my art?!” But at the same time, when it came back, they didn’t want to pay for it.

CB: Yep…

LG: As an LLC, a business, how do you deal with that? How do you make ends meet as an LLC when dealing with that phenomenon?

CB: Right. I have a full-time day job on top of everything I do for Dirty Sweater Productions. A lot of our funding comes from me. Kyle also submits from his paycheck. We are a self-funded business as much as we possibly [can be]. Our upcoming feature, we do have an executive producer who is pitching in 20%, which is very nice. Finding someone like that is very rare. Someone that is willing to put in towards someone else’s art. To say, how do we afloat? It’s from me and Kyle’s paycheck. It goes towards paying for the people onboard; we call in a lot of favors; we use a lot of actors [where this] is their secondary gig and they’re more than pleased to be involved.

LG: As a musician, there comes a point where you’re starting to earn actual money, but in the beginning – just like you – we’re working day jobs and going out at night to do music, then waking up and working again. On the outside, there’s this air of “If you’re working all the time, why would you ever want to do that? Why would you want to go out and work very hard for very little?” For you, what makes it all worth it?

CB: That’s such a personal question. Not in a bad way, a good way. For me, I find it’s the thing that makes me feel alive. I’ve gone through many jobs, many life situations, many downfalls, and film has always felt like something that I could do no matter what. And, when I do it, I feel happy, I feel energetic… Even something crazy like Messy Boys, I feel like I’m making something creative, you know what I mean? For people that say, “Why are you doing it if you don’t make money?” We’ve made, over the past four years, $150.00 off Amazon from our short films. That’s it. For those people, for me, it shouldn’t ever be about the money. To a degree. If I could make a million dollars doing a movie, would I quit my day job? Yeah. But at the same time, even if I’m not making a million dollars, I’d still want to make it. It’s what makes me happy. It’s what makes me want to be around.

Photo of Charity Buckbee on-set. Photo provided.

LG: I totally understand what you mean by that. Are you working on anything right now?

CB: Yes! We’re heavily into pre-production for our next short film. It is a full-blown comedy, which is a complete 180-degree turnaround from our psychological horror, Earworm. It’s called Dead Man’s Party, and it’s essentially about two hapless losers who are at a dead-end job who get a phone call from a long-lost friend they haven’t seen in a long time. The long-lost friend turns out to be an alien in trouble. It’s not the stereotypical “E.T. phone home; an alien needs to go home.” It’s not that typical story. It’s much more crazy, and fun, and out there. I say it’s like Flash Gordon meets Weekend at Bernie’s if you’re familiar with those two films. It’s quite different, and the costumes are going to be [makes gesture], very nice.

LG: I look forward to seeing more about that. What are some of your favorite movies?

CB: Oh, gosh. I’d say my favorite movie overall is Lawrence of Arabia.

LG: You don’t hear that too often!

CB: No, I bet you don’t! That’s my favorite movie. Other tops are Stagecoach; Annie, the 1982 musical; this one’s a little bit obscure—I’ll be surprised if you’ve heard of it—The Guns of Navarone.  

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