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How Reagan Yorke went from influencer to filmmaker

Influencer Reagan Yorke leveraged her 3.1 million social media followers to launch her career as an independent filmmaker.
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(Photos Courtesy of Reagan Yorke)

Reagan Yorke recalls rolling out of bed at 13 years old, picking up her iPhone 5c and noticing thousands of notifications on her Musical.ly (the predecessor of TikTok) account. Initially thinking it was a glitch, she was confused to see that the video she accidentally posted the day before—a little comedy lip sync video of her and her father—had reached over 100,000 views. Yorke had been using Musical.ly to edit and create videos but did not realize that she forgot to set the video to “private.” The horror and confusion set in when she realized all the silly videos and edits she made were now being seen by the public. But it was also fascinating to her—that people were interested in the work she created—later encouraging her to make more.

Yorke is a 23-year-old social media content creator and short film director. Now based in Los Angeles, she grew up in San Diego, California, and has been creating social media content for 10 years. It all started in 2014 when she was 13 years old, amassing a large following on the app Musical.ly. Yorke found success in transferring her audience onto TikTok and continued to make videos, but unlike the stereotypical influencer TikTok “baddies” today.

With very few women being directors in the film industry, Yorke has become an inspiration to other women who aspire to work in the film industry by sharing her process on social media. By hopping on trends and making comedy skits, she was able to tailor her content to reach a broad audience. Showing off her talents by creating cinematic video edits with artistic transitions (think Baby Ariel) and behind-the-scenes content of her short films allowed her to grow her following to 3.1 million.

Despite the lack of women directors in the industry, Yorke always had a passion for filmmaking. She enjoyed picking up the camera, filming videos and editing transitions to create a story. She is inspired by the iconic female director Greta Gerwig for her abstract storylines with the entertainment company A24.

It taught me that I wanted to be on set, and I wanted to do the hands-on stuff, so it pushed me into the hands of directing.”

(Reagan Yorke)

She went on to California State University, Long Beach and got her bachelor’s degree in broadcast production, with a focus in cinematography and film production. In school, Yorke learned how to do the behind-the-scenes work instead of being in front of the camera. While studying, she continued creating social media content on TikTok and started uploading the same videos on other platforms. As her TikTok account grew, her YouTube account reached up to 100,000 subscribers. Additionally, her Snapchat reached 400,000 followers and her Instagram grew to 130,000 followers.  

During a social media event at CSULB, Yorke got an opportunity to intern at Paramount Pictures. She worked there for about a year as a field marketing intern. Although she worked on the marketing side of production, she was able to see a glimpse of the launch of a new film and the behind-the-scenes process.  

Working there, she realized that she didn’t enjoy the marketing side. “It taught me that I wanted to be on set, and I wanted to do the hands-on stuff, so it pushed me into the hands of directing,” says Yorke.  

Using the community of people she met through social media, she had the connections to be able to launch her own short film. All the video editors, photographers, companies and actors needed for the short films came from the connections she made by doing content creation.  

Jillian Nicole Smith, a friend of Yorke’s who is a social media content creator and actress, had acted in short films in the past for the MPI Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge (CFC). Smith reached out to Yorke because of her past of creating high-quality short-form videos with transitions and sent the application to the CFC contest to Yorke over text. Smith asked her if she would be interested in participating with her. Yorke agreed, but she was worried about being one of the only woman directors there. She was also not professionally experienced, but she was used to filming different camera shots, making videos, editing transitions and directing her own videos for TikTok and YouTube. Jumping into filmmaking seemed like a natural fit. 

Yorke had an all-woman team for the short film titled “Weight” and wanted to highlight women in all her short films. “Weight” is about a woman who goes through a series of daydreams in her car while encountering a familiar face. The short film follows the relationship between a mother and her daughter, and the two women were the only actors in the film.

Yorke and Smith had a very small team and budget for this film. They made the most of the resources they had access to, from studios allowing them to borrow equipment, to videographer friends volunteering to work on the film for credit.

“I’ve always wanted to make films, but I didn’t think it was possible because I thought you needed to have, like, a whole team of people behind you,” says Yorke.

(Reagan Yorke)

Yorke produced and directed the whole short film—from writing the scripts, to finding the actors, to hiring the videographers, scouting location and editing post-production. Yorke was not just a director but a full-on filmmaker.

“Honestly, we learned it ourselves. So, it’s probably not as traditional and structured as normal TV shows and movies. But we were getting there,” she says. 

While Yorke was making the short film, going through days of production and juggling social media, her life felt nothing short of crazy. She woke up at six a.m. and immediately drove to the closest Starbucks or Alfred’s coffee shop to chug her daily vanilla cold brew. Driving over to the set’s location, she made sure the actors were arriving at their call time and getting their hair and makeup started. If there was time, she would run over some lines with the actors and explain to them what scene they will be filming first.

I’ve always wanted to make films, but I didn’t think it was possible because I thought you needed to have a whole team of people behind you.”

Yorke explains that as a director it is important to instruct the actors with what emotions she wants them to portray. While this was going on, Yorke set up her phone on a tripod to film behind-the-scenes content of her film for her social media. In between scenes, Yorke grabbed her phone and took some short clips and pictures of the set, herself, the videographers and everyone on set to save for later. On Snapchat, she would vlog her day to have saved content for the platform. After their lunch break, they continued this process of filming different scenes and wrapped up the shoot after about eight hours.

Yorke says that school helped prepare her for time management, having structure and staying on top of deadlines. But social media helped her connect to people in the film industry and get inspiration. She got her first ideas for short films by seeing content about other filmmakers and getting inspiration for her own scenes in them.

(Reagan Yorke)

After submitting the film into the festival CFC, “Weight” won three awards: Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Music. It also won Best Experimental Short from the Independent Shorts Awards. 

Yorke explained that she and Smith felt so validated in all their work after winning those awards and it made them believe in themselves even more. Yorke has had some self-doubts about being a director due to the lack of women being successful in film, leaving her to feel nervous about the outcome from submitting her project into the CFC. It is very uncommon for women to be in the roles of directors or filmmakers in the industry, so Yorke and Smith being in the minority as women directors defeated the odds by winning awards in that festival.  

Yorke’s piece of advice to all the women that aspire to be in the film industry is to not be stopped by any of the statistics they see, and to believe in themselves. Her comment section on TikTok includes various of comments of support, with people loving to see women succeed in the film industry and other girls commenting about being inspired by Yorke and Smith.

Reagan Yorke wants to continue her success in the role of a female director and has just completed her second short film project. She wishes to continue posting on social media about her journey in the film industry to inspire other women to follow their dreams, as well as collaborate with other women who share a passion in filmmaking. In the future, she plans to create a full production company with Jillian Smith called S&Q Film, which would include box office hits and feature films.

 

 

Taken from the Summer 2024 print issue of Inside Fullerton. Read it here.

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About the Contributor
Sabrina Mercado
Sabrina Mercado, Staff Writer
Sabrina is a journalism major and plans to transfer to CSULB in the fall. She spends her time creating videos on social media, going to Disneyland, doing yoga or at the gym, and with her friends and family. She hosted her own TV program on EMT Media Network called “On the Red Carpet.” Sabrina hopes to work as a journalist or in PR/marketing and aspires to work in the film or entertainment industry 

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