The 27-year-old’s directorial debut, Electrick Children, starring Billy Zane, Julia Garner and Rory Culkin, is now showing at Picturehouse Cinemas across the UK. Rebecca talks to IdeasMag about how she funded the movie, getting the best from actors and why it’s important to keep an eye on what your peers are up to…
When did you decide you wanted to be a filmmaker?
In high school I did a radio broadcasting class. They had integrated some video stuff into it so I started playing with the medium and learning how to use Final Cut Pro. Me and my friends would make silly music videos and news shows. I started studying English Literature but got bored by it and switched to screenwriting for my undergrad, and then I went to graduate school at Columbia and did directing. In undergrad I had written, acted in and produced a project that my friend directed. I wrote a short script of 10 pages and we made it for $200 – and it ended up going to the Sundance Film Festival.
How did you get the funding to make Electrick Children?
I was originally going to make Electrick Children as a micro–budget film. I started trying to raise $10,000 on Kickstarter and we were going to take out another $10,000 in loans. Then my producer found this amazing investor who gave us $5,000. At Columbia one of our acting professors had invited me and my producer to audition for a movie he was making. Neither of us got the role but my producer had kept in touch with his producer so [when we were working on Electrick Children] she wrote him a quick email saying, “Hi Richard do you want to donate to this?” And he did. It shows it’s worth being personable and asking people very directly for money – even if it’s $5.
I followed up, asking if he wanted to read the script. A few days later I get a phone call from an unknown number. It was someone saying, “You’re going to need lights and you’re going to need talent. I’m so excited about the script.” I was like: “Is this Richard?” He said to me, “I can give you the $20, 000 and you can make this into a micro-budget project or I can come on as a producer and we can make the whole thing”. He independently financed the whole project.
In what way would the film have been different if you had made it on the original budget?
I would probably have had more time to shoot because I would have had a much smaller crew. We shot it very quickly. With a big crew and with all of these actors, there are strict rules. We could only shoot for four six-day weeks. We were in the middle of Utah with no electricity, so we had to bring it ourselves and housing everybody got really expensive – and then having to move from Utah to Las Vegas and Las Vegas to California. I’m not against doing things low budget – I think it can turn out beautiful – but I’m happy with what it is.
What did you find was the best way to prepare actors for a scene?
Spending time with the actors is important but I never try to be their friend. Working with Julia was so different to working with Rory and so different from working with Liam [Aiken]. Rory needed two words and he knew what I was saying and Julia needed a whole conversation. Older actors have more experience so they usually know if they’re not hitting what they want to be hitting. My advice is just act like you would around any normal person – everyone’s needs are different.
You said in a recent Q&A that for young filmmakers, paying attention to what your contemporaries are doing is as important as watching films by established film directors. Why?
The movies being made now are interesting, unique. They’re taking the three-act structure and breaking that up, trying new things and making it into something else. The way audiences read cinema is changing and if we keep making things the way we used to, people are going to get bored. I encourage young filmmakers to go and see what’s out there right now and how their skills are good enough. We all want to be masters and make an opus, and eventually maybe we can, but it’s important to start from somewhere. It takes hard work more than it takes talent.
Electrick Children is now showing at Picturehouse Cinemas.
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