Christina Beck (Writer, Actress, Producer & Director) – Interview

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‘Perfection’ has been quite a journey a 2 1/2 year one, to be exact.  How did it come together?

It’s actually a longer journey than that but it did take us 2 1/2 to finish principal photography. After the script was nominated for Best Screenplay by The IFP Independent Film Projects in New York which is a wonderful resource for first time directors, my producer Annette Murphy and I had several meetings with production companies that all liked the project but no one was willing to actually show us the money so we decided to just start shooting with whatever resources we had on the weekends. We were very lucky to put together an amazing and talented cast and crew who all showed up for the love of this project, we were very rich in that way. The IFP came on board again as we were involved in their rough cut labs and I was awarded The Adrienne Shelly female directing grant which helped finish our principle photography.

What responses have you had from self-injury groups, and people who have had extensive cosmetic surgery)?

Early on at one of our fundraiser’s in Los Angeles, Dr. Tonja Krautter a therapist who specializes with self harm and recovery from other self destructive disorders was very kind to come and speak about the behavior. She donated her time, resources and even wrote us a check at one point and finally when the film was finished and we screened at The San Francisco International Women’s film festival Tonja came along with  four of her collages and not only did they enjoy the film, they felt like it touched on many complicated issues that can only be beneficial for all audiences to see.

I didn’t find the self harming scenes particularly graphic.  Was that intentional?

That’s interesting? a lot of people have been very uncomfortable with the one scene where Kristabelle is cutting on camera and of course it is fake.  I was not interested in glamorizing or minimizing the behavior, I wanted to be truthful and after that one scene people get the point, if they want more than maybe it’s a slasher movie they rather be watching? That’s not what this is.

When I  saw the mirror scene the first thing that came to mind was ‘Georges Franju’s ‘Eyes Without a Face’   I’ve never seen the full film, 14_bbut I’ve seen clips.  Yet the mirror imagery conjured up that film.  The main character Christiane is horribly disfigured in a car accident, and she has to wear a mask to cover up her disfigurement while her father who is a doctor tries to restore her features, by grafting the skin of young beautiful women onto his daughter’s face, only for the new tissue to be rejected, and she has to keep wearing this mask. In Perfection Kristabelle’s face in that moment seems disembodied, a face transplanted and grafted onto a mirror whilst walking across the room. Have you seen the film? It has it’s own themes of youth, beauty and perfection.

No, I have not seen the film but it sounds interesting.

Did the film give you chance to portray a different side of Los Angeles, one that is rarely seen in cinema?

(for example a change from the film noir/transient/waitress/actress waiting to be discovered)

As I am from Los Angeles I often think about how many people come to LA to create their “idea” of who they want to be. It has that freedom in a strange way but for me, it is a place of many mixed memories and I guess that’s the beauty of filmmaking in that this is one of my perceptions that I got to capture for a moment, well, 85 mins.

The interior shots appear quite claustrophobic, it really highlights their living space and the tightly bound relationship of Sally and Kristabelle.

Absolutely! I tend to do this with my writing, I put characters on top of each other and make them fight for their space.

The Mother Sally  (played by Robyn Peterson) has a certain ‘faded old Hollywood glamour’  Is she based on anyone you’ve encountered whilst living, and working in Los Angeles or even in New York?

Besides my own mother, yes! They are everywhere with amazing stories and sadly dying off too soon.

Why did you make the Simon character (played by British Actor David Melville) a British Stand up comedian? p10205821

I based Simon on a wonderful British man living in Los Angeles who is one of the funniest people I know. Also, it just really worked in terms of who could realistically “get” Kristabelle? He would have to have his own demons but a silly sweetness for her to feel safe.

The Damned feature in the soundtrack.  Were they a big musical influence whilst growing up?

When I was a teenager I was in Love with Dave Vanian, the lead singer and really just loved their music so much that when it became time to figure out what Kristabelle liked it was a no brainer. Captain Sensible, the guitar player of The Damned came to our screening in Los Angeles, they happened to be on tour and he showed up at The Egyptian Theatre to come see the film. 2011   It was such an honor to meet him, the sweetest man and we took tons of pictures with him, such a good sport!

Apart from money.  When making their first feature. What are the most important things that a Director needs?

A story they feel passionate enough about that they will do anything to see it realized even if it takes 5 to 10 years! I was very lucky in that I was gifted with so much starting with my cast, crew and everyone person I came in contact with felt my passion and honestly wanted to see me archive this goal. People really do want to be a part of something that is creative and we had a lot of fun in the process. Post was another story, not as fun but again, people came out of the woodwork to help and I was incredibly fortunate.

You said in the question and answer session that you’re not a feminist as you don’t like labels, but you have many feminist beliefs.  Do you find that distributors, and programmers have their own ideas of how to market your film, and target a demographic of who should see it.  That has to be a hindrance in terms of finding a wider audience.

I honestly do not know how distributors and programmers see Perfection? The festivals we were accepted in only expressed their interest by accepting the film or not. In Mississippi where we won Best Narrative feature, the jury wrote a beautiful statement about my vision and talents of the entire production which of course felt great and with our distribution that is yet to be seen. I think finding an audience is not necessarily the problem, we have had nothing but positive feedback everywhere we have screened it’s a lot of other factors, especially in the states as “independent” films are not what they used to be and it’s all about being the flavor of the month/festival year. That is not our story but after accepting a lot of rejection I am happy to say that i made the film I wanted to make and very grateful to everyone involved.

What’s next for Perfection in terms of screenings, and release dates?

As I mentioned, we do not have distribution yet but will be having another screening in London on the 25th of February at The Sanctum Soho Hotel.

And Algerian Tap dancing muggers???

Yes, I am writing to you now from Paris where my next project, Expecting Grace is set. It is a dark romantic comedy in development.

Perfection movie trailer

http://vimeo.com/9813971#

Notes from a Question & Answer Session – Rio Cinema, London.

Christina remarked that the film timeframe of the 1990s was important due to it being pre internet that’s why Kristabelle is not part of an online community where she meets other sufferers.  She is adrift apart from one other sufferer she meets in rehab.

People don’t talk about self harmers – 9 times it is childhood abuse, and 10 times sexual abuse.

‘Perfection was made as independently as you see.  Continuity was a challenge, she lost some of her crew and everyone worked for free.

On making the film ‘I came too far to go back’

Christina doesn’t label herself a feminist as she doesn’t label herself anything but has many feminist beliefs.

‘Perfection’ is still looking for a distribution and video on demand deal.

Don’t let money stop you doing what you want to do.

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Perfection – Film Review

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Although it’s not remarkable to see someone walking onscreen, ‘Perfection’ is set in Los Angeles, a city of cars and freeways. Yet this LA appears more intimate and unthreatening the sunlight and its exteriors appear filtered as if filmed through a gauzy haze as Kristabelle (Christina Beck) walks, navigating her way around the neighbourhood a striking figure with pronounced blonde bangs, clad in large sweaters, and black brogues.

A home life shared with her glamorous Mother Sally (Robyn Peterson) images (1)their environment is defined by their addictions, Kristabelle with freshly, bloodied scars on her upper thighs, self harms her way to feeling alive whilst Sally addicted to plastic surgery tries to maintain a younger, Hollywood aesthetic. At times each thrive on past nostalgia connected with their old lives and younger selves that relies on a currency, an emphasis associated with youth and desire “Oh Tony looked so handsome then’ remarks Sally whilst watching old westerns starring her husband and Kristabelle’s punk rock adolescence remembered through the eyes of a younger man, the brother of an old images (2)childhood friend.  The original posters of ‘The Damned’ ageless images are still tacked on her bedroom wall.

Director/Writer: Christina Beck  images

Producers: Tatiana Kelly, Annette Murphy

Co Producers: Beth Dewey, Robert Poswall

Director of Photography: Robert Poswall

Editor: Katy Skjering

Composer: Marika Tjelios

Cast: Christina Beck, Robyn Peterson, David Melville, Jeff Kober, Jackson Davis and Jamela Biggs.

Best Narrative Feature – Oxford Film Festival, Mississipi, USA

Best Actor – Christina Beck

Information about the film can be found here

http://perfectionthemovie.wordpress.com/who-we-are/

Slice – the short film version of the feature ‘Perfection’  can be viewed on youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBM7j0nqfco&list=FLIZeOxashTb1FNCkA8aEfQA&feature=player_detailpage

Gold – Divine Chocolate Film Script with Minimal dialogue

Hi Jen,

Hope all is well with you. We decided to go with another proposal which would probably be more suited to a viral campaign we are trying to achieve.

However Charlotte and I, as well of Birds Eye View creative team were really impressed with the idea and with the narrative of Gold.

Hence we thought we would like to support you by offering you £500 towards a film course, if you take Gold as piece you want to develop in this context

Let us know your thoughts

Best wishes,

Tal Drori

Marketing Manager

Divine Chocolate Limited

The following script was entered into the Divine Chocolate Film Competition, which was to write a proposal capturing the essence of ‘Divine Chocolate’

I was one of the shortlisted winners and had to write a 2 min script.  The winner would have their film produced and uploaded as part of a Youtube Viral campaign. Although I didn’t win I was offered a prize to develop and make the film.  Since the competition the script has changed and I’m still working on changes up until I make the film.

When I came up with the character of May I pictured a girl with a look of a young, Tavi Gevinson.  She would be dressed like an older woman, a memsahib lounging on an allotment watching the people toiling away in the heat whilst she observes all around her exuding a slightly aloof, yet sophisticated air.

As I wrote the script May became more vivid as I pictured her among the green plants, and earth browns of a community allotment.

Image

GOLD

By
Jennifer Farfort

EXT. A COMMUNITY ALLOTMENT – EARLY AFTERNOON

FADE IN

(offscreen) we hear the sound of shovels digging deep into soil.

IN FRAME
May, an eight year old girl, is sitting on a deckchair. She wears a wide brim hat, big dark sunglasses, and is dressed like a sophisticated lady, with her cardigan draped around her shoulders.

(offscreen) we hear the sound of a kettle that is just coming to the boil, and the stirring of teacups.

Cut to
Backs of people bent over shovels tending to their plots.

Cut to
Allotment plots adorned with windmills, plastic bottles, gnomes,and strange looking scarecows. Shiny cds are tied, and stringed together on various plots. They flap gently in the breeze.

As May adjusts her sunglasses putting them atop her head her cardigan slips off, onto the ground.  Annoyed she quickly picks it up dusting it down, and puts it on properly. Hungry she unwraps her Divine Chocolate bar carefully. She breaks off some chunks hovering it near her mouth then slowly devours them. May looks inside her cardigan pocket staring intently at the contents that we cannot see, whilst nibbling at a bit of chocolate.  Transfixed, she gently pokes at the unseen contents.

Cut to

A bird scarer makes a whizzing motion. Its sound appears deafening.

May eyes it suspciously.  She watches its wooden feet pedalling switching from slow to fast, as the breeze catches it.She returns to her chocolate studying the Adinkra symbol designs Imageof the wrapper and starts to draw a symbol in her notebook. She makes elaborate patterned swirls that fill the page.

She takes in the sights and sounds around her.

Cut to

A block of flats is visible just beyond the end of the allotment.


A flurry of cabbage white butterflies circle playfully around each other.

MAY

(voiceover and subtitles)

A Daisy..A Daisychain of butterflies.

Two women stop to take a break. Their shovels are upended in the soil whilst they talk.  May watches them making up a conversation between them in her head

MAY

(voiceover and subtitles)

Would you like some chocolate/

May breaks off another piece of chocolate

it’s Divine

and eats it

/ooh…it is/oooh yummy/can I have another piece/

NO.  GREEDY GUTS!

Cut to

May’s parents who are watering their plot. She shares some chocolate with them.She looks over to her smaller plot beside theirs.

Cut to

A banner that says:

‘May’s Divine Chocolate Plot Garden’

It is decorated with Divine chocolate foil and wrappers.

She picks up a watering can.

(Offscreen) we hear the sound of a watering can being filled

Cut to

May pouring water over her plot making sure that everywhere is coated.

Taking off her shoes she watches her parents who are talking, with their neighbouring allotment growers. She tentatively steps on the soil walking over it she takes the stick and carefully divides it like big chocolate squares.

Taking off her hat, and placing her sunglasses on her head she kneels down on the sodden soil, cupping her hands she whispers quietly into the earth.

MAY

(subtitled)

Chocolate cake, Hot chocolate, ice cream, chocolate chip pudding…with chocolate sauce…milk choc-o-late

Standing up she reaches into her cardigan pocket and unwraps a chocolate coin, she eats it then attaches the gold wrapper to the flag. May makes a small well in the centre with a tiny shovel. Taking more coins out of her pocket, she looks around, and drops some of her chocolate gold coins (jangling sound) in the small well and covers it up.

She carves an Adrinka symbol in the wet soil.

Subtitles will say

“Greatness’

A rumble ripples under her feet losing her balance May falls onto the ground.

Cut to

May lying on ground next to her head she is surrounded by chocolate gold coins and bars of Divine Chocolate.Image

She scoops up her treasure filling her pockets.

(offscreen)

The sounds of the allotment come into view

May watches the legs of the bird scarer mobile move ever so slightly.

She sits down takes out her notebook and starts to write.