We’ve all dreamt about being in the movies, right? Come on admit it, you’ve thought about your name up in lights starring in a fantastic success of a film. It’s a fun dream, but how about making it a reality? What if I told you a critically acclaimed director is on the hunt for a new star, that auditions were open to anyone however much acting experience you have; and on top of this the project is a great new film depicting lesbians in an innovative and exciting new way. Believe it or not this is actually happening. The film in question is ‘She Walks in Beauty’, to be directed by the award winning Nicole Conn. The audition process is a tried and tested formula that previously discovered Jessica Clark, who went on to star in ‘A Perfect Ending’ and vampire series ‘True Blood’. But auditions are only the beginning of what is shaping up to be a fantastic film that won’t be your average lesbian flick. She Walks in Beauty promises to be a bold statement in the world of LGBT and particularly lesbian movies, changing the way lesbians are depicted and taking us into the mainstream.
We wanted to find out more about this intriguing project and audition process, so we caught up with the people behind it; Elaine Sturgess, executive producer of the film, and Juliette Prais, MD of Pink Lobster Dating, the fantastic ‘femme for femme’ dating site, and the only site where you can upload your video auditions for ‘She Walks in Beauty’.
What inspired you to get involved in this project with Nicole Conn to find a new actress for her movie?
JP: When Elaine, the executive producer, got in touch about this project I was incredibly excited about getting involved. Elaine believes in the importance of working together as a community, and this is also our ethos at Pink Lobster Dating. We love working with both individuals and organisations in order to promote LGBTQ causes and opportunities. For me it is vital that we work together to get lesbian movies more widespread. It is also wonderful to give women who would not otherwise get the opportunity, to audition for roles of this magnitude. The fact that I can help find the next big star through the means of video auditioning on Pink Lobster Dating is an added bonus!
ES: I watched Elena Undone (2010, Directed by Nicole Conn) two years ago and it had a deep impact on me because it echoed my story with my partner – and so I got in touch with Nicole and ended up donating to the making of A Perfect Ending. After going to the premiers of the movie in San Francisco and LA and spending time with Nicole over the last year, we decided to join forces in the making of her new movie She Walks in Beauty.
What is ‘She Walks in Beauty’ about?
ES: It’s the tale of two women, whose stories are an echo of each other, set a century apart. Spencer is an ambitious driven woman who finds success in Hollywood and gets sucked into the hedonistic lifestyle, eventually losing everything in a whirl of sexual abandon, drink and drugs. She moves to a remote cottage on the East coast and reflects on her past to try to find out what drove her to the destruction in her life and in doing so, she returns to what she loves and knows best – writing. She pens the story of Byron, set in the louche world of 1920’s literary Paris – and in doing so reconnects with her life and soul.
So… anyone can audition??
JP: I was amazed when I discovered how easy it is to audition. It still doesn’t seem real, but it is! All women of any age and sexuality can apply and it’s so wonderful that we can offer the chance for applicants to video audition on Pink Lobster Dating. There has been a lot of interest so far and women are genuinely excited about the incredible opportunities available. Still I think many don’t believe it…!
ES: Literally anyone can apply, whether they have previous acting experience or not. Pink Lobster Dating have set up a great way to do that because they have the video upload facility – it’s great for us in casting terms to be able to see those who are wanting to have their chance in the spotlight. All submissions will also go through the www.shewalksnbeautymovie.com website and we will select around 100 to read for one of the roles at the iConn Movie Convention in Brighton on the weekend of 11th/12th January 2014. We’ll then call back around 30 for chemistry sessions (kissing!) and then a shortlist of 20 will be open to a vote online.
What do you think of the lesbian movies that are around today?
JP: The biggest problem is the presumption that lesbian movies are either porn or made for men or both. Or they go the other way and can often become a political statement. We need more films showing women falling in love – simple. We also need lesbian movies to be accepted in the mainstream so that their budgets can increase thereby providing opportunities to make more high quality movies in this genre. It’s also important that the LGBTQ community gains more role models as there are currently not enough in the UK.
ES: There aren’t enough (and most certainly not enough in the UK!) and there’s a real mix of quality. Mainly because funding for these projects is so limited and resources generally are very thin on the ground. Standards are improving, slowly, but it’s essential that we start to expand beyond the lesbian niche into the mainstream to encourage more funding and support for this genre. Hopefully the exposure of movies like Blue is the Warmest Colour, despite all the contentious issues around it, will help to start addressing this.
What makes ‘She walks in beauty’ different??
JP: It’s set as both a modern and period piece. What makes Nicole Conn’s movies different in general is her way of highlighting that we can sometimes fall in love with the person regardless of our supposed sexualities. She therefore shows the reality of sexual fluidity amongst women. Importantly for us at Pink Lobster Dating she also shows women of all types and does not maintain age old stereotyping of lesbians. It also gives women in the UK a chance to feature in a Hollywood movie without having to live in LA and go through the gruelling processes over there!
ES: It’s the first transatlantic project for Nicole – and it’s an epic!
What direction would you like to see lesbian movies go?
JP: Ideally we would have movies with both lesbians and heterosexuals as the main characters. They would also not be labelled ‘lesbian’ and seen as ‘genre’ films. They would simply be romantic movies and be granted the same respect as heterosexual movies. Hopefully in the long term when lesbians stop being constantly seen as male fantasy figures, women falling in love in the movies will be able to be appreciated in the right way!
ES: Encouraging audiences to accept that they are compelling and interesting stories in their own right rather than focusing on the central characters being lesbian is the core challenge. It’s a long process and unfortunately with limited resources at our disposal, getting the message out is really tough. We have found that with A Perfect Ending and Elena Undone, once we are able to get the movies in front of mainstream audiences, they appreciate it for its story and Nicole has had letters from many people letting her know that it has changed their perceptions and attitudes. It’s a battle worth fighting.
What’s your goal for making She Walks in Beauty?
ES: We want to make She Walks in Beauty the biggest selling lesbian movie ever and create ways to expand reach to have our stories heard to a wider audience. It’s a serious challenge to secure both mainstream media coverage and distribution for movies in this genre and our aim is break down some of the barriers.
JP: It is vital that we work to help bring lesbian movies to the mainstream. This unique concept of open auditions for anyone, enables a wider press angle and therefore hopefully the chance for everyone to learn about lesbian genre films and not simply lesbians. I watch romantic movies about heterosexuals and thoroughly enjoy them; why should this not be the other way around as well?!
* Juliette Prais has updated with the following announcement: ‘The casting and convention in the UK are being postponed due to Nicole Conn’s announcement about her son’s health issues. All auditions on Pink Lobster Dating will continue to be forwarded onto Elaine, the Executive Producer. Pink Lobster Dating will make an announcement on the site with more details once they have been released.’