Quinn Shephard can do it all – director, producer, screenwriter, editor, and actress. In her directorial debut BLAME, Quinn Shephard has proved that she belongs in the film world. Fresh off making a splash at the Tribeca Film Festival, we asked her what inspires her passion and what it was like making BLAME. Did we mention that she is only 22 years old?
Don’t miss her film BLAME, screening twice during the 2017 Festival. Stick around for Q&As after both films, with Quinn Shephard, Nadia Alexander (Cast) and Laurie Shephard (Producer). Join GIFF for a post-screening reception following the Saturday screening of BLAME, where you will have the opportunity to mingle with the cast & crew of the film. Thank you to our friends at Theory for hosting this reception! Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by Theory on Greenwich Ave following the screening!
GIFF: What made you want to start acting?
Quinn Shephard: My mom was an actor, and she started bringing me to auditions at a very young age. It was a means of us bonding and exploring the city together. My acting was very part time — I was far from a Hollywood kid. I had a totally normal upbringing in NJ, and it wasn’t until I was 15 and started doing regional theater (more on this below!) that my passion really swelled into something that could withstand the industry. You have to really love what you do to stay in this business, and I really love film — all aspects! I learned as I got older that I was even more fascinated with what was going on behind the camera than being in front of it, and that fascination only grew as I matured and began working on BLAME.
GIFF: Who was your biggest inspiration growing up?
QS: My mom produced the film alongside me, and she’s always been my biggest cheerleader. She used to tell me “Don’t change who you are. Don’t listen to the kids in high school. Just be you.” And then as I got older and I wrote BLAME, that became “Why can’t we do this? Why can’t you direct this film? Let’s go for it.” In terms of filmmakers, I really love Andrea Arnold and Park Chan-wook. And films that feel iconic to me: Donnie Darko, American Beauty, Spring Breakers, Girlhood. I think you can see references to all of those in BLAME.
GIFF: Were you always interested in screenwriting?
QS: I’ve been writing every since I could physically manage it, and even a little bit before—as a kid, I used to convince my dad to transcribe my dictated stories on our computer. Screenwriting felt like a natural progression for me, seeing as I read scripts so frequently as an actor. I knew I wanted to make films, and so I started writing shorts as far back as 7th grade. BLAME was my first feature, though.
GIFF: What inspired BLAME?
QS: When I was a sophomore in high school, I was cast as Abigail Williams in a regional production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” At 15, it was the most mature role I’d ever played, and the experience had a tremendous impact on me. Beyond my fascination with the play, embodying Abigail had a strong influence on my day-to-day life. It changed the way I perceived both myself and the world around me. The role innately tied into my own coming-of-age; I felt powerful for the first time.
The script for BLAME was born, not only from imagining what Abigail’s story would look like set in a modern day high school, but also from observing the way she changed my own perspective, and heightening that to a fictional level.
GIFF: What was it like acting in your directorial debut?
QS: Directing and acting simultaneously was very challenging–more challenging than the actual act of directing myself. I always had my mom on set, and she kept a close eye on my performance, but it was difficult for me to keep tabs on everything else. I’m much more comfortable behind the camera on my shoots. Luckily Aaron and I had a chance to map out the entire film ahead of time–we spent two weeks shot listing and blocking every scene. I had a stand in on the shoot, so Aaron and I would set up the shot together, I’d watch a camera rehearsal and then I’d jump in and do it myself. It was hard on days when we were shooting with two cameras in the classroom–I’m a very hands-on director, and I like to tweak even tiny details of a performance to bring out the best version of the scene. Sometimes I could barely look at my actors because I was on camera myself, and we wouldn’t have time to watch playback. It was crazy. Luckily my cast is incredibly talented, each and every one of them. It would have been an impossible feat if I didn’t trust them as much as I did.
GIFF: What do you like better: acting, writing, or directing?
QS: I think it’s pretty clear that BLAME is a showcase for my directing more than my acting. I do love acting and plan to continue, but directing is what I feel I was born to do and I hope to spend my life creating films that mean as much to me as BLAME does. There are so many important stories I want to tell, and I think this film is a great example of who I am–and who I will grow to be–as an artist.
GIFF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received over the years?
QS: Jane Rosenthal said the other day at a Tribeca director’s brunch — “Don’t make the stuff they want you to make, make what you believe in.” I love that. It’s the essence of everything I stand for, and absolutely represents BLAME.
GIFF: If you could work with anyone, who would you like to work with?
QS: Is it OK if I have a laundry list? There are so many! Stanley Tucci, Viola Davis, Glenn Close, Emily Blunt, Tye Sheridan, Ben Mendelson…and of course the BLAME cast again, especially Nadia Alexander. She has a killer role in my next project. Chris does too, but I don’t think he actually knows that yet…
GIFF: If you weren’t in the entertainment industry, what do you think you would be doing instead?
QS: I’d probably be an interior designer…or maybe I would open my own vintage store in the village? But I don’t think those careers would emotionally fulfill me. I love all aspects of film, so every job I’ve ever considered doing is in the industry. I’d be pretty lost without it!
Purchase your tickets now to see BLAME at our 2017 Festival – Saturday, June 3rd & Sunday, June 4th. Join GIFF for a post-screening reception following the Saturday screening of BLAME, where you will have the opportunity to mingle with the cast & crew of the film. Thank you to our friends at Theory for hosting this reception! Please RSVP to email@example.com, or stop by Theory on Greenwich Ave following the screening!