Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent completion of filming for your independent feature film, Indigo Valley! What inspired you to bring this story to the big screen?
Jaclyn Bethany: Thank you! I have always loved stories that centered on tension-filled trios with a complex female character at the center. For example, dramas like Miss Julie and A Streetcar Named Desire. I am Southern, and I think in reference to the latter work always hugely inspired by the Southern gothic genre. And these kinds of stories really unravel the layers and else deep into humanity. This story isn't Southern gothic, but it has three characters at its center that each have their own baggage and each have a unique way of dealing with it. I think I was interested in exploring that and diving deep to figure out what made these three people the way they are, what happens when circumstances bring them together.
BD: Given that the feature is based on your short film, what can you share with us about your creative process in adapting the film to a longer format?
JB: In my mind, Indigo Valley was always going to be my first full-length project. The short was more like a proof of concept that we used to test things and also give potential investors and audiences a glimpse into the story. I think a feature is a completely different process than a short. It's a huge undertaking, I learned so much and I am still learning. It's a process. Now, I think about the short and the feature as two different things entirely. The creative process was always so fulfilling between my collaborators and myself. I worked with the same DP from short to feature, so it was amazing to see how technically her style developed from short to feature. For example, how much we had grown in a year and also created a visual language together. The film is very performance driven, and their are different actors in the short and the feature. That changed things obviously, and we changed one character from British to American. I lived with the story for a while and decided that the film could take place anywhere desolate and remote. So, the short was shot in Iceland and the feature in California. But that allowed me to really focus on the story and what I was trying to say without having the pressure of an exotic location and out of the country shoot. I loved shooting the short in Iceland, though, and would love to return and shoot something there one day. But both landscapes are equally stunning, actually - in different ways.
BD: What do you hope that viewers will take away from the film, and what makes film such an important medium through which to connect with other characters and their stories?
JB: I hope that the film is relatable to audiences, and it is powerful. I am in post and figuring everything out, but it's coming together in an exciting way. I love film because it stands the test of time. In that way, it can stay with you forever. It's also universal and accessible.
BD: You have quite a talented cast and crew working on the production. What can you tell us about their creative process in bringing the film to life?
JB: I worked with a mix of collaborators both from the short film and my collaborators from the American Film Institute, from which I recently graduated in directing. I have been very, very lucky in the support and collaboration I have been a part of thus far. I think it is all about trust. I love every second of working on a film, and I have managed to surround myself with people who really believe in my vision and share that joy. Without that, doing this is impossible. I think our creative process is built as a team. For Indigo Valley, it was a pretty small team, with nearly all crew members doing multiple roles. I worked on the script for 2.5 years. I received a lot of valuable feedback on that from friends, classmates, and collaborators. This film is totally me, it's very intense and brave. So, I had to have a huge amount of support to do this and put this story out there. I think mainly this is just about finding the right people along the way. One of my producers, Courtney Harmstone, and I met at the London Film School, and my cinematographer, Irene Gomez-Emilsson, met at the Reykjavik Film Festival. We discovered we shared a similar visual aesthetic and became fast friends, as well as sharing an admiration for each other's work. I have Irene to thank for allowing me to become a director. She DP'ed my first short I ever directed that got me in to AFI. I was in it because I knew how to act, I had no idea how to direct. So, she trusted me with that. Later, finishing my time at AFI, I brought on my thesis producer Mikhail Makeyev who really spearheaded production and made the shoot happen, as well as the talented Selinda Zhou who has been working tirelessly with me on the edit. My Costume Designer Derica Cole Washington and Production Designer Mollie Wartelle are two talented ladies I met whilst living in L.A. and admired both of their work so it was awesome to work with them on such a visually driven piece. For Isabella's example we looked at Anna in The Kettering Incident and the photography of Nan Goldin - she has a sort of reckless stylishness that draws you in. All of the supporting cast I had worked with before, and then I spent a few months casting the leads John (Brandon Sklenar) and Louise (Rosie Day) - immensely talented young actors, who have big things ahead of them. They really brought the film to life.
BD: Indigo Valley, as well as your short film, Delta Girl, are currently making the rounds through the festival circuit. How would you describe your experience with the audience and critical response thus far to the films?
JB: Indigo Valley, the short, is basically finishing up it's festival run. It's a dark film - and it was fun sometimes to see it play alongside horror films, for example. I think audiences were interested in the story and wanted to see what happens which is why I made the feature. The Delta Girl has just begun its festival run; we had a great screening in Mississippi at the Mississippi Museum of Art, where the film was set, and the audience was really moved. We also had a fantastic festival premiere at Holly Shorts in L.A., which was super exciting. Next, we do another festival screening in Mississippi followed by our European premiere Euroshorts in Gdansk, Poland.
Audiences seemed to be seemed to be genuinely moved by the performances, as well. The ensemble cast of The Delta Girl is just so insanely talented.
BD: How have Indigo Valley and Delta Girl been most impactful to you as a creator?
JB: Well, I never thought I would be a director, so that is something I am still processing every day. It is really a beautiful thing, directing. I really started writing because I was very frustrated as an actor. I didn't want to wait in line at cattle calls and I didn't like the type I was being called in for. So, I started writing my own roles and making them happen. I have also learned the kind of projects I want to do, and that is led by my interest to write strong roles for females. Both of these recent projects have changed my life, and I feel I have found what I am supposed to be doing as an artist, or am definitely headed in the right direction - and that's the best feeling.
BD: Are there any other upcoming films or projects that you would care to share with our readers?
JB: I am working on a new project, a pilot-y short called The Rehearsal. It takes place in the New York theatre world and follows the life of a young woman, Anne, whose personal life starts to blend with the title role she is undertaking in an Off-Broadway production of Miss Julie. I love dangerous females and ensemble pieces, so it's all bubbling to happen. I can't wait.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Indigo Valley, Delta Girl, and your other projects?
JB: Films are nothing without an audience, and I am just so grateful to be doing this and will, hopefully, continue sharing my work.
You can check out my next project, The Rehearsal, here.