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Isabel Bethencourt | SHOOT New Directors Showcase Event
Isabel Bethencourt

“Cusp” (co-director; trailer for her feature documentary)

Isabel Bethencourt

Independent Media

What was your first professionally directed work and when was it? 
My feature documentary Cusp is my first directed work! I also shot the film, and it premiered at Sundance this year. We were picked up by Showtime for distribution, and it opens on their “screens” November 26th.

How did you get into directing? 
I naturally got into directing through cinematography and still photography. Looking through a lens made me realize that everything I was capturing had its own story. I was able to work on so many different types of narrative and documentary projects, that I found myself itching to direct my own projects.

What is your most recent project?
Cusp, my feature documentary.

What is the best part of being a director? 
I love directing because I get to work with different people and collaborate in new ways on every project. I genuinely enjoy the unique and intense creative problem solving that comes with making films, and figuring out the best way to bring an audience into a story. Most of all, it’s incredible to get to do a job that encourages exploration, curiosity and empathy.

What is the worst part of being a director? 
There is no “worst part.” I feel lucky every day.

What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre–comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
I’m focused now on telling compelling stories through all kinds of formats. I currently have television and feature projects in the works, and would love to bring my narrative and visual storytelling to the branded and commercial space.

Who is your favorite director and why? 
It’s hard to narrow it down, but many of David Fincher’s films directly inspired me to make movies myself–I saw The Social Network when I was younger, and couldn’t stop thinking about the performances, camera movements, and score. I also really loved Panic Room. It’s so thrilling but still deeply entertaining. A few other favorites are Andrea Arnold for her raw immersion into characters and place, and Joey Soloway, whose work always feels like I’m watching real conversations, and has the same authenticity one might find in documentaries.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Ah, that’s always so hard! I think today my favorite movie is Magnolia, which just delightfully weaves so many personalities, stories, turns, and details together while still feeling entirely cohesive and in control of itself. A more recent favorite watch is Bergman Island, which also blew me away in its intricacy.

My favorite TV show also changes constantly, but I’m always returning to I Love Dick, which is simply masterful. So incredible at pushing characters to their natural limits, and it’s relatable, and enjoyable to watch.

Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?) 
I grew up in a beach suburb of Los Angeles, where I started taking darkroom photography classes in middle school. I spent all of my childhood playing water polo, and wound up captaining my varsity high school team. I think my love of working cohesively as a team under pressure lent itself to my interest in working on film sets, which I pursued at NYU. At NYU I studied filmmaking, cinematography, and cultural anthropology. After freelancing as a cinematographer for a few years, I started making Cusp as a director and DP.


Independent Media: Contact EP, Susanne Preissler, via email