KEEPER (trailer for short film)

Maren Lavelle

Unaffiliated

https://www.one-eyedrabbit.com/

What was your first professionally directed work and when was it? 
My first professionally directed work with my production company, One-Eyed Rabbit, was Maya, a short film about a Queer NYC stage manager reflecting on her break-up while trying to manage the rehearsal of a play about a gay couple falling in love. We filmed in June of 2020. I loved that process! We did a lot of single takes capturing an entire scene, which took strong communication and coordination. Also - working with the two actresses in the film, Aury Krebs and Erin McCarthy, was an absolute dream. They’re both such intelligent and vulnerable women, so it was incredible to direct them. They garnered several performance awards in Maya’s film festival run. Choosing to only hear and not see the male characters and have only the female characters visible on screen was a fun artistic choice for me, and I’m proud to watch the women in the film take up space.

How did you get into directing? 
Growing up as a performer and actor, I decided to go to college in NYC to receive my BFA in Acting. During my time in school, not wanting to fight the inevitable curvy-actress-type battle and wait for projects to find me, I transitioned away from acting as a career path and put my focus into playwriting and directing. It was liberating to be in charge of my own work. After graduating, I spent several years as a playwright in the NYC theatre scene, where I met my now husband and producing partner, Matt Steiner. Matt and I started writing film and tv scripts together in March of 2019, leading us to found our production company, One-Eyed Rabbit, that November. I had always wanted to direct film, but I couldn’t figure out how to breach the gap between my theatre education and the film industry. One-Eyed Rabbit gave me that opportunity.

What is your most recent project? 
My most recent completed project, Wendy, just had its World Premiere at Soho International Film Festival in early October 2022! Wendy is about a quiet but imaginative eighth grader who attempts to find the courage to approach her secret crush while working on the middle-school production of Romeo & Juliet (hint: her secret crush is the actress who plays Juliet). I returned to my alma mater, Cab Calloway School of the Arts, to direct this film and create as specific a world as possible around our characters. I cast the rising 9th grade theatre majors in the film who were phenomenal. It was an incredibly rewarding experience!

What is the best part of being a director? 
I love collaboration. I love being on set and in post production with other great, talented, creative minds and working together to realize a cohesive vision. I always say “the best idea wins”, meaning, the best ideas don’t always have to come from me, as long as they’re the best ones! Being able to steer the ship of production, but let others take the wheel when they’re more capable at navigating a specific moment or detail is a skill I take pride in, and I enjoy that give and take on a collaborative team.

What is the worst part of being a director?
I’d say the worst part of directing is that I end up seeing the film so many times and becoming so entrenched in every detail of it that I don’t get to experience the piece the way that I’m building it for the audience to experience. I can experience a sliver of the catharsis that I’ve built for watchers of the film if I’m seeing the film on the big screen or I haven’t watched it in a while, but ultimately, I can’t ever really shake the intense focus I have from production through post on every little moment and performance and setup and cut.

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.? 
Though “Keeper”, my showcase sample, is about two men, my work tends to have women at the forefront. I strive to represent the experiences of a wide array of women. I found with “Wendy” that I have a strength for coming of age stories and working with younger actors.

My career focus is narrative film and television, and my goals include consistently directing episodic content. But all of my work shines a light on stories about folks who aren’t typically portrayed in tv and movies, characters that are complex and vulnerable and at a large precipice in their life. Sometimes the stories lend themselves to drama, others to comedy, but I focus on those nuanced characters as their world unravels for the audience to watch.

Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you? 
I don’t have a film and television directing mentor, but I would love to have one! Mentors are such an incredible resource. Having someone who has or is currently doing what you want to be doing gives you a blueprint and a template for the steps that you can take to achieve your career goals. Mentors can be both a professional and emotional guide to the turbulent experience of being a creative in this industry. At this point in my career, having a mentor would help provide me with invaluable opportunities like shadowing them on set and connecting me with folks who could hire me for episodic directing gigs. I’m definitely in the market for a directing mentor!

Who is your favorite director and why? 
It’s hard to select one director, as I resonate with aspects of several directors’ work. For example, Mike Flanagan does a remarkable job of building tension and using horror to get into the psyche of his characters. Spielberg does spectacle like no one else. Ari Aster creates haunting images that cement into your brain. Greta Gerwig manages to portray both the softness and the strength of her female characters with impeccable nuance. My favorite rising female director is Meryam Joobeur. Her film Brotherhood is lovely.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
What a hard question! There is SO much good content out there right now, especially in television. Fleabag is one of my favorite TV series ever. Phoebe Waller-Bridge created something wholly unique and true to her voice and it’s lovely to watch (and re-watch). The Handmaid’s Tale is doing a lot that’s interesting to me. They continue to stay true to the characters, put them in new high stakes situations, and create stark and beautiful images on screen, all supported by remarkable performances from the cast. Atlanta is so innovative. Their capsule episode storytelling style is exciting to me. Lastly, I’ll rewatch Schitt’s Creek any day. It is so wholesome and funny and poignant and watching the characters develop over the series is a treat.

Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up on the East Coast, moving around from Pennsylvania to New York to Delaware. Growing up as a somewhat precocious child who wanted a room’s attention on her at all times, I naturally glided into the theatre. I ended up attending a performing arts high school for acting which helped guide me on my career path. My other love is dogs. I grew up with a pack of five dogs at home, so when I needed survival gigs, pet care was the first industry I went to. I worked as a dog walker in NYC for several years before purchasing the business I worked for. I now own and run The Big City Woof Walker, a thriving dog walking and pet care business based in NYC and Chicago, and I’m a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT - KA). Not bad for a day job!

How has the pandemic impacted your career, art, craft, shaped your attitudes and reflections on life which in turn may influence your work, approach, spirit, mindset?
The pandemic was actually a very fruitful time for me as a filmmaker. I started my professional directing career during the pandemic, partly because the dog walking company I own and run, which up until that point was taking up the majority of my waking hours, had to go on hiatus for a period of months in 2020. Though I was working diligently to build my company from the ground back up, there was so much more space in my life to work towards my directing career goals. Since the pandemic, I’ve been able to keep my availability open for creative projects along with all of my other life obligations, something that was difficult for me to do prior.