Bethany Orr: Independent filmmaker and dark comedienne


Sometimes we think that we are just good in one thing in life, but it happens that we realize that it is not exactly like that; that we enjoy doing other parts from our job.

And that is what happened with Bethany Orr, well-known as an actress, who because of an accident she had, she realized that she could be also a filmmaker, who can write and direct her own movies.

Among others, she wrote and directed “Winner”, in which she had also a part there, and she won the first place at the Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge festival.

In a conversation with The Outsider Argentina, Bethany spoke about her beginnings, the moment which changed her life and made her to start writing and the projects she has for this year.

How did you start acting?

It’s in my bones. I was theatrical from the get-go. My mom tells me stories about how at age 2 I would hold my breath until I passed out, just for attention. Later I produced these elaborate talent shows with my siblings and cousins on the holidays (my idea)… I even used to print up little tickets for the adults to cash in. The performances cost ONE HUG. It was dumb luck that we lived next to a guy who was a commercial producer. My first professional job was at age 6 when I got paid $50 to act in an infomercial for The Picture Bible.

How was it like being on “Criminal Minds”? Have you ever watched the show?

As an actor it’s my job to watch TV and know the tone and quality of the show I’m auditioning for. Criminal Minds is a great show. It’s my style – smart, dark, and unexpectedly funny – so I was thrilled when I was cast in an episode. I loved working with Joe [Mantegna] and Shemar [Moore]. I learned a lot, they are consummate professionals and true gentlemen.

How did you become a filmmaker?

It was literally an accident that I became a filmmaker. I was in a pretty serious crash in 2007, shortly after I moved to Los Angeles, and went through a dark period in my life while recovering from the injury to my head. One of the only things that got me through that time was putting my thoughts and feelings down on paper. I’ve always been a writer, but this time I thought maybe there was a larger story here so I started developing what I had written into a screenplay. Once I was able to work again, I decided I was going to try and get the movie made, with absolutely no idea how to make that happen. I truly feel that figuring that out – how to build a script, put together the funding, establish a company, shoot the film, and put all the pieces together – all of that was what helped my brain heal from the accident.

How is it for you to write, direct and act in the same movie?

Directing was also accidental. After finishing the script I began working as a producer on the film, and we found a great female director who was with us for several weeks but unfortunately had to bow out a week before production for personal reasons. I was faced with the decision to postpone the shoot and risk losing the other resources we had worked so hard to assemble, or step in and take the reins myself. I opted in. It turned out to be an excellent decision. Not everyone was a believer, because I was acting in the movie as well as directing. Luckily my crew was extraordinary (especially my cinematographer Katie Goldschmidt), they supported me every step of the way and made it possible for me to succeed wearing so many hats. I loved it.

What is your short movie “Winner” about?

WINNER is about a hopeful young clown who shows up to perform at a creepy birthday party out in the middle of nowhere. I adore David Lynch and this film is something of an homage to him. It was made in a total of only 7 days with a budget of $100, and it ended up winning thousands in prize money for being named Best Picture at the Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge festival. It was a great experience – totally crazy and inspiring. My team and I were obsessed with making that film the best it could be, and it paid off.

Why have you decided to enter to the contest?

I entered the contest on a whim. A friend of mine was a part of it, he entered as a filmmaker also. I didn’t have anything else going on that week, so I figured, What the hell. Obviously it worked out pretty well for me. I’m a huge fan of the Challenge. They just had their second competition, and I served on the judging panel this year. It was great fun, but not nearly as much fun as making a movie!

In which moment do you think is the independent cinema? Do you think that independent movies have a bigger place nowadays?

What’s the climate of independent film today? Honestly, things are really exciting. Just in the past several years it’s started to be possible for the little folks to produce original work. Because you can shoot on digital now instead of having to use film (which I still love, by the way), smaller companies like mine aren’t priced out of the market. That having been said, there is a new level of saturation of self-produced stuff because of YouTube and iPhone cameras, all of that, so it can be tough for a small project to get attention buried in the ocean of online content. Fortunately there will always be an audience for great work; it’s just a matter of making it available on the right platform for the right people to find. That’s definitely the challenge.

Which are your projects for this year?

This year I’m working on growing my company by developing a couple of film deals – both that will hopefully be taking me overseas to shoot. I’m continuing to pursue TV work as an actor and writing a picture for my feature-length directorial debut. This industry rewards the committed but a lot of times things fall apart for reasons beyond your control, so everything in perspective. Anything could happen… as David Bowie says: I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring!

Samantha Schuster