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Christina Beck (Writer, Actor, Producer and Director) Interview

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

‘Perfection’ has been quite a journey a 2 1/2-year one to be exact. How did it come together?

It’s actually a longer journey than that but it did take us 2 1/2 years to finish principal photography after the script was nominated for Best Screenplay by The IFP Independent Film Projects in New York which is a wonderful resource for first-time directors. My producer Annette Murphy and I had several meetings with production companies that all liked the project but no one was willing to actually show us the money so we decided to just start shooting with whatever resources we had on the weekends. We were very lucky to put together an amazing and talented cast and crew who all showed up for the love of this project. We were very rich in that way. The IFP came on board again as we were involved in their rough cut labs and I was awarded 'The Adrienne Shelly Female Directing Grant' which helped finish our principal photography.

What responses have you had from self-injury groups, and people who have had extensive cosmetic surgery?

Early on at one of our fundraisers in Los Angeles Dr Tonja Krautter a therapist who specializes in self-harm and recovery from other self-destructive disorders was very kind to come and speak about the behaviour. She donated her time, and resources and even wrote us a check at one point. Finally, when the film was finished and we screened it at 'The San Francisco International Women’s Film Festival' Tonja came along with four of her colleagues. Not only did they enjoy the film they felt like it touched on many complicated issues that can only be beneficial for all audiences to see.

I didn’t find the self-harming scenes particularly graphic. Was that intentional?

That’s interesting. A lot of people have been very uncomfortable with the one scene where Kristabelle is cutting on camera and of course, it is fake. I was not interested in glamorizing or minimizing the behaviour. I wanted to be truthful and after that one scene people get the point if they want more then maybe it’s a slasher movie they'd rather be watching. That’s not what this is.

When I saw the mirror scene the first thing that came to mind was ‘Georges Franju’s ‘Eyes Without a Face’ I’ve never seen the full film, but I’ve seen clips. Yet, the mirror imagery conjured up that film. The main character Christiane is horribly disfigured in a car accident, and she has to wear a mask to cover up her disfigurement. Her father, a doctor, tries to restore her features by grafting the skin of young beautiful women onto his daughter’s face, only for the new tissue to be rejected, and she has to keep wearing this mask. In 'Perfection' Kristabelle’s face at that moment seems disembodied, a face transplanted and grafted onto a mirror whilst walking across the room. Have you seen the film? It has its own themes of youth, beauty and perfection.

No. I have not seen the film but it sounds interesting.

Did the film give you a chance to portray a different side of Los Angeles? One that is rarely seen in cinema (for example a change from the film noir/transient/waitress/actress waiting to be discovered)

As I am from Los Angeles I often think about how many people come to LA to create their 'idea' of who they want to be. It strangely has that freedom but for me, it is a place of many mixed memories and I guess that’s the beauty of filmmaking in that this is one of my perceptions that I got to capture for a moment, well, 85 mins.

The interior shots appear quite claustrophobic it really highlights their living space and the tightly bound relationship of Sally and Kristabelle.

Absolutely! I tend to do this with my writing I put characters on top of each other and make them fight for their space.

The Mother Sally (played by Robyn Peterson) has a certain ‘faded old Hollywood glamour’ Is she based on anyone you’ve encountered whilst living and working in Los Angeles or even in New York?

Besides my own mother. Yes! They are everywhere with amazing stories and sadly dying off too soon.

Why did you make the Simon character (played by British Actor David Melville) a British stand-up comedian?

I based Simon on a wonderful British man living in Los Angeles who is one of the funniest people I know. Also, it really worked on who could realistically “get” Kristabelle. He would have to have his own demons but a silly sweetness for her to feel safe.

'The Damned' feature on the soundtrack. Were they a big musical influence whilst growing up?

When I was a teenager I was in love with Dave Vanian, the lead singer and really just loved their music so much that when it became time to figure out what Kristabelle liked it was a no-brainer. Captain Sensible, the guitar player came to our screening in Los Angeles, they happened to be on tour and he showed up at The Egyptian Theatre to see the film. It was such an honour to meet him the sweetest man and we took tons of pictures with him. Such a good sport!

Apart from money. When making their first feature. What are the most important things that a Director needs?

A story they feel passionate enough about that they will do anything to realise it, even if it takes 5 to 10 years! I was very lucky in that I was gifted with so much starting with my cast, crew and everyone person I came in contact with felt my passion and honestly wanted to see me achieve this goal. People really do want to be a part of something creative and we had a lot of fun in the process. Post was another story not as fun but again people came out of the woodwork to help and I was incredibly fortunate.

You said in the question and answer session that you’re not a feminist as you don’t like labels but you have many feminist beliefs. Do you find that distributors and programmers have their own ideas of how to market your film by targeting a specific demographic? That has to be a hindrance in terms of finding a wider audience.

I honestly do not know how distributors and programmers see 'Perfection' The festivals we were accepted into only expressed their interest in accepting the film or not. In Mississippi, where we won Best Narrative feature the jury wrote a beautiful statement about my vision and talents of the entire production which of course felt great and with our distribution that is yet to be seen. I think finding an audience is not necessarily the problem we have had nothing but positive feedback everywhere we have screened. It’s a lot of other factors, especially in the States as “independent” films are not what they used to be and it’s all about being the flavour of the month/festival year. That is not our story but after accepting a lot of rejection I am happy to say that I made the film I wanted to make and am very grateful to everyone involved.

What’s next for Perfection in terms of screenings, and release dates?

As I mentioned we do not have distribution yet but will be having another screening in London on the 25th of February at The Sanctum Soho Hotel.

And Algerian Tap dancing muggers???

Yes. I am writing to you now from Paris where my next project 'Expecting Grace' is set. It is a dark romantic comedy in development.

Jennifer Farfort

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