Laurel Vail: Director, Actress, Producer

laurel-vail-director-actress

Laurel Vail is an upcoming director and actor and was the director, producer, and writer of the short film What Metal Girls Are Into. Scorpius got the chance to have a  conversation with her and learn more about her.

Laurel has been acting for around ten years and this is her first crack as a director here is what she has to say about the transition between the two:

“Well, if you’re an actor especially nowadays, they say you just have to create your own content. Because waiting around for someone to give you a job, you might be waiting forever. So the strategy now is to at least make something on your own. And I  didn’t really feel like doing a web series, I didn’t have any ideas for that. So I wanted to do a short film and that’s kind of where it started, and in the process, I discovered that  I really really love directing. And so now I’m kinda more focused on hopefully getting to do more directing. I mean not that I’m giving up acting, but it’s just not really my  focus right now.”

“Jurassic Park which is still my favorite movie. That is one where I think I was like 12 or 13 when that came out. I saw that six times in the theatre. It’s still the record for most number of times I’ve seen something in the theatre. Lot of Spielberg. I guess the standard big pop culture things. I grew up in Idaho so we didn’t have an Independent film. Unless the video store had something that may be an older sibling would ’ve rented I would never have heard of it. My sources were kind of limited to whatever was at the video store.”

We also got to learn about some of her favorite movies growing up and who her  directing influences and preferred genres are:
Behind the scenes of ​What Metal Girls are Into
Behind the scenes of ​What Metal Girls are Into

” I really like things that are funny. As far as a genre I like action, I like sci-fi. I  guess the thing I like the least that might be easier is romance. And I would say favorite
directors is Bong Joon-ho. He’s the guy that did The Host (2006), Snowpiercer,  Okja on Netflix. I love his stuff sometimes it’s very fantastical and or at the same time really it’s also very intimate and really character-driven and I really admire that. I like  Robert Rodriguez his sense of humor I was kind of going for when I worked on my film, where it’s like serious in the movie but the audience can laugh because it’s very over the top and silly. Terry Gilliam. I like a lot of world building.”

Recently there has been a push for more female directors, and we’ve seen them more  prominently recently such as Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird or Patty Jenkin’s Wonder  Woman, but there is still a lack of diversity in female directors in Hollywood and this is  what she has to say on the matter:    

“I’d say it’s not as trendy as I like it to be. It’s a lot of we need more we need  more and then pointing to two or three examples. 2018 was lower than 2017 (in terms  of female directors). The independent is like doing better and has a lot more equality  but in terms of the studio large grossing movies the stats are actually down and if this  awards season is any indication there probably won’t be any nominations for women  directors and it’s really unfortunate. I think people need to stop paying lip service and  actually hiring women. They need to put even the tiniest bit of effort. “

“There was an article that went around a couple of months ago where Jason  Blum talked about having a hard time talking about finding women directors that want to do horror. The thing is that there is a ton of women directors that want to do horror the problem is finding people who will pay for movies by women. And so what we need are people who can champion women and convince investors to invest in them. And the people in power could do that if they just wanted to put in a little more effort. Yeah  sure right now there aren’t bankable female directors in the way that the investors  want but if that’s the case there never will be.”

Still from the film ​What Metal Girls Are Into
Still from the film ​What Metal Girls Are Into

“It’s a catch 22. If you don’t give people the jobs to make them bankable, they ’ll never be bankable to get the jobs. And that goes for women and people of color.  Unfortunately, that’s still the industry standard. I get that it’s a business but if you ’re doing a hundred films in a year and zero have any women, not even your bigger budget movies but your mid-budget and have never had a female director for any of the films you’ve ever done is kind of embarrassing and they need to do better. They need to not just apologize and say that they’ll do better, but out of the next hundred movies at least 20-30 should be directed by women just statistically. “

Especially because they do make money. Wonder Woman was one of the top-grossing movies that year, it’s a fallacy to say that they don’t make money, there just aren’t as many of them.

Laurel Vail has created her own production company called Out of Spite productions,  which she hopes will create more diversity. These are her plans with the company:   

“So I started the LLC to consolidate all the funding for the film that I was doing.  I started that and I went with the name out of spite productions because I remember
being in college and being really bitter and angry about people who were more  privileged than me, but at the same time now as an adult I’m like a little bit more  aware of the world and realize how privileged I am. So it’s kind of like this in-between  area of using my own personal privilege to make an effort to help other people who  aren’t as privileged.”

“So when I staffed or crewed my film set it was my goal to have as many women filling at least the key roles if not all the roles I could, as many as possible. I think I  ended up getting 80-85% of the credited cast and crew were female. I feel like it was  pretty good. I probably could’ve done better on diversity. But then again my next film  it’s something that I’m actively going to be thinking about. Just across the board above  and below the line. Because I think that I’m not powerful but if I’m doing something  and making something I can put in a little bit of effort on my part too. And it helps that  I’ve been an actor and I know a lot of people that I’ve worked with and I kind of have a  pretty big network and so it’s getting bigger now that I’ve actually made a film and  now I’m in the filmmaker community.”

Additional Behind the Scenes of ​What Metal Girls Are Into
Additional Behind the Scenes of ​What Metal Girls Are Into

“So I think next time I’m staffing up it’ll be easier to find people that Iknow already. But honestly, the people that I met first time on set were incredible and were  so great. My line producer had worked with some of them before. So a lot of those  people if they want to work with me again I would be super excited. I don’t know I just  think it’s important to acknowledge that I’m in a position of power as a white lady and  that I can kind of leverage that a little bit and do the extra work to make sure that it’s a  little evened out in the grand scheme of things.”

Her short film “What Metal Girls are Into” has a very powerful message with the last  line of the film being “You are not entitled to the attention of women.” This is what she  has to say about the importance of this message:   

“Well I wrote this before the #MeToo thing had started but it was after the #Yes  All Women thing had happened. I think that I was really inspired by the yes all women hashtag and that we were all sharing our stories about being harassed, like constantly,  and assaulted, and those sort of things. So I kinda just wanted to do something that was very visceral and feminist. And all women they carry around with them this tiny little core of anger and frustration that there’s not much we can do about. And I would like to see the world become a better place so that we don’t all have that down deep inside of us. Because again it is all women, it’s yes all women. So for me, it was  important to do something that had that kind of stance.”

Still from the film ​What Metal Girls Are Into 

“My short film is very on the nose and I know it is but because it’s a short film I  can get away with that, a feature is going to be a little bit more complicated. But, I  think I can still sort of have that feminist power behind it and women taking back their own personal space. And again I think that it is getting slightly better but I think there is a lot more lip service than actual change yet.”

“However, it always starts with people talking and I think that it’s getting better.  And I think it is better with the younger generation. And as time goes on it gets better it’s just going at a glacier’s pace. But I think making media that like portrays that and is fun and people can get behind, I think that’s important. Which is another reason why it’s important to have female directors, is that you’re going to have the female voice in something whether it’s about women or not. Just having that feeling of it’s like a  different perspective and I think it’s a valid perspective.”

The film What Metal Girls Are Into is about three metal girls who stay at an AirBnB while going to a metal festival, and the film has a predominately metal soundtrack.  This is what she had to say on her choice of the metal setting, and making the metal  aspect feel authentic: 

“I think initially, I had recently watched Fury Road and I just loved the soundtrack and how like driving, it was like very metal and awesome. And I would love to make something that had this really driving metal soundtrack during an action sequence. That was just sort of in the back of my head it was just a great feeling it was so powerful. So then as I was developing the story and writing it, I needed a reason for them to stay in the AirBnB when things go bad, without making them idiots. Because I  hate that when in movies there isn’t a good enough character validation for why someone makes a bad choice.”

What Metal Girls are Into

“So I really wanted it to be a bad choice but with a reason, and so I made them very stubborn because they’re music fans. And I thought well this would be a great opportunity because they’re metal fans which are a very hardcore fanbase, then I can use metal in the climax. So it kind of all came together in that way. But then I had to  learn a lot about metal because it turns out I’m not a metalhead, but I have a friend  who is so I have a credit called my metal consultant and he basically taught me  everything there is to know about metal at least as far as I needed it to be in the story  and the characters.”

“I really wanted them to feel real and authentic and not cliche. So far the feedback has been very good, like people who are actually metal fans they see themselves in those characters, they like the jokes that they are talking about, like the different bands. So, I put a lot of work into making that authentic and I think it was successful. And so I’m very grateful to my friend for schooling me and helping me pick out the different bands and the different type of genres that they would be into. Even down to the wardrobe that they’re wearing, he helped me pick out the t-shirts. So it  was great.”

Here are some of her future plans as a filmmaker:  

“Well right now it’s a lot of writing. My next project will probably be another short, cause Metal Girls was my first short and I feel like I need to do 1 or maybe more shorts before I think about doing a feature. Because I didn’t go to film school so it was sort of like crash course film school. I’ve learned a lot but there is still a ways to go. So my plan is to actually do something that is much smaller than Metal Girls because I  don’t want to crowdfund again at least until I have a feature. I think I have an idea of something I can do on a very small scale, very cheap, minimal crew, and using locations that I can get access to. That’ll probably be the next thing I’ll do. It’ll be different and I think it’ll be in a different tone. So it should be interesting. I don’t really  just want to do one certain type of tone, even necessarily genre.”

“I think the next thing that I’ll do will probably still be a horror film because  they’re fun to do and I’m already pretty well established in the horror community in  terms of people I know and things like that so I’ll probably stay there for a little bit  until I get an idea that’s not horror because I have some scripts that are not horror but  they’re bigger budget so they won’t really work for now. So that’s kind of where I’m at  right now.”

Talking to Laurel Vail was a great experience and we look forward to what she’ll be doing next. 

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