Sometimes, location is everything and in Bethany Orr’s upcoming feature film, which is untitled, but being supported by the campaign name: ICELAND OR BUST, this might prove to be true. There’s also the addition of her individualistic ideas that paint her words with originality and sass. Bethany Orr, [Agorable, vimeo.com/100677004] tells Film Syrup and its viewers about her new creative Icelandic adventure and the perks those who support her are allowed.
“No one I know could execute such a bizarre idea, never mind think of it. Definitely worth supporting.” -Cinephile Stephen Les
Campaign is called ICELAND OR BUST. igg.me/at/icelandorbust
Film Syrup: Why Iceland? What draws you to its culture?
Bethany Orr: I started having visions of Iceland back in 2012 when I was studying with Werner Herzog. I had just completed my short film, Agorable, and was toying with several different story ideas for my first feature and for whatever reason, things became super clear around that time. Specifically, two of the stories I had been working on merged into one and then showed up in Iceland. And now here we are. I’ve learned you have to trust that kind of stuff when it gives itself to you.
Herzog is a fan of Icelandic mythology and was the one who introduced me to The Poetic Edda, a dense, rich volume of primordial poetry from Iceland (it was on the reading list for Rogue Film School), so that was definitely an influence. Now, I’m pretty obsessed. With everything – the Icelandic people, the economy, the history, politics, landscape. But what I have now is an intellectual and intuitive understanding of the place, being there in September will give us the chance to have a real experience with her.
Film Syrup: How did you and Patrick Kennelly start working together?
Bethany Orr: Patrick is a very exciting director. He and I collaborated on his feature film, Excess Flesh, which shot this past spring. I played the lead role. He knew I was a filmmaker as well as a performer, and the work we did together really transcended any experience I’ve ever had on a project before, my own included. We’ve become good friends since and are looking forward to expanding our creative partnership on the Iceland film. Which, by the way, doesn’t have a name yet. We’re working under “Untitled Iceland Feature.” Maybe our supporters will have a say in that down the road!
Film Syrup: You’re traveling to Iceland right now, but you said in your campaign video that shooting won’t start until 2015 or later. What are you attempting to achieve in these separate travels?
Bethany Orr: It’s a larger project than is realistic for us to crowd-fund a full budget for (we’re not Zach Braff and Veronica Mars), so we’re engaging our fan base for the development funds to help us get this thing off the ground. We have a match-funds offer from an angel investor, which is great. $10,000 will be enough to cover this scouting trip as well as the costs involved with engaging the right producer. Luckily Iceland has a pretty incredible Film Commission, and we have a number of contacts there, so we anticipate having a good experience. It’s an ambitious production no matter which way you cut it. We hope we’ll be back sooner rather than later, but there are a lot of unknowns at this point. One thing we can offer our supporters an insight into the film development process, demystifying things in a way—they will be there for the whole ride. That’s exciting to be able to share.
Film Syrup:What is your involvement with Transatlantic Talent Lab and how will it benefit your creative pursuits?
Bethany Orr: Being accepted to the Lab is a major opportunity. It was specifically set up to give highly focused support to a handful of filmmakers from Europe and the US who are making their first feature. This is my first feature, not Patrick’s, but neither of us have shot out of the country before. And since Iceland is our shooting location, it really does feel like the Lab was tailor made for me and where this project is at. I’m very excited.
Film Syrup: Where did you come up with the ideas featured in your very creative campaign?
Bethany Orr: We’re not running the typical crowd-funding campaign. We worked hard to try and distill the message down to it simplest form, but I don’t know. It’s pretty impossible to communicate this stuff inside me, and anyway that’s what the film is for. So we tried to capture the essence of the script as much as possible by using some unusual, even disturbing imagery in the campaign video. It’s weird. I’ve always had a unique take on the world, and Patrick and I share complementary points of view on a lot of things. Our most meaningful work deals with universal struggles—emotional violence, anxiety, depression, guilt, social acceptance, grief—through a kind of fucked up but visually engaging filter. But I believe audiences still truly want and need to be challenged and can take it.
Film Syrup: Tell us and our viewers more about what you’re offering your contributors in exchange for their support on this campaign.
Bethany Orr: We’ve got some pretty crazy rewards – like playfully sinister cross-stitch art, a short film made just for you, a handmade Viking tomahawk, a 3-night stay at a Hawaiian B&B (in case you’re feeling contrary). If you’re particularly well humored, we’re even offering the special opportunity to “Adopt-a-Dong.” I can’t tell you about that one, you’ll have to look it up yourself!
We’ve also got some tamer ones, like script coverage or some beautiful photographs we’ll be bringing home from Iceland. And for anyone who contributes $25 or more, we’ll make you into a superhero…
Film Syrup: What is the basic premise of the film and who do you believe will be your most interested viewers?
Bethany Orr: The film is a psycho-sexual drama about four strangers who meet in Iceland to discover their lives are interrelated.
It’s actually a movie about grief, although you may not be able to tell that exactly from our campaign. We decided to take a humorous approach to the presentation, but the subject matter of the film itself is dead serious. The story is filtered through an absurdist lens, but yeah, it’s about human loss… and freedom. I happen to agree with Shakespeare that the veil between comedy and tragedy is very thin, so I exploit that line an awful lot in my work.
The script uses a lot of stark, visceral imagery, things that really haven’t been seen before. I can’t say too much about the particulars of the plot, but it revolves around the central idea that the grieving inhabit a world of alternate logic. The logline is: Mourning is an island with its own set of rules. There’s nowhere else on earth I can imagine doing more justice to this film than Iceland.
Film Syrup: What does this film mean to you?
Bethany Orr: It’s all of me. I’m very serious about it. I heard an interview with a guy awhile back who had adopted 13 children from foster care. The interviewer asked if he had a favorite. And he said, “Yes. The one I happen to be with at the moment.” I feel that way. On any given day there’s a dozen ideas screaming around in my brain and body. This is the one that’s telling me it’s ready, so it has my full attention.
In fact, I just found the mission statement I wrote to accompany Agorable in application to Rogue Film School. This will give you a good idea of my approach to creating:
In America you are twice as likely to kill yourself than to be murdered. We are– empirically– our own worst enemies, and we treat each other with emotional and physical violence as an extension of our self-loathing. As an actress I’m drawn to desperate, brutally flawed or flayed characters. As a filmmaker, for me it’s life or death every time. Well-humored, naturally. A little blood never hurt anyone.
I’m captivated by the notion that ANYONE is capable of doing ANYTHING (even committing the most heinous of acts), under the right circumstances. Doubt and fear are our great equalizers; none of us is any better or worse than any other because of what we have or have not yet been driven to do…
(Interview conducted by Film Syrup Managing Editor, Colleen Rowe)