Actress and filmmaker Courtney Paige arrives on Close-up Culture to talk about her recent projects.
Q: You’ve had a lot of success as an actress, including a recurring guest star role on E! show ‘The Arrangement’. What made you want to branch out into directing with your short film ‘Butterscotch’?
A: Thank you. The Arrangement was such a fun show to work on.
Andrea Bucko and I actually thought of the Butterscotch storyline four years ago. We had just finished a theatre ensemble at Railtown Actors. I played a young woman with brain damage and wanted to bring a similar character to screen. From there, she thought of a character she wanted to play and we started developing a concept. It wasn’t until years later, when we both moved to Los Angeles that we finally decided to film the short.
I never sought out to direct actually. We were both supposed to act and produce and I think because we had such a clear vision of how we wanted to tell this story, it just happened to make sense that I’d direct. I think she felt comfortable working with me, especially given the nature of the subject matter.
Q: What did you and co-writer Andrea Bucko want to explore in ‘Butterscotch?
A: We wanted to explore and push the boundaries of love with extreme characters from two different worlds. We got the opportunity to play such dynamic characters on stage from some of the world’s best playwrights. l think it’s so rare to get that opportunity in film and television.
We feel Butterscotch is a unique storyline that’s never been told before. Bringing Ava to life was a challenge and I’m really proud of us for pulling it off.
Q: You were surrounded by a talented team on this project, including Andrea and DP Darren Miller. Can you talk about your team and how the shoot went?
A: Yeah, Darren is so talented. The feature [Nabil Elderkin’s Gully] he worked on just got into Tribeca actually! Darren is such a visionary. He brought a lot to the table in terms of gear, crew and artistic vision.
We shot the film in two days with a very tight budget. We ran out of lighting twice. One of our locations was near an airport, so our sound was brutal. I think Ava’s wardrobe alone was a comic relief on set. By the end of the shoot everyone was quoting a line from the film “Big Whoop” about everything that would go wrong. I think it’s important to enjoy the process, even if things become unenjoyable.
We ended up going eight thousand dollars over budget when it was all said and done, but… big whoop! Ha-ha.
Q: On the topic of talented collaborators, who would be your dream person – past or present – to team with on a project?
A: I would give my left pinky to work with Quentin Tarantino. I’m also a huge fan of Joaquin Phoenix, Giovanni Ribisi and Margot Robbie. It would be a treat to join one of Shonda Rhimes’s writers rooms someday.
Q: What have you taken away from the directing experience and being involved in a project at so many levels?
A: I’ve definitely taken away a curiosity to do more. I am directing a feature in May and am beyond thrilled. I think it’ll be interesting to be behind the lens for a change.
I have a background in photography and used to coach a Cheerleading squad. I didn’t realize how both of those things would play a factor in my career, but they were good pre prep for this now looking back.
Q: ‘Butterscotch’ is currently in the festival circuit and picking up awards along the way. How proud are you to see this film succeeding and taking this next big step in a journey that began at the Kelowa Community Theatre Company when you were 11 years old?
A: I think Patty English would be proud. She was the first coach I worked in that theatre company. Patty always taught me to take risks and chances and that’s something I’ve carried through not only in my career, but in life.
She passed away years ago and left a huge impact on many people. I think that’s what good film should do, leave an impact.
Q: You are the CEO of Neon Cinema Films, a production company loaded with talented people. What binds you all together and what is your vision for this team?
A: Talented is an understatement. I am beyond lucky to work alongside so many creative professionals. Our goal is to provide a platform for diversity and stories that need to be told.
In an industry where we’ve merely scratched the surface on taboo topics like abuse, equality and mental health, our focus is to shine a light on such issues. We hope to grow as a company and create more executive positions for women and assist in giving writers the voice they deserve.
Q: Can you reveal anything about your upcoming projects – ‘The Color Rose’ and ‘Neon Candy’?
A: The Color Rose is a thriller we are shooting in Kelowna, BC – my hometown. It surrounds seven girls from a religious private school. Each one of them must embody one of the seven deadly sins.
Siena Oberman is our executive on that project. The short film, Skin, she just developed into a feature won an Oscar. Siena is a young powerhouse producer who is also joining me as a co-director on Neon Candy, a film about two sisters who flee an abusive home. I will be playing the lead role in that one and we’re scheduled to go to production end of summer.
Q: I heard you just booked a new role. Can you tell us what show?
A: Yes, actually. I will be playing the role of Tammy on The Lost Boys pilot. It’s a new CW Warner Brothers show about Vampires in Santa Carla based of a 90’s film. I’m extremely excited to work with director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Twilight, Miss Bala, Red Riding Hood).
Q: Sounds fun. Are there any other ambitions or projects you have on the go?
A: We have a few other projects in development including a kids animation, a conspiracy crime series we’d like to pitch to HBO and other feature films.
Furthermore and more than anything, I’d like to open an acting school for kids. I went to school to work with special needs children and originally wanted to be a teacher. I think it would be fufilling to connect the two.