Close-Up Catch-Up: An Interview With Bethany Whitmore

To celebrate five years of Close-Up Culture, we are welcoming our favourite interviewees back onto the site to see what they’ve been up to.

Bethany Whitmore (Girl Asleep, The Family Law, Picnic At Hanging Rock) returns to talk about her incredible success in recent years and her exciting plans for the future.

Hi Bethany, welcome back to Close-Up Culture! The world is a very different place since we last spoke in 2018. How have you been through these strange and difficult few years?

Thank you for having me back for yet another fantastic interview with you! These past few years certainly have thrown a lot of obstacles my way to overcome. However, it was also the process of overcoming these obstacles that I’ve achieved some amazing things, such as completing my BA in Design Arts at LCI Melbourne. This was challenging given that Melbourne was in and out of lockdown for 2 years. It wasn’t easy, but I loved thinking of ways to complete my film projects, like teaching myself stop motion animation. 

I got myself through the more challenging parts of this time by catching up on TV shows and films that I had missed. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and My Brilliant Friend were equally the best I saw. Both shows inspired me as a young woman trying to find my way in a confusing and constantly evolving world.  

Before the virus outbreak and after I had graduated from high school, I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from an acting school in Melbourne called 16th Street. This scholarship took me to London, where I completed the month-long intensive RADA Summer Shakespeare course. This was a remarkable experience both personally and in learning more about my craft.  

I was also lucky to be included in the top 10 finalists for Australians In Film’s 10th Annual Heath Ledger Scholarship. That was also an incredible experience that took me to LA with some amazing actors and creatives. I made so many beautiful friendships and gained a great insight that will stay with me forever. I also secured US management whilst in LA, which was wonderful.  So overall, these last few years have been a wild ride, but I regret nothing and am proud of what I have achieved so far. I am stoked to see what life throws at me next. I feel like my life has been a series of unexpected events, so who knows what is on the horizon. 

A huge congratulations on all those achievements! How would you reflect on your time as a student, the lessons you’ve learnt and the journey you’ve been on?

My journey as a student was challenging in the best possible way; I never knew going into University just how much it would help me find myself as a person. I made some beautiful friendships with incredible people who I hope will be in my life forever. I really enjoyed pushing myself with each project to extend beyond my comfort zone, even ending with my final project being a live-action, stop motion animation hybrid. That was certainly a challenge as I was a one-man crew and only had 12 weeks to create the concept, build the sets, shoot the project and edit. It was undoubtedly a time crunch and a test of my abilities, and I learned so much about what I am capable of.

Since our last interview, you’ve had amazing roles in Picnic At Hanging Rock and The Family Law. Can you talk about those experiences and how you grew as an actor in those roles?

The Family Law was a set where everyone felt like family, and with it being a comedy, we were always laughing hysterically at our goofiness. It was so wonderful to play a comedy; it’s definitely a genre of work that I would like to lean more into. The character I got to play was hilarious and taught me so much about myself. I’m usually a goofy person, so playing someone goofy just felt right. I have so many fond memories of the set of The Family Law, Trystan Go, who plays Ben Law, my characters best friend in the show, and I got along so well. We still remain in contact to this day, cheering each other on as we grow as people and in the industry.

Picnic At Hanging Rock was also a wonderful experience; I so loved being able to dress in 1900s fashion, even if the corset was a little rigid and made breathing a challenge. It really helped you slip back in time to lose yourself to your character, and in the era the show was set in. It was incredible to work opposite such an impressive female lead cast, and I felt inspired by their strength and performances. It makes me so happy to see how far they have all gone since the production, and I will always look back to this set as a pivotal experience for me as a young female actor.

You were recently credited as a costume dresser for the short film Reptile. How interested are you in trying out different roles in the industry, whether it’s costuming, directing or something else? 

I believe that it is incredibly beneficial as an actor to know how each department operates to gain respect for their craft and understand how you can work together to create magic when working. I believe that storytelling is storytelling, and it shouldn’t matter which department you are working in. It’s all integral to the development of the story and should be seen as equally important and treated with great respect. As every cog is necessary to work the machine. However, I am also curious about creating and directing film and TV as a future career move and wish to learn about all the department’s operations.

I am currently interning at Potential films, helping them distribute the upcoming Japanese film; Drive My Car. Which has already done incredibly well, having won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language film. It has been so insightful to see first-hand the operations of the distribution side of the film industry. I have always been interested in exploring this, as the US distribution company, A24, has always fascinated me, and I am very interested in their innovative new marketing concepts. My aim is to learn the best strategies for film distribution to keep them in the forefront of my mind when I hopefully create my own films in the future, as marketing and distribution can definitely make or break the success of a film.

We’re now over six years removed from the release of Girl Asleep, a really iconic role in your early career. As you get older and gain more experience, what type of roles would you love to take on? 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, trying to decide which pathway I am best suited to go down next in terms of roles. For now, I have to say it’s a combination of comedy and raw, gritty drama. I would absolutely love to get more heavily involved in the comedy scene. It is something that I have always dreamt about. Growing up, I was a massive fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and even now, I spend most of my time devouring comedy. In terms of the drama,

I would adore being a part of a show like Euphoria because it’s not just a show that looks pretty and is a challenge to perform. It also speaks a lot of truths about today’s youth culture, and I think it’s creating a great conversation around it.

You’re still very early in your career, but you’ve already worked on many great projects and given us some terrific performances. What has been the biggest challenge of your career so far?

I’m not sure if this answers your question exactly. Still, my biggest challenge is overcoming the fears of pursuing a career in this industry, like those evil earworms that spread negative self-talk of imposter syndrome. It’s not an easy career to follow as you will always have good and bad years, and you could audition 100 times and only land 1 minor role. It takes a lot of courage, perseverance and stamina to survive; only recently have I found myself really overcoming those fears. I feel like it might be an age thing, too, because as I have gotten older, my inner strength has grown tenfold, and I feel prepared and fully equipped to support myself emotionally on this journey. Fingers crossed.

Since we’re celebrating five years of Close-Up Culture, what has been your favourite film and film performance over these few years?

I really enjoyed Licorice Pizza; I saw the film at this beautiful old cinema here in Melbourne called The Astor, which I think really added to the experience. I loved the movie because it felt like real people telling a story of authentic, messy, complicated love. Paul Thomas Anderson is a director I have always admired, with Punch Drunk Love being another love story of his that I just absolutely adore. He has an incredible ability to capture people in all their quirks and their realness, making the characters have such great depth. It was so lovely to see Cooper Hoffman perform and yet seriously freaky seeing the uncanny resemblance he bears to his late great father, Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I have always admired Phillip; his performances were always honest and authentic.

I also loved reading about Licorice Pizza and discovering it was based on Anderson’s friend’s life and that the film was performed by an amalgamation of his friends and family. A true film of love and respect. I left the cinema with my flame lit once again, as it had been a while since a movie really truly inspired me. 

If we were to speak again in another five years when Close-Up Culture turns ten, where would you like to be in life both personally and artistically?

This is a tricky question; I definitely tried to plan and heavily map out the pathway for my life in the past. However, recently, I have had to overcome all the wild events happening in the world and some personal obstacles. I am now trying to lean more into the idea of not necessarily actively pursuing an objective but instead leaping at the opportunities that present themselves to me in the present moment and seeing where life takes me. I feel like life is more of an adventure than an itinerary I have to tick off in a particular order.

With that said, I certainly have goals for myself, such as further developing my own production company: “Could You Repeat That?”. I also have a few short films and a feature in multiple stages of development that I would like to see through to completion. Of course, pursuing acting and taking on performance roles as they arise. I like having both pursuits running alongside each other as storytelling is how I want to spend my life, and I don’t mind which format it falls into. I figure that it’s the stories we tell that we leave behind when we pass on, so why not dedicate my life to meaningful storytelling. 

Do you have any other upcoming projects or ambitions to share with us?

Actually yes! Over the past few years, I have formed a band with 4 of my friends called Squid Inc. We are an experimental jazz alt-rock band, in which I write the lyrics to the majority of the songs and am the lead singer. It’s so lovely to meet with them all once a week to create music and jam together. It’s honestly the best creative outlet to have alongside the film industry because my band are all super lovely and chilled, and we operate on a no-pressure clock. We are just vibing and going where the music takes us, and it’s always such a blast. We are preparing a few songs to record and release an EP early this year.

As well as planning to bust out as many gigs as we can this year, squeezing them around restrictions in these unprecedented times. 

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