During the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, multi-hyphenate Mary Neely sat down with Solzy at the Movies to discuss the short film, Pink Trailer, in addition to filmmaking influences.
How much of a thrill is it to premiere Pink Trailer at SXSW?
Mary Neely: It’s so amazing. It’s so cool. It’s actually our North American premiere. We had the world premiere in Iceland at the Reykjavik International Film Festival. That was really cool but I was so excited. I got scared because I didn’t really understand the premiere element as much. I got scared because we already premiered it it wouldn’t get into other bigger festivals. When it got in here, I was so happy that it was able to have a North American premiere
How did you get involved with the film?
Mary Neely: I got involved with Pink Trailer because one of the producers on the project recommended me. Macey Isaacs and Jenny Leiferman—they wrote the film and asked one of their friends, Shannon Looney, who used to work at CAA, “Oh, can you produce this?” She said yes and brought on another producer, Rudy Kaye, who knows me. Rudy had seen a bunch of my work and really thought that my voice and aesthetic would fit really well with this project. They gave me the script and I started working on the project with them?
As far as filmmaking goes, how did you get into it and who are some of your influences?
Mary Neely: I got into filmmaking because I am an actor. I studied theater in college. I didn’t go to film school. I didn’t have any intention of being a filmmaker. I came out of school and was kind of disappointed by the roles that were being offered or the lack of roles being offered. I didn’t really find a creative fulfillment right away with purely acting. I wanted to make my own work to showcase who I was as an actor. I used directing, writing, and producing to be seen more as an actor. I made a short (The Dresser) and a web series (Wacko Smacko). Everyone started calling me a creator and a filmmaker. Even after I made those two things, I’m like, that’s not really me. I didn’t go to film school. Kind of just through realizing that I did enjoy making those things and got a really good response from it, I was like, okay, I am this thing and started identifying more and calling myself a filmmaker and writer. Pink Trailer is the first thing that I’ve just directed. In all my previous work, I’ve acted and written all of it. This was the first time that I was just a director and I edited it and helped produced. It was a really good experience and reinvigorated me in a way—like, Oh my G-d, I want to do this so much more now.
For influences, I took a Danish film history course my second year of college that really resonated me and changed how I saw filmmaking—especially the dogma movement. I really love Thomas Vinterberg. I love Lucas Moodysson. Then I went on this whole film obsession—I love Steven Soderbergh and think he’s a genius. I love a lot of people. Mainly, growing up, my dad showed me a lot of silent films and classic Hollywood. He loves that movie watching experience of sitting at home and watching the classics. He has an amazing film history library in his head. My mom—she loves going to the movies on the opening weekend and having that communal crowd experience. That influenced me also where it was like those two different side of movie going and seeing how people experience and appreciate films really inspired me, too.
Do you find yourself gravitating more towards comedy or drama?
Mary Neely: Dark comedy is what I’m most interested in. I think that there’s a lot of humor in things that are really dark. That’s the kind of area that I like to explore for sure. I have pitches that I’m going out with right now for a feature and a TV show. If I just said the basic premise, it would seem like a serious thing but my style tends to have very comedic elements within those dark themes.
You mentioned being an actor. Have you done improv in the past?
Mary Neely: I did do improv. I studied UCB. I took all the courses there so I graduated from their program. I never really found a group of people that I was like, oh, this is my team. I feel like a huge part of improv is the social aspect of it. I just never connected that much to the social aspect of it. I loved taking the classes and I’m so happy that I did. I met a lot of really cool people that I cast in my projects some times.
Was there an instructor that had a meaningful impact on your career?
Mary Neely: When I was in college and studying acting at UCLA, there were teachers who just really kind of looked me in the eye and were like you’re great in this way that resonated with me. My acting professor my junior year, Scott Conte, was one of them. My voice and speech teacher, Adele Cabot, was another. Judy Moreland was my acting teacher sophomore year. I still think about things that I learned from them.
As a female filmmaker, do you find it tougher in an industry that’s male-dominated?
Mary Neely: I’ve had a lot of instances where mainly people don’t even ask what I do. It’s more of just being with a group of people and someone not even considering that I would be a filmmaker and not even caring to ask so I’m just standing there. That I feel is the most common thing where I walk away from meeting a new group of people and they have no idea what I do.
From a career standpoint, I’ve definitely had my share of weird comments and feeling like I’m not trusted. I’ve also experienced a lot of support from a lot of different kinds of people from the industry.
If there’s anyone you could work with, who would it be?
Mary Neely: I would love to work with Xavier Dolan and Martin McDonagh. I think Oscar Isaac is so good. Also, I love Allison Janney. I love Toni Collette. That would be amazing.
Thanks again for your time. Congrats on the film and best of luck with everything!
Mary Neely: Thank you.
For more information on Pink Trailer, please click here.