Third Time Director, First Time Writer, All Time Inspiring Woman
We’re back featuring fabulous filmmakers and this week I spoke to Director and Writer Ashlee Bell Caress. Her new project The Second Death is a genre challenging dark tale focusing on characters and relationships. Her third time directing but first time with her own script The Second Death is currently crowd-funding for a proof of concept short that Ashlee aims to turn into a full feature sometime next year.
But where did her desire to be a filmmaker come from? “I love TV & Film. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of something so magical?” Ashlee said, “I once had a teacher chuckle at me over the idea of me making movies for a living back in high school. That lit a fire under my ass like no other. I was not going to be laughed at for wanting to do something!” The director’s job is to tell the story but Ashlee sees this as less of a constriction and more of an opportunity for freedom and risk-taking. “There’s a freedom that comes with breaking the rules and directing that I’ve yet to feel anywhere else,” Ashlee said. “The responsibility one has to get a message out into this world is incredibly humbling and rewarding.”
Using writing as an outlet to deal with her own struggles The Second Death draws heavily on Ashlee’s own past experiences and feelings. The story follows a young woman amidst an identity crisis. After years of being estranged from her parents, her brother, the new King of Hell, has come to bring his sister home. To rebuild his family, and fulfill his life mission- “To redeem all mankind.” A script so evidently personal Ashlee explained to me how she hopes it is received by audiences. “I enjoy the idea of my audience facing some of their own demons, just as I faced mine while writing the script,” she said. “This [The script] was also driven by a traumatic religious past and my own struggles with mental health. Depression, anxiety, OCD, HFA autism, and my battle with suicide. With all this being said, nothing I write has an in-your-face message. I may sneak little subliminal “easter eggs” that I’ll hope you find. Mixed in with moments intended to make your heart soar or break, but overall I like to remind you that you’re alive!”
One of the things Ashlee makes a note of in her crowd-funding pitch is the film’s focus on characters and relationships. Even in a dark, fantastical setting where one might be tempted to bring in external factors to push the film along, the story is driven by the characters, not the external world. “I am extremely character-driven as a writer and director.” Ashlee explains, “So, everything I do is driven by my character’s connection to their world, their relationships, and what they need, who they need it from…and why. I also like to watch them fail, make mistakes, grow… (All writers are sadists) In truth! We need these types of examples to ask the right questions of ourselves. So, unlike horror, nothing will cause you to jump up and run out of the room screaming. I do like to get your blood pumping and shake you up a bit while watching.”
The film’s production was hit with tragedy before it even starting funding however when a Me Too incident caused the film to lose its executive producer. “It’s been difficult to say the very least,” Ashlee said. “The most I can say at the moment is that nothing has happened that will stop me. Absolutely nothing.“And in fact, it has resulted in some positive change to the crew including a new female executive producer. “She’s been a ray of light for us, we are SO lucky to have her on board.” Ashlee exclaimed, “My business partner Katrina and I, started Belial Productions once we realized we were going to be funding this via crowd-funding. Currently, we’re looking to bring in more WOMEN to join our production team!”
With just under 2 days left on the crowdfunding campaign, the team has smashed their first goal and is looking for stretch funds to cover the post-production. “Making films cost MONEY…and lots of it.” Ashlee said, “We shoot this short film/proof of concept in July 2021 – New York state. Once we wrap! We send our beautiful footage to editing, sound, coloring, music composition… then festivals.” Once the proof of concept short is completed the goal will be to seek investors for a full feature production starting ideally in spring 2022. “Our goals are lofty but achievable. Especially when we all believe so profoundly in this project.” Ashlee concluded.
To support The Second Death you can donate via their campaign HERE.