On Friday, April 13, short film Teaching Yourself How to Die Fast (screenplay by Burke Louis) had its debut in the Chosky Theater.
Starring Brenna Power, Will Harrison, Sam O’Byrne, Antonio Jeffries and Leaf Rickard, the film weaves together a story of two aspiring meth cookers, an unhinged addict, and a Native American man caught in the middle of an explosive competition set against the backdrop of rural Tennessee.
The week of the screening, the film’s director Grace McCarthy sat down to discuss the inspiration behind the film and the process of pulling this project together.
Tell me about this project.
I proposed this film [for my thesis] because at the time, I was interested in rural areas of America and because it was so close to the election… I wanted to make something about that world because I feel like it’s a world that we don’t talk about a lot in media and in art.
Why tell this story as a film instead of a play?
I just realized there are abilities you have in film that you would never have in theater. You can really decide how your audience is perceiving the story and exactly what they’re looking at and who they’re following. Also, since it was such an interesting setting, I think by doing it with film, it’s able to really bring you into a different world… when it’s onstage you know that everything is artificial, where in film you can create a whole new world that people will see.
How was your process as a film director different than your process in theater?
As a director in film, you’re a lot more analytical and text-based… In theater, your actors are your main focus; in film, your production designers are your main focus. So you have a very different way of looking at your art. Also,directing for film is a lot more paperwork. You have to have a lot more planned… You can’t really give your actors as much freedom because if you have freedom, you have a huge continuity error and you have to reshoot the whole scene.
To backtrack a little, can you summarize what the film is about?
Sure, so it’s about the lack of education in rural areas of America… [and] the lack of education within Native American culture… [and] about the meth problem in America and how [it] is not something we really address…
What do you hope people walk away thinking after they see the film on Friday?
I hope people walk away wanting to know more about what Native American culture actually is. I hope people walk away understanding that there are problems in all parts of the United States, and that there’s discrimination and a lack of education and economic problems everywhere. We shouldn’t act like it’s only in these big cities like New York and Chicago. Rural areas and Native American reservations are giant parts of America and we don’t even know about it.
Written by Liz Baker