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An Interview with Samantha Jean, Star, Co-Writer and Producer of Vesper

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2023

Samantha Jean on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Vesper - in a few words, what is it about, and what can you tell us about your character in it?

 

Vesper is a relationship-drama that follows Ava and Carter navigating their now failing relationship. Over the span of a night, they both comb through dreams and memories to ultimately find each other and themselves.

 

I see Ava as driven and ambitious, a perfectionist and extremely loyal. Sheís career-driven and a romantic, who truly believes in love. Her style is almost like she was born in the wrong era with her love for old movies, music and fashion - she clearly romanticizes her personal life. She loves Carter and chooses to fight for their relationship in the end. Even though Carter acknowledges and initiates that they need change, I believe Ava would do the same for him.

 

What did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and how much Samantha Jean can we find in Ava?

 

You can find a whole lot of me in Ava. I too believe that love is worth fighting for. I see Ava and Carter as a team - and even though she has her dream career and he is still figuring out his path, itís the balance that connects and grounds them together. Both support each other whole-heartedly. When creating Ava, I came across this phrase which I probably butchered and not sure I remember verbatim: "Even though the house may feel like itís crumbling around you, if the foundation is strong, you donít abandon the house, you work on strengthening the inside (or something about changing a lightbulb).Ē I think this also reminds me a little of what my mum used to say - "Remember why you loved that person to begin with." Love is a choice, and I used that to drive Ava.

 

Now how did the project come into being in the first place, what drew you to it?

 

I actually went to the director/writer and good friend Chadwick Hopson with a tiny idea of a relationship story back in 2020. Chad was onboard but the plot changed significantly. Originally I suggested exploring the idea of a couple who didnít know how to deal with the news of becoming parents. But we steered clear of the pregnancy premise and chose to dissect the root of the relationship instead. Chad took charge and wrote Vesper beautifully.

 

You have come up with the story for Vesper together with director Chadwick Hopson - so what were your sources of inspiration, and is any of it based on personal experiences?

 

We wanted to make a pandemic-esque short that in the words of Chad ďjust makes you feel fucking good and doesnít remind you of the four-wall-limitations we all had to endure while creating on microbudgets recently.Ē  The past few years, many couples have been tested by uninvited proximity due to the pandemic. We spoke about how it forced many of us to live inside our heads, and sometimes wild thoughts manifested into things that werenít true or said. Which brings us to fear - especially fear of the inability to anticipate or control the most important thing to all of us - love. Not only is this film is a reminder of what the good times felt like (flashback scenes), it is also a gentle reminder to say how you feel to the people you love. Again in the words of our director ďwe all feel the truth anyway, and more often than not, youíll be greeted with love in return.Ē

 

What were the challenges of bringing Vesper to life from a producer's point of view?

 

Budget and pandemic restrictions haha. We started filming August 2020 which was the height of lockdown and the unknown. A small group of our friends were eager and willing to safely make this happen. We stuck to safety protocols and kept the numbers small, which of course helped the tiny budget we were working with. We did actually go back for reshoots which is a crazy idea for a short but it was worth it. We are so lucky to have had people dedicate amazing amounts of time and energy to finish this project - a lot donating their extra time for free because they believed in the story. We actually didnít get Vesper completed until September 2022 - so 2 years of tweaking this was definitely a labor of love for a short film. I am forever grateful to everyone who made this happen.

 

Do talk about your director Chadwick Hopson, and what was your collaboration like?

 

Heís an absolute dream to work with. Heís truly the brains and driving force behind this entire short. He is a fabulous creative and his network of collaborators is incomparable. I think because he is first and foremost an actor, it makes him an actor's director which is a dream to work with. He understands character and can converse with us as actors to bring out the best in us. Not to mention his writing skills - the story and characters literally jump off the page, itís so exciting to read. He gave us so much room to play and explore and was so delicate in handling the more intimate and difficult moments (monologues especially!).

 

You of course also have to talk about working with your co-star Skyler Bible, and as producer, did you have a say in his casting?

 

Skyler is wonderful! I remember during the casting process we brought in 5 actors for callbacks. I read with all of them, and we knew Skyler was Carter. He has an ease about him that makes him so open and authentic. He really wanted to work with us as well, so there was an excitement he brought during the auditions. I had a lot of fun on set with him and hope to collaborate with him again.

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

Although stressful due to pandemic concerns, mostly making sure everyoneís health was a top priority (a big thank you to our Covid supervisor Levi Ashlyn) it was such a great set to be on. We got to work with our closest friends who are amazing artists. I think everyone was in high spirits because we finally got to do something creative after a long time in lockdown.

 

The $64-question of course, where can Vesper be seen?

 

Vesper is currently doing the rounds of the festival circuit but you can also view it on The Knights Young Vimeo page.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Vesper?

 

Vesper has been incredibly well received. A number of people have told us how itís affected their personal relationships for the better. Itís so fun to know that all the Easter eggs (the most overused film term) were seen and all the mini details like the changing of channels before Skylerís monologue didnít go unnoticed. Many people have commented how they loved the callback at the end of the film to tie in the opening scene. But mostly I think itís amazing to hear that people can relate to both characters in some way, shape or form. Itís nice to know we created relatable humans who struggle with communication and we go on the journey with them while they figure out the ups and downs of their relationship.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Canít share too much yet since itís the very beginning stages, but we are in the process of creating a new short. This time in the horror/thriller genre. For me personally, Iíll be acting in 2 new features with other teams and I know The Knights Young have many incredibly projects in the pipeline.

 

What got you into acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

I started out on the stage. I grew up doing local musical theater shows which lead me to a Bachelor in Musical Theater at LaSalle College of the Arts Singapore. But ultimately I feel the most joy acting in film & television. I wouldnít trade my theater training for anything, I really believe it gave me a solid foundation as a performer and a well-roundedness to this craft. I love storytelling and the power it has in reaching so many people on so many levels. Storytelling can be entertaining and educational and of course we as an audience love to laugh, cry, hate, love and root for people in all walks of life. Before I did my acting degree, I was in a psychology degree so I see so many similarities. I guess I just love telling human stories.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Vesper?

 

Since officially moving to LA in 2016 Iíve had some amazing opportunities. I was so lucky to be cast in Beyond Skyline back in 2015 which changed my life. It was my first professional film set where I was flown to Indonesia to work with incredible talent like Frank Grillo. This film really put into perspective what I wanted to do so Iím grateful they gave me the experience. I finally produced my first short alongside The Knights Young called Other in 2021, so this opened the door to creating Vesper the following year. It was time to start creating my own content and exploring more avenues of the filmmaking process.

 

How would you describe yourself as an actress, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?

 

I am a bit of a perfectionist which is something I try not to pressure myself with when being creative. I think my strength is listening and taking direction. I love the collaborating process and discovering my character with fellow co-stars and the director - this definitely comes from theater training. Obviously I do the work at home and come prepared, but Iím more than open to direction and trying things out. Iím not a method actor so you wonít see me in character all day. Thereís that insane, amazing outer body experience when they call action and then cut happens and Iím back to being me. Acting is fun, so I donít like it when they tell you the only great artists are tortured souls.

 

Actresses (and indeed actors) who inspire you?

 

Where to begin! Currently Iím inspired by Margot Robbie and Reese Witherspoon because they truly are top producers and actors who wear both hats successfully. I love that they have their own production companies, are part of the development process and see projects all the way to the end. As an actor Iím forever inspired by Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Florence Pugh, Robbin Williams, and Bryan Cranston just to name a few.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Top Gun, no questions asked! Other top favs include Notting Hill, The Matrix, The Italian Job, The Lion King and a Christmas fav, The Holiday. If I can sneak 2 more in, Hunger Games and Chicago are movies I never get sick of watching.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

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Hmmm, this might be controversial but I really didnít enjoy Manchester By The Sea. Iím too scared to list any more, haha.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

Vesper Instagram: @vespershortfilm

Vesper Vimeo link: https://vimeo.com/748837532

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Check out Leo James Conroy - he wrote the song featured in Vesper, Colors Anew. His talent is undeniable and he should be a superstar. Also check out The Knights Young - their body of work is incredibly exciting! 

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
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... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD