Though rare, it’s not impossible for indie actors and filmmakers to make it in the mainstream: Carey Mulligan, Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett Johansson are just a few of the talented ladies who’ve successfully crossed over.
Amy Seimetz could very well be the next star to do the same. She’s appeared in films like The Off Hours,Tiny Furniture and Myth of the American Sleepover. She’s also received nods from big names in the entertainment biz and, in 2010, snagged the award for Best Actress at Fantastic Fest. But Seimetz’s latest gig is as a director. She’s part of a generation of smart, talented women like Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling who are paving their own way on the big (and small) screen.
Seimetz is the writer, director and producer of the upcoming dramatic romance Sun Don’t Shine. Set in Florida, the film follows Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) and her boyfriend Leo (Kentucker Audley) in the wake of a crime that Crystal has committed. The landscape is desolate and eerie, the dialogue tension-ridden—and intermittent glimpses of Crystal and Leo’s love make the viewing experience even more chilling. If you haven’t seen it yet, this SXSW award-winning film is now available via VOD.
During a recent chat at the Lucky office, Seimetz told us, "I was getting frustrated with a lot of films [because] everyone was so scared about conflict. They’d get close and then something would be resolved so easily. That’s nice, that’s a nice world to live in, but that’s not the world that I live in." Indeed, her film does not shy away from disturbing moments of harsh reality, like jarring scenes of quarreling lovers. "There’s conflict everywhere," adds Seimetz. "I feel like movies should be reflecting that sentiment a little bit more."
When Seimetz started writing the script back in 2011, she created it with her actors already in mind. The cast of five delivers an amazingly realistic performance. When we asked Seimetz about her characters, she told us, "It is important for me that I did represent people that don’t have means. It is important that when they’re in this situation, they don’t have money to buy a yacht and escape. They’re stuck. They don’t have the money to rent a car. They have to use their own car. They don’t have the money to pay somebody off. It was important to make a movie about people that are stuck and don’t have these options to buy their way out of the situation."
Creating these people meant designing convincing costumes. You won’t see anything theatrical or extravagant here—think washed-out jean shorts and kooky spray-painted tees. With banana clips. And cotton scrunchies. Now add in some Lycra. Are you cringing yet? Because that’s exactly what I did when I watched the film—thanks in part to all those middle school fashion flashbacks.
You can also catch Seimetz on AMC’s crime series The Killing, in which she plays a financially strapped mom whose daughter goes missing. And beginning on May 12, she’ll star alongside Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) in Family Tree, an HBO comedy series about a single, unemployed 30-year-old who takes up an interest in discovering his family heritage.
Read on to learn why Seimetz made Sun Don’t Shine, where she got some of the costumes and what "The City of Live Mermaids" actually is.
Lucky: Why did you want to make this film?
Amy Seimetz: It was connected to a lot of stuff I was going through at the time. It’s based on a nightmare that I had, and that seemed like a good starting place for a visceral movie. I also wanted to address people who were dealing with death in different ways. She’s the emotional wreck and he’s the one who thinks there needs to be a plan in place.
Which do you enjoy more: acting, producing, or directing?
AS: I don’t like producing as much as I like directing and acting, but producing informs how I can execute stuff, so I do enjoy it on a task-oriented level, and also helping people that I believe in their vision. I really like doing that on a small level. I don’t want to produce on a giant level—it’s not that interesting to me. But I started as a director and fell into acting.
Can you talk about the decisions behind the film’s awkward and strange costumes?
AS: People really dress like that: jeans shorts, t-shirts. The less clothing you have on, the more comfortable you’re going to be. They’re also working class people, so it wasn’t about finding something that was going to make them look stunning or flattering, really. It was about placing them in an economic stratosphere and then also geographically in Florida. For me, Florida seems to be aesthetically stuck in the ’90s—not just architecturally and landscape-wise, but even in the way that people dress.
So where did you get some of these clothes and accessories?
AS: The kimono that Terry puts on, I got that kimono when I was five. That’s my kimono. To paint the picture of these strange people that I grew up around, my dad was living in a bachelor pad on the beach and there were all these strange characters in the apartment building. One of them was this woman, Judy, who always listened to Fleetwood Mac and had plants everywhere. She was always wearing a kimono. She’s a lovely human being. My sister and I loved going over there because she had a fascination, as most people did in the ’80s, with Japansese aesthetics and she had tons of kimonos. We would go over there and dance to Fleetwood Mac and she’d allow us to wear her kimonos. One Christmas, she had one made for me and gave it to me for Christmas. So when I was a kid, all I wanted to do was wear the kimono, which was kind of disconcerting for my mother.
What about Kate’s hot pink skin-tight dress?
AS: When I was a teenager, I would buy Lycra dresses like the one that Kate had. In order to look pretty and sexy, you’d buy Lycra and there was no irony to it.
Did Kate resent you stuffing her in that?
AS: I felt really bad. We bought a size extra small. She’s like 5’8” and incredibly gorgeous and fit and beautiful. No one looks good in Lycra. You have to not wear underwear, and we bought her girl-like underwear to wear underneath so it was even more unflattering. We were very aware of how unflattering the whole thing was—It was so bad, but I also found myself thinking that the design was really incredible. There’s this beautiful flowy thing that looks like a mermaid. It’s the dress you would pick when you’re a little girl in order to look like Barbie. When Kate was at Weeki Wachee, we had to make her change in the bathroom—she came out of the bathroom in that dress and these little girls were standing there and they looked at her and said, "I like your dress a lot." They really genuinely liked it. It wasn’t ironic at all.
Yes, please tell us more about Weeki Wachee, "The City of Live Mermaids" that Crystal visits in the movie.
AS: That park is real. It’s half an hour outside of Tampa. I’ve made a documentary about it. The park opened in 1947 and it was hot shit then. Elvis came to visit and Ethel Merman came down there to shoot stuff. The documentary that I made is about some of these women that have been around since the ’40s and ’50s who are now in their 70s and 80s. They go there and they still perform once a month and it’s called Mermaid of Yesteryear. These women who are like 70-something, they get in the water and they perform and they look ageless. They’re able to do things with their bodies that they couldn’t otherwise do on land. So they talk about how they feel 16 again by getting in the water and they feel beautiful and weightless and they feel like they can bend and move.
Where did you find that t-shirt with the palm tree that Kate’s character wears?
AS: We had the Florida shirt made. I got that airbrushed. There’s a place called John’s Pass in St. Petersburg and I knew I could go in there and design whatever I wanted. I went in and asked him to do a bunch of designs and he kept pushing me towards the templates of what they had on the wall already. The guy hated everything I was telling him to do. He was just like, "Alright, it’s not going to look good." I also brought in my own tees from a thrift store because I wanted them to look dingy, so I went and got these dingy t-shirts from the thrift store and he told me they would look awful. Where does the good taste begin? What am I doing that’s so bad?
And Kate’s shirt with the geese?
AS: There is an element of a southern clash of culture in Florida, so that was bringing in the southernness of Florida. And then her Florida t-shirt is harking back to the vacation aspect of it—that they are in this place that is touristy, and are at least acknowledging that they’re there.
Would you ever want that style to become trendy?
AS: There’s something really trendy about Florida right now. It’s actually gotten cooler—Spring Breakers and The Paperboy. There’s an embracing of the silliness of Florida fashion that’s going on. It’s great, because now I’m fashionable and I never was.
Tell us about these purple acrylic nails you’ve got going on for your role in The Killing.
AS: I had these when I was in high school, too. They’re pretty hideous, but there’s also a part of me that kind of likes them.
Was making the film therapeutic for you?
AS: I didn’t think that it would purge me of [my nightmare]. I was more trying to understand it, because I think dreams are connected to something subconscious that you work on for your entire life, that roots back to childhood and roots back to experience. You can’t ever change your experience. You can only try to understand it a little bit better and have a new perspective on it.
Photo: Jeff Vespa/Contour by Getty Images
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