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Tessa Farrell

By Tanishka Juneja

Tessa Farrell is a film actress, director and screenwriter best known for her recurring appearance on HBO’s Entourage. With a burning fire in her heart to make an impact in the world, Farrell decided to become a creator in addition to a performer. She is now making headlines as the “Co-pioneer of smartphone filmmaking” with her own film, ‘Cinema Rebel’, which is all about an actress making her own movie without a budget or film crew. The movie has recently been on the film festival circuit, winning awards such as the Best Comedy: Hollywood Independent Filmmaker Awards and Best Mobile Film: Cine Paris International Film Festival. 

In this exclusive conversation, Farrell opens up about content-based cinema, her vision for ‘Cinema Rebel’, her acting influencers, upcoming projects and much more… 

In today’s time, being a creator comes with a lot of responsibility, to not only entertain but educate too. According to you, how far is content-based cinema playing its role in bringing revolution and change in society?  

We’ve seen progress in this area but there is still further to go. I think it will help remembering the bigger picture, the overall long term goal – World-wide balance and harmony. During change and revolution there is a swinging pendulum that often swings far to each side before settling in the middle. To stabilize society, distributors need to focus on releasing diverse content-driven cinema of varying messages to help bring societies into balance.

When you decided to do something that’s never been done before and made the ground-breaking film, “Cinema Rebel”, which went on to win multiple awards at prestigious film festivals, what was your vision for the project? 

To do something so shocking and daring it will help bring people back to theatres and remind us there are spiritual forces around us that we cannot see. The idea to inspire current and future generations to believe in themselves was also a primary factor of the vision. Cinema Rebel is the ultimate underdog movie that I hope ignites the power within all of us to discover what we are each capable of as humans and as individuals. Our planet has more talented artists making movies than trailblazing, boundary-expanding, movers and shakers so I felt it’s important to push beyond past standards to remind us how strong and creative the human spirit can be. I think a human is so much more valuable and cooler than AI. Cinema Rebel did often feel like its own living thing though. Creating it was a dance between designing and allowing it to manifest itself through me.

How different and difficult is it to shoot a full-fledged feature film on a smartphone and with limited resources? 

One of the benefits is how fast you can work. With less hands touching each shot, you can move on quicker. I loved it. I could watch the playback, make adjustments and dive back into a scene within seconds. I learned how to shift between actor and director instantly. It was a blast. Well, except for audio recording. I had to ADR most of Cinema Rebel. That took a lot of time in post (production).

Which one do you like more – being in front of the camera or behind it? 

That’s a tough question because it often feels like I have split personalities that both need to be fed. I love the feeling of flying and the intense aliveness I get when I act. When directing, I get a safe, secure feeling by being connected to my unique artistic core and allowing my own creative vision to express itself. Those feelings are often equally satisfying.

What do you think makes a great film, both, as an actor and a director? 

The word ‘great’ can be subjective. One definition for ‘great’ I really like that I learned growing up is ‘greatness is measured by the obstacles one overcomes’. That quote did have a direct influence on my decision to make ‘Cinema Rebel’ the way it was made. In a more general sense, as a film consumer, to me great films are movies telling stories that touch us on a deep level; that tell those stories in ways that are captivating, beautiful, majestic, and refreshing. Movies that transport us to new realities with an execution of filmmaking so skilled, we forget we’re watching a movie till it’s over. A few films that move me whether it be cinematically, emotionally, intellectually or creatively are ‘1917’, ‘Birdman’, ‘Interstellar’, ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, ‘Kill Bill’, ‘Austin Powers’, ‘Labyrinth’, and ‘The Blair Witch Project’. 

Who are your acting influencers? 

I’ve closely studied the works of Meryl Streep, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Cate Blanchett and Angelina Jolie. This world is blessed with so many amazing actresses, present and past, so I’m usually able to find something I love or learn something new from whoever I’m watching on screen. 

Do you have any upcoming projects that we can be on the lookout for? 

I just finished polishing the script for a new original psychological thriller movie called ‘Power of the Mind’. Can’t wait to make that. I’m now finishing the script polish for an original musical drama movie called ‘Scar Lit’, then will adapt Scott Falcon’s action thriller novel ‘Celerity’ for the screen.

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