Kicking off my coverage of deadCenter 2020 with a filmmaker Q&A session with the team behind the offbeat comedy and family drama, She’s The Eldest. Making its world premiere at deadCenter, this feature film follows three eccentric siblings as they return to their childhood home to reconnect but end up digging up the past of their parents’ mysterious disappearances.
1. Tell me a bit about yourself and your role in the film.
Cate Jones: Writer and Director and I played Leanne’s sister Polly.
Beth Alonso: I am an executive producer and my company, Betmar-Heliand Productions, is one of the film’s production companies (along with Freestyle Creative). I also have a tiny acting role in She’s the Eldest (blink, and you’ll miss me). In 2012, I discovered and thoroughly enjoyed some locally written and produced independent films. I met some of the local filmmakers, was impressed by their creativity, and decided to help with financing some projects. It has been a wickedly good ride ever since.
Alex Palmer: My name is Alex Palmer and I am one of the producers for She’s The Eldest. I am also the president of the Oklahoma Film Society and an attorney.
Kelley Gann: I’m Kelley Gann — president at Freestyle Creative and a local film producer. I was thrilled to work with Cate and the team as a producer for “She’s the Eldest.”
Jacob Burns: I’m a filmmaker in OKC, been working in film for almost ten years on projects of all shapes and sizes. For She’s the Eldest, I was fortunate enough to be the cinematographer on this awesome film.
Holli Taylor: I’m a jackass of all trades generally, which came in handy for this film because although my official role was assistant director, I also ended up filling many other roles on set, even to the point of being a few different characters in the film which was a blast.
Mary Buss: I’m Mary Buss. I play Leanne Bradbury in She’s the Eldest.
Mickey Reece: My name is Mickey and I play Jamie, a hot shot lawyer who becomes HIV positive and files a suit against his own firm, after he is fired over his illness and lifestyle choices.
Kyle Penington: My name is Kyle Penington and I am from Oklahoma City. I play the role of Sean.
Alex Sanchez: My name is Alex Sanchez, I play the would-be love interest. He’s very laid-back and incredibly handsome.
2. How do you personally describe the movie to people?
Kelley: She’s the Eldest is a homegrown indie drama featuring an all Oklahoma cast and crew. Equal parts offbeat comedy and family drama, the film follows three eccentric siblings who return to their childhood home to reconnect but end up digging up the past of their parents’ mysterious disappearances. It’s written and directed from a female perspective — exploring a woman’s need for her own creative outlet, motherhood, and our tendency to sacrifice ourselves to nurture others
3. Why should one see it?
Mary Buss: Families are messy. Messes are tragic and funny. Anyone with a family can relate. Eldest is a nod toward the real repercussions of neglect, abandonment and generational trauma. Skeletons from the past reverberate in each of the Bradbury children’s lives. Leanne, Jamie and Polly cope with their emotional wounds differently, yet are drawn to each other when crisis arises. They are compelled to cobble together family identity, however dysfunctional. In the trenches of trauma they share love, humor, brokenness, ghosts, anger, acceptance, survival and the will to keep walking.
4. What are your thoughts on the deadCenter Film Festival?
Beth: The festival is an amazing opportunity to see independent films plus an array of short films and documentaries, both foreign and domestic. It also provides opportunities for filmmakers and those interested in films to connect and learn. This year’s virtual presentation changes some former aspects of the festival, but the fundamentals persist with the ability to access panels and films. It remains a first rate experience.
5. What was the most challenging aspect you had during production?
Kyle Penington: Being a part of this film was a pleasure. Not challenging. I had worked with Cate Jones on another project and was happy just to be on set. The rest of the cast was made up of people I have always wanted to work with.
6. What was the best part about filming in Oklahoma?
Alex Palmer: The best thing about filming in Oklahoma is the local film crews. People are so giving of their time to help on local films, that even micro-budget films, like She’s The Eldest, don’t look so micro once it’s on screen. Our crew went above and beyond to help make She’s The Eldest the best film possible, and I’m sure every producer in Oklahoma would echo that sentiment.
7. What were some particular scenes or locations that were enjoyable to film?
Jacob Burns: I really loved the scene where all three siblings are together on screen for the first time. It’s a fairly simple scene from a camera perspective, but getting a front-row seat to watch Mary, Cate, and Mickey bring those characters alive was so much fun. Also, I loved shooting the movie within the movie, Corgis 2, because I got to hang out with a bunch of Corgis!
8. What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
Alex Sanchez: When I’m creatively burned out I like to play a really in-depth, almost boring video game. It helps my right brain relax while my left brain takes over.
9. What do you think should be placed as a marker for the dead center of the universe?
Cate: A melting pot that says “All ingredients welcome. Only quality combos served.”
10. Anything else you wish to add or share?
Holli: I’m so insanely honored to be a part of this project and excited for more to come!
The 2020 deadCenter Film Festivals runs from June 11-21. Read more Question and Answer sessions with other deadCenter filmmakers, past and present, here.