Here at Filmotomy we were given the exclusive opportunity to view To The Beat, a highly enjoyable, teen dance flick that will leave you with a smile on your face. To The Beat was directed by Jillian Clare, an actress has appeared on both the big and small screen in numerous projects including her double award winning portrayal of pre-teen ‘Abby Deveraux’ on NBC’s Days Of Our Lives, plus her roles in the Primetime Emmy winning series Acting Dead and the digital teen drama Miss Behave. Perhaps her most well-known character on the silver screen was in the hit Nickelodeon Victorious film Freak the Freak Out as Tori’s rival, Haley Ferguson. Jillian is an experienced actress who knows the industry inside and out, (at the age of 8 years old, she was the youngest performer ever hired to entertain at Universal Studios Theme Park), therefore is seems only natural that she transgresses from in front of the camera to behind, and trust me she’s a natural at directing.
Watching To The Beat, you wouldn’t realise that this is Jillian’s debut as a director; the direction is very strong and highly professional. Going into the film, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as usually I am not a fan of dance films; but I was pleasantly surprised. The film is full of energy, soul and is very enjoyable. It moves along at a fast pace, is full of good hearted jokes (the jokes and humour are genuinely funny, without being mean-spirited), and the leading performances from Laura Krystine and Brisa Lalich as the dancing duo Mackie and Mia, are very strong. My personal favourite performance was by Jayden Bartels as the twins’ rival Avery, who is highly scheming and very demanding (I really feel for her on-screen parents). The film has charm, and feels fresh but also plays a homage to the 80s teen films directed by John Hughes. To The Beat, is a film the entire family can enjoy, it’s a perfect get together film and I believe it will become a timeless classic. Jillian has proven herself to be a competent director, and I am eager to see what she produces next.
We were lucky to get the chance to speak to Jillian, and have a quick interview to ask her about her debut film, as well as her inspirations and the process behind the production of To The Beat. We also spoke about our shared love for 80s teen films, John Hughes and the changing role of women in the film industry. To my delight, I discovered Jillian is a fan of the British Sci-Fi series, Doctor Who and has named one of her dogs after her favourite character, Amelia Pond (which coincidentally is my favourite character too!). Without any further ado, here’s our exclusive interview with Jillian Clare.
Bee Garner: Hi Jillian, could you kindly give us a brief introduction to your new film To The Beat?
Jillian Clare: To The Beat is a teen dance movie, which is a bit like High School Musical, meets Camp Rock, meets Step Up! The film is about twins Mackie and Mia who support each other through dance competitions. Their next door neighbour Avery, is also a dancer and she’s a little crazy, and is also their biggest rival. The three girls enter a competition to be dancers in a new music video by their favourite pop star, and cue the biggest competition of their lives. It’s a fun movie, a good family film. And, I really feel that we haven’t had a honest teen film for a long time, and that’s what To The Beat is, a good honest teen film, aimed at teenagers, about teenagers.
BG: I certainly enjoyed your film and it left me with a smile on my face. This was your directorial debut, how did you prepare for this?
JC: It’s so crazy, I can’t believe it happened and I’m left thinking “Did I do that?!” I was lucky to have such a supportive cast and crew, especially my DP (director of photography, Broderick Engelhard). This was Broderick’s debut as DP too, and we both had each other’s back. We spent a lot of time shot listing and preparing for the shoot, which helped immensely, as we made sure we knew what we were doing. As this is a film featuring energetic children and choreographed dancing there was a lot of preparation so that on the day of shooting we could make sure to focus on the talent. It was a crazy experience but as a child actor myself, I could really relate to the talent. Most directors can’t really understand the process of being a child actor, so to bring my own experience into this was highly beneficial.
BG: Well your hard work certainly paid off, and it really didn’t come across as a debut film, it seemed like you had been directing films for years! Who has influenced you over the years?
JC: Over the years I have had several influences. In regards to acting, my role model would be Kate Winslet. I admire how she manages to transform herself in each role she takes and I admire how she manages to find well written roles (It’s getting better now with more female writers and directors but it’s still been tough to find decent roles for actresses). I love how Kate Winslet can play a wide variety of characters and is such a versatile actor. In terms of director, John Hughes is my inspiration. Home Alone is the perfect christmas film, I love how John Hughes made these films which make you feel real, and leaves you with this good feeling after watching them. I would have loved to have worked with him, and I want to follow in his footsteps. I really feel that there isn’t a director like Hughes working in the industry today, he made these wonderful feel good films which had these great endings where everyone got what they deserved. I am a huge 80s movie fanatic, I just love that period of cinema, from the likes of The Breakfast Club, to Lost Boys and Stand By Me, these films just managed to capture what it’s like growing up and being a teenager. I feel that’s missing now in contemporary film.
BG: Is there any advice that you can offer to aspiring female filmmakers out there?
JC: There’s two pieces of advice I can offer. Number one, surround yourself with good people. I have people who support me and are there for me. When taking this on (To The Beat), I had some really supportive people backing me up. My Mom was a huge support, and we worked together to write and produce the film. It is hard for female filmmakers to get respect in the industry, and sometimes the respect of their own crew. It’s a different experience for a female director compared to a male director. I think some people assume that I am “too young, and I am a girl, not a director” which I think a man in my position wouldn’t experience this sort of attitude from others. I would strongly recommend aspiring filmmakers find their own support network because it will help you so much. Second bit of advice? Just keep making things, make them until they take off. Filmmaking is a bit like playing a game of BlackJack, you just need to keep going until you get a good hand. Anyone can do it, look at me, I just did! I think a trap that many young filmmakers make, is that they all try to make the “gritty debut film”, you don’t have to make a movie about shooting up heroin. I love Requiem For A Dream and Needle In The Park, but that’s not my style. Your debut film can be something light hearted and fun, so why not make your version of The Goonies? Keep working on projects and stay on that path!
BG: That’s really good advice, you’ve actually inspired me, so thank you! Lastly, who would be your perfect dance partner?
JC: Ooh, good question! John Mayer without a doubt! I’ve been a fan of his since I was 11! I think we have the same quirky personality, so I can see us doing something wacky on the dance floor, maybe the chicken dance?!
A huge thanks for Jillian Clare for taking the time to speak to us, and it’s so inspiring to speak to an up and coming female director. To The Beat is out now on DVD and VOD, and here’s the film’s trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0FIYj2RJ2Q
You can follow Jillian Clare on Twitter @jillianclare
And here’s To The Beat twitter handle @ToTheBeatFilm