TCFF 2017 Indie Film Spotlight: BUTTERFLY CAUGHT & interview w/ filmmakers/cast

One of the major perks of attending/covering film festivals is you get to see outstanding indie films long before you can see them on the big screen (that is if they even get distribution). That’s why I’m always on the lookout for films such as Butterfly Caught that I sure hope would get some kind of distribution after its film festival run.

Three aspiring actresses set out to break into the cut-throat world of acting in Los Angeles. Naomi is on the verge of stardom, Joe struggles to keep her head above water and Elsa is a fresh face on the scene. As each young woman is forced to face her deepest fears and insecurities, they all discover the lengths to which they will go to fight against failure. The promise of Hollywood is tempting, but what will they do when that promise is broken? How will they cope when pushed to their breaking points? Butterfly Caught offers a glimpse into the darker side of Hollywood’s bright facade, exposes the seduction of fame and captures the thirst for relevance in a city that cycles through talent and destroys ambitions.

My review:

This is a terrific debut from Manny Rodriguez Jr. based on his own script that draws inspiration from his and his wife’s Lisa (who’s one of the producers) own experience being in Hollywood.

The film started out with a monologue from an acting coach (great character actor Tony Plana) giving a sobering speech to his wide-eyed students, intercut with a an audition scene to a big studio film Blackbird. Naomi Baker (Alex Sgambati), Joe Jennings (Abigail Klien) and the new girl (Abigail Klien) are housemates, each trying to make their break through. The promise of success is tempting to be sure, but the taste of glitz and fame is even more seductive in Tinsel Town.

Alex Sgambati as Naomi

It’s a familiar story that’s made even more resonant and timely given the recent Weinstein scandal. But even without that in the media, I think the film would resonate to people who aren’t in the film biz because we’re all struggling to achieve something, and at times in that journey we are pushed to our breaking points. Even though I never dreamed of acting in Hollywood, I can relate to each of the characters.

Jess Jacobs as Joe

The three main actresses did a great job in the film, but so are the supporting actors Adam Ambruso, Jake Olson and Grant Liffmann. Casting is so crucial in any film, and they were all well cast. Kudos to the writer/director for making fully-realized characters, brought to life wonderfully by the strong ensemble cast. The struggle felt real and I was caught up in their journey.

Abigail Klien as Elsa

I also appreciate the fact that the film is tasteful in the way it depicts the dark side of pursuing fame, particularly in Hollywood, with all the seduction and temptations that come with that. It could’ve easily been exploitative in its depiction (in sexuality or violence) but I’m so glad it isn’t. I hope this film gets a decent distribution (maybe even theatrical release). It’s a captivating story that’s emotional as well as entertaining. This film certainly makes you pause and ponder, as well as inspire, those who’ve had artistic struggles in life (and really, who hasn’t?)

Q1. What’s the inspiration behind the story? Is it a personal experience or something that happens to someone close to you?

Q2. In light of the Weinstein scandal, your film becomes even more relevant and timely. Would you comment on this whole ordeal from your perspective as a filmmaker working in Hollywood?

Q3. Manny, you grew up under the studio system, but you’re now breaking free into the indie world. How has the studio background influence/help you in making this project?

Q4. You said in your press release that L.A. is full of talented people who never got their shot. So is your film sort of an homage to struggling/striving actors as well as a commentary about the frustration of the artistic process?

Q5. Tell me a bit about the significance of the title and the theme of metamorphosis as the film deals with personal growth of the characters.

One of the actors of the film, Jake Olson, who played Wil (Naomi’s teacher boyfriend) arrived from the airport just in the nick of time before our scheduled afternoon interview. I talked to him as well about how he got involved in the film and his own personal journey as an actor who moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles.

Check out the trailer below:

Thanks so much Lisa, Manny, Jake and Adam for chatting w/ me.
Stay tuned for my interview post w/ Adam Ambruso!

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