From USC classes to film festivals in a few short years for Liz Manashil.
By Jasel Rico, Staff Writer & Monessa Chahayed, Valley Life Editor
Liz Manashil’s moment of realization came at 16, while watching François Truffaut’s “Stolen Kisses,” featuring the French filmmaker’s signature character, Antoine Doinel.
“Antoine was staring me down,” she says of one of Doinel’s glances into the camera. “I took a moment of self-reflexivity in a film that I particularly liked and coopted it for my own devices. I felt like in that moment the character was challenging me and inspiring me to act on my ambitions.”
That moment set Manashil on an unalterable course into the waters of moviemaking, though the 2010 USC film school grad admits that “making a film can be very scary.”
Her debut feature as writer-director, “Bread and Butter,” is an offbeat romantic comedy made possible largely by the crowdfunding site, Kickstarter. It has already received two festival screenings, winning “Best Feature Film” at the Big Apple Film Festival.
“Our first assembly was about two-and-a-half hours so there were a lot of scenes that we cut. One reason for this could be that I possibly overwrote the script,” she admits. “I worked on the script for so long that I threw everything but the kitchen sink. The original script had a lot of subplots and themes that aren’t in the final film. The need to slim that down, a lesson taught to me by my editors, was an extremely important one to learn.”
The final product could be called “a romantic comedy for the rest of us,” in which realistic-looking people have realistically scaled problems. That ethos is consistent with a guest post she wrote for Indiewire.com in which she decried the Hollywood body image.
In it, Manashil mentioned her ongoing casting process for “Bread and Butter,” saying, “I wrote a film about a girl like me. A girl who was a late bloomer, a girl who felt like the parade had passed her by.”
Christine Weatherup, a fellow Trojan, came upon that post. She emailed Manashil and wound up booking the lead.
“I was very much the performer in the family. Maybe being the youngest had something to do with it,” Weatherup said of her lifelong desire to act. Weatherup is not limiting her options, though: She has an impressive triple major in political science, cinema-television, and theater.
Manashil said, “Christine hit on a wonderful vulnerability in her auditions for Amelia. She came across as slightly delicate and extremely likable. She showed me elements to the character I didn’t even think about.”
With her ideal, brainy lead and a cast including veterans such as Bobby Moynihan of Saturday Night Live, and more or less fully funded, Manashil had nothing to fear but fear itself. And exhaustion. And equipment failure. And sharknados.
“The toughest day was the last day, knowing that it would all be over soon,” she says. “The greatest fear was something going wrong. I was terrified someone would get hurt on set or a natural disaster would happen or we would lose all the footage.”
Somehow, the cast and crew survived. And the not-so-cookie-cutter movie sold out at the Woodstock film festival, where it was an official selection as well as a competition finalist, before winning at the Big Apple. Manashil and company are talking to distributors in the hopes of continuing the film’s festival run.
“My number-one advice to an aspiring film director, or aspiring anything, is that you can get paralyzed by the fear of that task at hand…being afraid of failing before you even start. A piece of advice is just to start,” Manashil said.
For more information, visit breadandbuttermovie.com.
Click here for the Valley Star review.