INTRO BY TAMARA CHAPMAN
INTERVIEW BY CAMI LIBERTY
UCLA alumni Mary Neely is successfully easing her way into the film industry. From just the age of 8 she has been dedicating endless time and effort into paving the way for her career. She even recently just aired her trailer for a short film at SXSW! In this interview we learn more about her true passions for filmmaking, writing, and acting.
How old were you when you first got interested in film?
"I always loved watching movies growing up. Both my parents have very different approaches to being cinephiles: my mom loves going to opening night showings, being surrounded by a crowd, that communal event aspect of movie going whereas my dad loves watching the same classic films over and over again on the couch (he also knows the most specific facts on the silent era). Yet I didn’t really get interested in film by myself until I was in my second year of college. I took a Danish film history course and that changed everything."
When did you first realize that you wanted to be an actress, writer, and filmmaker?
"I’ve wanted to be an actress since I was 8 or 9 but I only wanted to do plays. I never imagined myself doing film. I went to theater camps throughout middle school and high school, hoping to move to New York one day. After I graduated from UCLA (where I studied acting) I saw writing and filmmaking purely as vessels to help me get more acting work. Even after I made a short film and a web series I had a hard time calling myself a writer or filmmaker. But when everyone else started calling me those things and I would go to meetings as a filmmaker it started to set in."
What was the first movie you ever saw? Has anything from this production stuck with you over the years in your own work?
"I honestly don’t remember the first movie I ever saw. The first movie that had a really intense impact on me was 'Simon Birch.' I was in 2nd grade and went to see it with my friend and her mom and had to leave the theater to bawl in the lobby. Realizing that you can have that visceral of an experience from watching a film has definitely stuck with me.
When I was 6 or 7 my dad and I went to New York and he took me to see 'The Lion King' pretty close to when it had just opened on Broadway. That was the first play I ever saw and it totally changed my life. The theatrics involved in that play are so beautiful and totally cinematic, which I definitely have drawn inspiration from."
As a female in a male dominated industry, where do you find the struggle comes in the most? Do you ever come across anybody who refuses to take you seriously?
"Ha yes it has been very common that people don’t take me seriously. It’s even more common that people don’t assume I have value or even care to ask what I do! My biggest fear is being perceived as a card board cut out woman or girlfriend, just standing there without meaning. This also breeds paranoia and I’ve found it very hard to distinguish between when that’s actually happening versus when I’m meeting someone who has the penchant to be flighty or distracted. Of course, there have been the clear-cut times like when a producer asked if it’s hard for me to get a meeting because I have boobs."
This year your short film ‘Pink Trailer’ was premiered at SXSW. How did you feel when you first found out it would be premiered there?
"Oh I was so incredibly happy. I had been telling people for months, 'Man, I really hope ‘Pink Trailer’ gets into South by. I just feel like it really belongs there.' It’s so rare to want something so bad and then for it to actually happen. It felt like such a gift and very validating. When the writers texted me the news I ran around my apartment pumping my fist in the air yelling, 'BITCH' over and over. Maybe not the most appropriate response but that was my natural reaction."
What project of yours would you say you’re most proud of?
"My web series 'WACKO SMACKO.' It’s an 8 episode ode to a very specific time in my life and I’ve never worked harder on anything. I wrote, directed, produced, edited, and star in every episode. It’s the length of a feature and I did it on the smallest budget. I really poured my heart and soul into it and it’s gotten me so much—representation, clout, meetings, friends. Even though I went broke in the process it was totally worth it."
What are some goals that you hope to achieve in the future?
"I want to make a feature that premieres at a really good festival. I want to act in projects that are helmed by people with amazing artistic visions. I want to make a TV show. I want to continue to grow with my partner and I want a really good couch."
Is there anything else we can expect from you soon?
"Hopefully someone at SXSW will want to help me make my feature and/or TV show. I also just made my first music video and that was really cool so going to do more of that as well. You’ve probably seen me in commercials and I have a few other fun acting projects that are coming out but honestly I’m going to post some really riveting content on Instagram ;)"