Since we absolutely loved James Cullen Bressack’s Bethany, it only made sense of us to have a little sit down with the leading lady Stefanie Estes who played Claire.
RG: So, Stefanie, tell us about yourself and what you do.
SE: I’m an actor, and I grew up in Hawaii and when I was 18, I moved to New York City and studied theatre at NYU, did a lot of plays in the city before I moved to Los Angeles to pursue more film and TV work. That’s me, I guess, my life in a nutshell.
RG: So I looked you up on the internet and you’ve been in quite a few horror films.
SE: Yes, yes. Bethany was the first time I was the lead though, so that was exciting and also terrifying.
RG: Do you have a preference for horror to work on? I noticed you’ve worked on quite a few.
SE: I love horror films, I like to say I have a love hate relationship with them. I love watching them and I hate it when I’m up till all hours of the night freaking out. I think as a genre they really tap into some visceral emotions that we experience as humans and it’s really fun as an actor to play with those. They’re fun to work on, as well. You usually get to work with the FX, and blood, and gore and I mean – acting is.. In acting, you hope for a departure from your mundane life and there’s no other, I mean, horror is like the ultimate escape.
RG: Oh for sure. So what was it like working on the set of Bethany?
SE: Well it was really fast, we shot it in fourteen days.
RG: Holy shit!
SE: Crazy, right?
RG: That IS crazy!
SE: James the director (James Cullen Bressack), I mean, he had a binder that was color coded with the shots he wanted, what he wanted in terms of costume, in terms of performance, so he was very specific with his pre production work, so when we got onto set and started shooting, he knew exactly what he wanted so he was able to fit everything into that tight schedule, but because of that we were shooting really packed days. I’m sure as you know, the material is not light, so it was exhausting in the best way, because you’re playing all these heightened emotional scenes, but you’re also.. I was getting to work with really seasoned professionals, which was such a treat. Everyone was on the same page and wanting this to be the best product that it could be. It was exhausting but super fun.
RG: Yes, James is quite the master of transition shots.
SE: Oh my gosh, yes. In Bethany it works so well, because he’s already creating this atmosphere where you’re questioning reality, like is this a dream, is this in her mind and with those transitions it really helps make it very trippy and he did wonderfully with that.
RG: He’s a great director and a buddy of ours, we really dig his stuff. So, did you have any scary moments on set, any ghostly encounters?
SE: No. I mean, I think the moments that I wasn’t acting scared, I was having a nice moment of levity, joking with James or taking a quick nap in between shots. But I mean, the house was pretty creepy, it was a huge house, if I had to have spent the night there by myself, I would have been scared. It’s been used, James has used it before in another horror film he wrote and produced called Restoration. It’s been used in another horror film too.
RG: It is a creepy house, and it has that creepy unfinished basement kind of going on there. Super creepy. So other than being super highly type-A and organized, what was working with James Cullen Bressack like?
SE: I would say it was really fun and collaborative. He had a very specific way he wanted the character to be like and what he wanted her journey to be, but he was really open to working with me, and working with what I wanted to bring to the character, and something we both found emotionally resonant. He had a lot of interesting ideas in terms of acting homework he wanted me to do before arriving on set, like he, we did journalling, backstory work, and one of the things that stuck out a lot, is that because my character in the film has attempted suicide, he had me go in to the special effects office and they outfitted me with fake suicide scars and he had me go around for a couple of days wearing those in order to see what people’s reactions would be.
RG: Did you have any weird reactions to it?
SE: I mean, no one was going to gasp and look at you and give you a “ARE YOU OKAY?”, but you sense people taking a step back and looking at you a little bit longer, it’s very subtle in their reactions, but effecting if that makes sense. I think that was a pretty brilliant exercise on his part.
RG: That’s so cool, I had no idea he did that type of stuff behind the scenes and I can imagine very meaningful as well. It’s very interesting how people can view individuals with mental illness and it’s very hard to explain unless someone has been through it.
SE: That was a great idea of his.
RG: So on a lighter note, Tom Green was looking mighty good in Bethany, so was he hot in real life or what?
SE: I mean I have always been a fan since the Tom Green show. When I met him, I had always remembered him from the Tom Green show as younger, he didn’t have the beard.
RG: That beard though, he looked great.
SE: He looked great, right? I sort of fan-girlled out, meeting him honestly. He was so attractive too! He looked so good and he had that little hat.
RG: A buddy of mine has that big beard and same hat and I was like, oh my god I’m seeing double.
RG: So do you have any horror movies on the horizon?
SE: Um, there’s one thats been kind of doing the indie festival circuit called Altar, and it might be released later this year, and it’s about some college classmates who try to go to a reunion and end up lost in the woods and awful things happen. We shot that on location in the Sierra Nevada mountains. So I’m interested to see how it turns out.
RG: Are you starring again?
SE: Yes, I am. But it’s also with a lot of other strong leads, so it’s more of an ensemble. I would say Bethany is too, like Zack Ward did a fantastic job, and Shannon, even though she was only in flashbacks was terrifying.
RG: She was so creepy!
SE: Right? Super duper creepy in the best way.
RG: She was just like everyone’s evil mom, or mother in law even.
SE: Or evil step mother or something..
RG: So if you had to pick a favourite, what’s your favourite film you’ve worked on so far?
SE: Oh that’s so hard. I’m honestly the worst at picking favourites.
RG: It’s a real Sophie’s choice, right?
SE: Well, I really enjoyed working on Bethany because it was a really collaborative process as an actor, and I really enjoyed working on another film that I did a few years ago called “When Harry Tries to Marry”, and we shot part of it in India which was really awesome.
RG: Beautiful! So, what’s one thing you would say to an actor or an actress who is just starting out?
SE: Um, to not give up, as cheesy as that sounds, but you have to believe in your talent and your voice and your art, and you just have to stay strong and keep doing it and know that you’re worthy of everything that you’re doing, because it takes a lot of guts to pursue any type of art.
RG: Oh absolutely, I think that that could almost go for anything, and there’s always going to be a hater.
RG: Alright, well that brings us to our last question, this is our standard and we ask it of everybody, and so our website is called Drunk in a Graveyard, and so our kind of thoughts are, we like, drinking some beers with our friends and watching horror movies, so with that in mind, what would be the horror movie that you would choose and the intoxicant of choice that you would pair with it?
SR: Got it, okay! I would have a drink of some strong Old Fashioneds and drink The Shining. I don’t think he drinks Old Fashioneds in The Shining, but I feel that the look of Old Fashioneds really goes with the color aesthetic in that movie? Maybe I’m talking out of my butt, but I would drink an Old Fashioned and watch the Shining.
RG: That sounds awesome!
SE: I kind of want to just to do that tonight!
RG: Well, it sounds like we planned your night for you!
SE: Well thank you so much, thank you for having me!
We would like to extend huge thanks to Stefanie for speaking with us, to Ashleigh for setting the whole thing up, and again we hope that you will all go check out James Cullen Bressack’s Bethany.
If you click on over this shiny hyperlink, you can read our spoilery review, but you should go watch this film first!