Bessy Adut is a film director, producer and screenwriter residing in Los Angeles, California. She holds an MFA in Film Directing from CalArts as a Fulbright Scholar and a BA in Film & Television from Istanbul Bilgi University. Most recently she graduated from UCLA Professional Screenwriting program developing two feature screenplays. She has a passion for satirical comedy and likes to have diversity in her work.
It was our pleasure to interview Bessy Adut for L.A. Indies
What inspired you to make The Escape Room?
When I was living in South Carolina, I went to a horror maze that was very realistic and scary. I thought of what if a lunatic person actually gets in here with a real chainsaw? I had that idea in my mind for awhile. Then I experienced Escape Room at Escape Hotel in Hollywood. A friend of mine from UCLA Screenwriting program started writing a feature script about the same concept. I talked to her and we decided to partner up. Our initial goal was to make a proof of concept then shoot the feature film. However before I got a chance to pitch my project to the Producers at Blumhouse, Sony Pictures came out with an Escape Room and that stopped me going any further. However I still like my short film.
When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
When I was really young I wanted to be an actress first. My father was a filmmaker so I was performing in front of the camera all the time. Then I got my first video camera into my hands around 11 years old. I started making up stories and filming with my childhood best friend. We experimented several things together such as fairytales, haunted house stories, interviewing people on the streets, music videos and such. It started as a fun thing to do. Then I tried all kinds of arts as I was growing up, I dipped in and out of 7 arts. Actually I studied painting and drawing in high school. Afterwards, for college I decided Film & Television writing and directing was what I wanted to do. I pursued it since then. When I made my first film, I fell in love with it forever. I studied film and television later specialized on Film Directing and Screenwriting as well as Producing.
What was your first film project?
My very first short film was called "Out of Control" it was a comedy about a young TV boy who gets scolded by his girlfriend for paying more attention to Television than her. He takes his remote control instead of his phone as he leaves the house then he realizes he can actually control life with that remote control. He plays with it by muting his girlfriend, forwarding, pausing. Until he wakes up with a slap. After I made this short film, in a few years Adam Sandler's "Click" came out. It was a similar concept in a short film. I made an adaptation for "Pulp Fiction" for a scene remake which I also acted as Uma. And as my thesis film I made my first psychological thriller/horror called "Forbidden Door" I was inspired by "Bluebeard" fairytale and its adaptations. I had very famous, celebrity actors as my two leads and I filmed it at an old house in Prince's Island. It was a trippy film. I remember my film professor at the time saying, I was ready to make a tv show like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" it was one of my favorite shows at the time so it was a big compliment to me. As my theis for CalArts gradutation I made "Strange Little Girl" which won awards that was based on my own childhood.
Which directors have been influential in your work?
I would start with Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Jean Pierre Jeunet and Tim Burton. There are many films and filmmakers I adore but these would be on top of my list with their unique voices and styles. I watched and studided all of their films. My number 1 is certainly Hitchock. I believe he was truly a genious with a dark sense of humor. In terms of women directors, I would say Kathryn Bigelow as my favorite and most respected director. However my favorite film of hers was "Strange Days" not "Hurtlocker" for the ones who don't already know she is the only woman director who won an Oscar as 'Best Director" in Oscars history. And as my goal is to follow her footsteps.
What genre of filmmaking do you like to work on?
I grew up being a fan of "escapist genres" such as horror, science fiction and fantasy. And I am happy that I had a chance to try out some of these genres in my short films. However in my professional life, I get pulled into the documentaries world. I worked on several international documentaries for the last few years and lastly I worked with Bryan Fogel. My last documentary filmmaking experience was so incredible that I got inspired and developed my own documentary project. It's a surprise to me that I am actually planning to make my first feature film and tv series in documentary genre which I am also adding a new genre combined and claiming it as a "peace" genre movie.
What is the most challenging aspect of making an independent film for you?
I'll give you the short and straight answer: Finding the funding. For my short film, I had a chance to do fundraising on Indiegogo and I was able to make my film happen with the contributions of my friends, fans and family. However for my feature film, I need a way bigger budget so I am looking into grants and investors. That's the hardest part for me. Once I have that in place, I feel pretty confident about getting the crew together, coordinating the production and making amazing work. The other thing is sometimes personal issues happen which is challenging. I had challenging times being a woman director. However I feel like my people skills and communication skills improved a lot and I do much better so I am confident in that.
What is your plan for distributing your indie film further to a greater audience?
My last short film "Escape Room" got distribution by Shorts.tv and still streams in the United States and Europe. For my feature film, I plan to start with big film festivals in the world such as Sundance, Cannes and Toronto. Later on, I plan on distributing in one of the streaming networks. If movie theaters open and life goes back to normal I would like my film to be screened at regular movie theaters as well. If not, I would at least make sure that it can be seen at drive in theaters because that also is a great viewing experience.
How can cinema change the world and have an impact on society?
I believe cinema has the power to spread light to the world and that's what I intend to do. I would like to inform the audience in spirituality, science as well as environmental issues with my film project "Searching for God(dess) in Antarctica" I am hoping people, mostly young audience, will be inspired to work harder together to save the world as our planet is in danger but I still have hope we can still turn things around and make it better.
What is your next film project?
"Searching for God(dess)" Peace/Documentary I've been mentioning earlier. I would like to make the feature film in Antarctica first and plan on continuing this project with the rest of 6 continents in a documentary series in one of the streaming networks. It's a mix of Werner Herzog's "Encounters at the End of the World" and Morgan Freeman's "Story of God" with my take on it from a female perspective and touching on several spiritual, environmental and scientific concepts. My project is mostly based on this quote by Hubert Reeves “Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping.”
How was your film received in the festival circuit and what is your plan for creating more exposure for your film?
My film was received by film festivals very well, it's been an official selection in about 40 international film festivals and won 10 awards. I am happy this film made me an award winning writer/director. And prepared me for my next jump. I've been to Sundance in 2020 and it's one of the film festivals I dream of having a world premiere at if possible. If not, I have also been to Cannes before the year when Tim Burton was the jury president that also was a great experience. So I am hoping to start with a world premiere in one of these big, academy qualifying film festivals and go for a festival tour before theatrical and streaming distribution.