Filmmaker Aubree Bernier-Clarke is working on a new short through the Directing Workshop for Women at AFI in Los Angeles and she just announced some pretty rad casting news. Starring in I Want to Believe is Bex Taylor-Klaus, better known as Bullet on The Killing.
“Bex will be playing the lead role of Morgan, a 17-year-old tomboy who is obsessed with aliens and all things supernatural,” Aubree said. “She feels isolated from her absentee mother and Catholic school classmates, and the only person she really connects with is her best friend Olivia.”
Unfortunately, Olivia passes away suddenly and Morgan is left reeling. But this is a supernatural short, and Olivia “comes back from the dead, giving Morgan a second chance to make things right.”
“Morgan does have romantic feelings for Olivia, so I consider her a queer character, but whether or not she’s gay, I think she’s young and still figuring herself out,” Aubree said.
Aubree said she wasn’t sure who she wanted to play Morgan until she saw the teaser for the new season of The Killing, one of her favorite shows.
“Bex had one line in it and I was like ‘She’s the one,’” Aubree said. “Really it was her voice that sold me. I didn’t know she would be a main character on the show, I just heard her deliver that one line and called my casting director and told her I’d found my Morgan. I’m beyond thrilled to have her on board!”
I Want to Believe is Aubree’s first screenplay, but she’s no stranger to being behind the camera. She’s directed videos for Mirah, The Corin Tucker Band and also worked on Portlandia. She was inspired to create the short after her beloved dog Seymour passed away this past spring.
“He was physically in very bad shape, but mentally he was still really sharp and happy, so putting him to sleep was not an option for me,” Aubree said. “I arranged my life so I could spend most of my time working from home and caring for him, but the constant thought that his death was imminent put my mind in a pretty dark place. I had a lot of weird dreams during that time, and one of them was about a romance with a girl who had come back from the dead. It really resonated with me, so I wrote down everything I remembered and then started fleshing it out into a story. Writing the screenplay gave me something else to focus on while I was struggling with letting Seymore go, so it ended up being a rather cathartic experience.”
The supernatural element came into play because Aubree said she’s always had a fascination with things of a fantastical nature.
“I grew up in a haunted house, and as a result turned out to be a pretty morbid kid. I was invited to every slumber party in elementary school because I told the best ghost stories. In middle school, I was suspended for practicing witchcraft on my Catholic school campus,” Aubree said. “I still think about this stuff constantly, so I couldn’t resist passing that trait on to my characters. I decided to incorporate the alien/outer space theme because it resonated with the isolation that Morgan experiences, and the sense that there are larger forces at work in the universe if you can just believe in them.”
The role of Olivia hasn’t been cast just yet, but Aubree said there are some offers out to “some amazing actors for the other principal roles, but I can’t give away those details until the contracts come back. If everything works out, there will be more exciting news to share very soon.”
Aubree is creating the film as part of a program at the American Film Institute that aims to help female directors find their footing. “The DWW has been around since the ’70s, originally conceived to try to correct the gender imbalance in the directing field,” she said. “At the time I think women accounted for something like 2% of working film directors in Hollywood. Now that number has grown to around 7%, so there’s still plenty of work to be done. The DWW accepts eight women per year and is completely tuition-free, but we are on our own to raise the funds to produce our films.”
The Indie-go-go campaign for I Want to Believe ends Wednesday, June 26 and Aubree hopes the casting of Bex Taylor-Klaus will help get the word out just in time to raise the rest of the funds needed to make the film. If you’re a fan of Bex, Aubree’s music videos or helping keep queer and/or women directors creating films, then visit the site and give a few dollars if you can.