Olivia DeLaurentis, 22-year-old writer, actor and director, is interviewed by Madelaine Hanson for Conatus News about her new film This Gets Ruff.
With the current rise of women in comedy, 22-year-old Olivia DeLaurentis is broaching the wave in starting her professional filmmaking career. Her first feature film has been optioned by Big Screen Entertainment Group, and is slated to begin filming, with DeLaurentis also directing and acting, in 2019.
But this is not the first time DeLaurentis has worn so many hats. At 15, her short film, HUMANIZED was selected for the L.A. Film Festival, and at 16, her comedy My Better Half was selected by SoHo Film Fest in New York. Before graduating the UCLA Film & Television program, she won the Mike Wallace Promise in Television Award, and the Women in Film, Victoria Dummer, Promise in Television award, and co-created a web series with comedy partner Sydney Heller. I spoke to her about her new film, This Gets Ruff, whichfollows a self-critical ex-child-star who gets kidnapped by a super fan, who makes her and her old cast-mates recreate the television show in his basement.
Tell me a little bit about your background!
Olivia: I have been writing, directing, acting in, and editing short, 20-30 minute comedies, and put them in festivals since I was twelve years old. And now I’m in a sketch comedy duo with my comedy partner Sydney Heller, we’re called Barely Legal Comedy and we do web series and sketches and are developing a couple larger projects right now!
What got you to write this particular screenplay?
OLIVIA: I’ve always loved dark comedy. I used to do child acting, and my mom was an actress, and I’ve also had a lot of situations in my life with people who are kind of “stalker-y”, and I’m also obsessive myself, so I think that’s all a fun territory to explore. I think doing a film about kidnapping and Disney shows is really kind of right up my alley in terms of my humor and my personality. And I wanted to bring in a lot of themes that people my age deal with, such as anxiety and depression and self-loathing, so I tried to bring people in with the humor and then drop the message in an unexpected way. I’ve always tried to make movies with ridiculous broad comedy, that almost seems too broad at a certain point, and then it twists in the end to be actually meaningful, and you don’t expect it at all. I really like doing that.
There are a lot of filmmakers trying to get their films made right now. How were you able to get this produced?
OLIVIA: Well, I really do think that the thing I’ve learned in the last three years is that so much of everything is luck. Trying to be in the entertainment industry is basically like entering a lottery over and over again with every project you do and every person you meet, and the question is, how many times do you enter the lottery? And I really do think that you have to keep pushing forward in all aspects, look at every single thing in your life, every connection you have, every contest online, every person you know who can give you advice, “what things can I submit to, who can I stalk on LinkedIn, who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody?” And in a sea of “we really like you but this is not what we’re looking for,” you have to just keep going after you’ve given up on yourself. I’m still in a very chill state about it because I’m so used to rejection at this point. But I’m so excited about this project because I love the people involved, and I love the project, and I love what we’re doing.
You’re twenty-two, and you’ll be working with seasoned adults. How do you expect that to be?
I mean, everyone I’m working with is amazing. Kimberley Kates is the woman who read the script, optioned it, and is now a producer with her company Big Screen Entertainment Group. Working with her is so amazing because there are so many people who ask you to kind of limit yourself, and she’s not one of them. Especially when you’re a young woman, people don’t expect you to be able to write, let alone write and direct and act in a feature film. Nobody lets you do that on even a semi-professional level. And when Kimberley told me she wanted to option the script, her first question was, “Okay, do you want to direct it?” And it was my favorite question I’ve ever heard, because of course I do—I’ve been preparing for this my entire life, but you get talked into taking a step back so often in life. And I think that she’s amazing, and Michael Manasseri, who is producing the film as well, is so trusting and amazing. We all get it, that it’s not about my ego, we all just wanna make the movie good and agree on what it should be.
Why should people watch this movie?
OLIVIA: I really do think it’s a weird quirky new tone that people could really enjoy. Especially a younger generation. It’s like if Stephen King’s Misery was starring the characters from Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s really demented, and then it deals with a lot of emotional stuff regarding how to love yourself and help other people even if you’re depressed and anxious and traumatized, which I think could positively affect a lot of people right now. My biggest hope is that it makes people laugh and then unexpectedly touches them and makes them have some love for themselves and others. My second biggest hope is that I do a good enough job that I can make another.
If you could work with anybody right now, who would it be?
OLIVIA: Literally, Jemaine Clement. In any capacity. Even just to work with him one time or half a time before I die. That would be, like, “Oh, I can die now”. Wow, okay, see? This is why I can write a superfan kidnapper character. Also I’ve always loved Charlie Day and I just got to do a tiny bit part for him on The Cool Kids, it was like my favorite thing ever.
What is the message of your film?
OLIVIA: Basically, it’s that a lot of things and people in life are going to try to beat the sh*t out of you, and make you hate yourself, and make you give up, and ultimately make you even do bad things to other people… and that you’ve gotta not only own who you are, own all of your mistakes and all the things that are good about you, but also stand up and have compassion for other people even if people haven’t been good to you. The message is to not only stand up after you fall and have self-preservation, but to actively do good for other people too, even if it’s hard.
What is the hardest thing about being a 22-year-old writer-director?
OLIVIA: The hormones! I would say “People not taking you seriously,” but that affects all women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and anyone young in any industry. For me, specifically, the hardest thing is the goddamn hormones.
Anthropologist, Liberally Jewish, Cat enthusiast, Nuance extremist.