Not long after graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Kelly Overton got a big break when she was cast in the memorable Broadway stage adaptation of The Graduate, with Jason Biggs in the Dustin Hoffman role and Kathleen Turner famously baring all for her portrayal of Mrs. Robinson. Film and TV roles followed, including a part in The Ring Two. Overton has also been busy with a project of her own, a low-budget indie thriller called The Collective that she co-wrote and co-directed with husband Judson Pearce Morgan. In it, she plays a woman who rushes to New York City after getting a cryptic voice mail message from her sister, who has since disappeared. Her search points the way to a creepy, clandestine society that, judging by the film's trailer, loves getting freaky in old cathedrals. The Collective will premiere in New York on May 31st as part of the Brooklyn International Film Festival, with a second screening on June 5th. Details here.
What inspired The Collective? A couple things. One was an article we’d recently read about that Gothic Cathedral on 22nd and 6th which was sold in the late 60’s and turned into a club, The Limelight. That dichotomy, of the sacred and the secular, was an interesting playground for us to place our story. We’d also been having lots of conversations at the time about all these new religions that seemed to be popping up. I remember one everyone was talking about was from that book, The Secret.
Have you always been interested in secret societies or cults? Yes, ever since I was a little girl I have been fascinated with them. Growing up I was always creating my own little secret societies. One was a group of about 15 girlfriends, we called ourselves MBFL (Midnight Bitches For Life)… it lasted about 2 weeks. But that sense of loyalty and secrecy is powerful as a young adult.
Do you think the film taps into a personal fear that comes from being a woman alone in a major city? Not for me personally. I moved to NY, alone, at 18 and I wasn’t scared. On the contrary, I shaved my head and looked for trouble! But, yes, we know many women who have a lot of fear being alone in NY. And I do think it’s a universal thing that we can all relate to on some level. Whether it’s for our own safety, or fear for our daughters/wives/sisters.
What’s the best reaction you’ve gotten so far from someone who’s watched it? Well, a pretty well-known producer said he was so scared he had to stop watching it; he finished it the following morning. There is something about the movie that touches on something very real for people; they are more scared by the story because they find it so realistic.
Why did you choose to set the movie in New York? First, it was inspired by events that happened in NY. Secondly, NY is our artistic home and a place we feel most creatively alive. It is also the birthplace of independent film in America, no better place to shoot a movie. It’s just cinematic in every way.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when making this movie? We had insane deadlines. We basically had no pre-production and had to shoot the film in 14 days. Needless to say, we had to keep adding more make-up to the bags under my eyes. Since I was directing/producing and starring, it was a 20 hour day every day, and mostly shooting through the middle of the night. Nuts.
Would you want to direct again? Absolutely, I look forward to it and have a couple projects in the works.
Do you think it was healthy for your marriage to work on such an intense project together? There was a point when we were first writing the script that we realized the intensity of what we were doing. That we were collaborating artistically on a new level, which was very intimate and vulnerable, and how easy it was to damage that, especially since we’re both so opinionated. But we quickly discovered the key was to never say “no” to the other person’s idea. We had a few tough spots after that, but all in all it was better than we could’ve imagined. A total collaboration. In fact, the experience of making this film together has enriched our marriage very much.
You shot this on HD video, which directors like Sidney Lumet now prefer. If you had the budget, would you shoot on film next time? Good question. When we started the blog for our film, the first entry Judson added was about that very thing. We love the format and for our company’s films, it is the only way to go.
Do you have a memorable anecdote you can share about working on The Graduate with Kathleen Turner and Jason Biggs? I have many but not sure they can be shared! Alright, Kathleen took me into her dressing room one time when I was up for a lead role in a new TV show. I’d been agonizing over whether I should turn down the offer or take it, and she gave me sage advice, “You will be just as known for the roles you turn down as for the one’s you accept.” I ended up passing on the project.
You’ve been in horror movies like The Ring Two. Do you like scary movies? I’m not a big fan of the guts and gore genre, it’s just not my thing. I do love a good “based on real events” thriller; the easier it is to believe the more I’m sucked in.
What’s next for you? I just finished shooting the film TEKKEN based on the video game of the same name to be released later this year. I play Christie Monteiro.
What neighborhood do you live in? We sort of divide our time between NY and LA, but home base for now is LA. Judson and I have lived all over NY. I’ll always have a place in my heart for the east village since that’s where I lived as a student, but I’d have to say the Lower East Side and Nolita are my current favorite neighborhoods and where we’ve lived most recently.
Do you have a favorite New York bar to unwind? During production, our spot to unwind was Nolita House.
What about your favorite restaurant at the moment? Mahmoud’s.
If you could change one thing about New York what would it be? Human Feces in the subway.
Please share a weird or otherwise memorable encounter/experience you’ve had on the streets or subways of New York. Ah, man, there were so many…One time my friend and I were walking home from a bar and she got pegged in the head by a drive-by banana. That was pretty weird.