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Besties: Q&A w/ Director Rebecca Cutter


I was able to catch up with Rebecca Cutter, director of the indie film Besties, and get some questions answered regarding her directorial debut. If you’re not familiar with the name you’re most likely familiar with her work as she’s a writer on the popular show the Mentalist, and also worked on the movie Resurrecting the Champ, and the short, Eating. Besties is a film about two high school girls, Ashley (Madison Riley) and Sandy (Olivia Crocicchia), who commit murder and decide to cover it up, and become closer as a result of maintaining this dark secret. Sandy has always looked up to the older and popular Ashley to the point of it becoming an obsession so covering up murder was part of that. But things only became more complicated as the lies, deception and obsession threatened to reveal their secret. It has been compared to classic thrillers such as Single White Female.

Me: Do you think it was a lack of a mother in Sandy’s life that made her look up to Ashley so much or was it just wanting the popularity and life that Ashley had?

Rebecca: Yeah, we don’t spend a lot of time about her mom being gone but I think that’s a huge part of it. Her dad is a good guy, he’s not a bad dad but he’s not really equipped to be parenting a teenage girl. And so there is a void and Ashley filled that void. And at the same time, you know, that (age) is when you want to be cool. And you want to be as cool as the kids you see and you want what they have. So it’s definitely social but I’m glad you picked up the aspect about her mother.

Me: I noticed how after  they ended up burying the body, Ashley still took the money from Sandy’s father. And I was wondering did she do that because she was trying to maintain a certain cover or was she really just that disconnected with how she turned Sandy’s life upside down?

Rebecca: It was intended as the latter. You know, she’s really out for number one in all situations and she signed on to that weekend because she was gonna get paid and she could have everybody there (by agreeing to babysit Sandy). And so she’s gonna get everything that’s coming to her. She’s that out of touch with her actions.

Me: Later in the movie Sandy and Ashley were talking and Sandy was drunk and opening up to Ashley. And Ashley starts telling her a little about how she met Justin (the one they murdered) and she was attracted to an older man who could basically dazzle her with things because she was younger. And as she got older she realized how many different things about that situation was wrong. So what was it about that life that she found attractive to begin with? Was it the money, was it her family life? She was as much a victim in a lot of ways as anyone else.

Rebecca: Unfortunately, women I think are often attracted to, it’s such a cliché, but a bad boy. Especially since he was very aggressive. And when casting him it was yeah, he’s dirty, he’s  bad but he is sexy. And he has that innate power that some men have when they have appeal and are aggressive and know how to work that. But I think in Ashley’s life just as you commented on Sandy missing a mother and the void that left, Ashley’s father is also missing and not part of her life. And you see her mother is kinda trashy and overly sexual and always looking for a man. And she was given a role model with the idea of being sexy at all costs, looking for a man, and work men for what she can get from them. So it was in her character to be set up to be that kind of girl. But you’re right, she was also a victim. She was underage when she was with him.


Me: When they were at Chad’s party after they committed murder, Sandy stood up to Ashley after she talked to Justin’s brother. Was it just the alcohol speaking that time or did she have another reason why she stood up?

Rebecca: I think it was partly the alcohol talking and I did want to set that up for later that she is able to speak her mind more when she’s drunk because that does happen at the end of the movie as well. But um, I think also it was the first time a boy was paying attention to her and wanted her. It looked like she was flattered and she was in a new situation where she was finally with the cool kids. And they were treating her like a pretty girl and then Ashley comes and humiliates her in front of them. It’s just like the difference between the two of them in a bathing suit. Ashley comes in with her bikini and big boobs and steals all the attention and it pissed (Sandy) off. And the alcohol gave her enough confidence to stick up for herself in that situation.

Me: Later Ashley came to apologize to her and she gave her a present for her birthday and they pretty much hugged and made up. And she even brought up Sandy’s mother saying she remembered her. Was that a genuine gesture or just pure manipulation on her part?

Rebecca: I definitely think she was trying to bring Sandy back into the fold and back in line so it was manipulative. But at the same time I think what makes Ashley appealing is she believes in herself and I think in general most people when they’re doing bad things aren’t self-aware enough to know they’re doing bad things. I don’t know if the character would know she was being manipulative but yes I think that’s part of it. That scene is about her bringing her back in line. But I think also the actors brought a lot to this (because) they were genuinely fond of each other. And so it’s not all one-dimensional with everyone doing the most logical things for their characters, they’re also fond of each other.

Me: Yeah, Ashley remembered some of the songs and the things they used to do when they were younger so I felt some of it was genuine. When something like (murder) happens and people try to cover up a crime they don’t think straight all the time. So I couldn’t tell if it was partly because of that and she was in shock just like Sandy. And (the fact) they didn’t call police I pretty much chalked that up to age, and I guess some naiveté about how the police would have addressed that situation because I believe that they would have been able to get off easily because he attacked them and it would’ve been self-defense. And there wasn’t much they would have looked into considering he was just out of jail but I know that Ashley panicked when he told her that the police was looking into (his prior arrest) and how her future would’ve been damaged if all of that was uncovered.

Rebecca: I really wanted to hammer that home and I know that is an issue in the movie because they would get off probably. But in her mind her relationship to Chad, her reputation and her ability to probably get out is more important than the reality that she wouldn’t go to jail but her life would definitely be impacted and…she’s looking out for number one. So in her mind that’s the easier and softer way, just get rid of the body and act like it didn’t happen. Clearly not a smart decision but that’s the logic of the character.


Me: I think you did a great job in conveying that especially since they didn’t know what to do with the body afterwards. They didn’t come off as capable murderers who had the ultimate plan about how to dispose of a body. They pretty much just rolled it down a hill and thought that would be enough. That aspect of it made it clear that they didn’t know what to do and were pretty much winging it. So that was clear to me. What wasn’t clear to me was when Ashley knew that Sandy was attracted to or if it was even a sexual attraction? Ashley appeared to be shocked (when Sandy kissed her) but she did know Sandy spied on her so was she using that as a way to keep Sandy under control?

Rebecca: I think she’s always using her sexuality in every situation, with the police, with Chad, with Sandy’s father. I think that’s just who she is and she knows she looks great, she knows all eyes are on her and she knows she has power from her looks because she was raised to use that power. And Sandy is this underdeveloped girl, younger and I think she knows Sandy is attracted to her and wants what she has. The idea of the girl crush is what inspired this movie, the idea that you want what they have, you want to be them and it kind of blends into you want them. And I think somewhere in her she’s aware that’s the relationship she has with Sandy but she’s not gonna put out, she’s not gonna go there with Sandy. She was using her sexuality but she was intending to go anywhere with it so she shuts Sandy down.

Me: There was a really interesting moment when Sandy was throwing up and her father came and found her. And when she was apologizing, the father said he’s not the right one to lecture her about partying. He seemed to be a little distant in terms of giving Sandy any type of guidance, was it because of a party life he used to live or was it because the way the mother left and did that affect his raising Sandy.

Rebecca: A scene that got cut from the movie where he was smoking pot and it was to imply (that). He’s one of those guys who totally means well but wasn’t meant to be a single dad. And he’s a little bit in over his head. And he basically has a good kid who’s doing fine in school so he kinda doesn’t want to know if there’s more. She seems ok, he doesn’t want to dig too deep and he’s not really equipped to be a single dad.


Me: I know the relationship Sandy started forming with Justin’s brother became crucial in her distancing herself from Ashley, at least that’s the way it came off to me. Every single time she dealt with him she would respond to Ashley in a more assertive way. So what was it that ultimately helped Sandy be free? Was it the relationship with him or being able to find peace with her own history?

Rebecca: A lot of it has to do with him and finally having a real friend, and learning what a real friend is compared to what she had with Ashley. And seeing the effect of her actions really hurting someone. That void she was looking for Ashley to fill, she finally filled it, and he makes (her actions in covering up the murder) real for her.

Me: This was your first time directing a full-length movie, what was the experience like for you if you compare it to the shorter films that you directed?

Rebecca: It was hard, man. It’s a low-budget movie so everyone who was working wasn’t getting paid, shooting for free here and there. And I hadn’t directed for years since I was in film school so it was a little terrifying…and exhilarating, exciting, fun and awful…all of those rolled into one. It was a big endeavor and I had a one year old baby and a full-time job at the same time so there was a lot going on at once but it was great.

Me: Are you interested in doing more work as a director or do you prefer being a writer?

Rebecca: Now that I write for television, I didn’t at the time, I really love writing for TV. It’s really a writer’s medium and writers have a lot more power in television compared to features. So it’s really fun writing something and then seeing it (in action) through a very well oiled machine, and seeing it work better on TV. It’s very gratifying and it’s a very smooth process compared to features. For me, I can’t imagine directing if I hadn’t written it. It’s too hard a job, the hours are too long and it’s too hectic. Unless it’s my vision, something that I love and I wrote, and I’m the only one that can direct it, then I don’t have an interest in just directing some project. I say that now, maybe if someone offered me a million dollars to direct something I will.

Me: So what future projects are you working on now?

Rebecca: Well I’m writing for the Mentalist now. And I am working on a TV pilot and I also have in the back of my mind another feature I want to work on but haven’t started writing it yet.

(And in response to advice for aspiring writers)

Rebecca: I think a lot of younger writers want to write something like something they’ve seen, a writer they know, or type of movie (they know) and want to fit into a genre. And that’s fine but I would say when you’re not in the industry yet and no one is paying any attention to you yet, write something really fresh and a story that you’re uniquely qualified to tell. Find that thing that only you can write. You have the rest of your career to try to figure out the market and write something like Star Wars or like Twilight. But when you’re out there and you’re just trying to get attention, go crazy and..really find your voice. Even if Hollywood seems to be churning out the same shit over and over again, they are looking for fresh voices all the time.

Besties is available on VOD now

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