Breckenridge Film Festival screens world premiere of ‘Waterlily Jaguar,’ directorial debut of Melora Walters
Melora Walters, known for her acting roles in “The Butterfly Effect” and “Big Love” has always considered herself an artist. “Even when I was little I would write little stories under my drawings,” she said. During an illustration class at the Pratt Institute, she fell in love with acting when she read about theater legend Konstantin Stanislavski’s system to better pose her models. After acting and writing for years, she’ll have her directorial debut on Saturday at the Breckenridge Film Festival with the world premiere of “Waterlily Jaguar.”
Produced by Mark Mathias Sayre, Walters, Jonathan Piumelli and others, the film tells the story of a struggling novelist, Bob, wanting to write the next greatest novel so that his work is taken more seriously. However, his pursuit of success puts him at odds with his wife (Sorvino), assistant (Stacey Oristano) and agent (Dominic Monaghan).
“As an artist myself, I’m exploring an artist and what it’s like to create,” Walters, who also wrote and directed the film, said.
Sayre added that the creative struggle is very relatable. “I think that’s certainly a reality for a lot of artists and I think it’s interesting to think about how creating art can be so powerful.”
Both Sayre and Walters have had a passion for filmmaking for years.
“I was one of those kids who knew what they wanted to do when I was 12,” Sayre said. “I had the camcorder and the cardboard boxes and was making movies. As an adolescent I was doing it for families and for school.”
Sayre always wanted to become a director, but his path took him to production, where he’s been for roughly the past 12 years.
Though Walters has starred in big productions, she became depressed when she was primarily casted in small support roles and minor guest appearances. About eight years ago Sorvino and Christopher Backus, who plays Helen’s assistant Jackson, approached Walters and told her they’d appear in a film she wrote and directed.
“I thought ‘Why not? Why not make something you love and continue? Step further into the forest past your comfort zone.’ Mira and Chris really encouraged me to think about that. So I did it. And I loved it.”
After meeting Sayre on the set of Lexicon Entertainment’s “Doubting Thomas,” and with high-end technology becoming more accessible, Walters decided to finally bring a script she had as a draft for years to life.
Before production began, however, she had to show the script to a director she’s worked with before on films such as “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia,” “The Master” and others: Paul Thomas Anderson.
“I call it the ‘Papal Blessing,’” Walters said. “He, to me, is our best filmmaker. If Paul says go for it, then I go for it.”
Inspired by classic directors like Ingmar Bergman, John Cassavetes and Federico Fellini, Walters aimed to make the world as real as possible and explore relationships. For instance, Bob’s wife Helen is an artist and begins to paint differently when emotions are fraught between her and Bob.
“It was very important that they all have their own lives and they were real people,” said Walters. “The actors we hired are like trained racehorses. Their performances are beautiful and they just came in and gave it their all. I told them it’s about your character, not whose number one on the call sheet. … All of the performances are heartbreaking and beautiful. … The energy was like having some kind of religious experience.”
“I think it’s a film that’s designed to make you feel and think,” Sayre said. “I think that can be uncomfortable for some people but I think it’s important. If done well it can be very powerful, which I would like to think we’ve done here.”
Along with the cast, Walters and Sayre praised the crew for their dedication to shoot the film in about 15 days, despite a small budget and last-minute location changes. “It really takes an army to make a movie,” Sayre said. “I’m amazed that any movie gets made, ever, in my opinion.”
“The film wouldn’t be the film it is without them,” Walters added.
Walters, Sayre, Sorvino, James Le Gros, Backus, Piumelli and Steven Swadling will be in attendance for a Q&A following the film. Sayre and Walters hope the film will continue to be screened at festivals around the world and eventually have a theatrical release. They plan on continuing their collaboration in the industry with other works in the future.
“I’m so happy this is opening at the Breckenridge Film Festival because it makes it real,” Walters said.
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