The desire to belong can take people to extremes. In Liza Anonymous, the character of Liza takes it too far. Liza is a lonely millennial addicted to support groups who disguises herself in different personas trying to find her sense of belonging in the world, leading her on a very theatrical journey.
This feminocentric short film led by an award-winning all-women team (Writer, Director, Producer, and Director of Photography) will have its World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival.
Reel 360 spoke with two of the women on this film who made a name for themselves in their own right, even before collaborating on this project. The Latinx writer Leah McKendrick, is also the writer of the Paramount project Summer Lovin’, the Grease prequel, and the director Aubrey Smyth, is a commercial director with successes spanning 10 years on spots like Netflix, Google, Amazon, and more.
Katie Rosin serves as producer, Chloe Smolkin as cinematographer, and Danielle Beckmann stars as Liza.
The film’s conception was one formed in female camaraderie at Chapman college years ago where writer McKendrick and actress Danielle Beckmann were studying. Leah recalls the inspiration for this film being, “a desire to create a vehicle for Danielle‘s talent, and the many faces within the beauty of support groups was a perfect place for Danielle to show her range.”
The actress is certainly allotted that stage to showcase all her colors as Liza attends support groups taking on the existence of a shopaholic, an alcoholic, gambling addict, and an overeaters anonymous member. This desperate search for this character to fit in gets Liza wrapped up in a tangle of lies and ill-informed emulation. As her charade of masks crumbles, she learns that imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery, but for the actress Danielle this was a true “gift to an actress” that Leah created for her.
After writing this love letter of a script for Danielle, the actress found the perfect female director to help bring Leah’s vision and Danielle’s dream to life, Aubrey Smyth. As soon as Aubrey read the script she was aesthetically struck with inspiration by the story, which is clear in the vibrant and neon-colored style the film radiates.
This short was a natural next step for this established commercial director she tells us because “narrative comedy is where my heart is at.” This director brings her sharp, technical skill to tell this story and even some of her own wardrobe to make it personal.
Aubrey confesses, “every different support group character of Liza’s, she is wearing a personal item of mine; I have a passion for wardrobe and props and I believe a character is defined by the objects they have and wear, so it’s very personal to have some of myself infused in wardrobe.”
What the director and writer very much have in common— besides the creation of this female film— is a passion to tell stories about empowered women.
Leah expressed her desire to continue to tell female-driven stories from the “female perspective and experience that haven’t yet been told.” Using this short film, Aubrey plans to move into TV and Film and is interested in telling stories of “empowered women and the kinds of female characters that break molds and break tropes and may not necessarily be likable.”
The search for belonging and community is the heart of this film, and the way these women came together behind the camera to create their own community and support group of women in film is truly a case of life imitating art.
As they have their world premiere at Tribeca, Liza and the team of women have certainly found a place to belong.
Megan Penn reports on the indie film market and anything that empowers women and underrepresented groups.