Director Miranda Jean Larson wins “Best Short Film” for “Innocence”

Miranda Jean Larson is an actor, writer, director and producer in New York City. As an actress she works in film, theatre, commercials, and voice over. She is a graduate of Pace University’s BA Acting program with a minor in Film.  

She is the writer, co-director, and one of the producers of the short film “Innocence” and is proud to have this film as her first professional writing, directing and producing credit.

As an actress her theatrical work includes “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” at the Gene Frankel Theatre, “Romeo and Juliet” with Occupy Verona, and “ChristmApocolypse” with Brain Melt Consortium at the Frigid Festival.  She has also worked with her “Innocence” co-director Mike Cicchetti in his graduate thesis film Half-Way.

Thanks to Mom, Dad, Zach, Alex, and Emily and all my amazing friends for their support, and to Mike for taking this story and making it a wonderful reality.

Miranda was recently nominated for Best Duo alongside her co-star Mikayla Desroches for Top Shorts Annual Festival. Innocence won Best Indie Film for Top Shorts in March 2018, and was nominated for Best Indie for their Annual Festival. It also won “Best Short Film” at the 7th Edition of the International Filmmaker Festival of New York.

Hollywood Insider Interview with Director, Producer, Writer and Actress Miranda Jean Larson

Hollywood World: First of all, congratulations to the “Innocence” team for receiving the IFFNY Grand Jury Prize “Best Short Film” Award in New York. How did you feel at the time when you found out?

Miranda Jean Larson: Thank you! Personally, I was very stunned and excited to even be nominated for the top 3 choices of Best Short Film. We had received some great compliments and feedback from the jurors at our screening. But at the same time this was both mine and Mike’s first professional film, and we were up against such amazing work from successful film companies all around the world. It’s such an honor to be recognized for our story and to know that the message that we wanted to get across came through loud and clear.

Hollywood World: What was the most significant decision in shooting your current film?

Miranda Jean Larson: For me, probably picking a collaborator. I had never produced nor directed a film before, and I knew I needed someone who would work well with me and stay true to the story. I’m so happy I picked Mike. He will definitely be a life long friend throughout both of our careers.

Hollywood World: What part of the script/story best stood out for you and why?

Miranda Jean Larson: The way that I wrote the assault scene was something different that I hadn’t really seen anyone else do in any television shows or movies. Rather than seeing a girl being sexually assaulted from the sidelines or in the shadows or seeing the aftermath with a police investigation, I made sure to have the audience experience her trauma from behind her eyes. It makes it so you can’t see the girl as an prop or a story device. She is you.

Innocence Screenshot - Miranda Jean Larson
Innocence Screenshot – Miranda Jean Larson

Hollywood World: Without giving it away, tell us a little bit more about the characters and the lead actors.

Miranda Jean Larson: We have three main characters in the film: the Survivor played by myself, the Young Man who is our assaulter played by Chris Krause, and the little girl Paige played by Mikayla Desroches. We got very lucky with our actors. Mikayla is one of the most professional child actors I’ve ever worked with. She has a natural instinct and rhythm in her acting in addition to being very much aware of what the story was about and how important it was.

Chris Krause was also incredible to work with. Not only did he already have experience working with college campus sexual assault programs, but when we weren’t in the scene, he was consistently asking me if I was all right and making sure the environment was safe emotionally and physically which made it very easy for me as an actor to do what I was there to do and not worry if I was going to be able to get out of the mental space easily. We also credited him as our stunt coordinator as he helped us choreograph that sequence.

Hollywood World: How do you bring this story to life while staying true to your vision as director?

Miranda Jean Larson: As a screenwriter, the story in my head was very vivid even down to the camera’s choreography. I brought what I saw to Mike and to our story boarder Anthony Noto. The hardest part was figuring out how to execute it because a lot of what we filmed was unconventional. There was a lot of experimenting on set with our cinematographer Anthony Zaccone and in the editing room with Mike. In the end, I’m very happy with how it all looks. It evokes the feelings I wanted people to feel, and gets the message across.

Hollywood World: What excites you about this project?

Miranda Jean Larson: The fact that this is my first ever script I’ve written and produced is exciting in itself. But there are also elements of this story that I’ve wanted to use in a project since I was a kid, and that makes my inner child jump up and down in excitement.

Hollywood World: What other works are you most proud of?

Miranda Jean Larson: I’m very proud of a lot of theatre I have done. I’ve had the chance to perform a lot of great roles in professional theaters and on the streets of New York including Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Gene Frankel Theater and as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet with Occupy Verona. I’m also quite proud of the film role I did for Mike’s thesis film Half-Way which is where we met. It was my first proper lead role in a short film.

Hollywood World: What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

Miranda Jean Larson: Growing up I loved a lot of films that were on the darker and weirder sides. I watched a lot of Tim Burton, M. Night Shyamalan, Wes Anderson. But I’m also influenced by a lot of films with magic, love stories, and dry wit. Anything from Devil Wears Prada to Princess Bride.

Hollywood World: What do you do to enhance the collaborative process when working with actors, screenwriters, producers and others creative members?

Miranda Jean Larson: As an actor, I’ve always been appreciative of directors who allow me to play and find something new in the character that works for me that they may not have thought of. It makes the character my own and more comfortable in my skin. As a director, I like to do the same thing, guiding actors through the story and letting them make their own choices. If it doesn’t work, we can always go back and do another take. Same goes for other creative members. The story is always the most important thing to me. Even though I had a specific vision for the camera because it was important to me for the story, I always appreciated someone else’s intake on how the scenes should look. There’s a brilliant shot of my character and the little girl that I never saw in my head. It was suggested on set by my co-director Mike, and now it’s become one of the shots we use for all of our press promotions.

Miranda Jean Larson Headshot (Lauren Toub Photographer)
Miranda Jean Larson Headshot (Lauren Toub Photographer)

Hollywood World: What experiences have you learned from in life? How did that change you and your creative process and the way you go about making films?

Miranda Jean Larson: I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that it truly is ok and absolutely wonderful to be myself. There was a long time during and just after college when I was not confident in who I was at all. I was always trying to fit in thinking of more clever things to say to people; surrounding myself with people who were negative a lot of the time which in turn made me feel negative by nature. It wasn’t until I let all that go and accepted that my imaginative, adventurous self is pretty awesome was when things began to change. Nowadays, my closest friends and I just fit. And by experiencing all of that, it made me a braver person and open to producing films in the first place let alone one of my own writing.

Hollywood World: How do you see your role as a filmmaker?

Miranda Jean Larson: As filmmakers we have a special medium in which we tell stories, and to me it’s a bigger responsibility than even theater might be because films can be shared more frequently all over the world to all kinds of people rather than just those who might go to the theater regularly. Whether we decide to use storytelling to convey a specific message to “change the world” or not, we still inspire people with new ideas even if we don’t mean to. It is human nature to tell stories. It’s how we connect and evolve.

Hollywood World: Which film festivals that you have been part of would you recommend to other filmmakers looking to screen his/her films?

Miranda Jean Larson: I would definitely recommend IFFNY. They treated us so well, and everyone I met including the community of filmmakers that they invited were wonderful. I also highly recommend the online festival Top Shorts. They are a great jumping off point for a short film or a great ending of your festival run to showcase it online. 

Hollywood World: Do filmmakers have any responsibility to culture? What message do you want to convey with your films?

Miranda Jean Larson: Definitely. As I said before, we inspire people through films, and sometimes they can be very culturally relevant. The ironic thing about our film is that I wrote the first draft of this script about sexual assault in 2011 as a college assignment. We were in post production, half way through editing the film, when the MeToo movement kicked off and the Harvey Weinstein scandal came out. It was complete accident that our film is more relevant than we intended, but in a way I’m glad that we made the film when we did, not because it makes it easy to advertise but because it proves that this issue is and has always been a huge problem in human history.

That said, the message I wanted to convey had nothing to do with awareness of sexual assault. The assault aspect just happened to be the trauma I chose for the story. The film is about experiencing trauma and remembering to be happy afterwards; remembering that life doesn’t end after something terrible happens to you. Life goes on, and you can continue to live your fullest life. 

Hollywood World: What other hobbies do you have?

Miranda Jean Larson: I’m a very avid reader. I have a library in my apartment that is my haven.  Most of my decor is related to Beauty and the Beast, Harry Potter, or some other sort of magical inspiration.  I’m also a big traveler. I recently traveled to Scotland for a month to go on adventures there and see the faerie pools and castles. I also love going to a park to just sit in the sun or walk through the rain under the trees and listen to music.

Hollywood World: What do you want to be remembered for in life? What valuable lessons have you learned that helped you become the person you are today?

Miranda Jean Larson: I want to be remembered as a kind and happy person. No matter what else I do with my life, I’d love people to think of me and smile, especially if it’s because they’re remembering something ridiculous I did. The most valuable lessons I have learned are to be kind always, trust your instincts even if they go against what others are saying, and to accept and be yourself.

Hollywood World: What are your top five principles of success?

Miranda Jean Larson: My top 5 principles are 1. Be kind to everyone because reputations travel fast in the business. 2. Keep going. Don’t give up even when it feels like you’re pushing against a wall. There’s a door there somewhere. 3. Go on adventures. Get out into the world even if it’s in the nearest local cafe. Meet people. Learn about new cultures. Grow as a person. That is how your write great stories. 4. Breathe. 5. Keep learning. One thing my parents always taught me is to never stop learning… about yourself, about the world, new skills, old skills. Even if you’re an expert in your own field, you must always keep learning.

Hollywood World: What’s next?

Miranda Jean Larson: I’m writing some new works including my first feature film. And while we run the film circuit I’m continuing with my acting career in classes, auditions, coaching others, and performing.

Innocence Co-Dir_Prod_Screenwriter Miranda Jean Larson at the IFFNY Red Carpet
Miranda Jean Larson – Screenwriter, Producer, Co-Director, Actor “Survivor” in Innocence at the IFFNY Red Carpet

 

*Cover Photo Credit: Photo by Ilir Rizaj (On the photo, Mike Cicchetti and Miranda Jean Larson, winners of Best Short Film at the International Filmmaker Festival of New York. 

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