Bella Thorne is expanding her resume with work behind the camera…
The 25-year-old half-Cuban American actress/singer, who has some 130 credits after nearly 20 years in Hollywood, recently debuted her short film Paint Her Red and also guest curated the ‘Influential Shorts’ evening at the Taormina Film Festival for which she presented a diverse selection of half a dozen cutting edge works.
It’s part of Thorne’s next chapter as she strives to make her mark behind the camera.
“Directing has always been something that I’ve just loved. When I’m on set, I’m behind the camera. I’m asking the DP questions. I’m wondering, and that’s always been how it was for me since really, really young,” Thorne told Deadline.
Thorne’s short, an unapologetically raw work, co-stars her and young influencer Julet Sterner in a series of powerful vignettes showing a woman’s journey as she struggles to break free of the patriarchy and the implications of the male gaze.
“The whole film is like a giant metaphor for what we feel like, these boxes that we were born into, the song that we keep singing… you sing this song and then at some point, you say, what are the words to this song? Do I know the words. You look around and you’re kind of questioning but you’re dancing too,” said Thorne.
“That’s why that line I wrote is in there – I just keep on dancing and they want me to keep dancing – I think that that’s a nice metaphor for society and how we feel and how we just keep going, even through all the warning signs… we just still keep dancing.”
Thorne’s character emerges as a movie starlet whose life appears to be embroiled with a seedy cigar-smoking producer, with the storyline hinting at a murky backdrop of sexual harassment and abuse.
The actress, who has spoken openly about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child, says the film is not uniquely about the film industry.
“It’s much bigger than Hollywood. The story is told within this outlook but it’s really something that no matter where you go in life, you’re finding it,” she said.
In the final scene, the actress breaks free of a male body suit to reveal her true self.
“The ending started with an idea of how it feels to take him off you. I’ve spoken about this in the past. When you have been abused and sexually abused, you kind of wear it on your skin, like a dirty cologne, that is just attached to you, you can’t get him off you. You look in the mirror and he’s there, he’s all over your face and your skin and, and there’s something horrifying about that.”
Israeli writer, director and producer Oren Moverman provides the male voiceover mixing poetry and prose, through which the protagonist tells her story for most of the film.
“I have worked on some other things with Oren and he’s just such an amazing writer and amazing creator… He’s always taken an interest in me as a director and said,’ I know you’ve got it in you, kiddo,” recounted Thorne.
“He was like, ‘I don’t act.’ And I’m like, ‘Can you come to this ADR booth, please. And here’s the script, here’s the short, it would really mean the world to me. He loved it, so he did it and trusted me with it.”
Thorne says that the move into directing with Paint Her Red is a natural progression after years of using writing as a means to process explore and process past traumas and events in her life.
As Paint Her Red began its festival journey at Taormina, Thorne has already shot another short film based on a harrowing true story recounted to the actress by a close friend, who then insisted on playing their own role in the work.
“I felt like it would help them get through this time in their life. We just shot it and he wanted to act as himself… the bravery and the courage that it takes somebody to relive these kinds of things,” she says.
The actress-filmmaker reveals that she is so pleased with the end result that she now plans to expand the work to feature-length movie.
“Once you start you just can’t stop. It’s kind of like a tattoo. You just get more and more obsessed and in love and you just keep adding,” she says of her newfound love of directing.