The latest from provocative filmmaker Simon Rumley, the obsession-fueled thriller Fashionista arrives today on VOD via Freestyle Digital Media. This writer was a big fan of the film after checking it out during last year’s Fantasia Film Festival, so I jumped at the chance to speak with the film’s star Amanda Fuller about her incredibly complex performance in her latest collaboration with Rumley (the duo previously had teamed together on Red, White & Blue).
During our interview, Fuller discussed the appeal of her character, April, a woman so driven by clothes and textiles that her mania begins to spill over into other aspects of her life, and the toll that the role took on her during production on Fashionista. Fuller also chatted about working with her co-stars Ethan Embry and Eric Balfour, collaborating with Rumley, and much more about her experiences making the film as well.
So great to speak with you today, Amanda. Obviously, you and Simon had worked together before, so I’m guessing the decision to come on board this project was pretty easy for you. That being said, from your prospective, what was it about April that really spoke to you and was something that made you go, "I really want to dig into this character,"?
Amanda Fuller: Well, Simon wrote it for me, which right out of gate you're like, "Well, okay, anything he writes for me, I feel like I owe it to him." After working with him on Red, White & Blue, we developed a trust and a bond that is fearless and unbreakable, so if he wrote anything for me I most likely would be game to do it.
He was working on a different script that he was going to have me in, but then we were talking about it, and he decided to scratch that and just rewrite something with me in the focus. When I got the script, though, I became terrified, and I was also ecstatic, too. I was doing Last Man Standing at the time, and really craving a creative challenge, and he definitely gave me one. He doesn't write anything that's not honest. His specialty, I think, is not just the dark and the provocative, but also the rawness of the human existence. And that's why I fell in love with working with him during Red, White & Blue.
And April is definitely in that same vein. Her arc is incredibly complex, almost like we kept peeling away layers to who she is. I'm lucky that I've never had any addictions like that, consciously, but I can definitely relate to loss and all of that jazz. So anytime I see that in a character, where there are new ways to explore those things for myself, and face myself in a new way, then it's just like candy for me. I absolutely loved her, and also felt incredibly sad for her the whole way through, too. She kinda fu**ed me up, but in a good way.
Back when I spoke to Simon, he mentioned the fact that this being sort of a non-linear script to begin with is already a little bit jarring, and then you guys shot stuff out of sequence, which made Fashionista a lot to contend with for you, especially since you’re in nearly every single scene. Was that your biggest challenge on coming into this, riding out that emotional wave that April is constantly facing throughout this movie?
Amanda Fuller: Totally. Once we got Ethan on board, we sat down with him in LA at my house and went through the script. The script went from beginning to end, but it's non-linear, so we spent that time piecing together the actual story, and how everything would get placed in real time. But I knew that was going to be the challenge from the get-go. We shot in 18 days, and it's not the kind of budget of film where you can afford to take that liberty to do anything linear, especially when it’s not written that way. So, from the beginning, I knew that was going to be my biggest challenge.
This was a couple years ago now, so I'm trying to remember exactly the process of it, but there was no holding back, especially because I’m in practically every shot in the film. And we were shooting in 18 days, so there were literally no breaks. There were days I didn't use the restroom. Also, because of all of the changes, where every single change for every single scene was entirely different, all of the in-between set-up times of filming were spent changing me over into something entirely different.
I used that time the best I could to try and get my head around where she was at in her journey, because she goes through so much and it's all emotional and it's all very taxing in that way. But there were different levels of it, and there were different triggers as she deteriorates. My fear was that this character would just be crying the whole movie, and it would just be so uninteresting if April had been written that way. But there's so much more to her story than that, and I knew with Simon that I could just hand all that fear over to him and he would take care of it, and I think he did.
Because you've worked with Simon, where you've already built up that trust, it's probably very easy to go back and reteam with him. Had this been a director you'd never really worked with before and known, would you have been able to do this film if it hadn’t been Simon?
Amanda Fuller: I definitely would have gone for it, because that's why I do this, I love being challenged in new ways and telling stories that scare the shit out of me. I would've been ecstatic no matter where it came from, but knowing it was him, especially because the constraints of the filmmaking process made it into something that was so much more than taking on another role. Even when we did Red, White, & Blue, that was so scary because it wasn’t until I saw his previous work that I was ready to do it. I was like, “Okay, this guy is not deranged. This isn’t going to be some soft-core porn film.” When I saw his work, I knew I could trust him.
What's really interesting about this film to me is that April has two very distinct relationships with two different men. There’s a very different dynamic that we see between the characters of April and Eric versus April and Randall. And I think it's where you have these two halves coming together to make a whole in terms of her identity, and I was curious if that’s something you noticed as well.
Amanda Fuller: Yeah, it's interesting you say that, because it definitely manifested itself that way in the process as well. Ethan and I had worked together before, but we didn't have any scenes together in that film. I knew him from promoting that film, and I knew him through mutual friends, but not really personally. So, I went out on a limb and sent him the script when we were looking for our Eric, and was like, “This is a risk, you don't really know me that well, but we need somebody like you for this shoot.” Luckily, he was on board and so our relationship through the gate just felt like there was a mutual respect there, and there was also a comfortability. And as I mentioned, we went through the script before we went to Austin, and then he came on there for the first couple weeks, so we worked together a lot.
And then Eric, I don't think he signed on until right when we started shooting, or even a week in or something. I've always been a huge admirer of his work, but I didn't know him. I was a little bit more intimidated by him. I didn't know if he was a nice guy or not, yet. So, he came in the last week, and because of the timing of it, it really did feel like we made two different films. [One was] the whole story with Ethan and then he was done and he went home. And when Eric got there, it felt like a whole different film. The dynamics were so different, and although he's an incredibly nice guy, I was tortured by him. So, I think that that energy shifted in a way, and both experiences were equally fulfilling with both actors, but just very different from each other.
Any time you do anything creatively, you always throw a little bit of yourself in there and take a little of it back with you as well. And I'm curious, with Fashionista, what was it that you took away from this experience? I am sure there was a lot to endure, but I'm sure the rewards were great as well.
Amanda Fuller: Yeah, that's a great question. We shot in Austin, Texas, which was a dream, and I was supposed to fly back home, but I couldn't at the end. I was so vexed by her and the experience that I had that I needed to drive. I chose to drive home. It took two or three weeks, almost like taking a sabbatical. I needed to decompress and be myself again, because the experience just did me in. I don't know what part of me is in her, because I played her and got to know this character so intimately. But April was definitely hard to let go of. And working with Ethan and Eric, the connections that we made while shooting, were really hard to let go of, too.
So, a dose of nature was a necessary thing and I was almost devastated at the end of it. But I know I'll hold on to that forever. Every part that I've ever played is always buried within me somehow. She gave me a whole new outlook and awareness, almost like a warning, to not allow certain things to happen. But it's a hard question to answer because there was so much of this experience I took with me once we wrapped.