A millennial coming-of-age story, Teenage Cocktail has been making waves through the SXSW film festival. The plot centers on two teenagers and their turbulent escape from a small town to NYC, with the monetary help of theft and webcam modelling.
Larry sat down with the cast members Fabianne Therese and Nicole Bloom along with director John Carhiette and producers Travis Stevens and David Atlan-Jackson to try and better understand the internal motives of the film.
Larry: Congratulations on the film, how do you feel the screening went yesterday? Was it the first time watching with an audience?
John: Yeah it was. It was fun, it seemed like everyone was having fun, it was full house, I think. People were laughing at the jokes, which is good, I think it went well.
That’s always the panic you have before a screening, ‘will the audience laugh at the things we think are funny?’
John: Jokes are tough man, you never know
Nicole: You had a line about being judged by that many people.
John: Yeah, I’ve never been judged by that many people in one sitting. It’s terrifying.
Well the response seems to be positive so far. So what attracted you to the role, what did you find in these characters that you hadn’t seen before that made you want to be a part of the film?
Fabianne: They both felt very whole, and I felt that I could connect with both of them. I think we were both up for both roles in the beginning too. He (John) wanted to find actresses that could play both roles. And I really related to Jules’s deep sense of insecurity and the need to be a [and] have my “ride-it-up bitch”.
Nicole: For me it was the opportunity to play a character from the start to finish of a film because I’m used to guest starring in an episode of something, and its rare to get handed a script and someone’s like I want you to play one of the leads to this movie. And like Fabianne said, we were up for either role, and I didn’t care which one I was going to be, I was going to figure it out.
Fabianne: I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there aren’t as many fully formed women (roles) in Hollywood, as there should be. And it’s rare to get a script with two women roles that both have full stories, and full lives and room to create and you’re not constricted to the archetype of being the bitch, or the slut, or the victim which is the most common thing that I’ve read.
Nicole: Also being half-Asian and not fitting a certain mould. I’m not the white girl, I’m not the super Asian girl so I rarely get offered big characters, so the fact that someone like John wanted to overlook my physical appearance and it didn’t matter to him what my race was, was really refreshing and I appreciate it so much as I rarely get the opportunity.
Fabianne: Or if you do get the opportunity, you’re matched with someone who does fit the mould so you’re playing the quirky, or ethnically ambiguous (role), or filling in a place. The best roles should be ones where, if you couldn’t imagine somebody of any race or any person in that role then you probably need to re-write it.
For you, John, I imagine it was just that they were simply the best actors for the role
John: Yeah, just going into what they were saying, we saw hundreds of faces and a lot of it was just the same thing that you would expect in a high school movie like the blonde and the brunette, and I wasn’t going to turn down anyone who could kill the role, but it just came down to, this is my reality, I grew up in such an extreme diversity that I don’t even understand the concept of the word anymore. It’s just normal and natural to me, so it didn’t matter that she was half-Asian, I just didn’t care.
Nicole: I hope it continues to be a trend, there’s all this diversity talk right now, like I want to show where we have a black person a Latino person a Pilipino person and everyone’s making a huge deal out of it, but I feel that should be the norm.
TV is doing a great job at the moment
Fabianne: Still sometimes with television though it feels forced, and when you see something like the new Star Wars at no point was there a wink to the camera like ‘It’s a girl, it’s tough for a girl’. It was just a girl and a black guy and they were great and it could have been anything else but it was them and that’s the kind of diversity instead of ‘we’re having a black person, a transgendered person and an Asian person’.
And that’s what it takes, people just doing it. There are always excuses but all it takes is people like you to realise it doesn’t matter. The great thing about the type of characters you play is that despite what happens to them they are never victims, it’s just an unfortunate series of circumstances, would you agree with that?
Nicole: I don’t know if it’s an unfortunate series of consequences I think it’s just that they are figuring out that actions have consequences and when you are in high school for the first time that’s what happens, your parents aren’t making your decisions for you. You are having to, for the first time, face repercussions for whatever it is that you decided to do, and I think they’re getting away with things so they keep pushing it a step further and a step further, and it’s their own choice which is also the empowering thing about the movie. Nobody put them in this position, nobody made them victims, they put themselves in that position.
That for me is why they are never blamed, they are just teenagers
John: Naive teenagers
Nicole: And you seem to do a great job on not having judgement on that, (not) shaming them for it. It’s just their story and it’s told from your point of view, which is obviously going to be sympathetic for why they’re doing what they’re doing.
There are no moments of shaming in it; it’s more ‘this is what the world’s like when you’re young’
Travis: That’s the thing it’s not a movie about the dangers of webcamming or the exploitation of these two characters
John: When you’re a teenager in your own mind you’re immortal, you know, nothing can hurt you.
Nicole: And everybody goes through different stages of that in the movie, the parents, even the principle, nobody is really a great person or a horrible person, which is totally specific to their character and something I really loved.
And from the producer’s side, what attracted you to the film?
David: The script at first, like you say it wasn’t judgemental, it was about teenagers, but because I’m based in France, we didn’t have the gender issue, it wasn’t the same for us, and as John was a first timer we still needed some extra proof of what the film could be. So they showed us, Travis and John, a short clip that they made and that clip made the whole difference.
Travis: For me it just John. We’d worked together on other movies, in different capacities, he would come to test screenings and just have the sharpest feedback and notes and he said I want to make a movie, could than anything.
John: Well I was going to pitch them the script I have about a stapler.
So where does the film go from here, what’s next?
John: Worldwide blockbuster
Travis: Finding distributors, it would be nice to find somebody who respects the film doesn’t just hype up the exploitive concept, someone who’s going to sell this as a love story.
Larry: My last question is about online social media use, is there anything you could relate to from this film that you have experienced yourself? (Particularly in digital space)
Fabieanne: I’m in my mid 20’s now so I think it’s interesting to think about what it’s like for high school kids now. There’s Snapchat and just so much more then when I was in high school and even now me and my friends are in our twenties and we still talk about Snapchat and Instagram, so I think it’s pretty accurate
Nicole: I have an experience in high school right at where that shift was happening, where online was becoming a tool for evil. There were these kids from a neighboring high school and I got bullied a lot when I first moved to the States from Austria, they started a live journal, completely dedicated to hating me. They would call me and play the Kill Bill soundtrack and tell me to do horrible things and I had no idea who they were because it’s faceless, you can say anything to someone. I brought it to the school and they had never dealt with this before and didn’t know how to deal with it, like, there’s no culprit and it’s on the Internet.
Nicole: I think it’s so important to have the same repercussions online as you would have in real life, because it’s such a horrible and cowardly way to bully and to intimidate that people get away with, and I think they are starting to figure out the laws of the Internet and how to police that more, but when I was in High School, it was just ‘well, don’t look at it’ and it was so much worse than any face to face interaction I’ve ever had because you’re alone.
Travis: That’s how I feel about bad reviews, this faceless bullying bastard.
John: The difference is now it’s forever though, at least I grew up in a split generation where for the first half we didn’t have that technology and then it slowly crept in, that’s why I’m equally fascinated and horrified with technology and Internet because when I grew up and someone had beef they would either have a fight or someone would get picked on after a week everyone would forget about it, but now anyone can do whatever they want and it’s just imprinted for life and you can’t get rid of it.
Thanks for the time
Teenage Cocktail screened at SXSW. To learn more about the film, and find additional screenings click here.