“Wannabe” is a 13 minute 33 second short written and directed by USC graduate Josie Andrews that will screen at the Nashville Film Festival, which opens September 29th.
It is bound to impress, as it is very slick, sophisticated, and timely—not necessarily in that order.
Quite apart from the original song performed in the short (“Control,” written by Michael Lloyd, Greg O’Connor and Writer/Director Josie Andrews, and performed by the Alley Kats), two things stood out, to me, about this impressive short.
First, the Director’s statement (from Josie Andrews), who graduated Salutatorian of her USC 2018 film class, and, second, the setting of the short, of which Director Andrews said: “We were lucky enough to shoot our performance + exterior scenes at Sunset Strip’s iconic Viper Room before its demolition while all backstage spaces were replicated and built on stage at USC.”
Here, in her own words, is Josie Andrews’ story of the inspiration for the short film’s story:
“Although I knew I wanted to be a storyteller from the day I was born, this is not a story I ever thought I’d tell.
I got my toes wet doing community theater and by second grade I was scouring backstage.com for auditions in New York, calling everyone in my parents’ phone book, begging someone to take me. To all of our shock, I booked my first national tour at 8 years old and continued on to perform full-time.
While my many years onstage taught me what it meant to be a good collaborator, it did not teach me what it meant to be a woman navigating Hollywood. Graduating early and moving to L.A.on my own at 16, other women’s stories in acting classes reinforced that objectification and harassment were commonplace and not to be questioned. So, when I entered USC as an undergraduate acting major and utilized my student status to intern at places such as Lionsgate, NBC Universal and The Weinstein Company, I thought I had no choice but to tolerate explicit texts and inappropriate advances from my superiors.
It wasn’t until an unknown assailant broke into my hotel room and raped me while I was traveling out of the country that my capacity for abuse reached a boiling point. For the first time in my life, I went to the police only to be told that despite security tapes and witnesses, pressing charges would involve staying in the country for a lengthy trial, thus not returning to school.
While my body returned to school, my spirit did not. Void of confidence, I dropped my major and stopped performing altogether, losing my identity. But hiding in the back of a cinema studies lecture, I had a revelation: perhaps I was still a storyteller, just a different kind than I initially thought. Perhaps the real agency lay behind the camera; perhaps that’s where I had to be to regain my own.
Wannabe is not just a plea to believe those who have come forward, but a cry to consider the thousands who have not.”
Ms. Andrews has woven the story of a girl band from the raw material of her personal experience coping with rape. In these days of MeToo, the mention of Harvey Weinstein is enough. It took investigative journalism by Mia Farrow’s son Ronan and brave victims to ultimately bring Weinstein to justice after years of abuse.
From this raw material, Josie Andrews has fashioned the story of a girl band trio. the Space Girls, that is auditioning in the hopes of catching on with a producer who can help them achieve stardom. The role of the record producer who offers them a helping hand is played by veteran music producer Peter Zizzo as Landon.
Zizzo, in real life, has a lengthy history of musical successes in producing records for many well-known groups and soloists, including Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne, Jason Mraz, Billy Porter, Brie Larson, M2M, Pixie Lott,
BeBe and CeCe Winans (Grammy Winner: Best Gospel Album). Here he plays a straight dramatic supporting role.
As the female trio concludes their performance of the (original) song “Control” the lead singer, Jada (Margo Parker, known from Lifetime’s “If Walls Could Talk,” “Girls Night Out,” and “Retrograde L.A.”) recognizes the man taking notes on a clipboard leaning against the bar as her rapist. He feigns complete ignorance and innocence of the crime.
The Space Girls—lead singer Jada, Sky (Daisy Lopez) and Bianca (Victoria T. Washington)—are eager to be given that Big Break that every wannabe group dreams of, but should Jada agree to work with the man who raped her but suffered no consequences?
She is obviously torn, and the group members are, as well. There is even a suggestion that Jada may not be positive that Landon (Peter Zizzo) was the true culprit.
This was the first USC post-pandemic production, and it is the product of a largely All Female cast. Cinematography was by Luke Evans; Production design by Colin Sheehan; Art direction by Hannah Kelly; Costume Design by Cristina Acevedo; Music by Greg O’Connor and Michael Lloyd; and Editing by Foustene Fortenbach.
Aside from the performance by the fictional group, which is good, the recreation of the Viper Room on a back lot is impressive. The L.A. hang-out was partially owned by Johnny Depp until 2004. It was the famous location outside of which actor River Phoenix collapsed and died on October 31, 1993, almost 30 years ago. River Phoenix was only 23 years old. He died of what is popularly known as a speedball, ingested at the club. (A speedball is a combination of heroin and cocaine.)
The once-thriving nightclub the Viper Room is being razed. If you ever wondered what the Viper Club looked like inside, this might be your only chance to find out.
Kudos to the nearly All Female cast and crew that has produced “Wannabe.” Very well-done and very professional in every respect. You get the impression that the “wannabes” are on their way to becoming successful in the film industry.
(Pictured, Writer/Director Josie Andrews with star of “Wannabe” Margo Parker, as Jada.)