It’s time to feel EMPOWERED. It’s time to feel BOLD. It’s to feel FREE. Directed by Katherine Dudas and featuring Olivia Blue, Madison Lawlor, and Decker Sadowski, JUNIPER is a film that these beautiful ladies wrote, directed, and starred in…Ok, queens! The storyline is raw, real and really explores the struggles of female friendship giving you an intimate look at the dynamic world of womanhood. What makes this project stand out, even more, is that it was filmed and produced during the COVID-19 pandemic for a low budget. They had a dream and they made it happen! And we love it…
Ladies! Wow, what a project this is. Tell us more about how you all came together to make this happen.
When filming shut down during the pandemic and auditions were non-existent, we all felt a need to stay inspired and productive creatively. Olivia started watching videos from Joe Swanberg and the Duplass Brothers about how they would make movies just with the resources they had, and thought, “We can do that!” We also felt at our age so many of our female friendships were changing as we were all growing into ourselves and we wanted to explore that. Olivia knew instantly that Madison could lead whatever animal this movie would turn into and had recently become friends with Decker. Katherine and her were already work wives so she fearlessly agreed to make this her feature directorial debut. And the power group was formed! The rest is history.
In what ways did each of your anticipations for the film evolve as the filming process moved forward?
Decker: Because this is all of our first times conceptualizing and producing a feature film from start to finish, I don’t think any of us had any idea what we were getting ourselves into. I think we had the benefit of naïveté on our side because all we could do is take one step at a time, not knowing where it would lead us next. It was like a magical staircase where the next step only appeared after finishing the one we were on. If we saw the full staircase at once, it would have been really intimidating!
Madison: The whole experience was anticipation. First we needed money, then we needed to actually shoot the damn thing, and then we needed to make it. From finding the right group of passionate and lovely crew members, to musicians and colorists in the post production process, this entire experience has kept us on our toes. You can never know how a film will actually come together in the end and seeing it come together as it did has been an ever-evolving and beautiful experience.
Olivia: When we were met with so much support, I thought, “This could really be something.” Once the film was finished, we really wanted to premiere at a California festival to celebrate with our community and every step of the way we’ve gained new members of the Juniper family. So it’s definitely escalated!
Katherine: My directing strategy definitely evolved as we moved into production. I always use comedy as a storytelling tool to get the audience to connect deeper with the characters, and it was important to me to have this element featured, especially with the heavy subject matter. Before going into production, I prepared to use camera-work and editing to create comedic moments instead of relying on dialogue considering it was mumblecore. But from the very first scene we filmed, the girls were naturally creating moments that were hilarious, and it was a reminder that life is just fucking funny! That was an amazing revelation.
What does JUNIPER mean to each of you?
Decker: Juniper plants are extremely resilient, surviving the harshest of weather. They also have many healing properties, but, if used in the wrong way, can become toxic. I think this is a great metaphor for great friendships—resilient and healing, and deserve attention and care to make sure they are nourished rather than becoming destructive.
Olivia: And to add-I think it is okay to have friendships that are rocky and painful. Friendship heartbreak is real and it can be hard to know when to fight for a friendship and when to let it go! Our movie explores that.
Madison: To me, it also means that I’ve found a remarkable group of women to create and forge a new side of our careers with. The amount of fulfillment and support I am lucky enough to feel from our group has turned me into a cheese-ball of gratitude. Also, the feeling of creating something from start to finish and being at the helm of all pieces of the puzzle has been such a gratifying feeling. More than anything,Juniper has shown me that if you set your mind to something, you can make it happen, which is very empowering. After searching for “Yes’s” for so many years, it has been profound to say “Yes” to myself.
From the writing process to now, what have you learned about each other? The film industry?
Before stepping into this process, we didn’t know each other that well. We had no idea how well our brains would work together, or that all of our different strengths and weaknesses would complement each other so well. Filmmaking is such an intimate experience. When you are on set, you have no option but to be open and forthright. We all accepted each other for right where we were at, which is an incredibly beautiful thing to feel. We learned what a healthy collaboration looks like throughout the making of this film. In terms of industry, we have learned so much about different aspects of the filmmaking process. We are currently learning about distribution and financing for our next script, which is a big piece of the puzzle.
Was this inspired by personal stories?
Yes and no! Through the rehearsal process we each shared experiences we have had with friendship, heartbreak, and embarrassing moments growing up. During filming personal secrets would come out in the improvisation. We were really inspired by the women in our lives and the bonds women share. But, the specific relationships in Juniper are fictional.
Tell us each about a time where you were faced with a challenge based on you being a female. What happened? How did you overcome it?
Madison: I think the biggest hurdle I find in navigating the world as a woman is feeling like I need to prove myself to people, specifically men, to be taken seriously. I have a lot of cerebral moments where I judge my own behavior, am I being too silly, too serious, too … whatever. I think women face a lot of pressure on how they present themselves and act and I have had moments of doubting my appearance and personality based on my own perceived perception. Overcoming these doubts has been a challenge, but finding my own power has been crucial to getting through it. I have a great community of people around me who encourage me to not hide or be small.
Olivia: Something funny that happened when we were crowdfunding is all these men would reach out saying they wanted to read our script without even offering to donate. I got a sense they didn’t trust that we could do this on our own because we were all women.
Decker: And I asked some of my male friends if that had happened to them during their crowdfunding campaign and it had not.
What does it mean to be a woman in the industry today?
It means creating opportunities for other women and unapologetically owning your power. It’s also important to get rid of this scarcity mindset that there can only be a chosen few top women in the industry. If there’s room for ten men in the room, then there’s room for ten women in the room.
Any advice you would give to other females out there looking to enter the entertainment industry?
It’s really important for women to stop looking at filmmaking as a “masculine” endeavor. Obviously for most of its history, film has been and continues to be a male-driven industry. But that doesn’t mean it has to be that way. Directing, writing, and filmmaking can be wonderfully feminine. Don’t be afraid to take up space and follow your intuition. It’s important to remember that no one knows what they’re doing, everyone’s faking it, so you can fake it too. DM us! Let’s chat!
Growing up, what were your dreams? How have they changed (or remained the same)?
Madison: I have wanted to be an actress since kindergarten, so little Madison always knew. As dreams become a reality, the focus and passion does shift with experience and education. I have realized that I am really interested in being more of a part of the creative process, which often as an actor, you are hired to do your job and bring your character to life and that’s it. I really want to direct and continue to be a part of the process from its birth.
Olivia: I wanted to be an actor! Or Jane Goodall. It’s exciting to be an actor, and I’ve also fallen madly in love with filmmaking. So now I’m a writer and producer too, and that was such a lovely surprise.
Katherine: When I was growing up, directing was never really on my radar, mostly because I thought it was a guy’s job. I always wanted to be an actor, and then in high school started to write scripts and loved it. I went to school for acting, but in my 20s realized that I get the most creative satisfaction when I am in control of the whole story, not just a part of it. I learned how to edit and got such a high from filming my own projects and putting it together in the exact way I pictured it. Ultimately, my journey as an actor has led me to be a better director.
Decker: I also always wanted to be an actor, but I thought it was a complete pipe-dream. I ended up going to school for mechanical engineering and decided to give-in to my acting dreams before accepting a full-time engineering job offer. Luckily for me, engineering school greatly prepared me to be an actor. Just kidding.
What can the audience expect from JUNIPER?
A beautiful and complicated exploration of womanhood told from the female gaze.
Where do you ladies hope to go next?
We formed a production company, Sea Foam Productions, and have written our next script. It’s a comedy horror and parts of what we have written literally make us guffaw when we think about them. That’s all we’ll say!