In director David Stuart Snell’s BY LIGHT OF DESERT NIGHT, ahead of her small town wedding, April (Lara Pictet) re-unites with her best friends Suzy (Meghan Carrasquillo) and Beth (Alexandra Bokova) on a trip to Raven Rock. But events take a twisted turn and their friendship is revealed to be a web of jealousy, deceit and betrayal.


As well as acting in front of the camera, Pictet has also produced BEAST (2018), and has SERPENTINE currently in pre-production. In conversation with FRIGHTFEST, Pictet discussed cinema as a mirroring experience for the audience, the repetitive act of starting over again, and projects as a series of chapters.


FRIGHTFEST: Has working behind the camera influenced your approach to acting?


LARA PICTET: As an actor you do your inner work and your character work prior to when filming begins. The main thing I noticed from being behind the camera was how as an actor, because you’re so focused on your own character work, the objectives and obstacles of the scene, as well as the overall objective, you don’t necessarily think about what is happening around you. You have all of the equipment: the lighting and camera, the gaffers and the grips, the director, and you’re focusing on one thing. Being behind the camera and watching as a producer made me more aware that you can tell how an actor is effected by everyone’s movements around them, but you see that they switch off to not let that effect them in their performance, because it can be seen on camera, which captures every single detail on someone’s face. It’s so close and it’s very intimate, and so it was interesting to see and to then realise how you have to be careful to leave your baggage at the door. You have to switch off from whatever is happening to focus on what’s there in front of you, otherwise all of that can be read through the camera.


FF: When considering a project, is there an emphasis on either the story or the character? Or does there always need to be a mix of appeal for both the character and the story?


LP: It depends on the project, but in my opinion it has to be a bit of both because you have to believe in the storyline to convey it to an audience. If the storyline is not your favourite thing, but the character is and you can find that relativity and love with the character, then you can find the relativity and the love for the storyline as you develop your character. But the most important thing is having a bit of both, and if you can relate to that character, then there’ll be something you can relate to the audience for them believe in it too.


FF: Recalling the idea that there are a limited number of archetypal stories, we are telling the same stories time and again. Yet the individual is able to give the act of repetition a uniqueness, while at the same time as storytellers and as an audience we find pleasure in a familiar story told well.


LP: Everyone has a way of telling a story and sometimes you don’t have to rewrite history – sometimes the best things are those that are just simple. You can give five people the exact same idea, synopsis or script, and those five people will give you five totally different projects, because each of them will be bringing their own individuality, experiences and vision to the project. What is so great about filmmaking is that yes, there are the same stories being told over again, but each of them in their own individuality are so different.


As an audience member we go to the movies, or we watch a series as a means of escaping for a minute - of disconnecting and diving into this new world. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be simple. The most important thing is for people to see something they can relate to and believe in - rooting for those people in a storyline. Ultimately, some of them watching will have experienced something similar, and so they’re also rooting for themselves. So it’s a great mirroring experience, where your eyes and heart are opened, and you can say, “I’m seeing this subject in a different light. Okay, I might want to reconsider this.” And that’s what I find so beautiful about filmmaking.



FF: This film demands a lot from you physically and emotionally. By giving yourself over to the intensity of the creative process, does the film capture and retain a part of you?


LP: It was tough working on the character because there’s so many qualities to April that are very similar to me, and that’s also what drew me to her. Where I started working on April, there were certain things that came up that took me completely by surprise. But it was great because I got to experience those surprises performing with a team that was a family that I felt safe with.


Towards the end of the film, I was emotionally drained and I didn’t know what was what anymore. It’s about finding the time to take yourself back a minute and just close your eyes and think, ‘I have to see this as a chapter of my life closing.’ You’re saying farewell to some trauma or experiences you made amends with, and you’re moving on to something else. So it’s very therapeutic in that sense, and I always try to find the positive out of every negative. No matter how drained I was, I was happy I could give my all to experience those emotions again. I was experiencing those emotions one last time, for something greater, and I could finally say goodbye and move on.


FF: When you complete a film, is there a feeling of a void, of a strangeness of going back to the beginning again for whatever role or project you work on next?


LP: It’s such an emotional roller coaster and depending on the type of project, whether it’s a play or show, a high budget film or an independent film, for three to six months, or a year, you’re giving your all. Then all of a sudden it’s the wrap party and you’re done. Even though you feel you’ve taken ten steps forward, you feel like you’ve taken an 100 steps back, because you’re at the starting block where you have to start all over again. Then you will get another project and you’ll spend six months working on that character, and then it will be done again, and so it continues.


I just want to be working all the time, and if I find I’m working with a team that I adore and is a real family, then I just want to keep doing that forever. So that’s why I think it’s important to keep telling myself, “Okay, this was a great experience, I’ll cherish it forever, and now I can resource myself because I gave it my all.” I can sit back, resource and re-energise, and come back stronger than ever on the next project.


BY LIGHT OF DESERT NIGHT will be out soon and available on Sky Store, Prime Video, Virgin, Chili Cinema and Pluto TV.



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