Quinn Shephard is a remarkable filmmaker. But she’s only made one film.
At the age of just 15, Quinn- still a high school student- started work on what would become her first (and so far, only) project, Blame. She got the idea after starring in a stage adaptation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at school, and decided to update the story for the modern day (think Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film, Romeo and Juliet). Before this, Quinn was something of a child star: she appeared in the 2001 French film, Harrison’s Flowers at five years old, starred in Unaccompanied Minors at eleven and had guest spots on Law and Order and Made in Jersey.
In Blame, Shephard stars as Abigail Grey, a student returning to high school after a mysterious incident a year earlier. Once back, she quickly forms a bond- too strong a bond- with her drama teacher, played by Chris Messina. But her rival, Melissa (Nadia Alexander), is full of hatred, or perhaps jealousy, which could persuade her to reveal Abigail’s secret.
We won’t spoil the rest of the film for you, but the screenplay was nominated as a finalist for the Sundance Film Festival Screenwriters Lab, and won Shephard the Rising Star Award at the 2015 Garden State Film Festival. So it’s good. And hopefully it’s just the first step in Quinn’s career as a filmmaker, not just an actress.
What’s so great about Quinn’s work?
What’s remarkable is that Blame was filmed in just nineteen days. Of course, the film was shot on a relatively tight budget, so everything had to be meticulously planned and designed beforehand, with no time for creative clashes on set! Quinn planned the filmmaking process from top to bottom long before she had to film, including everything from set positions to lighting and makeup. She described it as a monumental task, especially considering it was her first ever professional shoot.
For anybody wanting to replicate that process, things have become a lot easier in the last few years. There are a multitude of tools online, and filmmaking apps for both iPhone and Android that make the processes of planning, filming and editing a cinch. But even the best laid plans go wrong, so don’t expect to get everything right first time like Quinn Shephard did!
Most impressive is how relatable the film is. The story is set in an American high school, but everybody can understand how Abigail is feeling: walking a social tightrope, and not knowing who you can trust! Having made such a relatable movie, it’s particularly impressive that she didn’t go to film school, or even get online film teaching to get herself where she is today. Considering the fact that Shephard has no formal filmmaking training, her achievement shines all the brighter.