Five Questions With Filmmaker Step Rowe

Tedesky---webDirector and co-star Step Rowe has been credited as an actor, casting associate, acting coach, writer, and associate producer of projects in and around Central Texas. She has previously directed two music video shorts for non-profit youth organizations. “Tedesky” marks her first narrative short directing project.

Step is most known in the industry as an acting coach, so it is fitting that “Tedesky” was originally written as an acting exercise. It enjoyed many reads in acting class, but had never been produced. When William , Step’s producing partner and husband, gave the green light to move forward in their plans to shoot a short film, he chose “Tedesky” for its intrigue and challenge. Long term friend and colleague, casting director Karen Hallford, approved the choice and came on board as Executive Producer and Co-Director.

Step Rowe was born in California, but grew up primarily in upstate New York. Her parents were originally from Ohio, but were stationed all over when her father joined the Air Force as a pilot. Two years before graduation, they were stationed in San Antonio, Texas and Step became acquainted with the University of Texas at Austin for its arts programs and to further her study. She earned her degree in Theatre from the UT Austin and went on to direct on-stage productions in high school, middle school and community theatre. She crossed over into film when she took a job as a casting assistant in the late 90s.

Step is married, has two boys, and stays active as a musician, playing keys in worship and singing original works for women’s outreach seminars.

Rowe’s film Tedesky, will be at the 2015 GI Film Festival.

Where are you from and what is your film background?

Born in Sacramento, California, but have lived the longest in Central Texas. Work in Austin and San Antonio. I have a degree in theatre, but learned the film side from working. Crossed over from stage to screen in my mid 20s. I set out to spend my life in front of the camera, but have spent far more time directing and coaching other actors. I have written hundreds of original scenes and several feature films and TV episodes. I have a background in casting, as well. Most of the projects that I have directed have been community service oriented. I started making shorts in a community film group to bring awareness to certain social issues.

Who are your biggest influences in film and why?

I have what I believe most people would consider a very strange combination of influences in film. Because I am an actor and a coach, I appreciate stunning emotional performances and love to catch them close, i.e. Jonathan Demme and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. I was also a young child when STAR WARS first came to the big screen, and ET, and I adore epic films and science fiction. I love for films to take me to another world. I hated the cheese of old science fiction so I am elated that JJ ABRAMS has done such a great job with rebooting my favorite classics.

What was the hardest part about getting this film made?

The hardest part of getting this film made was finding the right actor. Because I coach, I sometimes turn a blind eye to “on the nose” casting. I like to stretch possibilities and say, “who cares if that character should be older? a different gender? etc? Great actors can do anything!”I do understand, however, that sometimes authenticity is a part of the potential connection the audience can make. When I met Zack Starr, and heard a bit about his real life struggles with overcoming injury and chronic pain, and combined that with his completely appropriate type, I knew we could move forward. The material had been waiting for him.

What do you want viewers to take away with them after watching your film?

Our film is about stepping out into the parts of life that scare us because we have purpose. Whether someone has lost that sense of purpose, or has not yet found it, or has difficulty believing that they truly matter, this film is meant to tap into that part of each of us and ignite the spark.

What is a fun fact about you that would surprise people?

A fun fact that might surprise people about me is that I am highly claustrophobic. This fear has made its way into almost every script I have written (in some form or another) and even some of the other roles I have played. In TEDESKY, I ask “Where is ‘the deep'”, which implies, of course, a cave or underground facility. In college I worked as a tour guide at a local cavern. To try to work through my fears, I learned spelunking (cave exploring) from another guide. We went through a dozen or so wild caves, always testing how small I could handle. I even got stuck in one vertical passage for some time before mind and body stepped up and I was able to get out. I thought I had done a pretty heroic thing and helped myself past the fear…until I played a wife who died in a car accident in the film ANGEL DOG. There was a morgue scene where my husband was supposed to identify the body. I was excited to lay on the slab and prove that I was no longer claustrophobic by calmly resting while they closed me in the morgue drawer…the cold, completely dark, metal coffin-like space, with a sheet over my nose and mouth… Let’s just say that there were many breathing exercises and visualizations necessary to keep from having a panic attack that day!

Tedesky, directed by Step Rowe & Karen Hallford, is playing at Angelika on May 23, 2015. Click here for tickets.