We meet the triple-threat LA-based actor, writer, and director who launched her own production company, Dolores Haze, a year ago in November, and premiere the trailer for her second short film, “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
Interview by Olivia aylmer
Olivia Aylmer: Hi, Anna! Where are you originally from, and where are you currently based?
Anna McLain: I’m originally from Texas, around the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and I’m currently based in Los Angeles.
OA: Do you recall an early film or director whose work made an impression on you?
AM: I always say that I have two films that impacted me for different reasons: The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo and Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita. When I watched Rooney Mara’s performance in The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, it really made me consider the roles I take on with a different outlook. As an actress, I wanted to be able to use my voice to shed light on topics that not everyone wants to talk about, to really make an impact. As for Lolita, I admired Kubrick’s way of filmmaking, combining sensitivity with intensity, and it made me realize that I didn’t just want to be an actor—what I really wanted to be was a filmmaker.
OA: Tell me a bit about the production company you launched, Dolores Haze. What was your mission in starting it? Did you experience any learning curves?
AM: My mission was and is to create positive change through art. I realized fairly quickly that I had a couple of things working against me: my age and the fact that I am woman. I wanted roles that I could sink my teeth into and, unfortunately, they’re really hard to come by when you’re a 20-year-old woman in this industry. I decided if I wasn’t getting the roles that I wanted, I would create them, and that’s how Dolores Haze came about. Starting my company was the best decision I’ve made; it’s opened so many doors already, and I’ve met so many amazing and talented people because of it.
OA: Tell me about the time you spent producing multiple films of your own while working as an assistant. How did you decide to take the leap into these independent projects and to step behind the camera?
AM: I’ve always liked to have multiple projects happening at once. I enjoy the different stages of filmmaking—from coming up with the initial idea to filming it and, later, to post-production. I feel like the best way to learn is hands-on, and I think that’s exactly the experience I got while working as an assistant. You learn really quickly whether or not you like all sides of it, and I just so happened to like it all.
OA: We’re thrilled to be premiering the trailer for your second short film, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” which you directed. How did you first connect with actress Martha Plimpton, who narrates the film (based on the Charlotte Perkins Gilman story)? And with musician Rainey Qualley (featured in Constellation Issue 1) and her band Rainsford, who composed the music?
AM: I’ve always looked up to Martha, from her acting to being such a pioneer for women’s rights. So when I started working on “The Yellow Wallpaper,” she immediately came to mind for it. I reached out to her team in the hopes that she would want to be a part of the project as much I wanted her to be, and it turns out she did. I first met Rainey on a shoot that I did last year, and we recently got back in touch as I actually adopted a kitten from her that she was fostering at the time! I listened to some of her music and came across “Flowers in a Vase.” It has such a vulnerability and a purity to it that I couldn’t imagine it not being in the film.
OA: What films do you currently love? Want to see?
AM: My favorite film of this year was Terrence Malick’s Song to Song. I also can’t wait for season two of The Handmaid’s Tale!
OA: What sorts of stories and voices do you hope to see and hear more of onscreen in the years ahead?
AM: I want to see films that have a rawness and a realness to them. My hope would be to see more of the true art of filmmaking. In this industry, it’s really easy to get caught in a cycle of what’s commercial and what’s going to be the next blockbuster. I think there needs to be a balance between those types of films and real art, and I hope we find that balance even more in the years ahead.
OA: Any upcoming projects we should keep an eye out for?
AM: I’m currently developing my feature film with Route One Entertainment (Equals, Colossal, The Circle)—it’s called Crimson and Clover and is set in France. It’s still in its early stages, but definitely be on the lookout for it!
OA: How do you do your part to empower the next generation of young women in film? What sorts of resources do you wish there were more of for the next generation of filmmakers and actors?
AM: I’m just going to keep creating films that give women a voice and a platform to be heard. If I can inspire one woman to take the leap into creating their own work, then that’s good enough for me. I’ve said before that if all of the major studios would pledge to have a fund for new filmmakers, then the film industry would be much different. I think we have to make things more accessible for independent filmmakers: more grants, more funds. We’re trying, but we’re not there yet, and until we are, we just need to create. It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting on the nicest RED camera or on an iPhone—don’t stop creating. ★
Anna McLain is an actor, writer, and director based in Los Angeles. This November marks the one-year anniversary of her company, Dolores Haze Films. Find her on Instagram at @annamlanier or @doloreshazefilms, and on Twitter at @annamlanier.