The following is RVA Magazine’s continued coverage of Charlottesville’s Virginia Film Festival this past weekend. Staff writer Kyle Shearin was on the scene to highlight some of the films from the three-day event. If you missed the first in the series, you can check that review out here.
“Permanent”, a new film, comes from Virginian writer-director Colette Burson (HBO’s “Hung”) who introduced her new film before the Saturday night screening at UVA’s Culbreth Theatre.
Starring Patricia Arquette, Rain Wilson, and Kira McLean, “Permanent” follows the antics of an absurdly awkward family “somewhere in Virginia” during the 1980s trying to find their way after moving to a new town. The film centers on young Aurelie (McLean) who decides to get a bold haircut, a perm, from a student hairdresser and disaster ensues. Living on a very tight budget, the Dixons have to navigate a new town with limited options and struggle to adapt to their new surroundings.
The film, received well, left the audience with plenty of laughs and also a heartwarming message about being odd and embracing oneself. After previewing the film, there was a brief Q&A between the audience with Burson and actress Kira McLean.
Burson revealed that she too once was a little girl in a small town with a bad perm and drew inspiration from her own traumatic incident. “It was a total disaster,” she lamented, “but as they say, tragedy plus time equals comedy.”
Filmed completely in Virginia, “Permanent” Burson used several Richmond locations to her advantage, noting that “Richmond is a great location, because if you walk around the corner it looks like the 20s, it can look like the 1860s, it’s incredible, so there it was something all in the street that hit my memory of Abington in 1982.”
Burson also talked about the big challenge involved with independent filmmaking. “What usually happens is that you get the funding, but you lose the actor, or you get the actor but lose the funding,” she explained.
Burson was very forthcoming about the industry at large and what obstacles women still face today. When asked about the recent string of allegations of reported abuse and harassment industry-wide, Burson chimed in with that,
“I will tell you it’s not exaggerated. If you go to Variety and you look up nine days ago, nine to twelve, you will see that Dustin Hoffman is accused by a woman, Wendy Riss Gatsionis. Wendy Riss Gatsionis was my best friend in graduate school; she still is today and when we were 25 years old. He went to one of her readings, he saw her work, he invited her to meet with him and said ‘I want to be in you play’ and she went away and thought about it. It was so exciting, we were these young writers and she’s going to see Dustin Hoffman and I got this call from her, sobbing, a few hours later because he wasn’t interested in her work at all. So I know all of that is 100% true.”
“I’m good friends with Anne Heche and she told me exact Harvey Weinstein story. And she hasn’t even talked in the press, the exact one that everybody’s said; I mean boom, boom, boom. That was like five years ago, and you felt like you couldn’t do anything, so in terms of sexual harassment, that’s really going to change.”
Burson was also quick to point out that only 7% of female directors working in the industry are female and that it’s still “an uphill battle” for Hollywood.
“Permanent” gets a limited release in theatres nationwide next month.