When we decided to shoot Virgin on digital video for almost no budget,we faced many limitations. At that time my priority became the performances of my actors and my focus was to create an environment where they could do their best work. My aesthetic sensibilities have always leaned towards mise-en-scène and a lyrical movement of camera. I realized I would not be able to use that form to express my vision in this film. Because of our budgetary constraints it would have to be sacrificed for the performances and the telling of the story. However, I felt strongly that the emotional thrust of the story needed a moving camera, and as dolly moves would be prohibitive, both in time and money, I chose to consistently use a hand held camera. Influenced by its use in films like Breaking the Waves and Rosetta I felt it would support the chaos and struggle of this teenage girl’s inner world.
For me the film is about many things, finding ones own voice and ones own truth, inner reality vs. outer reality and which of those is more real, and the divinity in all things. One other important theme for me is about the power of the imagination and how what we believe changes our perspective and perception of ourselves and the world around us. Once Jessie believes she has something special inside of her (which I believe we all have) she has eyes to see things and ears to hear things she never saw or heard before, but that were there all along. Once she believes she has something special inside of her Jessie’s path changes from one of self distruction to one of self respect and self love. Through her imagination she connects with herself and with others in her world.
I discovered filmmaking quite by accident, by pursuing what I thought I wanted as passionately as I could, which was acting, and I was led to what I feel I was meant to do which is making films. I had been in NY for years, studying acting and performing and I was actually trying to get Wim Wenders to cast me in a film when I made a short for him that I wrote, directed, produced and starred in. And it was in the process of making that film (and I made it with no intention of being a filmmaker) that I discovered my true passion and my true path. I felt more alive in the six weeks of making that short than I felt any other time in my life. Making films brings me to life.
Teaching acting for 19 years has given me a great deal of practice holding the space for actors. My job is to help get everything out of their way so they can release themselves and reveal their souls. As a director my job is to hold the space…and to listen, listen to the actors, listen to the story trying to be told, listen to the set, listen to the world holding the set. It’s a kind of meditation. Inspiration whispers, so you need to be quiet enough to hear it.
Virgin is the story of Jessie, a rebellious teenager, wrestling with her own spirituality and against her family’s conservative Baptist tradition. After a sexual encounter occurring while unconscious from alcohol and drugs, Jessie finds herself pregnant. With no memory of sex and having a dream in which God speaks to her, Jessie proceeds with the belief that she is carrying the next Christ child, a belief that at first enrages and then inspires her, causing violent opposition in her community.