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My films explore a variety of themes, but usually involve characters dealing with

fantastical situations or situations gone humorously awry (often including a monster of some sort).


Whether my characters work solo as in the optimistic Voyage of Vera Velasco or as a group in Wulfric, I use deadpan humor or aspects of camp, and focus on ordinary, flawed characters that often spend more time thinking about their love lives, social circles or own personal dramas or beliefs than dealing with the absurd monster or alien invasion at hand.

I’m fascinated by hubris; by characters whose pride or over-confidence either leads to their downfall or comes dangerously close before they wise up and get with the picture. Through these narratives, my goal is to show how people can change or overcome their flaws, and how individuals need human connections, a sense of community or simply trust in others in order to thrive in an often upside-down world. In short, we need each other!

With my background and interest in gender and media studies (I teach several film studies courses at LMU including Unruly Women in Film & Pop Culture and Violent Women in Film) I’m interested in films that transcend gender stereotypes. It’s important to me to show women in roles beyond motherhood, domesticity and romance. With the exception of my films Wulfric and Five Decapitations, I focus mostly on unruly female protagonists with character flaws or ambition that might incorporate grit or hubris or both to cope with their unusual predicament.

Works that I am influenced by cross a variety of genres. They include John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) for its tension, characters, predicament and monster/creature effects. Lake Placid (1999) and ReAnimator (1985) for the writing, comedy and camp aspects. The Little Hours (2017) for its deadpan comedy, female friendships, and theme of community and I adore Colossal (2016) for it’s brilliant way in blending drama, comedy, pathos and monsters into a heartfelt story of transformation. And who doesn’t love True Grit (1969)?

In my future works I will continue to focus on unruly female protagonists, but want to cast more women of color in the leads to make my films more relatable and diverse. 

Film Festival Laurel
Vanessa Newell BTS still on set of Animal Control
The cast and Crew of Animal Control Short Film
Vanessa Newell with the cast of Bull Mountain Lookout short film
Film Slate for Bull Mountain Lookout short fillm
OFFICIAL SELECTION - Pride Film Festival - Lesbian Shorts - 2019
Film Festival Laurel
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