* We had the honor of interviewing Bri Castellini once before about her zombie themed web series “Brains”. Now, we have the privilege of interviewing her once again about her new film Ace and Anxious.
- Why don’t you tell us a bit about Ace and Anxious? What’s the general plot and idea behind the film?
Ace and Anxious is a short film about a millennial asexual woman, Emma, with generalized anxiety disorder. After a period of time without panic attacks, she starts having them again, and coincidentally also ends up learning about the science behind sex and it’s stress-relieving properties, so she decides to test this low-budget “cure” to her anxiety by placing an ad for sex on Craigslist. Hilarity ensues as we go back and forth between her telling her therapist about her plan and her interviews with potential sexual partners.
2. What inspired the idea for Ace and Anxious?
Well, I’m both the things the title depicts- ace and anxious! I haven’t seen really any solid asexual representation in media, other than in a smattering of web series, and I was also dealing with a lot of anxiety at the time I was writing (and producing and editing and doing interviews for) this film, so I thought- what would be the funniest way an asexual character would deal with anxiety? Why, put an ad for sex on Craigslist, of course! I also really wanted to subvert the expectations of a film about an asexual protagonist- it wasn’t necesarilly about her sexuality, and she never doubted herself or who she was; it was about her anxiety and depression and how sometimes they crop up without a trigger. Sometimes, you just have a panic attack in the middle of a grocery store or walking to the subway and there’s no good reason, and that’s really frustrating. You’re powerless- if you can’t fix something, you can’t control it, and that’s incredibly scary. I wanted to explore that fear and feeling of being out of control with comedy, because I think it’s worth talking about but often overlooked- most movies and TV about depression end with the person being “fixed,” but often it’s not that simple.
3. Are there any existing films or other works of art that you would compare Ace and Anxious to, or would say inspired the film in style or substance?
This film was my directorial debut, in traditional filmmaking at least, since my web series was found footage and I only directed one of the thirty existing episodes. So when preparing, I watched a lot of Edgar Wright movies, because I love his dialog and his visual comedy. Then my lead actress, upon accepting the role, told me she was moving to LA in two months, so most of the Edgar Wright-inspired transitions my DP Brandon Smalls and I planned got tossed in service of time. That’s the long way of saying that I’m not sure I’d compare to Ace and Anxious to anything in particular, especially not on a film level, but for the writing I was heavily influenced by Amy Sherman-Palladino, Rachel Bloom, Mindy Kaling, and other fast-talking female comedy writers.
4. From what we have seen so far Ace and Anxious seems to revolve around many different issues involving sexuality and mental health. Without giving too much away, what would you say is the under lying message of the film?
I think the underlying message of the film is that sometimes, things are out of your control, and you have to learn to deal with that instead of living in denial. Mental health isn’t always cause and effect, sometimes it’s just effect. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to get better, but you should also consider giving yourself a break, because the world is complicated, and mental health is complicated, and you’re a person who’s allowed to feel things even when they aren’t productive. This film wasn’t really meant to speak on any particular sexuality issues, so I guess the message is that asexual people of all shapes and sizes are valid and should be represented better in media.
5. In the process of writing and creating Ace and Anxious, did any of the overall story or underlying themes change or did it remain relatively consistent throughout the creative process?
At first, it definitely was a bit more about Emma wrestling with her sexuality, but I realized while writing that I didn’t want to spend fifteen minutes defending asexuality as legitimate- I wanted to talk about how annoying it was that sometimes I have a panic attack on an otherwise banal day. So I definitely shifted a bit in terms of what the central problem was. Other than that, the only things that really changed from draft to draft were the jokes, something my good friend Chris Cherry helped with a lot.
6. What would you say is the most unique aspect of your film?
It’s a film with an asexual main character that isn’t about her asexuality. Also, it uses humor and matter-of-factness to deal with some frankly pretty distressing mental health situations.
7. What has been the general reception of your film?
Overall positive, from what I can tell! It’s doing really well on Tumblr, especially since it’s Pride month and there is often a lack of ace rep in larger Pride celebrations, let alone in media as a whole. My favorite responses so far have been the ones where other asexuals I’ve never met have stated how much they related to Emma. I just went and found one of the things someone has sent me because it warms my heart so much. It’s censored for the faint at heart- “OH MY F***ING GOD I JUST WATCHED THIS… and and and all these stupid thoughts in my head that i don’t say to anyone…are said by this character and holy f***ing s**t.” Thank you to “F*ckYeahPikacha” on Tumblr for that one, and for proving again why representation is so important and so valuable.
8. What impression are you hoping to leave audiences with after watching?
Mostly I just hope they laughed! And if they didn’t know much about the realities of anxiety or asexuality that they learned something.
9. If you could work with any director, (living or dead) who would you work with?
Edgar Wright, for sure. I’m new to the production side of movies and TV, so I mostly only know about writers, but Edgar Wright’s ability to blend funny stories, funny dialog, and funny visuals is awe-inspiring and something I really want to learn more about. I don’t have as much of a head for shots and blocking- yet. And learning from someone with such a unique and inventive style that’s right up my comedy alley would be amazing.
10. Where can we watch Ace and Anxious?
For the rest of June you can watch it on the St. Lawrence International Film Festival Online website here: https://www.stlawrencefilm.com/official-selections
If we win an award, it’ll be available elsewhere on their site forever, and if we don’t, I think I’m going to keep it hidden away until we get a few more film festivals, preferably ones with in-person screenings, under our belt. A lot of film festivals get weird about premiere statuses, and I want to give this weird little film a shot before I make it widely available.
11. Where can we follow you to learn more about Ace and Anxious and any projects that Undead Burrito Productions will be working on in the future?
You can follow Undead Burrito Productions on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, and learn more about Ace and Anxious and other projects we’ve done on my personal website: BriCastellini.com.