SXSW is a huge festival, and each year it seems to grow tenfold. Movie premieres and musician’s secret shows erupt each night over a 10 day period. With everything going on, it’s easy to get lost in the mix. That is most definitely not the case for Austin actress Violett Beane. Not only is she a star of the buzzed about film Tower, about the 1966 UT Tower shooting, but she is also starring in a comedy by Clay Liford, Slash. Having two films in this year’s festival is an impressive feat for an actress on the verge of greatness.
“I think it's awesome that the film industry is growing there, giving filmmakers and actors more opportunities to do what they love. This is a totally new experience for me, but I'm excited to see how the films go,” adds Beane.
Tower, a documentary, takes a provocative look at the events that unfolded August 1, 1966 when a gunman opened fire on the UT campus, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes and committing the first mass shooting in our country. It’s a story that many Texans know, either through tales told during UT orientation, or family stories from those who were there. None have experienced the film in this way.
Using innovative animation and real footage from that day, Tower takes the modern audience to that day 40 years ago. It’s an emotional story, and even more intimidating to star in. For an Austinite like Beane, those two elements were not lost on her.
“It's definitely a little intimidating just because I wanted to accurately tell Claire Wilson's story (the woman I play in the film). But it's also such an honor to be a part of what I hope to be an influential film,” Beane says.
When recreating a real event for film, the responsibility of those involved switches from entertainment to education. While this may be an iconic event, as Beane pointed out, “there are still a lot of people who don’t know the story.”
Considering today’s climate, and how this event was just the start of something horrific, the importance of the poignant message of the film, of the survivors, is not lost on any involved, least of all Beane.
“I will be meeting Claire Wilson the day before the premiere, which is exciting but also a little nerve-racking. I was able to get to know her and the other stories through video interviews between them and the director, Keith Maitland,” Beane says. “He also told me different tidbits about her to help me grasp what she's like. She's somehow positive about the whole situation and she's already taught me to be more optimistic and strong.”
This film, however, has a much more personal connection to Beane. For she is a very passionate person, and while she may not be an outspoken political activist, there are causes that are important to her, and she tries to spread awareness for them. In the case of Tower, its gun control. Without getting too heavy handed on the topic, Beane hopes the film, “combined with all the media coverage of these violent acts, will make people start talking about it and hopefully help the government take action.”
Beane’s second film in this year’s festival takes a dramatic left turn from Tower, and finds itself smack in the middle of a heart-warming comedy. Slash, is a film about fandoms, fanfic, and standing up for what and who you believe in. With stars like Michael Ian Black and Missi Pyle, this is a completely different film tonally.
“Total opposite sides of the spectrum! It is fun to have both of these wildly different projects in the same festival. That's what I love about SXSW, it brings everyone together and makes a little community,” Beane says. “The set for Slash was really cool because it had a very laid-back and fun vibe to it! And Clay (Liford) was an awesome director to work with.”
Beane is attracted to more dramatic roles, the films that are “darker, dramatic, thought-provoking projects,” as Beane puts it. Sometimes having a little fun on set enhances her ability to bring forth her strengths in drama. Every project is an opportunity for knowledge.
“This was my first, and only so far, experience in a comedy. I tend to lean more towards drama, but doing comedy was different and cool,” Beane says. “The biggest thing to know about comedy is that you have to have fun with it!”
These two very different projects in the same festival is proof that Beane enjoys spreading her wings and tackling something unfamiliar. She has done theater, dramatic and comedy film, introspective television (in Leftovers), and energetic action in the superhero show The Flash. Her extensive career allows her to not become stuck in one genre. Her talent knows no bounds.
Currently, audiences can watch Beane on the hit CW show The Flash. Her character, Jesse Wells, has had a season long introduction, but is also a key part of the emotional center of season 2. If you’ve seen the trailers for the next episode, you can tell this is just the beginning ofa very complicated character. The rest of the cast is great in their own respects, and her addition has been great to watch.
“I want to show how strong she is, because that's important for all the young girls who watch the show. I want them to look at her, and think I can be smart, I can have opinions too,” Beane says. “And the show does a really good job of allowing certain straying from the comics as far as casting and character development goes so that's nice.”
No matter what role this fantastic actress is diving into, the outcome with always be passionate. Violette Beane puts her heart and soul into her roles, and it’s visible on screen. She came in and conquered her first SXSW Film festival, is about to make an impressive adaption in The Flash, there’s no telling where the future will take her.
The Flash airs on CW on Tuesday nights.
Written by Lisa Mejia