Giving and receiving feedback is one of the defining rituals of a creative life. For thin-skinned beginners, it’s also one of the most painful parts of going pro. This simple process is spun into an elegant comic romance, worthy of a young Rohmer, in this 2015 Sundance short.
Actresses follows two New York stage actresses, Sara and Danielle, one emerging, the other established, who fall in love. Everything’s great until Sara decides to ask Danielle for a few notes on her recent performance.
As its title implies, the film is centered on two stellar performances. As Sara, newcomer Taylor Hess is a quiet wonder. Her face is a finely-tuned orchestra of emotion: insecurity, admiration and ambition flicker in perfect harmony behind her searching eyes. Opposite Hess is veteran actress Rebecca Henderson, perhaps best known for her role in the Sundance breakout Appropriate Behavior. Hendersen’s performance is expertly crafted; confident, young-souled and patient-to-a-point, she is the ideal teacher in this little cinematic Bildungsroman.
This depth of character and observation, rare for a short film, was already present in writer/director Jeremy Hersh’s previous short Natives. At only 25, Hersh is quickly becoming a master of small moments. Too many young directors race to add splashy camera moves or excessive coverage to underline their presence; instead Hersh embraces his actors in a series of intimate two shots. It’s a form of directorial restraint that’s both refreshing and perfectly suited to the material.
While Star Wars breaks box office records around the world, Hersh reminds us that there are other galaxies, smaller but equally wondrous, a little bit closer to home. He’s currently developing a feature about a surrogate pregnancy.