Lake Zurich native takes shorts films to Cannes and beyond
When Rebecca Norris told her father she planned to move to Hollywood and pursue her dream of becoming a filmmaker, she didn't expect his reply:
"Well," he said, "you're not getting any younger."
"Wait!" Norris told us. "You'd better not print that. He actually meant that in a good way."
Norris, who grew up in Lake Zurich, admitted that her parents -- Tom and Noel Norris -- initially weren't too happy about the prospect of her moving out west.
"But they grew to be quite supportive," she reported. "Now they're my biggest fans."
Norris' comedy movie "On Becoming a Man" will be shown on Thursday, Aug. 22, at the ninth annual HollyShorts Film Festival in the legendary Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. It's L.A.'s largest film fest, this week screening more than 350 short subjects.
"On Becoming a Man" was also shown at this year's Cannes Film Festival in France, a heady accomplishment for Norris -- a graduate of Lake Zurich High School, Second City and Chicago's Columbia College -- and her partner, Kevin Resnick.
It's a coming-of-age comedy about 13-year-old Jacob Schneidelman, a poor kid forced to deal with his mishugina (crazy) family in the days before his bar mitzvah.
Norris wrote a humor-sprinkled account of her Cannes experience in an article "Musings of a First Timer," offering 5.5 lessons for festival newbies.
In the piece, she contends the most useful piece of French to know would be "Parlez-vous Anglais?" (Do you speak English?) You can catch her complete guide at bit.ly/12PlA9P.
Norris began her performing arts career as an actress, but the job soon lost its appeal.
"I quickly realized that you don't get to do very much acting," she said. "It was mostly auditioning and waiting around for people to see you for projects. I didn't like the waiting. I didn't like not being in creative control of my own career. That kind of inspired me to go into filming."
She began by participating in marathon filmmaking contests, the sort that have to be started and completed in 24, 48 or 72 hours.
In 2011, Norris and Resnick competed in the "Dances With Films' 2-Minute, 2-Step Short Film Challenge" by creating the comedy "Toasted; A Short Film About Getting Burned," all about a kitchen toaster that refused to follow directions during a commercial shoot.
The duo has also created the comedy "The Amazing Adventures of Average Ben." (The "Ben" in the title refers to the angst-driven protagonist of the classic comedy "The Graduate," Benjamin Braddock.) It's a conflicted romance story about a drab man whose daughter's art teacher fills his life with color and fun.
When the art teacher runs into financial problems, she gets evicted. The man is the person who must serve the eviction notice.
"Does he evict the woman he loves," Norris asked, "or does he stand up to his horrible boss and be a man?"
Norris and Resnick also are working on a new Web series titled "Split," based on an earlier film short she produced at an L.A. community college.
"It's about a woman who has gone through a nasty divorce," Norris explained. "While driving in her car, the woman is stopped by her ex-husband's mistress who wants the man's family all to herself.
"It's a comedy." (You can check out the postproduction project at splittheseries.com.)
She met her partner and significant other, Kevin Resnick, three years ago. He was born in Canada and served in the U.S. Air Force for 13 years.
"He's really smart, driven and ambitious," she said. "He loves blurring the line between comedy and drama. He's just a great guy."
We asked Norris our regular question: Is there a difference between Chicagoans and people from L.A. and New York out on the film sets of Hollywood?
"I think I have noticed a difference," she admitted. "I find that the Chicago-area people tend to be much more reliable. Very considerate of others, always thinking of others. Not that people from New York and L.A. are necessarily inconsiderate. When people talk about Midwestern values, I really notice the lack of those here.
"When I see someone from the Midwest, I tend to grab on to them and want to keep them in my circle because they will be your real friends and they will actually do what they say they will do."
-- Dann Gire
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are looking for Northwest suburbanites now working in showbiz. Know someone who would make a good feature? Email us at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
'Film goes on forever'Even with Kevin Resnick, her life partner and business partner on the movie set, Lake Zurich native Rebecca Norris admitted that filmmaking can be a taxing undertaking.
So why does she do it?
"That's funny," she said. "In my last production I was asking myself the same question. Why am I doing this?"
"This is really hard, but I think it's the thrill of seeing the final product," she answered.
"When you go to a festival and you sit down in a dress and you see your film come up on the screen ... there's this thrill of accomplishment, knowing what it took to get there and seeing the final product.
"And, because it's a film and not a stage show, it lasts forever, theoretically. I love doing theater. But once the show is over, it's over. Film goes on forever."
-- Dann Gire