‘Silvertone,’ an auspicious directorial debut, premieres at Aspen Shortsfest
Virtual festival runs through Sunday
What: ‘Silvertone’ at Aspen Shortsfest
Where: Eventive via aspenfilm.org
When: Program Three; Streaming through April 11
How Much: $15/single program; $60/Five Program Pass; $150/Full Virtual Pass; $250/VIP Pass; $45/student pass
Most movie watchers got their first glimpse of Kerris Dorsey a decade ago in “Moneyball,” in which she played Brad Pitt’s precocious songwriting daughter in the Best Picture-nominated adaptation of Michael Lewis’s book. The memorable climax featured the tween Dorsey performing a cover of Lenka’s “The Show.”
The song hadn’t been in Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar-nominated script, but when Dorsey came in and did her charming rendition, director Bennett Miller ended up putting it in the movie, which kick-started a career that’s often straddled the music and film worlds.
The actor, now 23, is making her directorial debut with the 10-minute “Silvertone,” which has its world premiere this week at the virtual Aspen Shortsfest. Naturally, the film is music-themed, with Dorsey co-starring and performing.
“It’s some sort of chicken or egg thing,” Dorsey said in a phone interview, “but music always finds its way in in these interesting ways. I’m really interested in putting the two together cinematically.”
The film is a slice of life about the creative process, collaboration and insecurity, training its perceptive eye on an indie music duo — Dorsey and Logan Miller — holed up in a luxe and ultra-modern Los Angeles home to finish their much-anticipated sophomore album.
They mess around with song assignments on the porch, improvise a bit and try to find common ground on a final composition that’ll complete the record. Brief snippets of interviews with the characters offer bits of the of the couple’s creative and personal history, but most of it goes unsaid in Dorsey’s script.
“I’m fascinated by creative processes, and also relationships,” she said. “I felt called to write about what was really personal at that time in my life, and it felt like a way to process my own feelings.”
Dorsey pared down a longer and more detailed screenplay into this final version that challenged her to tell the story visually and with implication.
A former child actor, the “Ray Donovan” castmember has been on film sets since age 5 learning about filmmaking and, increasingly, has been drawn to work behind the camera.
“I think naturally over the years you start to learn and absorb a lot of information,” she explained, “and I think that when I became an adult, like when I was 18 on set, it was this weird moment where I started to really pay attention to the craft of filmmaking.”
“Silvertone” producer William Day Frank had read an earlier script that Dorsey wrote as a teenager and Frank encouraged her to make a short and begin getting experience behind the camera. The pair co-wrote a feature-length screenplay that Dorsey hopes to direct in the next year or so.
Preparing to make “Silvertone,” she shadowed the experienced television director Michael Uppendahl as they worked on “Ray Donovan” and Dorsey peppered him with technical questions about the job. She also turned to her “Ray Donovan” co-star, Liev Schreiber, who has directed her in episodes of the show and made the feature “Everything is Illuminated,” for advice on transitioning to work behind the camera.
“At first it felt like I was just trying it out, but I loved it so much and it felt natural for me,” Dorsey said. “Being an actor, it feels a little presumptuous to say ‘Oh, I could be the one in charge, I could direct.’ But having done it, I’m so excited to do it again.”
Preparing for audiences to see “Silvertone” for the first time at Shortsfest, Dorsey said she’s trying to shake off the feeling of imposter syndrome and to embrace the fact that she is now a filmmaker. She hasn’t worked as an actor during the pandemic — “Silvertone” shot in L.A. in 2019 — but a film version of “Ray Donovan” is set to go into production this spring.
Dorsey had put “Silvertone” aside for much of the pandemic as well, she said, but completed it once she set her sites on Aspen Shortsfest as a motivator and deadline to complete the film.
“Aspen was such a beautiful way to return to it and finish it,” she said. “Right now I’m most excited for people to watch it, and to see their reactions because I’ve never experienced someone digesting something that I made.”
Back in 2013, while working on a proposed box set of archival recordings, singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge came across a group of songs that had been recorded in the late 1980s but never released.
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