North Hollywood, Calif- Wyatt Lake has a big mountain to climb. The Chapman graduate is trying to become one of the next premiere filmmakers in Hollywood. It is no easy task and even harder being a young woman dominated by men and without a big name attempting to make the right noise.
Lake’s 2017 short film Annabelle Crane showcased her mastery as a storyteller. Crane is about a writer who is a prisoner of her own world. The film lends itself to techniques used by Alfred Hitchcock to tell a dark and twisted tale. A character whose brilliance of mind can also be her worst nightmare.
It is raw, potent and well-executed. The type of original storytelling that brings a breath of fresh air not only to the thriller genre, but to the filmmaking industry itself. Behind the curtain of the young and precocious personality is a director and writer that carries in her pocket the ability to pay homage to the old school while armed with a fresh set of new ideas.
“I was encouraged to watch older, classic films and today I have a love for Hitchcock,” Lake said. “I relied on my knowledge of watching Hitchcock when I was younger. I worked really hard with our team with the feel of the film which was an unsettling tone. I worked closely with my cinematographer to give it a more sinister look. That film was a collaborative medium where you have to rely on your team. Each film is so unique because it has its own set of needs. As a filmmaker I’m always looking for that next challenge.”
It was a change of pace for Lake. She grew up studying directors like Steven Spielberg, Carol Reed, Brian De Palma and Andrey Konchalovisky but traditionally comes from a comedic background. Her father Don Lake has worked as a producer, director and actor for over 30 years. Ironically both father and daughter are starting to gain steam. Wyatt with her vision as a creator and her father who voiced Stu Hopps in Disney Pixar’s hit Zootopia. Don now has a recurring role in CBS staple NCIS.
“Growing up in a film family I was always given the opportunity to express myself creatively and I wasn’t dissuaded from telling stories.” Lake said in recalling some of her memories as a child. “I have a love for comedy which comes from my dad. I love the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, the musicals of the 1930s-40s. From a young age I was involved in theater. Even when we just had family friends over, I would always want to put on a show and entertain people. I loved making them laugh, making them feel something deeper.”
Lake took the bold move of taking on the sci-fi/thriller project after becoming fascinated by poet Sylvia Plath while studying her minor in psychology.
Plath’s imagery of words came out in her writing while struggling through depression and mental illness. Much like Crane, Plath was a prisoner of her own creative world. After being admitted into mental hospitals multiple times, Plath committed suicide and died in 1963 at the age of 30.
We wanted to focus on that and model the character Plath who would get into these mental states and how they would affect her creativity,” Lake said. “We put her in an isolated setting so she would have to confront the good and bad parts of herself. I was interested in how people get into these emotional states and bring to light the experiences that my friends are going through. How someone could be so brilliant yet be so internally tortured.”
“That’s why I really relied on my class in psychology class I studied the effects of certain medications on the brain. Studied these disorders that really do affect one’s life. I was specifically interested in schizophrenia and the spectrum of schizophrenia where you have someone can’t function. From someone who cannot deal with the effects to someone like Annabelle where she could manage it. I didn’t want her disability to hold her back in her career.”
Crane played by Lauren Campbell carries is composed, yet chillingly vulnerable throughout the film. Campbell’s reactions are authentic from the first breath and Lake is able to carry her film’s direction with force.
Annabelle was a very cold character and not likeable but always getting to the root of what makes her that way,” Lake said. “ It’s why I wanted to study psychology at the same time is because you get to read about what makes a person tick.”
“When I think about characters, I think about what Atticus Finch says to his daughter in To Kill A Mockingbird ‘In order to understand a person you need to walk in their shoes.’ I felt I needed to walk into Annabelle’s shoes and it makes it easier to talk to your actors about the character. It’s like they are your friend in such a weird way.”
Lake’s creation brought her much deserved credibility and respect. She has shown what can be created when given a chance. When Lake receives another opportunity, is the question. She has battled through depression, but makes no qualms about it. She has moved forward with the hopes that her next opportunity comes with more at stake.
“My depression came from just trying to transition to adulthood,” Lake said. “It is a hard transition and I think what really helped me was my family and my friends who encouraged me to keep pursuing my dream and to keep exploring my dream as a filmmaker.”
Lake is ready. She carries with her the right type of charm and charisma needed to hold strong in Hollywood. On the same token, she is nothing more then who she is. Humble enough to remember the things that make movies great but hungry enough to show she can compete with the best, man or woman.
There aren’t enough women who are given big budgets to film big action scenes, car scenes and explosions because we are seen as not being able to handle those elements,” Lake said. “A big moment was when Patty Jenkins directed Wonder Women from this last year. It really showed that we are capable of really turning out Big Budget Films and we can get audiences into the seats. When I took on Annabelle Crane, I wanted to prove that women can take on those big roles in a student filmmaking situations.”
Lake has plenty of help within her corner. Along with her father one of her other mentors include actor and writer Bonnie Hunt (Cheaper By The Dozen). Make no mistake about it, Lake plans on doing things her way. She is ready to grind and is armed with the knowledge and work ethic that will one day see her on the big screen.
I’m really trying to make it on my own own,” Lake said. “I don’t cut corners and I want to start from the ground up and grow. I’m going to do other things to help me grow. I’ve looked to my mentors and I was very adamant about starting in this business and growing from the ground up.”
“Crane” has won numerous short film awards and has been screened at the Newport Beach Film Festival and Venice Film Festival.
Written by Ethan Hanson