A Delicate Balance: Thora Birch on Directing Her First Feature, The Gabby Petito Story | Interviews

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When was your interest in filmmaking born?

I wanted to direct since I was about nine or ten years old. The first films I worked on where I really felt like an actor, starting with “Paradise”, were also the first where I noticed that according to everyone, the person most important on the set was the director. It made me think, ‘If that’s the most important person, then that’s what I want to do.’ On every project I worked on from then on, the role of director became my focus. I always paid attention to directors and I was lucky enough to work with some of the best, like Sam Mendes, Mary Agnes Donoghue, Lesli Linka Glatter and so many other great directors throughout my career. At the end of the day, that’s what I thought I had to do. I needed to tell people what to do.

How did these three particular directors you named inspire you on set?

I would say that between the three of them, they had a pre-calculation and a reflection on the approach to the material on which they were going to work. They also knew how to behave with their crews. I loved watching Lesli manage a team like anyone else would. She just showed up at the start and said, “Yeah, I’m here with Demi Moore and we’re producing and fucking directing!” [laughs] At the time, it was a bit more of a novelty to see so many women in power like that, so to be a 12-year-old actress working under those auspices, I was like, “Oh my god, fantastic! This is how life is going to be. It was encouraging and inspiring and made me want to stay in the game.

According to IMDb, you directed the 2006 short, “I, Witness.”

It’s true! My friends and I thought we were gonna be funny or die before funny or die actually happened. We dreamed of doing all these short comedy sketches online and broadcasting them. We could film them in our free time, and “I Witness” was one of the ones we did together. Then funny or die arrived and eclipsed us. I have also made a few other short films, but nothing to share.

What was your previous experience with Lifetime when you starred in “Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story” in 2003, for which you received an Emmy nomination?

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