While having brunch with Quinn Shephard, the 22-year-old writer, director, and star of Tribeca Film Festival standout film Blame, I saw something I’d never seen before in over a decade of covering entertainers. I saw an actress ask for more bread.
That’s just one of the many reasons why Shephard has my attention. Her award-winning movie, which she started writing as a 15-year-old high school student in New Jersey and directed at the age of 20, is the main one. She stars as Abigail, a theater-obsessed teenage outcast whose teacher Jeremy (Chris Messina) takes a liking to her. Too much of a liking? That’s how it looks to the popular, black-eyeliner-wearing Melissa (Nadia Alexander), who pretends not to care — but soon cares about nothing else.
The film is uncomfortable to watch, especially if you’ve ever been a teenage girl. When Melissa asks a high, horny guy in her class if he thinks she’s pretty, it’s as though her life depends on it. When Abigail gets a ride home from Jeremy, her hair soaked in rain, I could practically smell his Old Spice deodorant. And when we finally find out the source of Melissa’s anger, the trauma behind the tough exterior, we wonder how we even made it out of high school alive.
“It’s a story about girls,” Shephard tells me, before asking for that extra plate of carbohydrates. “The damage that can be done to young girls when they’re pushed into their sexuality too young, and in a way that isn’t in their control.”
Ahead, a few of the signs that this young woman is most likely the next big name in female filmmakers. Scratch that: the next big name in filmmakers.