Monday, November 16, 2020

|Podcast| GraceLand - Bonnie Discepolo, Trevor Munson & Katie Beth West

GraceLand is the age-old story of a mom and her daughter who claims to be the king of rock ‘n roll: Elvis Presley.

Prissy (Anna Camp) works hard to create a totally ‘normal’ life for her family in Charleston, South Carolina. Her home is perfectly appointed, she serves only healthy breakfasts, and chooses the best schools for her child. But tensions run high when on the first day of fourth grade her daughter Grace (played by newcomer Katie Beth West) claims to be the reincarnation of Elvis Presley.

The disruption of the perfect family life she’s worked so hard to achieve leaves Prissy both worried for her child and concerned about how this behavior reflects upon her as a parent. All shook up, Prissy searches her heart to figure out what’s really most important in order to be the kind of parent she wants to be and accept a new normal.

GraceLand uses the music of Elvis Presley and a young person's sense of connection to him as a vehicle to explore self-identity, gender, and a parent’s acceptance. 

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GraceLand, is inspired by a true story.

I’ve struggled with being an outsider, and many of my films feature women who make alterations, or want to make alterations to their bodies or personas. In GraceLand I wanted to turn my storytelling on its head and instead of showing the struggle to gain acceptance, revel in a character who knows exactly who they are: Elvis. GraceLand is from the perspective of a parent trying to navigate how to effectively raise a child who is so sure that he is someone different than the parent expected.

“In many way GraceLand is a fairytale, a guide to how I wish the world was.” Bonnie Discepolo

Photo Credit: Alex Harris

Ultimately Prissy comes to see and accept Elvis and supports him in expressing his identity to the greater world. It’s my hope that in using the cultural icon that is Elvis Presley, audiences who may not cheer for a trans boy, will find themselves rooting for our little Elvis Presley.

There are a lot of opinions from the various characters in the film. Elvis is certain that he is Elvis. Dad thinks the whole Elvis thing is just a phase. The local teacher, supports Elvis’s creativity and expression but doesn’t buy the ‘Elvis reincarnation” element and is pretty sure he’s simply expressing gender. Mom is well... terrified. Prissy knows she raised a little girl named Grace, and is pretty sure that at best this Elvis phase will be an embarrassment and reflect poorly on her as a mother but at worst will be the first step toward a life of misery, confusion, and unhappiness for her child.

I intentionally leave the answer to exactly what is going on and who is right ambiguous because each character has their own truth. Ultimately, my hope with this project is to convey the idea of acceptance and support even when we don’t totally understand and share a message of joy and understanding with places and people who see things differently.

Photo Content from Bonnie Discepolo

Graceland co-writer Trevor Munson grew up in Texas, where he earned an M.A. in English Literature from Texas State University. Since moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in screenwriting, Trevor has had a number of film and television projects made including: Lone Star State of Mind, starring Joshua Jackson and Jamie King produced by Sony ScreenGems, and the CBS series Moonlight, starring Alex O’loughlin (Hawaii Five-0) for which he served as co-creator and co-Executive Producer and which won the People’s Choice award for Best New Drama. Most recently, Trevor was hired to adapt Warren Adler’s novel, Serpent’s Bite, into a script which will star Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect, Perfect Harmony). On top of his busy writing career, Trevor currently teaches a thesis prep screenwriting class for the University of Southern California.

Bonnie Discepolo (Ryan) is a director and co-screenwriter of comedy short GraceLand starring Anna Camp. GraceLand is an official selection of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival narrative shorts competition in the Southern Voices block. Their El Mariachi-style film Grandma’s House, screened during the 2018 SXSW Film Festival. El Rey also acquired their award-winning horror short Three Legged Dog (Indie Grits - 2018, Best Dark Comedy Short Atlanta Underground Horror Fest - 2017.) Discepolo is featured in The Wrap's Oscar Contenders Showcase 2019 for father-daughter connection drama Real.Live.Girl. An award-winning actor themself, they now spend most of their time behind the lens, audiences may recognize Bonnie as a participant on Robert Rodriguez’s docu-series Rebel Without a Crew. They are an alum of Boston University’s College of Fine Arts and the Moscow Art Theater School. Bonnie credits creative success to growing up and performing theatre in Columbia, South Carolina.

Anna Camp has quickly established herself as one of the industry's most exciting, scene-stealing talents on stage and screen. Film credits include Pitch Perfect, the independent feature Brave New Jersey, One Night, Goodbye To All That, which premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, and the Academy Award-nominated film The Help. On television, Camp recently starred in Amazon's critically acclaimed 1970s newsroom drama Good Girls Revolt based on the novel by Lynn Povich. Camp is also widely known for playing the vampire-hating role of "Sarah Newlin" on HBO’s True Blood. The show and Camp earned a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, on behalf of their work on the series. Other television credits include: Saints and Strangers, The Good Wife, Mad Men, The Office, and How I Met Your Mother. On Broadway, Camp starred opposite Daniel Radcliffe in the 2008 Broadway revival of Equus. She also appeared in Mike Nichols' The Country Girl, opposite Morgan Freeman and Francis McDormand. Camp was also nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award on behalf of her performance in the Rebecca Taichman-directed production of The Scene opposite Tony Shalhoub and Patricia Heaton. Camp grew up in South Carolina and currently resides in Los Angeles.

Katie Beth West is a bright new star to watch out for in the Entertainment Industry! At the young age of twelve Katie Beth had the opportunity to play her first big role as Elvis in the film GraceLand. Katie Beth has appeared in over 15 theatre productions ranging from Gretl in Star Bright Theatre’s production of The Sound of Music, Annie in their production of Annie, to Bitsy in Brentwood Middle School’s production of Inside Out Atlas. As well as being an accomplished actor Katie Beth also sings and has performed in various school productions as well as with the Nashville Creative House Master Class series. Katie Beth studies with acclaimed acting coach and Belmont Professor, Bridget Berger and studies voice with Moe Loughran of the Nashville Creative House. When not acting or singing, Katie Beth enjoys playing the ukulele, spending time with her golden retriever Cosmo, and spending quality time with her family in Nashville, TN. 

Monique is an actor, producer, activist and host. She is best known for playing ‘Taylor Mckessie’ in the High School Musical franchise for the Disney Channel, and currently hosts and executive produces her own original non-scripted series Gimme Mo through her production company Motivated Productions. She earned a 2019 Daytime Emmy nomination in the Outstanding Host for Lifestyle, Children’s or Special Class Programs category for her work on the show. Her most recent acting credits include the movies Somebody’s Someone for Lifetime, Steppin’ Back to Love for TV One, and the independent features Phobias, The F Happened, and GraceLand.

Monique works tirelessly to balance her work in entertainment with her passion for advocacy. She was the first Youth Champion of The United Nations, and is a longtime champion of that foundation’s Girl Up Campaign. She is also a Good Starts Young Ambassador for Allstate.

Mo currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Walter.

GraceLand is a narrative short comedy that follows Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect) as Prissy, a mom whose life is all shook up when her fourth grader (played by newcomer Katie Beth West) claims to be the reincarnation of Elvis Presley. Monique Coleman (High School Musical) steps in as a supportive teacher who helps the family navigate this new situation.

“I thought it would be fun to use the symbol of Elvis as a vehicle for compassion and understanding and questioning gender norms.” Bonnie Discepolo, Director - GraceLand

GraceLand actors Anna Camp, Monique Coleman, and director Bonnie Discepolo are childhood best friends who grew up in Columbia, South Carolina and remained close as they took their ambitions to Hollywood. GraceLand is the first project the three women have collaborated on since childhood.

GraceLand is co-written by Trevor Munson (Moonlight, CBS) and Bonnie Discepolo (Rebel Without A Crew). Actor Monique Coleman, an advocate for children’s rights and the youth ambassador to the UN was the first actor to sign on to the project stating, that GraceLand “has an important message.” Anna Camp is thrilled to work with longtime friends on a passion project.
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