If entertainment history has taught us anything, it’s that tortured souls are often the most creative. Knowing this, one of the upcoming thesis films,
Annabelle Crane
, decided to craft a story that feeds into this, making a film that shows a writer’s process to create…and her descent into madness.

The titular character, Annabelle Crane, hopes to recreate the success of her first bestseller, so she searches for inspiration at Blackpoint Manor, a writer’s retreat. However, as anxiety, isolation, and obsession take over, her experiences at Blackpoint may unravel her forever.

“I knew I wanted to write a story about writers,” said director Wyatt Lake (BFA/Film Production ’17). “These stories have always been very interesting to me, as every writer has a different process.”

Lake was inspired by the works of Sylvia Plath. She was given a collection of Plath’s poetry, and had read autobiographies regarding her past. Along with other classic writers, such as Hemingway and David Foster Wallace, these are considered the classics, and the ones most people have to read for school.


Lake directing a scene. Photo by Lia Hanson

“But, each of these writers were tortured. Brilliant, yet tortured; taking their lives midway through their careers,” said Lake. Using that as a jumping off point, Lake explained that
Annabelle Crane
explores the relationship between art and the mental state of people get into such as depression, mania or anxiety.

“We’re navigating the poetry within the pain,” said Lake.

The inception of this idea came about spring 2015. Lake and her writer had an outline that quickly turned into a rough draft, which eventually lead to another eight drafts. Once they had the backstory and finessed the characters to where they were comfortable, producers Payne Cowley (BFA/Creative Producing ’17) and Sol Ye (BFA/Creative Producing ’17) came on board to help figure out the logistics of making it happen.

“Before I knew Wyatt, and before I came on board as a producer, I read Sylvia Plath’s poetry collection and was immediately drawn into her mind,” said Ye. “So when I read Sylvia’s words on the first page of the script, I thought it’s all meant to be! Wyatt captured this artist’s inevitable tragedy beautifully in her script and it has been a great journey making this piece into life.”

“I immediately was drawn in from the pitch alone, because it tells a story that dives so deeply into the depths of a tortured artists mind,” said Cowley. “Not only does this dive into the topic of mental illness, but it does so with accuracy. That paired with the beautiful storytelling, and the fact that I knew I would be challenged as a producer to actually make it, made the decision for me to produce this film pretty easy.”

annabelle crane

Photo by Lia Hanson

“The film tries to reveal the moment when someone is battling with their own flawed, desperate mind but still sees hope and passion,” said Lake.

In addition to having some heavy themes of mental illness,
Annabelle Crane
also contains a fair bit of practical stunt work that had the students venturing into a territory they hadn’t been before.

“The stunt work isn’t so much about the ‘wow factor’ as it is about trying to portray somebody who’s truly having a frantic breakdown,” said Lake.

They hired a stunt coordinator to aid them with certain elements of what they were trying to achieve: a window break, a mid-flight fall through the air, and a fall and tumble from a two-story house.

“It’s definitely more exciting to try and achieve these practically on-set, because it’s even more strategically planned out and smoothed over for safety concerns, and I get to be right there with my actress, emotionally directing her as she actually breaks something,” said Lake.

annabelle crane

Practical stunt work on set. Photo by Lia Hanson

The production credits the Women of Chapman grant they received in helping make the film come to life. When applications were open for it, there was very little crew attached to the project, so it was just Lake going in to pitch the idea to the board.

“I don’t think a lot of females are seen going through perilous battles like this in film. It’s usually a man’s story. But I felt it was a story worth investing in,” said Lake.

The Women of Chapman grant helped them secure the Beckett Mansion in Los Angeles, a gorgeously restored historic mansion with an eerie look to it that gave the film the unsettled tone they were looking for.

“The Beckett Mansion comes ripe with cracks and imperfections…perfect for a story about a fragmented mind!” said Lake.

Look for
Annabelle Crane
during thesis cycle screenings soon.