Elizabeth Allen Talks Femme Fatales and Coming of Age in “Careful What You Wish For”

Elizabeth Allen recently directed and produced “The Kicks,” a television pilot for Amazon Studios. The series, which was picked up for a whole season, centers on an underdog girls soccer team. Allen’s feature film directing credits include “Ramona and Beezus” and “Aquamarine.” She’s helmed episodes of series such as “Gossip Girl,” “90210,” “The Vampire Diaries,” and “Red Band Society.”

You can watch “Careful What You Wish For” in theaters and via iTunes and On Demand June 10th.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

EA: “Careful What You Wish For” is a coming-of-age story about a teenage boy, played by Nick Jonas, who falls for an older, unhappily married woman, played by Isabel Lucas. He comes to find out that she isn’t the person he idealized, but at that point, not only is it impossible for him to undo his choices, but having stepped off the precipice into adulthood, he can never be the same person again.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

EA: I’ve always loved the classic, sensual thrillers like “Basic Instinct” and “Body Heat.” What attracted me to “Careful What You Wish For” was that, like those timeless films, the script explores temptation and heightened sexual attraction with a strong femme fatale at the center, toying deliciously with our expectations.

But this particular “noir” film felt unique to me in that it features an adolescent male lead, and is geared towards a younger audience — making the story more timely and truly apropos of our times. Having directed the films “Aquamarine” and “Ramona and Beezus,” as well as myriad teen television shows like “Gossip Girl,” I am only too conscious of how — fed by digital technology and the Internet — millennials desire immediate gratification, jumping into adulthood quickly without always considering the consequences of their actions.

For me, our movie is a morality tale exploring that very subject matter and depicting the true consequences of attention-grabbing, momentarily thrilling but illicit behavior. The film is a provocative, cautionary story for the upcoming generational archetype — a peer group that is suddenly faced with a far bigger stage, more attainable temptation, and higher stakes than any generation that has come before.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

EA: That they want to see it again?

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

EA: For a thriller that takes place at night with big boat scenes and chases, it had a grueling schedule that was fairly impossible to make. We ended up cutting over 18 scenes as we shot because we couldn’t fit them all in. We did rewrites on weekends and evenings.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

EA: The producers came to me with the project and they obtained the funds through a combination of foreign pre-sales and some loans. I don’t know very much about film funding myself, but would like to!

W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?

EA: The first short film I ever made was a wrestling gross-out comedy with a cast of almost exclusively boys. That short got a lot of attention and helped me segue into making features and television. But since that short film, I’ve been offered predominantly young, female-centric projects.

W&H: What’s the best advice you’ve received?

EA: Best advice: I remember Amy Heckerling came to speak at USC when I was a student 20 years ago and reminded everyone that there are “a lot of pieces of the pie.” It can be a cutthroat business, but she advised that rather than being competitive with our directing peers it’s would be much more rewarding to foster friendships and develop a supportive community.

I think about that advice a lot. Nothing helps you grow and push yourself more than having a creative community of people you trust and love.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

EA: I’m asked this a lot. and my blunt answer is something that’s actually very hard to put into practice, but is essential: every rejection, every “no,” cannot be internalized. It cannot hurt your feelings.

Instead it has to steel your confidence, your drive, and your desires to prove people wrong. It’s almost impossible to transform things like being condescended to or being underestimated into positives. But it’s the only way to succeed and to stay sane in a volatile business.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

EA: “Lost in Translation.” I admire Sofia Coppola’s film because it has the courage to take the time to draw us in to the character’s experiences in an honest, experiential way. I’ve found that it’s much more challenging to pace a story slowly and keep the tension.