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Exclusive interview: Shana Betz, director of 'Free Ride' which stars Anna Paquin

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Yesterday, writer and director Shana Betz gave an exclusive interview for Examiner. Betz recently wrote and directed her first feature film, “Free Ride,” which is a drama based on her life in the 1970s. Shana's mother (named Christina for the film) is played by Anna Paquin. At the start of the movie Christina is in an abusive relationship. She wants to protect her daughters and make a better life for them.

One day, Christina surprises her kids after school. She shows up in the car with all of their bags packed and whisks them off to Florida to get a fresh start.

Having very few options, Cristina is easily seduced into transporting drugs when her friend Sandy (Drea de Matteo) tells her how it's done. Seven year old Shana is played by Ava Acres and Liana Liberato of “Stuck in Love“ plays MJ, Shana’s older sister, 15.

Paquin is a producer and Stephen Moyer, Paquin’s husband and co-star on HBO’s “True Blood,” is executive producer.

Dorri Olds: How did Anna Paquin get involved with the film?

Shana Betz: My casting director introduced me to Stephen Moyers's manager. Our budget was so low we couldn't get it through to her agency. He said, "Let me see what I can do," and went through the proper channels. She loved the script. Within six weeks we were in production.

It's such a personal story. Was it painful to "kill your darlings" during the editing process?

No. I'm not precious about things. I came out of producing and being an actress. All that matters is if it works. I have no sentimentality about it. But I am a passionate person. I have a lot of producer in me and know what works and what doesn’t. If it isn't right you have to get rid of it.

What is your favorite part of filmmaking?

I like actors. I love being able to manipulate the scenes as a director. I’m very hands-on. It’s the best part. I love being on set and working with the actors. That’s my sweet spot.

Have you had therapy to deal with those rough childhood years?

I probably need therapy, but no, not for that. When mom went to jail I was 11 and went to live with my grandmother. Up until that, my mom continued partying. She wasn’t running drugs anymore but she still drank and took hard drugs. She was doing heroin and cocaine before I was born, then she started smoking a lot of pot and using a lot of alcohol.

It sounds like she was in no condition to raise children.

I have a lot of compassion for her, though. She was a girl who got pregnant in high school and didn’t graduate. We were on welfare and food stamps. My mom was just not well equipped to be a parent.

What's next for you?

A supernatural thriller in the vein of an old school Kubrick thriller. I'm very excited about it. We should be finished come the first quarter in 2014. I'm also working on another project that takes place post civil war. It's a mix between "Django" and “Hanna.” I love crossing those genres. Hanna is a great story about a young girl that ultimately kicks ass.

"Free Ride" will open in New York City theaters in limited release on January 10, 2014 and will be available On Demand. Unrated. 86 minutes.


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