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Michelle Danner talks about Miranda's Victim

Miranda's Victim tells the true story of Trish Weir (Breslin), who in 1963 was kidnapped and brutally raped by Ernesto Miranda (Quinn). Committed to putting her assailant in prison, Trish’s life is destroyed by America’s legal system as she triggers a law that transforms the nation. Her case notably results in the establishment of the Miranda rights afforded to criminal suspects taken in police custody, to ensure the admissibility of statements made during interrogation, as part of subsequent criminal proceedings. The film had its world premiere at the Santa Barbara Film Festival and went on to win awards in various international festivals. The feature project stars Abigail Breslin, Luke Wilson, Andy Garcia, Donald Sutherland, Ryan Phillippe, Mireille Enos, Kyle MacLachlan and Taryn Manning. "Miranda's Victim" is directed by Michelle Danner.

Michelle Danner is a film and stage director, an author, and a world-renowned acting coach. She teaches the Golden Box Acting workshops in South America, Europe, Canada, Dubai, New York, and Australia. It was her father, Alexander Valdez, who opened the very first William Morris Agency in Paris, France, that instilled a strong passion and work ethic that has stayed with her throughout her life.

Michelle trained extensively in Paris and New York with Stella Adler and Uta Hagen. For 20 years she was the Founding Director of Edgemar Center for the Arts, designed by Frank Ghery, and raised $1.3 million to construct the two theaters and the art gallery. At the opening ceremony, Steven Spielberg commented, “Here we have a venue that can turn out some extremely experienced, daring and resourceful artists.” To that end Michelle has pioneered new works, directed and acted in over thirty plays and musicals in New York, Los Angeles and London. Her favorite acting and directing credits include Tennessee Williams's "The Rose Tattoo", which garnered critic’s pick and awards including best actress and directing "Jane Fonda in the Court of Public Opinion" starring Anne Archer.

She is currently serving as Artistic Director at the Creative Center for the Arts and teaches ongoing classes at the Michelle Danner Studio and the Los Angeles Acting Conservatory.

Previous to Miranda's Victim, Michelle directed several feature films, documentaries and short films. Her latest action thriller “The Runner” was just released by Saban Film in Theaters and on Demand starring Edouard Phillipponnat, Cameron Douglas, Elisabeth Röhm and Eric Balfour.

She is in post-production for the courtroom suspense drama “Miranda’s Victim” starring Abigail Breslin, Ryan Phillippe, Luke Wilson, Emily VanCamp, Mireille Enos, Kyle MacLachlan, Andy Garcia and Donald Sutherland about the creation of the Miranda Rights.

She is in pre-production for several projects including the romantic comedy “Starstruck”, the family comedy “The Italians” and the true story "The Uninvited". It is our pleasure to interview her regarding the making of Miranda's Victim.

What was the inspiration behind the making of Miranda's Victim?

It was our writer and producer, George Kolber, who asked the question during the pandemic: What happened to the victim? He went on a search, he found her and met her. She had kept her story a secret for almost 60 years and she agreed to let us tell her story.

How did you get involved in the project as a director?

I was offered to direct this project. I was very excited when I read it and I immediately understood the subject matter. It was unique because the story had never been told before. I have always been passionate about crime and mystery and throughout the years, my family always teased me about it. So I'm happy to say it paid off

How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?

I started making films 20 years ago. I worked on documentaries and short films. "Miranda's Victim" is my 6th feature film. My first film was "How to Go Out on a Date in Queens" and I shot it on film. It was exciting 20 years ago and "Miranda's Victim" was also shot on film. So at the moment my movies are bookended in that sense.

What was it like to work with some of the most important Hollywood stars as the cast of your latest feature?

It was an absolute privilege to have Donald Sutherland say yes to this project, he's a legend and to call action and watch Andy Garcia and Kyle MacLachlan work was absolutely thrilling. Abigail Breslin carries this movie and is the spine of the story. Everyone on set, including myself, was floored by her talent. The list goes on and on, it was unimaginable to have this cast come together. I was in awe watching Mireille Enos act. Emily VanCamp's nuanced and beautiful performance as Anne held the family together. Enrique Murciano was in my first movie and I was his first acting teacher - he is extraordinary as Detective Cooley. And seeing the first rate performances by Luke Wilson, Ryan Phillippe, Josh Bowman, Taryn Manning, Nolan Gould, Brent Sexton, Dan Lauria and Sebastian Quinn was beyond belief.

You premiered the film at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. What was it like to premiere the film in California at the festival?

It was an extraordinary experience. We were in the historical Arlington Theater. A lot of our cast came out to support it. We watched the movie with over 2,000 people in the audience. It was incredible to watch it in a theater with that many people, responding to it, and the outpour of emotions and people sharing their experiences afterwards.

Please tell us how the film came to life and let us know about the process from screenwriting to pre-production and completion of the feature film. How long did it take and what were some of the challenges of working on this feature?

When I got attached to direct this movie, I did a lot of research on courtroom dramas and gave my notes on the shooting script. Sometimes things fall into place and there was truly an ease about this movie. I was able to get a lot of the team that I wanted to work on it and share my vision with all the different artistic heads for the look and feel of the movie. Filming was very exciting, the actors were happy to be there and wanted to tell the story in a powerful way. One of the big challenges was, on the last days of the movie, we had thunderstorms and when that happens you have to halt production for hours. When that happened, I had double the amount to shoot before we wrapped. Everyone said it was impossible but I walked on set with a plan and we couldn't believe it when we completed it in time, just as the sun was rising over the New Jersey shore.

What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?

For my next project I have been brought on to direct Helios, a sci fi-thriller, and I have a few comedies that I am working on. I am very excited to tell these stories.

What is the most creative aspect of directing a project for you?

The director has to be the one that ultimately is responsible for the vision from beginning to end in addition to picking the cast and the creative team. There are many decisions that have to be made from picking a color palette to the camera, lighting choices, etc., a lot of very specific aspects for everything that appears on screen, like all the props that are used. I am very hands on with background and I always pick who I feel would be right for it. One of the most creative aspects of it, to me, is in Post Production when all the elements finally come together and it clicks, that is a very exhilarating moment.

Does the language of cinema stand out more than other arts to you? And why? The language of cinema inspires me and makes me want to work harder. I am equally passionate about the theater and everything that it entails to mount a production that will move an audience in the moment and at no other time. The great thing about cinema is that you play in the biggest classroom in the world and it's immortalized forever. The greatest gift in the theater is that it's only going to be what it is in the moment and will never be duplicated. Two wonderfully different creative journeys.

What kind of impact would your work have on your audience and the world? I pick projects that I feel are socially relevant such as Miranda's Victim. In every screening we've gone to, people have come up to me with tears in their eyes, saying how much the film moved them and sharing their experience. If this could continue to help victims tell their stories and also heal them, then I feel I have done my job.

Why do you make films? I make films because I get to be the ultimate storyteller. I get to sign the painting. I get to reach people and hopefully affect them. I make films because you collaborate with a creative family and it's simply fun!


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