To the Beat: Jillian Clare and Susan Bernhardt, The Hollywood Mother-Daughter Duo You Need to Know About!
Q&A Written By
After hearing the constant buzz swirling around the recently released, hit upcoming dance film, To the Beat!, I thought it would only be fitting to talk to the mother-daughter duo who dreamed up and directed the passion based project, actress/producer/director Jillian Clare and writer/producer Susan Bernhardt. Discussing here everything from: the inspiration of the film, their own separate careers and upcoming projects, their relationships with the cast and what’s next for the dynamic duo. Read the full interview right here exclusively from Samera Entertainment written by Chloe Brown of Chloe's Chronical's.
CC: Jillian, you are no stranger to family friendly musical and dancing related projects, such as the Victorious movie special, “Freak the Freak Out”, do you think that experience in family friendly entertainment inspired you to make this performance based film for the newer generation?
JILLIAN: I grew up doing so many family centered things like musicals in a local theatre called Glendale Center Theatre, family films as a child actor, and of course Victorious, so I think it all sort of had an influence on me. So many family or kid shows/movies are focused on hiding something i.e. “That’s So Raven”, “Wizards of Waverly Place”, etc... I wanted to just make a film to inspire all kids/teens to follow what they’re passionate about and to be kind to others.
CC: How did the idea of To the Beat come about? What was the creation process and filming process like? And were any of the characters portrayed based on anybody you have known in real life or any real situations?
SUSAN: It's a semi-long story, but the Cliff Notes version is that we were approached by the parents of our leads to help develop something for them so they could work together. Jillian and I have known Laura (who plays Mackie) and her mom Ryan (our Co-Producer) for over 10 years. We've worked together on other projects, so it was a natural fit. Though, I think they were a bit surprised when we suggested a feature film, then we rolled out with some fun ideas pretty quickly, and a script about a month or so later. Development to production of To the Beat! was only about 4 months – we definitely fast-tracked the film!
CC: You have teamed up on this film as co-screenwriters, what was the experience of creating this film together from scratch?
SUSAN: Jillian and I have been working on projects together since 2005 (she was just a pre-teen when she produced her first project). We created and produced Miss Behave, a multi-award winning teen digital series, before Amazon, Netflix or Hulu even existed. The only difference is that To The Beat! is a feature film that we created together, then I penned the screenplay, she directed the film and I produced it. Before I started writing the script, we outlined the entire film, which was a lot of fun. Then I went to work writing the script. It took about 3 weeks, and during that time Jillian was busy on another production (as an actor) so I would give her the script to review every few days, and she would let me know if we needed to adjust something here or there. But, there were a few twists that I came up with in the trenches of writing, that weren't in our outline. Fortunately, she loved them! I always trust Jillian's instincts when it comes to knowing what works in a script and lucky for me, she trusts my writing skills.
CC: Although “To the Beat” is not the only project you have both worked on together, I see you have collaborations with other films such as: Miss Behave, Acting Dead, By God’s Grace, Clutch, Advent and Pretty Broken. How is the dynamic of working together and has there ever been a time professionally you two have tried to keep your names or real life relationship separate/secret?
SUSAN: As I mentioned, because we've been working together for so long, there was definitely a time that we didn't tell everyone we are mother/daughter. Initially, I was handling PR for her, and simply because we wanted to keep things professional in the public eye, we kept quiet. There were many people that knew, but even more people that didn't. Now that she's older, I love to tell people we are mother and daughter – we honestly make a great team – we're both very driven and perfectionists when it comes to our projects so our goals are always the same. Make every project the best it can be!
CC: Jillian, you are an actress and singer but also a director / producer / writer / costume designer / researcher the list goes on and on, tell me how does the process or focus/vision change when you are acting vs. when you are behind the camera?
JILLIAN: I’ve always been the type of person to just dive into whatever is next and I love having all types of different jobs in the industry, although acting is number one (directing and producing is definitely number two). When I’m acting, I really take a lot of time breaking down the character, the script, and doing as much research as possible (if needed). Once I’ve done all of that and engrained it into me, I let go and just be. All the information and hard work I’ve done to prep is in me and I can live as the character when they call action. As a director, all the prep I do involving script, shot-listing, actor conversations, etc. is so vital. That way, when I get on set, I can watch the actors play / lead them in the correct direction, and focus on getting what I want out of each scene. Although the jobs are different, as long as you’ve really put in all the prep work, the actual filming should be fun.
CC: Susan, you yourself have such a long list of accolades and wear many hats, what would you say is the biggest challenge about that and what you’ve learned?
SUSAN: I wasn't born into the entertainment business like many of my colleagues. Meaning, I've had several careers before I became a writer and producer. I've worked in the travel industry, the medical field, been an interior decorator and owned a brick and mortar decorating center that I started from scratch. I've also been in PR and Marketing for the better part of 25 years. I think all of the skills I've acquired during the course of my many different careers have meshed together to make me who I am as a producer in the entertainment field. My business skills are really what carry me as a producer, and creatively, I've always loved to write and develop stories. As far as challenges, I suppose the biggest challenge I face, and it's something I mentioned to Jillian just the other day. I told her I wish I would have figured out that I could be a writer/producer 25 years ago. But of course, Jillian being Jillian said “But you wouldn't have all those great skills that make you who you are now.” I suppose she is right!
CC: Jillian, one of your earliest roles was on Days of Our Lives playing young Abigail Deveraux at age 11 but since then you have gone on to work with fellow DOOL stars like Arianne Zucker and Martha Madison in Ladies of the Lake and also Eric Martsolf in Miss Behave and now both him and Martha are in your upcoming film To the Beat!. Can you talk a little bit about that and the connection there? Because big SOAP fans are really excited about having some familiar faces in something their children and families want to watch.
JILLIAN: I love giving soap actors a chance to shine outside of their usual work! Eric and Martha were absolutely hysterical in the film and I’m so excited for their fans see them in something completely different than what they’re used to! We also have Marie Wilson and Lilly Melgar, who I also worked with on Ladies of The Lake, and they are equally as phenomenal. I think it’s important to take your friends with you on your journey if you can, and I’m happy to have had them on this fun ride.
CC: What message do you hope the film, To the Beat! brings people young people especially those who are performers?
JILLIAN: I hope it inspires young performers to keep going and following their heart. It’s a hard life to live as a creative professional, but it’s 100% worth it when you’re doing what you love!
SUSAN: In our film, both the twins, and their older sister, face obstacles. Our film is all about following your dreams and never giving up. Both families, in the film, support the dreams of the children – I hope our viewers will feel that when they watch the film.
CC: Jillian, besides, To the Beat! and also your performance in the film Pretty Broken both scheduled for release this year, do you have any upcoming projects that we can expect from you?
JILLIAN: I have a couple of films in pre-production that I am producing and acting in, a series that my mom and I are currently working on writing with some friends, and two films of my own that I’m writing/developing. I like to keep busy!
CC: Jillian, this being your directorial debut what have you learned the most as an artist moving forward from this experience?
JILLIAN: I’ve gotten this question a couple of times, and I never know how to answer it! I definitely learned a lot during this experience, especially in the post-production sense. I’m a quick-learner, so when I take on something new, I just go full throttle. It’s hard for me to specify what exactly I learned. What I do know, is that before we started filming, I was nervous and had all sorts of butterflies about our first day. I went into day one with my head held high and ready to start, and it went great! I think as long as you have confidence in yourself and your abilities, you can accomplish anything. That’s my big takeaway from this experience.
CC: It’s a pretty awesome “girl power” thing to have such a successful mother-daughter entertainment duo like you guys are will there be any future collaboration plans between you two?
SUSAN: Jillian and I have several projects in various stages of development – first up being a To The Beat! sequel (hopefully soon), a few other feature films and an ensemble dramatic series in development. Because we're both Leo's we consistently have ideas, and think we can do it all, but once in a while, we both have to pump the brakes a little and slow down. Right now, we're enjoying the excitement and positive response received with To The Beat! and are THRILLED to share the news that our long time passion project, that Jillian also stars in, Pretty Broken, will make it's WORLD PREMIERE at the Newport Beach Film Festival in a few short weeks.