Anne-Sophie Dutoit ran into the same snags and pitfalls the majority of first-time independent filmmakers encounter -- trying to persuade financiers to take a chance on her. It took her a full two years to get money to make "Faded Memories," a drama about a teenager with a phobia of being touched by others.
But what makes Dutoit's experience unique is that she was all of 14 when she wrote "Faded Memories" and 16 when she made the film, budgeted at under $1 million. And not only did she write and direct the film -- leading an ensemble cast and an experienced crew of about 60 -- she also stars in the drama.
"I've always been an outgoing person," Dutoit says. "I just do what I have to do; nothing really impresses me. We're all people, so for me age does not matter. You can be 16, 21, 50 -- age is something to keep order in life. I think you can be who you are at any age."
An avid reader and writer growing up, Dutoit adds that directing has always been in her blood. "I was the one who would gather people together and we would do plays. I would direct and I would be in them."
She got her first experience directing film at 15 when she attended the teen program at the New York Film Academy. "Marked," the seven-minute film she shot while attending the program, won some awards. "That's when I realized I wanted to direct."
Dutoit, the granddaughter of famed conductor Charles Dutoit, is not lacking in confidence. She has her own production company: Anne-Sophie Films, headed by her father, Ivan Dutoit, who is one of the producers of "Faded Memories," which is scheduled to open in limited release in spring or early summer. And on her MySpace page and her official website, there are clips of her speaking fluent French on a Gallic TV talk show; receiving a film award in Swansea, England, for "Marked"; and directing her cast and crew on "Faded Memories" like she was an old pro.
And she was so determined to make "Faded Dreams" a reality, Dutoit even made a short version of it, "Kara's File," to induce the money men -- private financiers from Montreal who her father says believe in his daughter's ability.
This late afternoon in the Encino home of her editor, Zack Arnold, Dutoit is sitting on the sofa in his editing room, working on a romantic scene between her character of Cassandra and 22-year-old Brock Kelly ("Days of Our Lives") who plays her love interest, Lucas. Just like any teenager, Dutoit blushes when asked if this is her first on-screen kiss. "No," she says with a giggle.
Arnold finds collaborating with Dutoit no different than working with an older, more experienced director.
"Honestly, it's just about the same as working with any other director who knows what they want. It's one of those things when you work with somebody who knows what they want. They know the vocabulary and the language. She could be 40 years old and be accomplished and there wouldn't be much of a difference, except that we can't have a Champagne toast!"
Dutoit has been in front of the cameras performing since she was a 1-year-old who appeared in a commercial for Coke. When she was still young, the Santa Monica native and her family moved to Montreal.
"My parents wanted me to be like a kid," Dutoit says. But at 12, she yearned to return to acting and told her parents she wanted to move back to Los Angeles. "At 13, I started acting again and going to auditions," she explains.
She was inspired to write "Faded Memories" because she found most movies she was seeing to be boring. "I wanted to see another kind of movie," Dutoit says. "I started writing a movie I wanted to see and what my friends would want to see. I based my character on people I knew and feelings that I felt. Everybody kind of feels lonely in their life."
Dutoit's father, who had been a script doctor and content analyst for several Canadian film institutions, says that with "Faded Memories," he hopes her films will take off and she'll make a series of movies. "She is trying to change the teen market. She wants to make a difference. She even has some special-ed people in the movie. She has this ability to make things possible. She doesn't have 10 or 20 years' experience as to where the camera should be and how to deal with actors. But she has this organic approach and knows what she wants."
Dutoit had no problems, she says matter of factly, working both in front of and behind the camera. "I have monitors so I can check my performance. "I was really prepared for my part. I could easily get in my character and get out and just be me directing."
The film was shot over three weeks this summer in various locations in the Los Angeles area on high-definition video.
"I like to see my dailies," Dutoit says. "And I really love shooting with HD. For my other movie, I shot on Super 16 and that is totally a different process because you have to wait" to see dailies.
Dutoit has a younger brother with whom she is very close, and two dogs. She admits that growing up she loved the comedy "A Night at the Roxbury." Her two favorite films are "Titanic" and "The Notebook." Her father says that she is becoming interested in boys, but she seems mostly focused on writing and making movies. His daughter has made some good friends since moving back to L.A., but her being "so young and doing so much, there are some acceptance problems. Some of her best friends are special ed. She doesn't really care about social status."
Besides, Ivan Dutoit says his precocious daughter is following in the footsteps of his own father, who decided at 11 to become an orchestra conductor. "He became one of the world's greatest conductors, and has been relentless at it for 50 years and he never took no for an answer."
Dutoit graduated early from high school last June and is set to start majoring in psychology at Santa Monica City College in January; she is hoping to finish the psych degree at Stanford University. She decided not to major in cinema, because "psychology would help me to deal with actors."
And she's already written her next film, for which she is thinking of a title. "I am planning on shooting it in the summer. It's a period piece. I just finished the script. Man, for me, when I'm inspired I'm crazy. It took me two days to do the first draft!"