In helming her first feature film “Justine,” Stephanie Turner learned that writing, acting, directing and producing a movie isn’t easy.
Turner, an actress who grew up in Huntington Beach, wrote the script about five years ago and spent years trying to get people on board, eventually deciding to take the reins herself.
“It was extremely difficult,” said Turner, 34. “There was only one day where I was only directing. That one day was a glorious day.”
Now her film will premiere at 8:15 p.m. May 2 at the Newport Beach Film Festival.
Turner, the daughter of NFL head coach Norv Turner, has had roles in “Monster in Law,” “First Man,” “Bones” and “Scorpion.”
But “Justine” is personal.
“The idea came to me in a dream,” she said. “And a lot of it is based on things that have happened to me.”
The film tells the story of Lisa Wade, a single mom who takes a job as a nanny of 8-year-old Justine after her husband is killed. Justine suffers from spina bifida and has been isolated by her parents, so Wade seeks to provide the child with new experiences, raising her like she was her own.
“The film is about grief and a woman overcoming the death of her husband,” Turner said. “Also the idea that people shouldn’t have limitations put upon them.”
Wade is forced to move with her kids into the home of her father-in-law while her husband’s death is being investigated. She begins to ignore her own children to spend more time with Justine. At the same time, Justine’s racist parents judge Wade because of her biracial children.
“I also wanted to simply tell a story about people who think they are very different from one another,” Turner said. “My desire was to show how in everyday life people make judgments, comments and assumptions about others when they, in fact, know nothing about them. We all do it all the time. I wanted to create characters that seem very set in their ways, and then explore how they could be affected by the events and people around them.”
The movie was shot in a month about a year ago, with some filming in Anaheim. With a budget of $750,000, Turner had to deal with the lack of time and money that accompany low-budget filmmaking.
“But we were able to overcome it and get what we needed,” Turner said.
Turner, who now lives in Los Angeles, is grateful to be able to premiere her project in the community in which she grew up.
“I am excited because it is where I spent so much of my childhood,” Turner said. “I have so many family and friends there. I just hope people I don’t know will also be in the audience.”
For tickets to the premiere of “Justine,” visit newportbeachfilmfest.com/event/justine.