Thomas: Mormon upbringing fuels unique coming-of-ager

10 Directors to Watch 2013: Rebecca Thomas

Rebecca Thomas attributes her distinct filmmaking vision to a unique upbringing: “I grew up as a Mormon in Las Vegas, surrounded by all things holy and righteous, but with Sin City just at my periphery. It was an interesting way to grow up.”

Indeed, Thomas’ debut feature “Electrick Children,” which premiered in Berlin and earned her a Spirit Award Someone to Watch nomination, presents a perfect marriage of Thomas’ opposing sides. In the film, a 15-year-old pregnant girl leaves an ultraconservative desert cult to seek out the father of her “immaculate conception” in nearby Vegas.

Thomas, who defines herself as an “inactive” Mormon, began researching fundamentalist Mormons for a documentary while studying film at Brigham Young. (During these formative years, she also embarked on a Mormon mission to Japan, and wrote, edited and acted in a 13-minute short called “Nobody Knows You, Nobody Gives a Damn,” about a mother struggling with postpartum depression, which premiered at Sundance in 2009.)

Later, at Columbia U.’s film program, she came up with the idea for “Electrick Children,” which was guided in part by Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “The Gospel According to St. Matthew.” “He takes a fairly neutral and nonjudgmental approach to the New Testament,” she says. “It was also important for me to keep my version of the Virgin Mary story as grounded as I could, even though I was dealing with the supernatural: I like to ground things that are fantastical to understand them more.”

These days, Thomas is reading scripts; developing a post-apocalyptic adaptation of “The Little Mermaid” set in Japan, which combines puppetry, animation and live-action; and working on another script called “Miss New York,” about a young woman who finds her doppelganger in Miss New York. “It’s a suspense noir with beauty queens,” she says.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • (from left) Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham)

    Korea Box Office: ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ Topples ‘Exit,’ ‘Roar to Victory’  

    Opening on Wednesday, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” debuted on top of the South Korean box office. Showing on some 1,311 screens nationwide, the UPI release earned $15.1 million from 2.03 million admissions over five days. That included the four-day National Liberation Day weekend. “The Battle: Roar to Victory” remained in second. The [...]

  • Tracy Morgan Netflix stand-up special

    Film News Roundup: Tracy Morgan Joins Eddie Murphy's 'Coming 2 America'

    In today’s film news roundup, Tracy Morgan and Michael Rooker book roles in major movies, and Gravitas buys “Christmas Break-In.” CASTINGS Tracy Morgan has signed on to appear in Eddie Murphy’s “Coming 2 America” sequel as the brother of Lesley Jones’ character. “Hustle & Flow” helmer Craig Brewer is directing the project with Murphy, Kevin [...]

  • Spider-Man Far From Home

    'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Gets Re-Release With New Scene

    Sony Pictures is re-releasing “Spider-Man: Far From Home” with a new action scene. Starting Aug. 29, a new extended cut, featuring four minutes of a never-before-seen action sequence, will be released in theaters in the United States and Canada. The film will also be available in IMAX and large formats in select locations. “Spider-Man: Far [...]

  • Matthew Modine

    Supporters Back Matthew Modine After Clumsy Joke at SAG-AFTRA Meeting

    More than 100 women, including Ellen Barkin and Allison Janney, have voiced support for Matthew Modine’s campaign for SAG-AFTRA presidency, following a joke at a SAG-AFTRA meeting that some decried as misogynist. With voting set to conclude on Aug. 28, the campaigns have featured vitriolic attacks between supporters of Modine, secretary-treasurer Jane Austin and incumbent [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Earns 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Award Nominations

    Variety has received 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie award nominations for its coverage of the entertainment industry over the past year. The awards gala, which will take place at The Hilton Midtown in New York City on Oct. 30, celebrates publications that have demonstrated impressive investigative journalism, in addition to thoughtful digital and print design. [...]

  • WGA Agents Packaging Fight Placeholder

    Writers Guild Withdraws State Suit Against Agencies, Refiles in Federal Court

    The Writers Guild of America has withdrawn its state court suit against WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners alleging packaging fees are illegal and re-filed suit in federal court. The WGA also responded to antitrust claims brought against the guild by the three agencies. Those agency suits alleged that the WGA abused its power in [...]

  • Tim Roth to Receive Honorary Heart

    Tim Roth to Receive Honorary Heart of Sarajevo Award

    British actor Tim Roth is to receive the Honorary Heart of Sarajevo Award in recognition of his “exceptional contribution to the art of film.” The ceremony at the Sarajevo Film Festival will be held on Tuesday. He will hold a masterclass on the same day. His first screen role was the lead in the controversial [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content