IF speaks to Bethany Whitmore, star of Berlin-bound Girl Asleep

27 January, 2016 by Harry Windsor

Harrison Feldman and Bethany Whitmore in Girl Asleep.


Bethany Whitmore can currently be seen on SBS in The Family Law, and has appeared in the likes of Mary and MaxSummer Coda and Mental.

But one thing the young screen veteran has never done is travel to an international film festival. 

That will change next month when the actress travels to Berlin, where Girl Asleep, the stylish feature debut of South Australian theatre director Rosemary Myers and Whitmore's first starring role, will be opening the Berlinale's 2016 Generation 14plus sidebar, one of the festival's biggest. 

International sales rights for the film have just been picked up by Artscope, Memento Film International's new talent banner.

Many of the film's cast and crew had worked together on the stage version of Girl Asleep, which premiered at the 2014 Adelaide Festival. Rather than be intimidated to join a group who'd already worked together, Whitmore found it a blessing.

"I think the fact they'd all worked together before was a definite bonus, because they all had the same mind", she said.

"They all had same vision, the same aim for the film, so their collaboration was amazing. They'd all been friends for years because they'd been doing plays together and it just worked well. In order for it to be a good film everybody has to be onboard with the same idea." 

Girl Asleep plays like a Wes Anderson film if Wes Anderson had grown up in the suburbs of Adelaide, but features extended discursions into fantasy that mark it very much as its own beast.

"They really tried hard to immerse the stage into the film", Whitmore said, "but they wanted the film to still have elements of a stage play. You can see it. It's in Acts: Act 1 she's in the schoolyard; Act 2 [in the house] then Act 3 she's in the dream."

The five-week shoot was delayed while the production waited for the right house, which is an orange-hued, memorably kitsch time portal into an earlier era. "When we went in to the house we couldn't believe how amazing it was. It was just so 70s."

Once they were shooting, Whitmore tells IF that "there were two main challenges that I faced. One of them was trying to keep Greta not too out-there, because she needs to be the stable character. If she's not stable you can't see her journey throughout the film. You've got all these big huge characters coming in, and if you have too much on the screen it becomes too much to handle. You need to have somebody who's a contrast. It was a challenge to maintain that throughout the whole thing." 

"The other challenge was kissing Harrison, because that was my first kiss ever. I was really nervous for that. It was an interesting experience!" (laughs)

When Whitmore found out she was headed to Berlin, "I was jumping for joy. I was running around the whole house screaming."

Prior to the first screening of the film at last year's Adelaide Film Festival, the Whitmore family watched a cut of Girl Asleep in their living room, then watched it again.

"We watched it again straight afterwards because we loved it so much. Each time you see something different. You appreciate the detail."