Annabelle Dexter-Jones on her Breakdown Drama 'Cecile on the Phone'

Annabelle Dexter-Jones on her Breakdown Drama 'Cecile on the Phone'

V sat down with the actor at the Sundance Film Festival to discuss her new film.

V sat down with the actor at the Sundance Film Festival to discuss her new film.

Photography: Sharif Hamza

Styling: Ellie Grace Cumming

Text: Whitney Mallett

“What I find most interesting is people living out the worst versions of themselves. There’s something about the meltdown that I find really fun and exciting,” gushes Annabelle Dexter-Jones, whose debut short film Cecile on the Phone premiered at Sundance in January. Dexter-Jones wrote, directed, and starred in the project which chronicles a post-break up spiral. A young woman named Cecile finds out her ex is back in town and calls her friends one after the other, subjecting them to her neurotic monologue. “There’s something to me that felt so Warholian about just sitting on the phone. It’s just so indulgent and Cecile is indulging in her neuroses and obsession, so it just felt really appropriate.”

The actress-turned-filmmaker explains the short is inspired by her own experiences. “That state of being and that obsessive-thinking, personally, I can attach that to anything in my life, whether it’s a break-up or work or family,” she notes about Cecile’s tendency to fixate. “I just like to look at that without having judgement about it, but having a sense of humor about it.” The film is certainly funny. It’s also a beautifully textured 16mm tribute to New York. When Cecile reaches her friends on the phone, we see them in their apartments, at work, playing tennis at a sports club, walking a dog on the city streets. “I definitely felt like a first-time filmmaker when I realized I had written like seven different locations into a 12-page script,” Dexter-Jones jokes.

The film was in part a family affair. The actress-director collaborated with her brothers Alexander Dexter-Jones and Mark Ronson to realize its soundtrack — the accomplished clan of siblings also includes DJ Samantha Ronson and designer Charlotte Ronson, all children of multi-hyphenate Ann Dexter-Jones. “I’m very lucky to have such talented siblings I can collaborate with,” exclaims Annabelle, who at 30 is the baby in the family. One of her brothers helped too with tracking down Art Garfunkel, who has a cameo as one of Cecile’s friends. “I don’t really know him, but I got a hold of his email address,” she recounts, explaining he was who she had in mind when writing the role. “I’m a huge fan of his music but also his acting. He was in a bunch of super culty 70s films.”

Dexter-Jones remarks that she was interested in working with people she thought she could learn from. “I chose people who I wanted to be my teachers,” she explains. Now, she’s ready to apply the lessons acquired to her next project, a feature film she’s hard at work writing. “In the process of making any kind of art, you know, it’s not about the most perfect result. Art is about learning and growth.”

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