Faculty member reflects on film that raised awareness about self-harm

According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, about 17% of all people will self-harm during their lifetime. One of the few films to address this disorder head-on is Perfection, a 2016 feature directed by Christina Beck, who teaches screenwriting and directing at SFTV. To recognize National Self-Injury Awareness Day on March 1, we asked Beck to reflect on her film, which won awards at several festivals and was nominated for IFP’s Best Screenplay award.

What is Perfection about, and what compelled you to write it? 

The plot is about an adult daughter who’s living with her mother. The daughter self-harms as a means of coping with stress and anxiety, and the mother is addicted to getting plastic surgery to help her maintain her youth. Growing up in Los Angeles, there has always been an emphasis here on physical beauty. Perfection is an unattainable goal. The story came to me from personal experiences along with research.

c beck - Faculty member reflects on film that raised awareness about self-harm
Writer, director, and actor Christina Beck teaches screenwriting and directing at SFTV.

What do you wish more people knew about self-injury?

It’s sadly very common. Many people suffer in silence due to the stigma around and misinformation about the disorder. There are many resources out there to support recovery and healing, such as the Self-Harm Text Hotline and To Write Love on Her Arms.

Why do you think this topic hasn’t been addressed much in media and entertainment?

I’m not sure. It’s not sexy. No one wants to admit they hurt themselves by their own hand, or with plastic surgery. It’s a complex subject that has often been a misunderstood supporting character or b-storyline in narratives about other topics. So I wanted to face it head-on.

You’re a writer, director, and actor, and you did all three for this film. Was it your first time doing so?

No. I come from a theater background and I have experience with doing all three for stage productions. For this film, Fox Searchlight gave me the opportunity in their Search Lab to make my short film Slice which later evolved into Perfection. With the support of the studio, it was a great experience. For me, being able to write, direct, and act has been my full expression as a total filmmaker. The key is to surround myself with a powerful and passionate team. Filmmaking is collaborative and I love what I do!

Those must have been some really long days on set for you.

We shot the film on the weekends over the course of two and a half years while I worked a day job and edited footage at night. I’d prep all week for each shoot weekend. With little time and money but with an amazing cast and crew, we’d shoot roughly 6 to 10 pages each day. It was sometimes stressful, but mostly a happy set with a lot of laughs.

What advice do you have for performers who might want to get into writing or directing?

My advice for students is to find a story you have to tell and do everything in your power to tell it truthfully and in a compelling visual way.

What projects are you working on now?

I’ve been developing a TV pilot based on my teenage years as a punk rock girl in L.A. and I have a project set in Marseilles, France.