Carlson Young’s feature directorial debut embodies the cliché — she literally turned her dream into reality.
Five years after experiencing the strange and unsettling series of dreams that inspired it, the Fort Worth native will debut The Blazing World this weekend as part of the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Utah-based festival has pivoted to a hybrid format this year that includes virtual screenings and satellite venues. One of those is the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, where Carlson’s film will screen on Sunday.
Although it’s not autobiographical, the Texas-filmed project started with a recurring dream that Young couldn’t shake. Serendipitously, she was keeping a dream journal at the time.
“I immediately knew this one was very strange. I was very inspired by it, so I jotted it down and created an outline,” Young said. “The next phase of dissecting that dream was figuring out what it was trying to get me to explore in my own life. It was a process of really diving into the deepest parts of my subconscious.”
Young, 30, also stars in the film as a troubled young woman still grieving her twin sister’s childhood drowning at the family estate decades earlier. When she returns home to her dysfunctional family, she becomes haunted by nightmares tied to a stranger (Udo Kier) claiming that his portal to an alternate dimension might be the key to catharsis.
The concept started as a short film Young made as a show reel of sorts that debuted at Sundance in 2018. Once she got backing for the feature expansion, she recruited friend and fantasy writer Pierce Brown to help develop the screenplay.
Cameras were ready to roll in March 2020 before the pandemic forced the filmmakers to pause for a few months. Young retooled certain scenes to keep the locations more confined.
Production started in August in Dripping Springs, just west of Austin, with strict health and safety protocols in place. The entire cast and crew stayed at a wedding resort right across the street from the primary shooting location.
“We realized there’s never more than four actors in a room, so we thought maybe there was a world in which we could do this” Young said. “There was a lot of anxiety around whether we were going to get this done.”
Young grew up in Fort Worth and graduated from Country Day School before attending USC. That’s when she landed a lead role in the television reboot of “Scream” in 2015.
Two years later, she married Isom Innis, best known as the keyboardist for the pop band Foster the People. Innis contributed the score for The Blazing World, mixing electronic and orchestral elements.
After shooting her feature debut during the pandemic, and completing post-production in just a few months afterward, Young is ready for moviegoers — and potential distributors — to have a look at her bizarre and unsettling vision.
“It worked out, but it was very hard,” she said. “The stress, and the collective trauma that the world is going through right now, all lent itself to the film. The energy was pretty palpable.”