Profile: Skyline’s Claire de Vries has her dream in clear focus as she zooms in on first film

Claire de Vries is not only jumping into her dreams with both feet, but the Skyline senior also is using her brain, passion and skill to make sure she gets to where she wants to go. And part of that – the brain part – includes having a backup plan.

“I’ve always wanted to be an actress and that is still my goal,” says the extremely talented and driven de Vries. “I’ve realized that can also be limiting, especially for women.”

Young actors can end up waiting years to get casted in that “dream role.” And sometimes, they wait a lifetime. But de Vries doesn’t want to wait at all – let alone a lifetime.

“I don’t want that,” she says. “I want to take charge of my career, and learn everything I need to about filmmaking to really create stories that matter, and that feature women and other underrepresented people.”

de Vries, 17, was a lock to get the lead role in “Mine Then Yours,” because she wrote and directed the film, which recently completed primary filming and is now in editing. It is giving her a chance to experience the complete process of making a movie, which should allow her to pursue other opportunities off camera.

Claire de Vries (left) and Erika Hoveland in a scene from “Mine Then Yours.” Photo by Jequane Roberts

The film, which is loosely based on Claire’s own experience with selecting and auditioning for colleges, follows high school senior Beth and her mother on a road trip as they visit a college campus. A “misunderstanding” undoes the mother’s best-laid plans. de Vries says the film explores their changing relationship as Beth fights to assert herself and her mother struggles with letting go.

Playing the lead in a film you wrote and also directed came with a few challenges for the young thespian.

“It was challenging in that it’s hard to judge your own acting performance and even more to direct an extremely talented actress like Erika (Hoveland),” says de Vries. “There were so many decisions I had to make, and I had to stay confident in my vision, even though everyone around me had so much more experience.”

One thing that helped and that de Vries came to learn and appreciate was everyone’s commitment to make the film as good as it could be. “I still can’t believe how lucky I am to have Barton (Bund), Kyle (Morgan) and Erika believe in me. Because of them, I was able to do more than I ever thought possible with this film.”

WLAA: Locally produced film “Mine Then Yours” wraps up filming in Ann Arbor

The film is the latest project of Catalytic Art & Media, a production company dedicated to creating original media with local artists that supports up and coming talent. Bund is the CEO of Catalytic. Morgan, the CEO of Morgan Studios, is the film’s lead cinematographer.

de Vries says a big part of her motivation and passion comes from her desire to not only make movies but make movies that make a difference. And the genesis of “Mine Then Yours” began in 2018 after de Vries did a school research project on the Times Up and Me Too movements.

“It had a profound impact on me,” she says. “I realized that as a female actress I could easily become just another tragic story. The only way to break this was to create my own projects. I also saw that too many of my female peers were afraid to make films, while the young men I knew were already experimenting and gaining critical skills.”

She knew she needed to take that risk and put herself out there. And not only to be heard but to set an example and help lead others.

“So I decided to create a female-based story,” she says. “Like many young women, I am really close to my mom, and I often joke about how mothers and older women are often dismissed in movies. So I decided to make a film about the complexity of the mother-daughter relationship, which became ‘Mine Then Yours.’”

Kyle Morgan filming Claire de Vries. Photo by Jequane Roberts

de Vries, the daughter of Tim and Melanie de Vries, says she has always been interested in acting. But after attending the King’s Company at The Stratford Festival in Ontario her freshman year and getting cast as Juliet turned a hobby into a full-blown passion. The spark was ignited!

“Getting to work in that caliber of an environment, and their validation that I had the ability to do this professionally gave me the confidence to pursue it,” she says. “And then getting cast this last summer in Shakespeare Royal Oak’s production of ‘The Tempest,’ which gave me the chance to work with skilled professionals like Erika, inspired me even more.”

de Vries recently competed at the Michigan Thespian Festival and received the highest award (Superior) for the fourth year in a row for her monologues. She was informed by the National Thespian Festival offices that she is one of only a few people in their entire 50 year history to do accomplish this, not just in Michigan but across the country.

“It’s always an incredible experience,” says de Vries, who also became the first Thespian Scholarship awardee from Skyline HS. “This year was really important since I am going into college auditions. The great feedback I got and getting the Superior rating and the Scholarship is a huge boost of confidence, and means so much to me.”

de Vries is currently editing the film and looking to enter it in film festivals and to find distribution. She also is keeping quite busy in school.

“With three AP classes and taking the business magnet, my goal is just to survive and maybe get some sleep,” says de Vries, who has a 3.9 GPA. “I am president of the Skyline Theatre Board this year, and love being with my fellow thespians and our phenomenal and underappreciated crew. I hope to make it a memorable and fun year for everyone.”

And she has already started on her next film.

“I am developing my next film, a full-length feature about student activism, which I am currently co-writing with my mom,” she says. “I will produce, direct and act in this film as well.

“It’s daunting, but I am excited to take on a project of this size. I want to show other young women that a female teenager can create a feature film.  And that what we have to say matters, and needs to be seen and heard.”