The acting age range for Deragh Campbell is anywhere from 14 to 32. She is actually 24, though that average suits her less than her range’s extremes. She could be 14—her languid thinness and opal skin read juvenile. But she could also be 32 and play, say, a young Joan Didion or Sheila Heti type. Like those literary characters, Deragh has the kind of face you can watch thinking. This imparts her with an ageless intrigue; she performs beyond physicality.
Deragh started acting at 22 when she was cast as the lead in Matt Porterfield’s third feature film I Used To Be Darker. She had never seriously considered acting before then, even though, and perhaps because, she grew up surrounded by actors: her family tree extend through four generations of theatre professionals. Deragh’s casting in Darker was then serendipitous, a fun interlude between university studies, but three years and five film festivals later, it reads like kismet—Deragh’s has found a vocation in making films.
I met up with Deragh Campbell the other week as she was passing through the city after having attended the Cucalorus Film Festival in North Carolina as a representative of Darker. We talked about the 20-something vagabond lifestyle, gender in the American indie film scene, social media, and end-of-days sci-fi. Here is a snippet of that conversation:
You just got back from another film festival. How many have you traveled to now for I Used To Be Darker?
Let’s see. Sundance, Berlinale, Maryland, BAM, and now Cucalorus in North Carolina.
How has acting professionally changed the way you act in the rest of your life?
I don’t think it has changed my behavior. I’ve always been performative in social situations because my whole family are theatre actors. I’ve always had big gestures and been aware of presence: how it’s not just what I say but how I say it. Really, what Darker has given me, beyond an introduction to acting on camera, is an interest in film that is pretty essential to my life now. I really don’t know what I’d be doing now if I hadn’t been involved in Darker.
Do you have ambitions to make movies of your own?
I do. I think it’s an especially exciting time to be making movies about women. So many male narratives are about repression, like Taxi Driver psychology. Whereas women can be so much more reactive—feel something and act on it, feel something and act on it, feel something and act on it—which could create a story that has way more action.
You should make a movie about men. The psychology of men.
My friend and I have this fantasy of making an all-male-cast sci-fi movie. Twelve men. End of the universe. Battle of the egos. We have the idea that it would be really funny to put all the male directors who have directed us into the movie.
Is that an external battery pack on your phone?
Yeah. Really cool, right?
My mom has one of those. You don’t seem like a very techy person, like you’re rarely with your face in your phone, you sparingly use Facebook or Twitter, and you certainly don’t have an Internet persona.
Uh no. I don’t think that’s so much of a decision as it’s simply that I’m not good at social media. You get to understand your social personality and I know that I still can’t control who I get along with: who I can be funny and charming around and who I just completely draw a blank with. Some people are just very full articulations of themselves online, and I am not one of them.
You’re more or less homeless right now, right? What's that like? Where did you sleep last night?
I slept at a friend’s apartment last night. We watched a movie and drank beer. The bum lifestyle is fine for now. My clothes are always wrinkly from my suitcase but I’m more independent than I’ve ever been.