Castille Landon kneels next to Kathy Bates holding a script and giving her direction. Behind them a wooden fence and multiple crew members standing around them.

Director Castille Landon Talks Summer Camp

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Summer is here, and it’s time to get out there and make some memories that will become new stories that you’ll be able to share for years to come. Actress turned writer and director Castille Landon is on a mission to remind us of the importance of sharing in those stories with the people who mean the most to us with her new film, Summer Camp.

“Stories have always been something that I’ve really gravitated towards in my life, maybe even more so than living my life,” Landon says. The need to tell stories has been a driving force that first led Landon into pursuing an acting career. ppearances on television shows such as Ghost Whisperer and Criminal Minds, as well as a role in the 2014 film Sex Ed, while it was a valuable experience, Landon found her interest in storytelling leading her behind the camera rather than in front of it. “I think that’s driven by wanting to write these scenarios that I imagine myself into, which means that most of my characters are characters that I very much relate to on a personal level,” Landon says. In 2021 her first feature, Fear of Rain, was released followed by After We Fell later that year. The latter was a hit that spawned two sequels, After Ever Happy in 2022 and After Everything in 2023. Already a prolific director at age 32, Landon decided that it was time to tackle an ensemble story about women with her new comedy, Summer Camp, which stars Academy Award winners Diane Keaton and Kathy Bates, along with Emmy and Golden Globe winner Alfre Woodard

Summer Camp follows Nora (Keaton) Ginny (Bates) and Mary (Woodard), who have been best friends since childhood but have slowly drifted apart as life has taken them in different directions. A summer camp reunion offers the the trio a chance to rejuvenate their friendship and rediscover the special connection that first brought them together. “I think that we’re playing on these kind of universal themes,” Landon says. ”Spending, time with friends versus letting other things get in the way of that.” Landon also wanted to make a statement that women have relevance far beyond their child bearing years. It was after she saw Diane Keaton in Book Club in 2018, a film about a group of mature women, that the idea for Summer Camp really started to take shape.I wrote Nora with Diane in mind,” Landon says. Once the iconic star-whose screen credits include Annie Hall and The Godfather trilogy-came aboard, the rest of the cast starting fitting into place, including Bates and Woodard, as well as Eugene Levy (American Pie, Schitt’s Creek) as camp heartthrob Stevie D. “They got a lot of attention so that we could really tailor the roles to them,” Landon says.

Once Landon has her principals in place, she has to cast each of these roles again with younger actors who could portray the younger,  tween versions of the characters in the first section of the film. This required a balancing act, as Landon has to decide whether to focus on finding young doppelgangers of the stars or simply finding young ladies who could embody the characters. “There’s obviously a mix of both,  but I think probably the characters were more important to get right,” Landon says. Kensington Tallman, who is also providing the voice of Riley in Inside Out 2, was quickly cast as Tween Ginny, with Taylor Madeline Hand (Fresh Kills, Baby Fat) stepping in as Tween Nora. Landon had a much tougher time finding the right young actress to share the role of Mary with Alfre Woodard. “Mary’s role is deceptively challenging, Landon says. “There’s so much vulnerability and fear, and at the same time they have to have comedic chops.” Newcomer Audrianna Lico ended up landing the role, and it was then that everything really clicked into place. A highlight of the experience for Landon was watching as the two trios met each other for the first time, with the veteran actresses getting a chance to rub shoulders with their young counterparts. “Seeing them interact with their child selves was really fun,” Landon says. “I think the girls loved it, too, seeing these legendary ladies that they’re getting to play. That’s gotta be super cool.”

As Summer Camp hits theaters, Castille Landon is hoping that it will resonate with audiences who might see something of themselves in the story. Most of all, she’d like it to inspire people to reach and reconnect with someone important from their past and renew those connections and spend time together, whether it’s sharing an adventure in the great outdoors or relaxing together in an air conditioned theater.

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