This 29-year-old Utah County actor, director, screenwriter and songwriter aims to be ‘a female version of Walt Disney’
( Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune ) Utah filmmaker Savannah Ostler's directing debut "Twice the Dream" opens in Utah theaters on Friday, April 19. Ostler started writing the script when she was 14.
Looking at her purse, a large Dooney & Bourke handbag covered with an image from “Cinderella,” one could infer that Savannah Ostler is just a big Walt Disney fan.
But this 29-year-old Utah County actor, director, screenwriter, songwriter, producer and one-woman marketing department has something bigger in mind.
“I want to be a female version of Walt Disney,” Ostler said, “someone who has her hands in everything and oversees all aspects of her projects.”
Ostler’s first step on that journey toward being an entertainment superpower is “Twice the Dream,” an independently produced movie filmed in Utah in which Ostler is director, screenwriter, executive producer, music coordinator and star. It debuts in theaters in Utah and Idaho this Friday.
The movie has been Ostler’s pet project for more than half her life. She started writing the script in 2004, during math class at Timberline Middle School in Alpine, when she was 14.
“I had this story of these two sisters with this unshakable bond, this dream that’s keeping them together even when life doesn’t go exactly as planned,” Ostler said in an interview this week. “I knew these characters as much as I did myself.”
The story starts with Amber Bradshaw, played by Ostler, reluctantly going on acting auditions, pressured by her mother, Patricia (Sarah Kent), whose own silver screen career was thwarted years earlier. Amber, 23, confides in her 17-year-old sister, Samantha (Monica Moore Smith), what she really wants to do: Be a singer and songwriter in Nashville. When tragedy strikes early in the movie, it’s up to Samantha to carry on with their shared dream.
(Danno Nell | Courtesy of S&S Productions) Savannah Ostler, left, talks to actor Monica Moore Smith before shooting a scene from the movie "Twice the Dream," which Ostler directed, wrote and stars in. This scene was shot at Velour Live Music Gallery, a concert venue in Provo.
The details of the plot have evolved. At one point, Ostler said, Amber was a burned-out movie star who wanted to abandon Hollywood for Nashville — but Ostler said she decided Amber would be more relatable as a small-town girl torn between her mother’s ambitions and her own.
The story is more wish fulfillment than autobiography, Ostler said. “They say, ‘Write what you know.’ I kind of wrote what I didn’t know, because I thought that was more interesting.”
Her only sibling is a brother, and, she said, “part of me always wondered what it would be like to have a sister.” Where the Bradshaw sisters’ parents are divorced and their alcoholic mom harangues Amber for not going to enough auditions, Ostler said, “my parents have always been my number-one supporters.”
It was Ostler’s parents who suggested she leave her high school in Alpine after her sophomore year and enroll at East Hollywood High School, a film-centric charter school in West Valley City. At East Hollywood High, Ostler started to put her script for “Twice the Dream” into a screenwriting format, and it became her junior-year project.
After high school, Ostler struck out for Hollywood in 2010, and stayed for seven years. She waited tables to make ends meet while landing roles in a few small movies and commercials. (One commercial was a promotional video for a book by Don Hahn, a longtime producer for Disney whose credits include “Beauty & the Beast” and “The Lion King.”)
During her Hollywood years, she kept plugging away at making “Twice the Dream,” but ran into obstacles getting funding. Producers offered to buy the script, but then “I could no longer really be guaranteed to be involved in it. ... It would be like selling my baby,” she said.
Another production company suggested the movie “would be more marketable if it were two brothers instead of two sisters,” she said. “Of course, I was not OK with that.”
Something else Ostler picked up in Hollywood besides her Screen Actors Guild card: Her husband, Steven D’Alo, who was a graduate of California State University, Long Beach — where, Ostler is quick to point out, Steven Spielberg went to college.
By 2017, Ostler was beginning to lose hope in Hollywood. “Why are we even in L.A. if we’re not doing what we love?” Ostler asked D’Alo after financing to make “Twice the Dream” fell apart again. When D’Alo got a job offer in Utah, the couple decided they could live more economically and get the movie made more easily by going back to Ostler’s home state.
“There’s so much talent here, and it’s not utilized as much as they should be,” Ostler said.
(Danno Nell | Courtesy of S&S Productions) Savannah Ostler talks to actors before shooting a scene from the movie "Twice the Dream," which Ostler directed, wrote and stars in. This scene was shot at Velour Live Music Gallery, a concert venue in Provo.
Ostler shot “Twice the Dream” in Pleasant Grove and Alpine, often using friends’ houses, and some spots in Salt Lake City. Concert sequences were shot at Velour Live Music Gallery, the venue at the heart of Provo’s bustling music scene. A backyard pond where a pivotal scene is shot “is my childhood pond that I spent a lot of time going to and playing at, and it’s in my parents’ backyard, almost.”
Smith, who plays Samantha, and Mason D. Davis, who plays Amber’s boyfriend Tristan, are familiar faces in Utah (they co-starred in the movie version of “Saturday’s Warrior,” for example). Kent, who plays Amber and Sam’s mom, starred in a fantasy series, “Amarog,” that Ostler and D’Alo co-directed and co-wrote. A couple of Ostler’s acting teachers, Adrian R’Mante (a regular on the Disney Channel’s “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody”) and Anne Sward, have roles in the film. D’Alo, in addition to being cinematographer, makes a cameo appearance as a creepy guy who hits on Amber’s friends.
Ostler considered playing Sam, but opted to play Amber when she decided she would direct the film. (At first, Ostler was going to have D’Alo direct.) Because Sam has more screen time than Amber, Ostler said, “I don’t think I could have been Sam and direct, especially for my first job. It would have been way too hectic.”
Shooting happened on weekends, and the entire movie was done in 14 shooting days, meaning Ostler had to move fast. “There were some shots where it would have been awesome to get this angle, but we just had to keep rolling,” she said.
(Danno Nell | Courtesy of S&S Productions) Savannah Ostler, right, directs a scene from her movie "Twice the Dream," alongside her cinematographer (and husband) Stephen D'Alo. Ostler also wrote and stars in the Utah-made movie.
With “Twice the Dream” completed, Ostler isn’t resting. In the last month, she has been promoting the movie relentlessly on Utah TV and radio stations, and she will be doing live meet-and-greets after four screenings this weekend. Also, she wrote another script during post-production, and is writing another one now. She’s also developing a series of young-adult fantasy novels, which she describes as “Hogwarts meets ‘Once Upon a Time.’”
Having worked 15 years, since middle school, on getting “Twice the Dream” from her head to the screen, Ostler describes her situation now using another Disney movie: “Tangled.”
“I literally feel like Rapunzel right now,” she said. “Her whole life, she wants to see these lanterns, and all of a sudden she sees them and she’s, like, ‘Now what?’ That was my dream since before I can even remember. That is me right now, and my husband’s Flynn Ryder, saying it’s time for a new dream.”
The made-in-Utah drama “Twice the Dream,” written, directed and starring Savannah Ostler.
Where • Megaplex Jordan Commons (Sandy), Megaplex at The District (South Jordan), Megaplex Geneva (Vineyard), Megaplex Thanksgiving Point (Lehi), Megaplex Legacy Crossing (Centerville), and Megaplex Valley Fair (West Valley City).
When • Opens Friday, April 19. Go to megaplextheatres.com for showtimes.
Meet-and-greets • Ostler and other cast members will appear in person at four screenings of “Twice the Dream”: Friday, 7 p.m., at Megaplex Thanksgiving Point (Lehi); Saturday, 6:50 p.m., Megaplex Jordan Commons (Sandy); Sunday, 7:20 p.m., Megaplex at The District (South Jordan); Monday, 7:40 p.m., Megaplex Geneva (Vineyard).