Rebecca Marie Dayan doesn’t fit well into boxes. “I do get tired of answering to ‘which (line of interest) do I like the most’, especially after I tell the people about my various fields of work,” shares the French model turned actress turned painter. As a child who grew up in the small village of Saint-Paul de Vence, Rebecca knew acting and painting were something she wanted to dwell on in the future. At the aged of 18, she moved to Paris to further her studies in art while supplementing it with modeling and drama-school classes. Despite doing what she loves, Rebecca was initially reluctant to admit her acting ambition due to the stigmas surrounding young models. Well, that and the idea of failing terrified her as well. Thankfully, Rebecca was not consumed by her fears. Instead, she chose to buckle up and move forward.
Fast forward to the year 2017, she has debuted her first solo show ‘Assumption’ in 2015 at the Catherine Ahnell Gallery, New York as a rising solo artist and is staring in Margaret Betts’ upcoming feature film Novitiate. “From all my past experiences thus far, I’ve come to learn something about life that I wish I could travel back in time and tell myself that ‘Hey, stop looking back and just trust your instinct. It will be alright.’”
Among the very few who has the innate ability to possess superior talent and grace, Rebecca is not to be mistaken for the average mademoiselle you see on the Parisian street. With her undeniable enthusiastic artistic passion, it is clear that there is nothing cliché about this French girl.
What’s your code of conduct when it comes to being in the art scene?
Be kind. Treat everyone with respect. And don’t hesitate to break the rules.
After its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this year, it was reported that Novitiate was incredibly well received. What is your personal view on the key to its success?
I think that besides being an elegant and beautifully crafted film, Novitiate shines a light on a world that is unknown to most and reveals how familiar what this world is made of actually is, it's about love and sacrifice and striving for something more. Not only is it a compelling, intimate portrait of young women in a convent but it is also an honest testimony of their radical love and ultimately a story about female desire. I also like to think that the female-driven cast and crew sends a message in and of itself; movies written, directed, produced, photographed and acted by women about women are exciting and successful.
Margaret Betts saw your assertive nature as an asset to Novitiate. What is your personal view on this and what is the common misconception about this particular nature? Is it a blessing or a curse?
I'm not sure if I'd call myself assertive albeit I’m not shy when it comes to voicing out my opinions and feelings. Maggie is very open to ideas and working with her felt more like a collaboration. For example, during the earlier stages, there were certain scenes in the script that we wouldn’t necessarily share the same view. Nevertheless, discussions and dialogues were always welcome. I felt safe which subsequently encouraged me to bring suggestions and push myself while digging deeper. It was super collaborative, which is why I feel like we crafted a character together. I think it shows a lot of confidence on her part to be that open. Ultimately, it was women working with women so the communication was very fluid and I felt very included in the process beyond just acting.
Since the production ended for Novitiate, what have you learned from it? Especially when it comes to sustaining yourself in the merciless industry.
I have learned so much, but when it comes to this industry or anything in general, I think the main lesson is that we (women) are stronger when we work together and that we owe it to ourselves to stand for one another as well as help each other.
Your solo show titled ‘Assumption’ was inspired by your research preparation on ‘Sister Emanuel’. What were the essential values you’re trying to portray and what is your end goal for this whole exhibition?
Actually, it's not so much related to my character. In fact, the inspiration came when I was reading the memoirs of nuns Maggie had sent for us to prepare. During that period, I was deeply immersed in my research on religion and sexuality until I stumbled upon an article online that challenges the pre-Christianity meaning of the word ‘virgin’. According to the author, it has no sexual connotation and was only meant to describe “a woman who didn’t belong to a man”. Whether it is true or not, I found the writing interesting as to how we interpret words, symbols and ultimately, ideas. In ‘Assumption’, I wanted to highlight independent young women portrayed in classical depictions of the Virgin Mary as a means to question what is assumed of women and how they have represented. Additionally, it serves as a way to reclaim terms used to qualify us too.
Who is the artist or creative you really enjoy working with and is there anyone who always seems to make it particularly hard for you?
Well, I don’t have one person in particular. I like working with my friends, whether as an actor or writer or painter. And I’m lucky enough to have very talented friends around me. It makes for a safe, no-nonsense but still challenging environment.
The greatest fear for someone who is creatively driven?
I imagine it would be losing that drive.
What advice can you give to someone who wants to become an expert in their chosen field?
Practice makes perfect and always stay curious.
Apart from being involved in the entertainment and the creative industry, what else do you plan on dabbling into?
Perhaps education, we shall see.
Tell us a personal prediction of your future.
Nothing will go as planned and it will be one hell of a ride. Hopefully, in the best possible way.