Female relationships and filming in Oregon: an interview with Barneburg and Gallagher on their film ‘Clementine’

Courtesy tallgrass film association

Courtesy tallgrass film association

Producer Aimee Lynn Barneburg and Director Lara Jean Gallagher sat down with The Sunflower to discuss the Tallgrass Film Festival premiere of their film, “Clementine.” The film, set in the Pacific Northwest, explores the complex relationship between two women. Part psychological drama and part sexual coming-of-age story, “Clementine” seeks to answer when to leave and when to stay in a relationship.

Becca Yenser: How did the film come about?

Lara Gallagher: So, I really wanted to make a feature. That’s why I came back to Portland after grad school. I was itchy to get a first feature off the ground. I wanted to write something I was interested in, like complicated female relationships, keeping it focused on female performances. What could I do with female relationships and keep it in one location?

The story itself came from a personal place from when I was in a relationship with an older and more successful woman. We’ve seen this (on screen) with a lot between men and women, but not with women. Queer characters on film is relatively newer….showing the nuances of that is less seen.

BY: How did the location of the Pacific Northwest inform this film?

LG: Oregon in general is so beautiful so with a low budget we could get more production value without trying too hard: natural light and trees. The actress from L.A. (Otmara Marrero) was a fish out of water. Nature can feel like an ominous place. 

BY: Was Otmara legitimately threatened from the outdoors?


LG: Yes! She’s originally from Miami. She was so cold the whole time. She was just freezing. 

Aimee Barneburg: She was in a big, puffy jacket and was cold the whole time. On her days off, she wasn’t going on hikes or anything.

LG: Sydney (Sweeney) is from Spokane, Washington and grew up on a lake. That really worked with her character.

LG: Casting was tough on such a limited budget but we knew we wanted to find the best cast possible. We used a casting director from L.A. I hadn’t met either of them before shooting. 

I can’t believe it worked so well. 

LG: I started thinking about it for a year before I started writing. I started writing in April of 2016 and I got into this awesome program through the Venice Biennale College Cinema, I went to Venice, Italy for 10 days for a super intense story development workshop. It was crazy. It was no breaks. It was in a former insane asylum. It was just cafeteria food. My room was red. My bed was smaller than a twin bed. No windows. It was really immersive and incredibly hard. Then you have to go home and turn around a script in three weeks.  

I didn’t get the money (from the competition) but that was a very validating thing to be a part of, for the script to be chosen. 

BY: How did you guys meet?

AB: We first met working on a commercial together.  Lara was directing a Google spot. It had us traveling to Asia and shooting in four countries in two weeks. I came onto the project about 10 days before we left. 

LG: I was very skeptical. Who is this?

AB: We knew we would either hate each other or love each other. And it was the latter. When I found out she made features, I was like ‘Oooh, okay.` That’s what I wanted to do. We’ve done some music videos and other stuff in the years that have passed. But nights and weekends we talked about doing our own feature together. Didn’t hate it so we want to do another one. 

AB: The tide has turned in terms of being more open to women-led stories. My goal as a producer is to give a lot of opportunities to everyone in general. I didn’t go to film school, so I had to work my way up from the bottom and that included a lot of people giving me a chance. So I said when I make it as a producer I want to do that as well. We also wanted to make sure we were getting the right people for the jobs.

LG: We asked ourselves on the set, “Did this feel warm and safe?” (for our female actresses)

BY: I’ve heard the sound on this film is amazing.

LG: (We tried to create) a more psychological score. We worked with the composer for a year remotely. Her email stood out for me. She came up to Portland. She pushed us to record with live musicians. It’s this one character’s story and she’s in a bad place. How do we make that come across?  She’s traveling across the country. How can we not make it feel like a fun road trip; how can sound lead into that?


“Clementine” plays at The Scottish Rite Center on Saturday at 4 pm. General Admission is $10.