Cora Benesh and Jillian Leigh co-star in the new film City Baby. Produced by Benesh, who co-wrote it with director David Morgan, City Baby follows Cloey (Benesh) and her friend Paige (Leigh) during a summer in Portland when both twenty-somethings face life-changing decisions. The film is now available on VOD and iTunes. The Dodgy spoke with Cora and Jillian about the film, guys, beer, dates, what kind of band they would be and more. 

City Babes Jillian Leigh and Cora Benesh image

Jillian Leigh and Cora Benesh in “City Baby”

What made you want to do City Baby?

Cora: Morgan and I met and wanted to work on a project together. We both had a few unfinished scripts but writing this one together seemed to make the most sense. We also love Portland and wanted to showcase the city the way we understood it.

Jillian: I loved the story!

How did the two of you meet?

Cora: When we were casting I asked a mutual ex of ours if he knew any hotties who were different/complimentary in energy to myself. He suggested Jillian. We all had a Skype meeting and audition and knew we’d just met our Paige. It was only about two weeks out from principal photography so it was kind of a hustle to get everything in order.

Jillian: Making movies is a lot like camp. I loved being at the City Baby camp and Cora and I quickly developed a shorthand in work and life. Cora cast me as her movie friend and I’m thankful to say it continued on past the shoot. She is one of my most encouraging/empathetic friends and hot damn is this girl a talented, spirited, intelligent woman. I still learn from her daily. I’m very grateful for the role and the friendship it brought to my life. Dave’s awesome too! That man lights whatever rooms he walks into and I am beyond grateful for his dedication to bringing this important female centric story to life.

You mentioned in the backstory that many experienced people advised you against making the film. 

Cora: Low budget indie filmmaking is open-ended – there’s not a ‘right’ way to do things, rules are meant to be broken, and there are a multitude of ways to find a means to an end. During pre-production everyone and their brother had an opinion they wanted to share and some folks told us we either couldn’t or shouldn’t make this movie. Mostly because we didn’t have much money. We did it anyway, whatever, making movies is just creative problem solving, not rocket science.

Jillian: It’s so important to do things! Even if they blow at least you’ve moved out of the “talking about it,” phase and that’s an honorable jump.

Cora, you wrote the film. Explain your writing process.

Collaborating with Dave involves a lot of fighting, drinking, smoking, a little crying (me) and pacing – Dave paces and I write. Its hard, but you gotta do something. I hope we’re able to put up with each other long enough to write another one.

What was it like working with Daniel Baldwin (who plays Cora’s character Cloey’s father)?

Cora: He’s awesome. Always killed it and really easy to work with. We were stoked he showed up.

Jillian: Booo I had no scenes with Cloey’s pops. Lame. Let’s get it together Cora.

How did you get Stephen Malkmus from Pavement to make an appearance?

Cora: We just asked him. Dave has known Steve forever, they play fantasy basketball together.

What’s the difference between Portland and LA guys?

Cora: In Portland they are or were formerly musicians, in LA they are or were formerly actors. Ha! Just kidding, sort of. I try not to make generalizations, but some easy stereotypes – Portland guys are disheveled lumberjacks with beards, on the sensitive side and usually politically correct. I’ve heard some women complain that Portland guys are pussies, but that might be a gigantic conversation about gender roles in itself, and I’m down dudes who can mix it up anyway. The biggest difference I notice about guys here is that they are bold. Guys will catcall you from their BMW and hit on a woman wearing an engagement ring (me). They can hold a conversation about hair products and notice when I wear expensive fibers, which I like actually. They also workout. Almost all of them!

Jillian: The only experience I had with Portland guys was from our shoot…and I’m not sure I was paying attention to anyone except my on-screen boyfriend Dustin. But I will say New York men and LA men are certainly different. Personally, I am thrilled to call LA home but boy oh boy I can’t leave those New York men alone (woot!) holler.

Daniel Baldwin and Cora Benesh image

Daniel Baldwin and Cora Benesh in “City Baby”

Cora, what was it like appearing on the hit IFC show Portlandia?

Great. The sketches I’ve did were a lot of improv, which I loved. It doesn’t hurt that Fred and Carrie are hilarious and build off each other really well. We’d get minimal scripts or notes and sort of follow them to know which marks to hit but were also allowed room to move.

Jillian: People still tell me “OMG I saw Cora on Portlandia!” So Proud! More of this please.

If I’m going to Portland what’s the first beer I should buy?

Cora: Specialty beers like sours and ciders are trending pretty hard right now, I like the small batch barrel aged beers they brew at Grain and Gristle.

Jillian: What she said.

Cora, what got you into acting and modeling? Is this the first script you wrote?

I’ve been modeling and acting on and off most of my life. I’ve always liked trying on different hats… and then showing them off. I’ve collaborated with other writers and worked on my own scripts in the past but City Baby is the first project I’ve had a hand in every aspect of from start to finish.

Jillian: Get it girl.

What about you Jillian? 

It’s funny I have no answer for this…I think cause for as far back as my memory takes me (2 years old?) I was interested in human nature and story telling. Not much as changed.

Jillian is your The Jilly Situation video series making fun of those blogger girls who answer questions on YouTube?

I constantly ask questions and for people’s advice. My neighbor (and talented actor friend) Max Loeb was sick of it and encouraged me to talk to my laptop. Fuck ‘em.

If the two of you were a band what kind of band would it be?

Cora: Riot grrrl third-wave feminist punk rock. Haha, I dunno, what do you think Jilly? Since neither of us (I don’t think?) are that musically inclined maybe we’d involve some sort of performance with it. I’ve always wanted to be part of a musical act with elaborate choreography and costumes. And pyrotechnics.

Jillian: YES YES to the third wave feminist punk rock. I think Pussy Riot is incredible and totally in our wheel house C. Sprinkle in ESG & Tom Tom Club…with lots of screaming and speaking and tambourines. We should talk about this further. Thanks Liffey!

What do you hope people will enjoy about this movie or take away from?

Cora: Most people leave this movie sort of scratching their heads, which feels OK to me. My hope is that City Baby sinks into people’s psyche a little and they think about it after they watch it. Think about themselves, people they know, what their 20s were or will be like, maybe their daughter, their niece, etc. I consider this a good goal considering most people’s relationship to media is as entertainment only, in and out, comatose, and honestly, if you feel like watching an ‘enjoyable’ movie go watch Rio 2.

What was the worst date for both of you?

Cora: Do people even ‘date’ anymore? I can’t remember, its been too long. There’s so many ways for a date to go wrong, I think I always corrected it with copious amounts of alcohol.

Jillian: Anytime you go to the movies on a first date and the movie is bad, nothing ever proceeds…that night or any.

Any future plans/announcements for either of you?

Cora: I have a few movies on the horizon, trying to work with Dave on some new stuff too.

Jillian: My play just got accepted to The Festival of Female Writers in NYC. Pretty amped to go direct it. I wrapped a feature a few weeks ago…lots of fun! Things are fun these days.

Cora and Jillian B-Roll

Cora was named after the core of an apple, which her mother was slicing in half and making prints with.

The film’s wardrobe includes pieces from Portland designers. “There’s a burgeoning fashion scene happening in Portland,” says Cora. “We were excited to showcase a bit of it.”

The guys playing nude volleyball in the beach scene are a punk band that was in town on tour.

City Baby has a cool soundtrack featuring Portland musicians including Desire, whose song “Under Your Spell” was featured in the movie Drive.

There’s a great improvised scene between Baldwin and his character’s wife near the end that entails a conversation about yoga and oral sex.

The film is a gem. I live for these kinds of movies. It’s like drinking a really good craft beer. This movie is delicious.

Jillian Leigh and Cora Benesh interview pic

Jillian Leigh and Cora Benesh



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