TikTok Star Madelaine Turner is Making A Film Career for Herself
13 May, 2021
Madelaine Turner has loved filmmaking since she was a kid.”I burst into the world just being drawn to storytelling,” Turner, 27, told Insider. Growing up in California, Turner was never far from Hollywood, and her fifth-grade yearbook lists that she wanted to be a director when she grew up. But as she got older, pursuing a career in film didn’t seem like a realistic option.
“I wasn’t a great student, and, you know, Martin Scorsese isn’t my dad, unfortunately,” she said. “So I felt like the film industry wasn’t exactly a place where I would get through the first checkpoint.” Because Hollywood felt so inaccessible, Turner drifted away from her directorial aspirations. “It was like, ‘You’re going to be so miserable if you hinge your life on this dream and you don’t find another way to sustain your wellbeing,'” she added. After a two-week stint in community college, Turner spent the early years of her 20s exploring different jobs and gaining new skills. But all the while, she kept fostering her love of film.”I was able to find YouTube accounts and documentaries that were giving me that knowledge about film that I was really hungry for,” she said.
Turner was working at a construction company when the pandemic began. She was sent home to work remotely indefinitely in March 2020 — right around the time that TikTok was becoming more popular than ever.”I think I had been looking for an excuse to put out silly internet content,” Turner said. Since going into work or hanging out with friends wasn’t preventing her from exploring filmmaking anymore, Turner started making TikToks. She used things she could find around her apartment for props, hanging tablecloths on the wall to create backdrops and using her wardrobe as a costume shop. In May 2020, she uploaded “The Anderson Guide to Surviving A Global Pandemic,” which parodied Wes Anderson’s directorial aesthetic. The video went viral, having over one million views on TikTok at the time of writing.
“I don’t even think I really processed it until like five months later,” Turner said of her video going viral. “It was really surreal. It’s still very surreal.” But the experience was more to her than just a short stint of internet fame. Turner said it made her realize that making movies “was something that I really, really did want to do and had really, really wanted to do for a long time.””Even just admitting that to my mom was a really odd thing to do,” she said. “It still took a really long time to confidently be like, ‘I would like to be a director and I think I can maybe do it.” Turner has made dozens of viral TikToks since the Wes Anderson spoof, carving out a niche for herself by making high-quality films on the app. She still uses items she has at home to create her films, as well as dollar-store finds. Over the last year, Turner has built a TikTok following and solidified her reputation as a digital filmmaker. She has over 378,000 TikTok followers at the time of writing.
Although she’s only actually been making films for about a year, her videos already have a remarkably clear style and tone, which Turner describes on her website as “high brow adolescence meets feminine sensibility.” The films are filled with nostalgia, wit, and whimsy. Turner uses popular cultural touchstones as the backdrops of many of her films, “engaging with the things that really glittered when we were kids,” she said. For instance, in “Veruca,” Turner gives us a look at a grown-up Veruca Salt from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” who is on a mission to reunite the other golden ticket winners to bring down Charlie Bucket. Likewise, “Emma Mia” teases a world in which Jane Austen created “Mamma Mia.” And “Gothic Girl” combines “Twilight” and “Gossip Girl,” bringing humor audiences didn’t know they were craving to the melodramatic film. Turner often leaves the big reveal of what exactly she’s parodying until the middle or near the end of her short films, offering viewers a sense of satisfaction as they watch her content.
She thinks these combinations resonate with her audience because “it’s like an inside joke.” “I’m sort of winking and nudging something to you,” she said. “Ultimately, we connect.” There’s a silliness to the videos in subject matter, but Turner herself is entirely earnest in her films.”Doing these parodies allows me to play really serious,” she told Insider. “It lets me get away with doing something that might be a little bit cringey.”
Since her videos went viral, Turner landed a manager, she’s working with agents, and she has a TV pilot circulating. Her fifth-grade dream of directing is now more possible than ever. Turner told Insider she hopes to keep leaning into escapist content that gives her audience a feeling of respite. “The place in time where I came into an understanding of film and the film industry, it was this movement towards very grounded, very gritty realism,” Turner said. “But for me, I’ve always been like, ‘God, I really just don’t want to do that.'”
“I don’t need a film to be sad and feel anguish and be depressed. If anything, I use film to escape that,” she told Insider. “I feel like we’re entering into an age of escapism, which I just couldn’t be more excited about personally.”
She added that her work will likely contain “high concept camp” and “snappy dialogue,” as well as some magical realism. But the playful energy she brings to her TikToks will always be part of her work. Turner plans to keep making films as long as people will watch them.
“My goal as a creator is to entertain,” Turner said. “I’m sure I’ll have deeper messages to convey at some point, but as of right now, I’m pretty OK with just hoping that people have a good time.”