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Q&A: UC alumnus Robert Mann explores creative process behind thriller ‘R BnB’

Savannah Whitten (left) and Gloria Mann (right) play Aubree and Jennifer in “R BnB.” Written and directed by Robert Mann, the film will premiere at the Regency Bruin Theatre on Feb. 8. (Courtesy of Dan Harris)

“R BnB”

Feb. 8 

Regency Bruin Theatre

$15

By Lex Wang

Feb. 7, 2023 1:42 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 7 at 7:57 p.m.

Sometimes a secluded Airbnb is not the best choice for a vacation spot.

UC San Diego alumnus Robert Mann’s film “R BnB” follows the stories of three women – Mia (Bryanna McQueeney), Aubree (Savannah Whitten) and Jennifer (Gloria Mann) – whose lives are closely intertwined because of mutually warped female desires. Arriving from Manhattan, Mia and her husband choose to celebrate their first wedding anniversary at the Airbnb that Aubree owns but quickly realize nothing is as it seems when they discover they are secretly being videotaped.

Prior to the film’s premiere at Westwood’s Regency Bruin Theatre on Tuesday, Mann spoke with the Daily Bruin’s Lex Wang about his inspirations behind developing the psychological thriller and how the movie reflects the intricate workings of society.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

[Related: Q&A: “The People We Hate at the Wedding” screenwriters, cast navigate family dynamics]

Daily Bruin: How would you describe “R BnB?”

Robert Mann: “R BnB” is a psychological thriller, and it’s about a rich couple from Manhattan, and they go to a secluded Airbnb. When they get there, they realize they’re being videotaped and spied on, and they try to make a run for it. Then everything hits the fan, so to speak.

The story is really about three women with stories that converge, unbeknownst to me when I was writing it. I just thought I was writing about a couple. But once I started writing the story – and it really wasn’t until I was editing the movie – that I realized the protagonist is female and the subplots are really about the other two female leads. So when I was editing, that was a revelation to me. That’s how … the art or the writing of the movie process goes sometimes – you don’t even know what you’re doing until it manifests itself.

DB: What was your favorite scene in the film? What did the creative process of directing that scene look like?

RM: Every scene and everything are like little babies to me, so it’s really hard to pick. But I’ll tell you one that I think is really nice and an emotional scene. It’s when one of the leads – Aubree, who’s the owner of the Airbnb – has this nice wonderful little soliloquy. She really tells you the reason why all of this nefarious action is happening, and she has a wonderful, heartfelt and emotional, tearful scene.

Another one that I really, really love is between the two women, Mia and Aubree. We shot that with a waterfall behind them. That’s a really wonderful one too. … She (Aubree) has nefarious intentions, and she’s doing this little fishing expedition with Mia, who’s unsuspecting. We start to unveil that relationship, so that was really one of my favorite scenes too.

[Related: Sundance 2023 Q&A: Producer Maria Altamirano talks ‘All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt’]

DB: What do you hope audiences take away from your film?

RM: I hope for 81 minutes, they forget life and they just are entertained. It’s entertainment. It’s just people that want to get away for a little bit, forget life and have a thrill. And I think for a thriller, that’s it. That’s the objective. There are moments and you’ll see them, but that’s not the objective. The objective for me was to make a nice thriller that people could then enjoy. People are “consumers.” Just like anything that you eat, it’s enjoyable. It’s the same thing with this. They’re going to consume it, and hopefully, they will enjoy it. John Lennon said the role of the artist really isn’t to teach or to show. It’s actually just to reflect society, and I think that’s what the film does. It reflects our position in society right now. You’ll take out of it whatever you take out of it.

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Lex Wang | Enterprise editor
Wang is the 2023-2024 Enterprise editor. Previously, she was the 2022-2023 Opinion editor, and prior to that, an assistant Opinion editor. She is Arts and Quad staff and also contributes to News, Sports on the men's volleyball beat, Copy, Design, Photo and Video.
Wang is the 2023-2024 Enterprise editor. Previously, she was the 2022-2023 Opinion editor, and prior to that, an assistant Opinion editor. She is Arts and Quad staff and also contributes to News, Sports on the men's volleyball beat, Copy, Design, Photo and Video.
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