Jessica Bendinger And The Seven Rays

Posted on 14. Dec, 2009 by in Profiles

words by Jason Dean

On an autumn afternoon somewhere in the Nichols Canyon area of the Hollywood Hills, a former model is barely able to contain her excitement. “There are vast regions of consciousness in the unconscious mind that we don’t know what they can do,” she marvels, confirming with lucid precision: “From the pineal gland to the limbic portion of our brain? Absolutely!”

Jessica Bendinger photo by Robert Todd Williamson

Jessica Bendinger is describing her fascination with the paranormal, and I’m trying not to imagine her in a sequined evening gown on a pageant stage somewhere, uttering the perfect response to an inane question posed by Perez Hilton’s hairdo. Bendinger made her imprint in Hollywood in 2000 with the cheerleader rivalry flick, Bring It On. She made her directorial debut in 2006’s gymnastics film Stick It, which she also wrote. The screenwriter’s first novel, “The Seven Rays”, was released in November. The story follows 17-year-old Beth Michaels’ journey of supernatural self-discovery.
Bendinger’s voice lights up often during our phone interview, especially when she discusses authors and scholars—Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer and Lynne McTaggart among them—that she researched for this project. “Extraordinary things are happening all the time that we discount or discredit and don’t want to give credence to cuz it’s kinda scary,” says Bendinger, her voice rising up on its tip-toes for the last three words of the sentence.
The Oak Park, Illinois native does not shy away from the f-word (franchise) in talking about her shift from script to manuscript. I definitely had J.K. [Rowling, author of the “Harry Potter” books] in mind,” she says. “J.K. was a big inspiration for me. I thought, if I’m gonna write a really cool “Harry Potter” for girls, yeah, I wanted to at least take a swing at a franchise. That was definitely in the DNA of the idea.” I ask Bendinger if a “Seven Rays” movie is in the works. “I’m sure we’ll be making an announcement within a couple months,” she predicts. Any plans for a sequel? “Locked and loaded,” she informs me.
Bendinger has enjoyed continued success relating to a teen demographic, and I ask how she stays credible with a younger audience. “Writers tend to revisit the site of greatest harm,” she says, laughing. “Bring It On and Stick It were not written by the girl who made the squad or succeeded. They were written by the young girl who was pulled out and forced to watch from the sidelines, you know? I don’t know about your school, but cheerleaders had a lot of power in my school. ” Staying current with ever-morphing pop culture tastes has never been easier because of an omnipresent media, but the flip side of the equation is that trends explode and fade away much more rapidly. “What’s brilliant about this demographic is they are constantly changing and sponging,” she says.
Sports were Bendinger’s self-described salvation during high school. She played field hockey and was recruited to play college basketball. “I had so much anger to get out of my system,” she says, “and sports was the safe place to do that.” Bendinger was involved in gymnastics until a pubescent growth spurt pushed her off the balance beam and into modeling, which she did during the summers while growing up in Chicago. “I developed a thick skin for rejection, because you’re rejected so much for how you look, not for how you think or what comes out of your mouth,” she says. “It prepared me for Hollywood, let’s put it that way.”

Jessica Bendinger photo by Robert Todd Williamson

Growing up, Bendinger consumed a steady diet of Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary before sinking her teeth into the “naughty candy” of Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins, and Judith Krantz in her teens. A few years later, she would become enthralled by Dorothy Parker and Edith Wharton. While studying English at Columbia University in the ’80s, Bendinger landed a plum internship at SPIN Magazine and got published while still an undergrad. She also wrote news copy at MTV for Kurt Loder during the network’s freewheeling earlier days.
To use Bendinger’s analogy, the distinction between script and book writing is like comparing an orange grove to a can of frozen concentrate. “With a novel, it’s a much bigger canvas you’re working on. You have to really be in the full experience of an orange grove, all the plants and the workers and what it takes [to harvest the fruit].” Or as it’s done in Hollywood (no disrespect, Hollywood), start with a can of frozen orange juice concentrate, plop it in a pitcher, add water and ice cubes, stir, and serve. Put another way, “A script is like an energy bullet,” posits Bendinger. “It’s filled with all the stuff the movie’s gonna have in it without boring the reader and alienating the financier!”
For her part, Bendinger fully intends to continue the saga of heroine teen clairvoyant Beth Michaels. “I’m a total research nerd,” she admits. “It’s one of my favorite parts of the process.” Considering the fact that “The Seven Rays” has been endorsed by Deepak Chopra for its ability to make the paranormal more “normal,” it’s a good bet that Bendinger’s research up to this point has been sound.

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One Response to “Jessica Bendinger And The Seven Rays”

  1. Meredith

    18. Jun, 2010

    Kudos to Jessica Bendinger for being able to perceive “the realities.”

    Reply to this comment

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