“I was given the script by a friend of mine who was an actor in [my previous movie] ‘But I’m a Cheerleader,” Jamie Babbit said in a recent Dallas interview about “The Quiet,” her second feature. The new teen suspense film stars Elisha Cuthbert and Camilla Belle as troubled highschool girls with dark shared secrets. “And I read the script and was really drawn to the idea of these two girls kind of trading secrets. I have always thought that the one difference between girls and guys, especially the teenage years, is that the way that girls become friends is by trading secrets, and the way guys become friends is just by hanging out. And I loved that the film was about secrets and [how] girls get secrets out of each other, so then they can exploit them. And I liked the way the whole movie was about that, too–exploiting secrets and bartering secrets. And I thought it was a very interesting look into suburbia. I’ve always liked female revenge movies, and suburban horror movies, and it was a great combination of both. A lot of movies that inspired me are movies like ‘Heavenly Creatures’ and ‘American Beauty’ and the Abel Ferrara movie ‘Ms. 45,’ movies that are suburban horror, slash, revenge movies.”

Cuthbert, who also took on the role of associate producer of “The Quiet” as well as starring in it, and who joined Babbit in Dallas, recalled, “I had gotten the script from my agent. Jamie was attached to the project, but only Jamie–there were no actors, no funding. We had the script and the director. And I’d read the movie, and was just completely fascinated by it. I was really at the time looking for something very character-driven, something that I could really sink my teeth into. I just was so passionate about the movie that I thought if I attached my name to the project, if Jamie was willing to have me, I would come on as an associate producer and maybe help start a buzz and get other actors involved–and also try to find a group of people that would help fund the film. I just wanted to take that risk because the role was so appropriate and so perfect, and didn’t trust a studio to believe in and be a part of a film like this.”

Eventually the project was supported by Burnt Orange Productions, a company designed to produce independent features in collaboration with the University of Texas Film Institute, in which UT film students serve as members of the crew. “We approached them,” Babbit explained. “They had kind of put the word out that they were looking for independent films to finance. And their whole mantra was that they’d had a hard time as a film school competing with USC and NYU to try to get the best students. They have a very large endowment–the second largest in the country besides Harvard–and so one thing they could do was actually finance independent films to get filmmakers to come to Austin and let their students work on the films, so that students at the UTA film school would have the same opportunities they’re afforded at big-city schools, where they can work on films while they’re in film school. Almost fifty percent of our crew…were from the film school. We were the first project that Burnt Orange did, and so there were some kinks to be worked out, [but] we got some really great students to do it–a lot of graduate students.”

Cuthbert was delighted with the outcome. “It’s amazing, because it’s never happened like this before, that I’ve read a script and said ‘I love this movie, and this is what I want to make.’ Obviously things change and things alter and other actors come in and the director maybe adds something as well. But I really feel that Jamie put this movie together exactly the way I imagined it. What I originally read is up on the screen, which is so fantastic.”

Cuthbert felt that way despite the fact that in one way “The Quiet” turned out rather different from hat she expected while she was shooting it. “I never ended up really being conscious of playing comedy,” she admitted. “But I realized watching with an audience that moments that I was taking very seriously were hysterical. And that’s when I discovered it was slightly dark comedy. As far as my character was concerned, I didn’t realize that at the time.”

She described the audience reaction this way: “Some were fascinated, and others were kind of laughing at times. What a brilliant way to put a movie together and have people ask questions and wonder. That’s what I love about it.”