Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Still Green: Teen Film Makes Waves

Teen films have a way of taking you back. Whether the film is a spot-on representation of your high school years, or it makes you think, "that is not it, at all," they often make your reckon, reminisce and reconsider that time. Those years of being with, coming up, living under, going through, and growing up. The good news is, many of us have crossed that tumultuous threshold. That's also the bad news. When since have friends been as available? How much time a week, a month, do you have to figure yourself out? How heartfelt was each turn on your adolescent learning curve? Among other things, the treacherous certainties of adulthood make this writer sometimes yearn for the tenuous openness of youth.

Still Green is a teen film that wades through the the quintessential end of that threshold: the summer after high school. The story line: 1) friends, enemies and lovers wile away their time in a beach house; 2) a member of the party dies; 3) the surviving ones are left to come together, cope, and try to live on. However, what unravels is a complex mosaic of: little conversations and big events, echoing moods and sudden changes, individual resolve and collective uncertainty. The characters flow through sun-drenched scenes of coastal Florida. They
share thoughts both shallow and deep. They are filled with longing, yet, anchored by the lingering they still have to undergo. Their disposition is akin to holding your ear to a conch shell, hoping for the right melody, all the while being pitched on the undertow of the current moment. The viewer is a trusted confidante, as the ensemble ride the currents of their fears, friendships, and transformations.

Doug Lloyd, producer, and I met at the start of college. We had just finished "that summer," and were on to our alleged adult lives.
We have kept in touch, and have seen each other ride the waves of our twenties. Georgia Menides, writer and producer, and I crossed paths around the time she and Doug were starting their film company, Uncovered Productions. I had met up with them during Still Green's first run of festivals-- a successful streak that included awards for Best Narrative Feature (New England Film and Video Festival) and Best Ensemble (Spirit of Independence category;
Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival). They were joined by Dave Weston, post-production assistant, at a BU screenwriting class screening. I had seen the film a few times before (as a potential music consultant), but not this cut, nor on the big screen. I put the sea conch to my memories, and heard it resonate with the film. Afterwards, we talked about mermaids and flirtations, the actors and their convincing spark, films and memorable popcorn moments.

Yeses Along the Way

We don't need it to be edited. You can definitely do whatever you want. I trust you.

So, so, Still Green. After the BU grad school screenwriting class screening. I'm talking with Doug Lloyd, producer. You did quite a lot on this film. Now, we're just walking over to some coffee. We were talking about audience reactions to the movie. What is it like to have gone through several investor screenings, test screenings, and now, showing it at festivals?
DL: Well, first of all, this is my favorite cut. That was cool, to show my favorite cut. In the past, everyone that we screened it to--at all the test screenings--- had some connection to us. It's hard to be completely unbiased when having some sort of connection. At the festival, there were a lot of people there who had no idea who were, just personally. It was cool to get a stranger's opinion of it, to see strangers loving this project.
CE: Right, right. You just did the 32nd Annual New England Film and Video festival. You guys got the award for Best Narrative Feature. How did that feel, this being the first official film festival that it's gone to?
DL: Well, it felt great. That in itself was reassuring. Not only did we know that people really liked it, but they said so in an award form. It also takes some of the pressure off. Now, we can go to other festivals and we don't have to worry, "Oh my god, is something going to happen? Is something going to happen?" Because, at the very first festival, we get best feature.
CE: You've already secured this interest in the festival market. It's a big yes being thrown your way.
DL: Exactly, yeah!
CE: Which must be great. It seems like there's stress, on and off, while making a movie, but there are also all these yeses along the way. Like working with the cinematographer, Brian Crane.
DL: A lot of things just came our way. We really lucked out, but it's not complete luck because we tried to get ourselves in a position where it would happen. Getting Sarah Jones as the lead actress. She was incredible. This movie would not be the same without her as a lead.
CE: She's still on Big Love?
DL: She is still on Big Love. Getting her, getting all of our other main actors and actresses, and getting Brian Crane. Brian really knows what he's doing. Even though its' a low-budget, independent movie, it does not look like it.
CE: It looks gorgeous.

Maybe There Are Mermaids, Dude

[We reach our destination. I separate from Doug, as he and Dave get the coffees. Georgia and I look for a place in this multi-floor bookstore for the four of us to continue the conversation.]

CE: I'll just start recording.
GM: Right, right, because you never know, something funny can happen on the escalator, on the way up here, and you get it.
CE: Let's start talking about the movie.
GM: If you said, "Well, I don't understand why she does a, b, c." That kind of stuff, I like. My favorite thing, honestly, is when people start discussing why Kerri [Sarah Jones] makes the choices she does toward the end of the film. Some people get so upset, and I love that. They are like, "I love that girl, and she let me down." And this other guy was like, "What, a beautiful girl let you down? That happens all the time." I love that people have different opinions about it.
CE: The characters, even though they might be a little stylized, like in any movie, they're really believable. You're going to pick up on the character and think, "I would do this. I wouldn't do that." You're having a critical conversation about the characters. That just shows that, from the minor to the major ones, you have this high appreciation for them.
GM: If you're upset that she did that, then you care.

CE: I was wondering: are there any characters, considering the different script drafts and the way they've turned out on film, that you have strong feelings about? Maybe feelings regarding how they turned out, or from seeing the characters face to face. On the set, you were basically walking around with characters you wrote.
GM: Yeah, pretty much. Well, for Kerri… Sarah Jones looks nothing like how I pictured Kerri. I pictured a brunette, athletic, kind of girl.
CE: Hmm. Maybe even dark.
GM: Dark, yeah! Dark hair, dark skin, super cut. When I first saw her, it took a little adjusting, because she's this curvy, voluptuous blond. But then, I totally got into it: wait a minute, she's curvy and voluptuous. I pictured someone a little more spazzy, but she's way chill. You know, she's like [in a breathy tone], "Maybe there are mermaids, dude." So, I started to love how she basically took the lines that I wrote, and instead of everything I thought would be in them, made them completely different. And it worked perfectly.
CE: I think, for the audience, the idea of this late-teen blond girl having all these feelings and revelations could be a little unsettling; at the same time, you get on a level with her from the beginning.
GM: Yeah.

GM: Wait, I bet this is Doug. [She checks her cell. Then, to Doug, on cell:] So, were on the second floor.
CE: Yeah, we're on the second floor. In the art and architecture section.
GM: Second floor, by the new arrivals, in the art and architecture section. We're back here. Sweet!

CE: I think she really plays it well, in a balanced way. Not balanced in this predictable 50/50 way: not 50 percent this, 50 percent that. Her character is developed, and you see this range. There's the heavy stuff, the different topics
like the mermaid trope—which take on heavier meanings. Then, you also see her talking about boys, the whole penis-anaconda bit. She's even falling off the skateboard, in the very beginning.
GM: Yeah.
CE: You just follow her.
GM: She's got such a range.
CE: Yeah, I definitely feel you could be in the room with her, so to speak.

Sarah Jones (Kerri) has such a range, you can't help but

follow her character, as she unravels from scene to scene.

Like My Friend, So and So

[To Doug and Dave, who have just arrived with coffee] Thank you. Oh, you didn't bring the sugar?
Oh, I just heard the cream part. Let me get the sugar packets right now.
Talk amongst yourselvesand I'll be right back--
because we've been talking amongst ourselves.
Heh, heh, heh.

CE: We were just talking about a couple things. The conversation led to Kerri. We were saying that all these people are having dynamic reactions to the characters. So many times, you either see dramatically heavy, sincere, overly-stylized and emotionally arresting American Beauty types of youth in teen films, or you see archetypal, predictable characters. And in Still Green, they are sincere and yet somewhat stylized. That said, I think it's done in a way that makes you care about them. You get the range of emotions from each character.It's an accolade of the film that the characters are believable, and that you want to kind of have a relationship with them. You do have a relationship with them-- you have a reactionary relationship, if not a compassionate one. Even the most critical person may say, "I can't believe this is happening." That means you're getting involved with the character enough, you're relating enough.
You're connecting.
CE: For example, Sean [Noah Segan] has quite a character ark: he's able to be that artsy quiet kid, but also want to punch the heck out of someone.
That's the thing. The worst thing that could happen is for someone to say, "Oh, I didn't care." If they're having strong emotions-- in whatever direction-- about what these characters are doing, then they're connected with them. And that's one of the things that I'm really proud about with this movie. It's definitely great for Georgia's writing. It shows that Georgia wrote it very well, the acting was great, and Jon's directing was great, too. With those three elements combined, they turned into very believable characters. You watch them, and you like them, because everyone finds someone that they connect with. It's like, "Oh, this is just like my friend, so and so."

Everyone Is on the Cusp

[Georgia is back with her finely tuned coffee. The conversation continues.]
CE: The film have has this complex mosaic of emotions and events going on.
GM: And it's all there. If you're the kind of person that pays attention, it is all there. But sure, you do kind of have to work for it. It might be in a glance or one line.
CE: Yeah.
DW: It's all right there, in that scene after the death. You see the sequence of every single person by themselves. It's really intense.
CE: Yeah.
GM: Yeah.
DL: Yeah.
DW: Everyone goes on their own, after you think they might want to be together.
DL: They're all dealing with it on their own. They're dealing with their different issues; not necessarily about the death, but how it relates to them.
CE: The voice-overs keep bringing up this week, how it's going to be different, and that after this week, everything will be different. This cusp quality is huge, throughout the film. It's there, with and without the death. And all the cusps they're on, with each other. Alan [Ryan Kelley], he's on the cusp of rationalizing and pushing out his feelings for the girl he likes. This person is on the cusp about that thing, and that person is on the cusp of another thing. Everyone is on the cusp.
GM: You're right, I hadn't thought about that. Sean is on the cusp of drawing. Daneck
[Brandon Meyer] is on the cusp of should he or should he not sleep with Monica [Ashleigh Snyder], what if she gets pregnant again? Alan's on the cusp. Yeah, everyone is on the cusp.
CE: A cusp also means that they've gone somewhere, gone through something. It may not be believable to everyone. A criticism may be: Oh, kids don't really do that much drugs and drinking. Kids can't be that involved with their emotions. Or, they can't be both. But, everybody is.
DL: It's funny, because everyone really is.
DW: You worried so much about everything in high school. You didn't know how to deal with anything, so your emotions were all over the place.
DL: Exactly. The biggest thing in your life was emotion. Because you didn't know what was going to happen. All you knew was what you were feeling at that moment. And a lot of kids do drugs, and feel all that at the same time. I think it's what's so believable about the film. It's not the good kid versus the bad kid: the good kid dealing with their emotions and the bad kid doing drugs. No, everybody does everything. Everyone is mixtures, in all these different shades.
GM: We made those decisions. The good kid steals. The good kid definitely needs to be seen with the bong. The good girl definitely has to have sex.

CE: And scene by scene, it gets more mixed. Like, who's talking about The Outsiders? Everybody does, and from their own point of view. Even Bill [Douglas Spain], the biologist kid, who's like, "Why are we watching this movie?" He's the one who hits home with what the movie is about: "They can't go back, you know" [paraphrase]. This is such a great, self-reflective but natural scene. This is what you might do when you're with friends. You rent a movie, you all have a talk about it. This comment is so poignant, though, as it builds on and pushes the said theme along.

And the way the camera is positioned in certain scenes, you're implicated, if not involved. You're in the room. In The Outsiders scene, you're the one at other end of the couch. Maybe you're the one closest to the TV, who has to crane their neck. Or, when they're on the beach, you're sitting on the sand, nearby. Maybe you're part of that group, maybe you're not. Maybe you're an adult, seeing it from afar.

DL: I think that's different for each person. That's what gets the film the different responses.
Some people do feel like they're really in the middle of it. They connect really well with it, and understand what the characters did. Other people see themselves as the parent that should be telling the kids what to do; even if they like the movie, they'll disagree with the actions. I can understand why someone, especially an adult, would say, "Maybe I will be that adult, to give them the control that they need to have, because they're just a bunch of kids, renting a beach house."

Sean (Noah Segan) and Alan (Ryan Kelley),
riding their own cusps.

Nothing Happens, but Everything Happens

CE: Let's discuss the films that Still Green is related to. If people have been saying, "I like it because it reminds me of these films." When you're dealing with investors, maybe you're selling it as a cross between a couple films.
GM: We get The Big Chill for teenagers, a lot.
DL: Yeah, there have actually been quite a few different comparisons. It's also a lot like Mean Creek, in some ways.
CE: There being no adult presence.
GM: Yeah, Ryan Kelley.
DL: Yeah, Ryan Kelley's in both movies! Also, the fact of having that one big decision that gets made, that some people agree with and others don't. They're also young kids dealing with death on their own, before they should have to deal with it.
CE: Mean Creek also takes it back to River's Edge, which brings up this issue of—I mean there are adults in River's Edge, but that was a film where critics said, "Where are the adults?"
GM: Yeah. That was the main theme of River's Edge.
CE: Why are the only adults Dennis Hopper (the sketchy druggy guy), or the parent that doesn't understand the Keanu Reeves character?
GM: The only adult that cares is Dennis Hopper's character.
CE: There are more and more films coming out where the adult presence isn't there. It's great how you guys did it, without making it the edgiest film.
GM: We weren't trying to make Kids. We weren't trying to make Bully. We weren't trying to make that kind of film. We did wan it to be edgy. At the same time, Doug and I have talked about how we feel some teen films go too extreme in the other direction. Everyone is suicidal and sadistic and smoking crack at age 13; well, that's as bad as saying everyone is going to the prom and picking dates and voting for best hairdo. We just wanted to present something in the middle.

CE: That's kind of like The Big Chill. Let's explore that film. Let's talk about your responses to the film and your feelings about people seeing parts of The Big Chill in Still Green.
DG: I saw The Big Chill, but it was so many years ago. I do remember that I really liked it. So it is cool, to have people comparing it to another movie that I know I liked. That people can watch this and be like, "Oh, it's just like this other movie that I personally love."

I love Still Green. No Matter what happens with it, I know that we made a movie that I just love. That is already a huge success, right there: I can sit down and watch a movie that I absolutely love, and I created it.

CE: Honestly, it's astounding. It can be a teen movie that people are going to remember in five years and say, "Wow! I'm glad that film was entered into the vocabulary!" Without it being American Beauty, without it trying to be a great American movie.

GM: Well, the thing about The Big Chill I like is that nothing happens, but everything happens. They basically have breakfast and they cook dinner, they go to sleep, they go for drives, and they go jogging. With Still Green, they go swimming, they party in that house, but everything happens inside those relationships, and what they're saying and what they're not saying. And, I mean, that was one of my first favorite movies, ever. And I'm a dialogue whore, so.
CE: So, yeah!
GM: For me, it's just like, every line. And it's constantly throwing you for a loop. It's about an event that
, it's like someone died, but he's still there, you know?
CE: Yeah, yeah.
GM: And that event is part of it, but also isn't part of it-- there's so much that happens that has nothing do to with it. To be compared to The Big Chill, for me, it's the ultimate compliment. It's also proof that you can make a movie where people just sit in a house and do boring things, and it's not boring.

To me, it's proof that you can make a movie that is similar in film vocabulary and plot-- that's similar in cell structure-- to another film that's been made and make it original. I think it's unique enough, yet, it's wonderfully analogous. And so relevant is this issue of "nothing happens, but everything happens." [In Still Green] The conversations come from the histories these high school kids have had with each other, and with themselves. It's about them sharing their feelings with their friends, not sharing them, or finally sharing them. After the death occurs, the mood of the audience shifts. Knowing that these kids are going to go through death makes you linger with everything that happens, more. This little conversation is even more important, because it's part of the cornucopia of emotions that they're going through, too.
DW: It would switches gears a lot: from emotional to funny, and then there's that catharsis.
DL: Actually, what I noticed from sitting in the audiences at New England Film & Video Festival, we got so many more laughs than ever before. Every little moment that was kind of funny to me, everyone was laughing. And I love that Still Green actually takes you there. One of the biggest things I love about movies is just the journey of emotions, whatever movie it is. If a movie can make me feel whatever it makes me feel, that's a success to me. And that's what I've always loved about Still Green. I know it so well, so I connect with the emotions very easily, but it's cool to watch it in the theater where people are really paying attention. Seeing all the people connect with it, how it takes them from really happy to really sad, and to all these different places.
DW: The music helps that along, too. I listen to the soundtrack a lot. For me, music is tied to nostalgia, so when you hear the songs, it evokes that emotion. The movie connects me, through the music, to the emotion.
One thing I liked about it, en masse, is that there's no song "of our generation" on there, so it's not going to feel too much of a certain time. It's not like you'd play it and say, "Oh, that was '95, because that was when
Green Day blew up."
Yeah, because it would be played on the radio all the time.
Or: "Oh, this is when this big hit song comes in." It's more like, "This is the song from when Kerri's swimming alone in the ocean."

It's about the song and it's about the moment. It's not about anything else. And that's what I like about the actors, too. Even though we have some actors who are doing other stuff, for the most part, they're not hugely recognizable. So, people will watch it and they won't connect with any other roles that they've had. Which I think is so big, because its just about connecting with them.

The Still Green trailer.

Voice-Overs & Lively Oceans

CE: So, let's talk about voice-over. Let's talk about any movies that you might have spoken about with the actors. Maybe you've seen voice-over in this movie and you loved it, or you've seen it in that film and made sure not to do it in that way.
GM: I'll tell you this: Ryan Kelley and I talked about voice-over. He said, in Mean Creek, originally in the script, there were tons of voice-overs. And they all got cut, except for the one at the end. He said it really helped his acting, to have so many written in the script, because you just know so much about the character. Then I asked some of the other actors [of Still Green], and a lot of them said the fact that there were so many voice-overs in the script didn't bother them, because it really helped them get into their roles. But for me, it was actually a writer. Her name is Jodi Piccoult, and she wrote Songs of the Humpbacked Whale.
CE: Yeah, yeah, her books are getting popular.
GM: She's a local [New England] writer, but now she's getting known. The first book she wrote was Songs of the Hump Backed Whale. The title of each chapter has the character's name that narrates it. The story keeps getting told, just switching around between the characters. It made me think, "I want to write a screenplay where there's no main character, and where it keeps switching between everybody's voice." I would say that the book and Jodi Piccoult were big inspirations.

CE: Other film elements stand out, like the camera work. Jeez, the more I see it, the more I think, wow, this is a beautiful film.
DW: Some of the scenes are just unbelievable.
GM: When they're playing in the water and the waves are just, like, whoosh.
CE: They're jumping in the water. That's gorgeous!
Yeah, and it makes a difference. The first time I saw it, it didn't hit me. Okay, it's a sunny day and there are a handful of kids swimming at the beach. The more I saw it, I thought the sun is glinting in a way that it traditionally shouldn't. It's kind of falling on them. There's a lot of light and shadow play in the film, but it's not overdone.
I will say one thing about the nature, though. The whole reason that it's shot like that is that ocean is life. It is full of fish and dolphins and birds, and it's just teeming with life. That this ocean would be the vehicle for death, and the irony of that, is something that we wanted to expose, which is why we edited it the way we did. It's not just like, "Oh, gratuitous ocean." That's why we're cutting to these shots of birds and the ocean, and-- the cycle of life. It's not the North Atlantic, which is cold and bitter and of course it's going to take life away. This is an ocean that's known for giving life, so that's one of the reasons that we picked it and really spent some time with it in the film.

Jon Artigo, Andrea Ajemian, Georgia Menides, & Doug
Lloyd at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.

Artigo/Ajemian Films, Uncovered Productions, Collaborative Filmmaking, & Some Popcorn

CE: Let's see, you guys have 10 more minutes, 20 more minutes?
GM: We have to be at our first thing at 7:40, but we have to drive.
DL: Well, I have to pick up my suit pants at 6. It's right down the street. It's 5:15 now.
CE: Let's go to 5:25 or less than that. Okay.

CE: Cool, cool. Let's just put things in the context that you guys have made other films. You guys are coming from having done this for a while. The three of you have gone to school for film. Still Green is only the recent manifestation. I want to talk about the projects, ideas, and experiences you've had being creative people, creative business people. So, Doug Lloyd, you went to Clark with me, from the late nineties through the first part of the 21st century.
DL: Yeah.

CE: And Georgia, you went to NYU, Tisch, for...
GM: For Screenwriting. I graduated in 97.
CE: In 97, so when I was going through some of the Still Green Stuff, you graduated from NYU.
GM: Ha ha. Yeah.
CE: Ha. It's cool, it's cool. I have known you, Doug, since '99, and I've known you, Georgia, from '02, '03, I want to say.
GM: Yeah.
CE: Dave. You graduated BU in '06?
DW: Yeah, I got my master's in '06. I went undergrad a long time before. I graduated undergrad in '96.
You got your master's in screenwriting?
Screenwriting, yup.
And you got involved with this group through Artigo/Ajemian?
Yeah, kind of randomly. They were working on what is
still the next project, We Got the Beat. I just found an ad of theirs on Craigslist.
GM: Brandon Meyer found us on Craigslist!
You know, I just graduated. I was thinking about going to LA, but I figured I would take a shot locally, first. Then I hooked up with these guys, kind of got sucked in, and now I'm
still here. Ha.
DL & GM:
So, was that your first time in Worcester?

No, I had been in Worcester before. I had gone to the Centrum, at some point, for a basketball game.

CE: Hmm. So, Uncovered Productions has joint offices with Artigo/Ajemian in Worcester.
DL: Yeah, the offices are shared between the two companies, because we're very much working together on the same projects. Uncovered Productions did Still Green, in association with Artigo/Ajemian Films. And then We Got The Beat is Artigo/Ajemian Films, but Georgia and I are still working on it. We're the production designers.

How about a brief summary about We Got the Beat?
We Got the Beat is an eighties-era teen comedy. It's about this high school football star who doesn't want to play football any more. He quits the team to start the first-ever boy band. The script is really funny.
Right now, it's in development. Jon and Andrea are working on raising the money for that.

CE: Let's talk about the idea that, with each movie you make, there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. At the same time, it's about getting to and going beyond the rainbow. Let's discuss Still Green, compared to experiences you've had making other films. Or, if it's building up any dreams you've had.
GM: The whole thing you were talking about, each film being a climb. Still Green is going to do whatever it does, it's made for whatever budget, and this and that. Then, We Got the Beat is the next step: in terms of budget, actors, just level of film.
Then We Got the Beat will be the next step to Dave's script, or whatever is next. It is a constant climb, and one of the things you want to do by the end of each film is to enable yourself to make the next one. We want Still Green to do well, because it's our baby and all these incredible people worked on it, etc. But, we want to position ourselves to make We Got the Beat, and to make the next one even better than Still Green.
CE: Each is still a great film that you guys put your heart and soul into and push like nothing else.
DL & GM: Yeah. Exactly.
CE: I've seen this idea of climbing chart itself out since Rutland, USA; though, not all of it. I just found out about the road trip documentary that Andrea made.
GM: Oh, Green House Girls. You should see that. It's wonderful.
CE: Each film is a project from the heart. They're very professional. Each attempts to push itself out there, as both the product of a community, and a marker of your creative growth. While Freedom Park was a great film, with the skills and resources you could have later on, it would be completely different.
DL: Exactly. I like to have goals set way higher than I should ever be able to achieve, and then get to those goals, and then set higher ones. That's really what's been happening with the movies. This is definitely a good industry to do that in: as you achieve more things, you get more people who realize what you can do. They start working with you and you can keep growing together, as a team. So, it's definitely going to keep going and going, and we're going to keep getting bigger and bigger projects. We'll just keep growing our teams of people, as word gets out about what we can do.

GM: And I totally remember saying, "Doug, if you and I are just sitting in a room, like eating popcorn, watching Still Green, and it's a movie, we have succeeded!" And I really meant it. And now, we've been in that moment 300 times. It's just funny. Now, it's like, okay, once our investors make their money back, we'll have succeeded. A year ago, to be even where we are now, would have been like, "We're done."

CE: Definitely. Let's talk about the community environment of Uncovered and Artigo/Ajemian. Even though you guys are in LA now, too, it's still a community. Tell me about the community of filmmakers working together.
DW: It's amazing. That's probably why I've stuck around so long. It's just such a collaborative thing. Everybody treats each other like equals. Everybody listens to each other's ideas. There's not just one guy saying, "Let's do this, or let's do that." Everyone's opinion is valued. I think that's how you make good films, by combining everybody's collaborative passion.
CE: So, it must be nice to see that manifest. What is it like to feel it and be there, on a daily basis? It's something you believe in enough to work for many years with Jon and Andrea.
DL: On a day-to-day basis, it just happens on its own. Every once in a while, you reflect back and are like, "Oh my god, this really is happening." We get to look back and say, "We made Freedom Park." With Rutland, USA, Georgia and I were involved at the end, with promoting it. Just to look back and say, "Remember when we all made Freedom Park together and our goals and our dreams then?" Actually, we've been remembering how we've grown from
Freedom Park, thinking back to moments when we were going off to film festivals, getting the audience's responses. I love that we could be at this moment again, with Still Green.
CE: It's almost like going through the same technical aspects: writing, producing, directing, filming, acting, post-production, and releasing a film. But it's an evolution, each time. Of every month, of every week: of the evolution of your filmmaking.
GM: I think what makes it interesting, too, is that we are not getting paid. Within the framework of these six years, if you want to start from the beginning of Freedom Park, we all have had jobs that, obviously are our day jobs, that some of us are passionate about. Jon is teaching. Maybe, I have a job that I care about. Moves, break-ups: Doug and I started this as a boyfriend and girlfriend, living together. Now, we're just business partners, dating other people.

Within the encapsulation of that, so much else has gone on, as well. I think that makes it interesting, as opposed to if we were just doing this full-time and getting paid, and we were in that film bubble. That would be something else. But I think all those dynamics add to it. That there's all these-- you know, Jon can't come out to the festival, because he has a class. The whole thing about everybody's place of where they put their art, and who has the time to do what; and whose voice takes over, often just because of other things people have going on in their lives. That whole mix, I think, is something that's really cool.

CE: Like, Jon's trust that you're showing what another director would call his film.
GM: Yeah. He knows that we're not going to screw it up. Exactly. He said, "I know that, at the end of the day, you're going to fill the house, even if you have to bop people on the head and throw them in the theater!"
DW: It's weird. This occurred to me today when we were in front of the film class. People kept asking about the director. If you were at the office every day, you would see four filmmakers, really. People always think it's the director's film, or the writer's film, but it's the four of your's film. I feel that everybody is equally responsible, it's just different jobs.
GM: It's everybody's film. Switching the order came from Andrea. She randomly had a brainstorm in the middle of the night, and we thought great!
CE: How long did it take for you guys to like it?
DL: When we saw the new cut, we realized we had do it this way. It definitely works better. We were agreed that we wanted to make the changes. I can't wait until when we get distribution, if it gets theatrical. I will be so happy. What we're screening now, that's not even the full way it can look. I've seen how it can look in the theater. Not many eyes have seen the true quality of how Still Green can look. Oh my god! If we can get theatrical distribution, it's going to blow people away.

Unpredictable, Entertaining, Oh Wow

GM: We have negative 3 minutes to talk, now.

CE: Apropos the film, it's as though you're hearing about a group of friends your best friends have, if they're not your friends, already. Like when you go to college and hear about your new friend's high school friends. This is that group. You're seeing that, you're seeing these realistic people.

I'm going to ask one last question, quickly. To keep this personal nature in mind: let's talk about one scene you subjectively really like when you see the movie. One thing you're glad you're seeing. Something with that oh, wow, it speaks to me quality.

GM: Personally, the scene where Alan is teasing Kerri, after she's hooked up with Brandon [Paul Costa], and they're talking about how big his dick was. That thing where you want that person, but you're doing that whole game. And you're getting all into it like that. I feel like that is just like so many people I know, certainly me personally. I'm so glad that scene is in there.
CE: That's funny, but also emotional. Like we were saying earlier, it definitely shows Sara's and Ryan's range as actors.

DL: For me, it's the moment after the death, when they're all dealing with the fact that their friend just died. Even though they're dealing with the issues that they already had, they're now dealing with it in the framework of: "Holy shit! All this trivial stuff that we thought was such a big deal, is now nothing. Our friend is dead." And that's just a final thing. I just love the fact that no matter what's happening in their life, no matter what things they think are really important, they're really not. When it comes down to it, their friend just died. Nothing can change that. I just love the finality of that, and how trivial it makes the rest of their lives-- for that moment, at least-- just to put things in perspective.

DW: I was trying to think of a couple things. I guess one of the things that really hit me was when Daneck and Sean are in the canoe.
GM: Ah.
DW: They're clearly pretty close. Even though it's kind of sappy, Daneck is coming to grips with the fact that he's going to have all these new experiences with new friends, but he's leaving his best friends behind. He's not liking it. It seems to him he's not going to have fun. He's having trouble realizing, you know, you are going to make new friends, but you don't want to leave old friends you've had for a long time.
CE: The cool thing about that scene is you think these are the guys that aren't going to connect, that they're friends by default, because they were in the same class with these other people that they're closer to. But then you think, no wait, they're all connected.

The scene, it's realistic because there's the beats of silence. It's almost like they're approaching the emotions, but they're approaching them in a way that speaks to where they're at. It's not a strong: "I'm going to miss you. I'm going to open up." It's more like Daneck is saying, "I'm going to miss you, I'm going to open up. It's huge, but I don't know how to say it. And I know you're going to finish my sentence, because you're the emotional guy."

And the cool thing is that it's not between two obvious heavies in the movie. It's with between a heavy, and this other guy you come to like.

GM: Yeah.
CE: Which makes it different different than all these other films I love. It's usually very obvious, because it's often between these two best friends who are polar opposites.
GM: Like The Falcon and the Snowman.
Yeah. I love it--it's one of my favorite films-- but that part of it is so obvious, you know?
This is more, you know, it's uh, unpredictable, without being out of place. That's what I like about it.
CE: And I think that's essentially the film. It definitely speaks to certain genres, certain things you've seen, certain moods and relationships you've had. But it's not trying to be a dead-on, realistic portrait, and it's not trying to be a cutesy teen movie that's kind of serious. It uses the metaphors of friendship, house, and change in lively ways. Everything is living and transforming. I think the house is breathing and things are happening in it. Yet, it's also an entertaining film.

It's just great to have seen it evolve and hope to see it evolve, some more. So, go to the myspace page, and share it with your friends. And see it at the festivals!

DL: and just Definitely check that out. We'll keep updating those.
CE: And um, look forward to the next few films, which are probably going to be
nothing like Still Green.

GM: That is for damn sure!
DL: Yeaaah…
eah. We'll be at dozens of film festivals.
CE: And Jon Artigo and Andrea Ajemian [of Artigo/Ajemian Films], and Doug Lloyd and Georgia Menides, [of Uncovered Productions] and Dave Weston are names to remember.
GM: Whooo!
CE: Great. take care.

The cast of
Still Green: everything would be different after that summer.

1 comment:

Hot For Discourse said...

Thank you very much Shahin. You get the blogroll honors. If you're ever in Denton, lemme know.