Category: Articles

Wine Country Rendezvous: The Making of You Can’t Say No, Starring Peter Fonda and Friends

By that standard one would think that the majority of independent filmmakers would be “lucky.” After all, we’re notoriously hard workers, and when we do indeed reach that hallowed ground called principal photography, then the gods have obviously granted us opportunity. And yet, for decades the pages of MovieMaker have been filled with interviews of indie directors and producers who tell interesting but almost exclusively bloody production “war stories.” The trenches are filled with accounts of lost financing, DPs who quit for more lucrative jobs at the last moment, bricks thrown through the wrong car windows that almost kill actresses (yes, I saw that happen) and the like.

This is not one of those articles. Lady luck smiled on Paul Kramer and Hus Miller’s You Can’t Say No virtually from the moment Hus finished the script. The story follows a couple, Hank and Alex Murphy, who are on the verge of divorce who decide to play a “game” designed to either bring them closer through better communication and trust—or to provide a more graceful, humane break than most couples in their situation allow themselves. The rules of the game are simple—no matter what one of them asks the other to do, the other must not refuse.

While YCSN is a romantic comedy, its origins were serious and close to the heart for screenwriter, producer and star Miller, who had himself gone through a rough patch personally just prior to writing the script. As in the movies, Miller’s personal story had a happy ending, but it was the writing that provided a real catharsis.

The concept came about because I’d been thinking of how to re-energize my own relationship,” he says. “As soon as I came up with the idea, I knew I had to write it. It was something I needed to get out.” Miller stresses that while the story is not an exact account of his own 14-year marriage, he was writing about things that were very personal for him and his wife.

And was she good with that?” I asked.

To an extent. But when I started sharing it with her she’d say, ‘Well, it didn’t happen like that,’ and I’d say, ‘Yeah, because it’s a story.’”

Some of the comedic situations did indeed happen to Miller and his wife, some happened to friends of his who were going through similar periods in their marriages. When he thought about it becoming a movie and he was able to nail down the very specific location where it takes place (a 46-acre Sonoma area winery whose owner became an executive producer on the film) it all came together very quickly.

I was about two months into the writing when I knew it was going to be a movie.” Talk about motivation.

Miller says he didn’t initially have himself in mind to play the lead, even though he’s been acting since he was four years old.

It definitely didn’t start out as a vehicle for me. But later I I realized that this is my life, I put so much of myself into it, nobody else is going to play this role.

Though eventually he wants to direct, too, he had no desire to do it this time around. Writing, acting, and producing were plenty. So he enlisted his longtime colleague Paul Kramer to helm. Hus previously made nine shorts with Kramer, an American Zoetrope alum who worked alongside Francis Ford Coppola. This is the first feature for both of them, and though they envisioned it as a tiny film, the scope continued to grow from its initial budget of $500K to almost $1.2m. The shoot took 18 days, with five days of pickups.

Marguerite Moreau, who plays Alex Murphy, is still amazed that a first-time producer like Miller could keep it together while playing a character that’s so close to himself. “It’s super hard to play a character that’s so close to the bone. You can talk yourself into circles sometimes and get confused… Like, ‘Am I doing enough?’ It’s not even like, ‘This happened to me and maybe I’m doing something psychologically damaging to myself, it’s more like literally talking yourself out of any connection to it, because it’s too close.’

Full interview: moviemaker.com

FLOOD Book Club, Episode One: A Conversation about Emma Cline’s “The Girls” with Marguerite Moreau

 

Emma Cline’s The Girls was always going to be an odd kind of summer phenomenon. The quietly sinister novel, which was published this June to outstanding reviews, may have changed the names of Manson Family members and transplanted their story up to Marin County, but it still tells the familiar story—with one telling exception: rather than focus on the group’s leader (“Russell,” in this version of things), Cline follows Evie Boyd, an unformed young woman who is seduced by the group’s eerie charisma but who now, years later, struggles to reconcile herself with her past complicity—however small her role.

The book arrived on the scene like a blockbuster—celebrity endorsements and all—and it sold like one, too, but in the end it’s a quiet book that asks more questions than it answers. It is, in other words, the perfect book club book. And who better to join us in this first FLOOD Book Club than Marguerite Moreau. In addition to a number of other roles (including Katie in Wet Hot American Summer), Marguerite played Susan Atkins in the 2004 TV adaptation of Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter. In The Girls, the Susan Atkins character has morphed into “Suzanne,” the object of Evie’s greatest affections, and although she is granted more depth and personality than Susan Atkins is in Helter Skelter, the identity is still very clear. Suzanne is Susan.

Marguerite and I chatted about The Girls, adolescence, the weird relevance of the 1960s, ISIS, and of course, book clubs. I’m not sure we ever got to the bottom of the Manson phenomenon, but it was nice to talk with someone who, like Emma Cline, seems eager to go beneath the surface.

How familiar were you with the Manson Family story prior to your work on the series, and what did you have to do by way of research?
Honestly, I was in my early twenties then, and my research for that show introduced me to that whole time period. I went as deep as I could: I read Helter Skelter, I was talking to Vincent Bugliosi whenever he was available, I read Susan Atkins’ book—which she wrote in prison, I believe—and I also went to CineFile in LA for obscure videos on the subject. I rented every single thing I could find.

You’ve spent most of your career playing fictional characters, but Susan Atkins is as real as the murders themselves. Did that fact change how you prepared for the role?

I’m always trying to find areas where my characters and I overlap. You don’t want to judge your character; you want to find out why she’s doing the things that she’s doing. A lot was changing in the late 1960s—the dynamics of the nuclear family, sexual mores, women’s rights, civil rights. There was a lot of pushing back against the old norms, and almost all of it was for the better. And I shared in the benefits of all that. So for me, it was trying to see where she was coming from, and trying to understand what she was still lacking and what it must have felt like for a very neglected young woman to have this guy come in and just sweep her off her feet. She was just looking for something to make her feel like a woman and revitalize her.

I think these themes are also in the book, too: being seen (or not seen) and being on the precipice of life, the way a fourteen-year-old feels. Girls especially. You’re ripe for the picking if the right someone comes along. You want to be part of something bigger, you want to stand for things, and when you want to live a principled life, dogma’s pretty hard to resist.

Full Interview: floodmagazine.com