Sophia Takal, producer/actress of the 2010 Maryland Film Festival selection “Gabi on the Roof in July” is back with her new film “Green” which she directed and starred in with her partner Lawrence Michael Levine (who directed Gabi’) and friend Kate Lyn Sheil.
Here is my Q&A with Takal.
1) What was your experience like in Baltimore last year for the Maryland film festival?
I had an amazing time – Lawrence, Kate and I all talk about how much fun we had often and are so excited to be coming back!
2) What was the process of writing “Green”?
I knew I wanted to make a movie with Kate & Larry and I knew I could use my dad’s house so I thought about what kind of stories I could tell with the three of us. I was initially kind of hostile to the idea of “three people in a country” because I feel like that’s something people do a lot. I eventually came up with an idea and wrote out an outline for it. Then I sat with the outline for a few months because I didn’t want necessarily confront all the stuff I was trying to explore in the film. Eventually I sat down and wrote a script – most of the scenes were scripted but some of the more abstract scenes I left in outline form. We shot for a week and didn’t finish the whole thing – some of the scenes went well but some of them went terribly because it was my first time directing. We took three weeks off, I watched the scenes, rewrote the scenes that we’d improvised that I thought didn’t work perfectly, reshot those scenes and shot the stuff we hadn’t shot at all.
3) “Green” deals with jealousy issues. What were you trying to capture about jealousy/relationships?
I am really jealous.
4) What mistakes do you think women make in relationships?
I don’t feel like women make any general mistakes in relationships or that men make any general mistakes in relationships. I think every relationship is different. I do feel like a strong sense of identity is necessary in order to fully present and open in a relationship. I wanted to explore that with Genevieve, she loves Sebastian so much but is totally dependent upon him for her own sense of self, which ends up breeding resentment and jealousy. I struggled with that a lot in the beginning of my relationship with Larry and had to really consciously make an effort to have friends and passions outside of him. Once I had that I was able to be more open, loving and secure in the relationship. There’s sort of an inverse relationship between how much you need someone and how much love you can give them.
5) How long did the film take to shoot and what was your experience directing?
We shot for two 5 days periods and 1 day in between that when there was a county fair! Directing was tough – I definitely relied a lot on Lawrence for advice and help. I felt weird asserting myself sometimes, and other times I felt like I really wanted to assert myself but nobody listened. I learned that the skill of directing isn’t about knowing what the best shot will be, my DP, Nandan Rao, picked out beautiful shots based on our conversations or even necessarily being able to direct actors, Kate & Larry are amazing and I really didn’t need to direct them when we were onset. I felt like directing was about stepping back, letting everyone do their jobs, and being encouraging and patient. Patience is definitely something I need to work on (on set and in life).
Since I edited it I’ve seen it so many times. I’m always scared when I watch it with an audience. If a movie is a comedy you can tell if it’s landing pretty easily, people are laughing. This movie is pretty dramatic (though there are funny moments, definitely) so it’s harder to tell if people are really enjoying it until the end!
7) From the trailer I can see that the film has some sexually explicit material ..is it ever hard to let yourself go without thinking about who is going to watch the film, especially since your real life partner is your co-star? What’s going through you mind during that day of the shoot?
I thought I’d be very very jealous on set because I was when we shot Gabi. But I really trust Kate & Larry and I knew that I was the one asking them to be in the situation. It was very easy for me on set. We’re all roommates and sometimes I still get jealous, like when Kate gets Larry’s coffee ready for him, or when they laugh together so it definitely didn’t make me “unjealous” for ever but while we were on set it felt very safe. It was probably more traumatic for Kate who had to simulate a blow job to Larry while he was wearing no underwear. But it kind of washed over me.
8 ) Why do you think people should check your film out? And what do you hope they get from it?
I feel like these feelings/ideas really aren’t explored very much on film and are explored even less often from a female perspective. We all have really negative, destructive impulses and I think hiding them and pretending they don’t exist just makes them worse. I want people to watch this movie and feel like they aren’t weird for feeling this way but also realizing that they don’t need to!
I don’t know if it’s harder – this film was really easy to make because I was surrounded by such supportive people and the crew was only my DP and a sound recorder. It was hard for me to feel into my power, to feel okay being the one in charge or that what I wanted to say was worthwhile. I don’t want to complain, I’m self conscious speaking for all women or all women directors, because I know everyone’s experience is so different. It’s clearly harder or I think there would be more female directors – I just don’t know what step is harder for women than men – is it even feeling like you are worthy of telling a story at all?
10) What’s inspiring you these days?
Larry! He’s so talented, an amazing writer/director AND he always introduces me to music, movies, writers that inspire me.
12) What’s next for you?
I am acting in a lot of movies. I just got back from Argentina where I acted in Zach Weintraub’s The International Sign for Choking. Before that I acted in a new Joe Swanberg film, The Zone and Nandan Rao’s The Men of Dodge City. I’m also in Dan Schechter’s film This Is My Girlfriend and have a part in Kentucker Audley’s Open Five 2.
Larry is directing our next movie, which we’re shooting in the fall. We’ll either shoot something for a little more money than Green or if we can’t get that, we have a smaller budget movie that we can shoot. And then I have two other movie ideas that I want to make but would require a little more time / money.