THE REEL DEAL Aug15

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THE REEL DEAL

 A conversation between James Egan (JE), producer of the film, and Gwen Wynne (GW) the writer, director, and producer.

JE: Gwen, what inspired you to make this film?

GW: I’ve never seen a film before from a teenage girl’s point of view showing what it was like growing up in a gay household, especially in the 70s when it was so taboo. That’s why I decided that this story needed to be made. I was inspired to write it after seeing other classmates work at film school telling stories from a gay parent’s point of view. Often times, I thought that the kids’ point of view was being whitewashed. The stories didn’t really show how it can be difficult for kids. It’s actually making the civil rights issue that we’re confronting right now, less urgent. How can a society understand the prejudice and difficulties that children face if it is glossed over. It’s precisely because there is prejudice and intolerance that so many people loathe the idea of gay parenting. That’s why I felt it’s important to show the difficulties or no one would ever believe the story and think it was just another leftie piece of propaganda. So by showing the full story I hope to help an audience experience a journey of intolerance to acceptance.

The other part of the story that I wanted to express was highlighting how a gay parent can be a good parent. One of the fundamental issues facing gay rights and gay parenting today is the idea that it is unhealthy to raise a child in a gay household. Like in the 60s, when it was illegal for an African American marrying a Caucasian, a theme that was often cited was: “What about the children. Think about how hard it will be for them.”

 JE: So you’re saying that as a result of seeing films like Brokeback Mountain, you realised that we haven’t yet seen the children’s point of view in a film on the big screen that represents what it is like to grow up in a gay household?

GW: Absolutely right, there has never been a Hollywood movie on the big screen, that I can think of, that shows a gay family or two children being raised by two men or two women. What was so amazing for me when I saw Brokeback Mountain was the turmoil expressed by both men due to having to hide their love for one another. Watching the movie, all I could think about was my father the entire time. He was in so much pain. And, forever hid who he really was. That’s a terrible way to live your life. Brokeback is wonderful movie but I so wished I could have also seen the girls’ stories as well. That side of the story wasn’t told; it was just implied.

 

 JE: What makes this film completely unique is that it’s a coming of age story set in a unique setting. Were there other coming of age stories that inspired you in this tradition?

GW: Well there’s an intellectual answer and then an emotional answer. The intellectual answer is that all the great male directors have all had their coming of age stories, which are cinematically exciting and have made great cinematic breakthroughs, but there are really just a few great cinematic female coming of age stories.

One of them is Gillian Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career. That was an amazing experience because I saw it when I was around seventeen, and it was wonderful to watch a character that I could relate to. I didn’t realise at the time why I was taken with the film so much and then it dawned on me that it was a female character whose journey I could relate to – really, the dawning of womanhood , authorship, and voice. To me there are very few movies that have that coming of age journey for women. Recently there have been more, thank goodness, such as Whale Rider, but when I was growing up there weren’t that many.

 

 JE: So growing up as a girl it was important for you to see a female coming of age story, even if they were made by male directors? How critical is it for a young woman growing up to see these sorts of films?

GW: Movies are a wonderful way to look at what you are going through and watching how a character handles problems, they are life‐changing, and that’s what’s so powerful about films. I know that you, James, are making movies that are trying to pass on that we have a responsibility to others, and I think that being filmmakers we do have a responsibility in our story‐telling. For me, personally, movies about young women growing up were especially important because I was isolated in a household where I didn’t have any examples to show the way, after my mother died when I was eleven.

JE: One of the important ways in which this film succeeds, I think, given the contemporary political landscape of antigay families and antigay people raising children, is through making the subject matter entertaining and allowing a more mainstream audience the possibility to access this film. Was that a conscious choice?

GW: Absolutely, it was a conscious choice for us to create a film that teenagers would want to see. With my producers, such as you, James, we consciously cast the film so that teenagers would go to it ‐we have actor Josh Peck, who teenagers adore, he’s a real hero to them because he’s funny, and he plays a heroic character in our film. We have people like Adam Pascal, who is a cult hit with girls, he’s loved and adored and did a very significant play called RENT, that was on Broadway and became a movie. And then there’s Tate Donovan, from The O.C., that teenagers love, and Stacey Dash, from Clueless, so we purposely tried to create and cast characters that a young audience could relate to and like, and so that they could overcome the subject matter too. We’ve definitely, purposefully been tailoring this movie for teenagers, because it is they who will be deciding the future of these issues.

JE: What’s interesting is that you’ve been able to create a look in this film that people have been commenting on, saying that it has a really epic and beautiful quality to it for a low budget film. What would you say inspired this particular look, which people are calling almost ‘European’ in terms of the lighting and setting? Were there some particular directors who inspired you in this particular vision?

GW: I don’t mean to sound highbrow, but I love Ingmar Bergman, and actually shooting in New England is very much like shooting in Sweden because of the lighting. Bergman shot on an island surrounded by water, and Cape Cod is surrounded by water, so you have this incredible light that doesn’t exist in most places. We purposely shot on film and Super 16 to evoke a time period, and we shot on a smaller camera so that we could move it very easily. The camera choice was also purposeful because Vietnam was happening at the time that the movie takes place, and the Super 16 camera was being used by reporters to capture the horrific events. I like to call some of the camera movement my ‘Vietnam footage’, such as when the men are caught kissing, because it was so shocking and sadly men and women have been killed for being homosexual, so that was the intellectual reason for that kind of cinematic look.

JE: In this film, music plays an important role. Not only does it set the tone of the seventies, but also the music almost acts as a character in the way that it reflects the turmoil of the era. At times when the characters are making important emotional choices, the music supports and echoes those choices that are being made, both politically and sexually. Do you want to talk about your choices in music?

GW: The independent music world in 1973 ‐‐the time when the film is set ‐‐was at an incredible moment historically. We used some songs that go on for ten minutes, and of course we didn’t use the song for the entire ten minutes, but these artists were allowed to create music that nowadays probably wouldn’t be allowed on the commercial airwaves. So we used music that was inspiring a generation of youth to take action and to examine what was happening the world around them.

The song ‘I Wish I Could Change The World’, for example, is in a sense so basic but so evocative of what was happening in the early 70s. Disillusion was setting into the culture. But the culture fought back through its voice through music and through political action. It was an inspiring time. I was growing up in that time period and so many people I know in my generation were so shaped by how we could make our lives about changing the world. We were convinced that it was our duty. So the music in the film is another character, it is a force that inspires and give strength to the vision that we’re trying to share: Peace.

 

 

 

The Bottom Line article-“The making of Wild About Harry”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cape Cod Times article