Carrie Preston discusses the process of taking “That’s What She Said”–Coming to The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta Nov. 16-21– from the stage to the screen, how it felt to premiere the movie at the Sundance Film Festival and what’s next on the horizon for the very gifted actress, producer and director.
Actress, producer, and now Carrie Preston can add director to her impressive resume, as she brings “That’s What She Said” to the big screen in a stunning display of talent.
You may recognize the Georgia native from her role in HBO’s hit series “True Blood” as the sassy vamp weary waitress, Arlene, but what you might not know is she is she has recently directed a very funny comedy about love, life and relationships that define the lives of a set women, but not the women themselves.
Target Audience Magazine recently got the chance to sit down and discuss with Carrie Preston the process of taking “That’s What She Said” from the stage to the screen, how it felt to premiere the movie at the Sundance Film Festival and what’s next on the horizon for the very gifted Carrie Preston.
Hi Carrie, can you tell us a little about your latest film, “That’s What She Said” and how you got involved with the project?
“That’s What She Said” is a comedy starring Anne Heche, Marcia DeBonis and Alia Shawkat. My dear friend Kellie Overbey originally wrote the script several years ago as a play, and I feel in love with these flawed, hilarious and touching women. It took us almost 8 years to finally put it on the screen. I like to call it a wo-mance. It’s the female answer to all of the ubiquitous bro-mance films that have dominated the comedic landscape for a long time now.
What was it like having your film premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival?
Taking the film to Sundance this year was a dream come true. Honestly, we all felt like total bad-asses. We had worked so hard for so long to get the film made and never dreamed it would make it into Sundance, which is arguably one of the most difficult nuts to crack. The film was really well received, and we got a distribution deal from screening there. We also played several other festivals all around the country, which was wonderful. Phase 4 Films is going to release the film in theaters and on all other platforms on October 19th. We are thrilled to be sharing it with many more people!
From the original script that Kellie Overbey wrote nearly a decade ago, has the story evolved or changed at all from the inception of the stage play to the movie version; if so, what sort of tweaks were made?
We opened the story up to include a few other characters, but we consciously decided to keep the action happening all on one day, as it does in the play. Kellie was able to maintain the intimacy of the relationships between the three main characters in the screenplay. Because the screenplay was dialogue heavy, I tried to make the action, camera work and editing as kinetic as possible. Instead of hearing the women talk about stuff that happened in their day, we were able to actually see those things unfold on screen. With film, we were really able to capture what it’s like to make your way through a crappy day in New York City.
You have been involved with this film pretty much since the beginning, what was the most difficult process of taking the stage version and bringing it to the screen?
Adapting the play to the screen wasn’t the difficult part. I think the biggest challenge with directing any independent film is time. You are constantly wondering if you have enough time to get everything done. It takes an incredible amount of preparation, and in our case it was 8 years off and on. And then we shot it in 20 days. So the logistics of getting ourselves ready for those 20 days were the biggest challenge. I liken it to pushing a huge boulder up a mountain. Once you get it to the top, then it’s all about running down the hill without the boulder catching up to you. It’s a rush, and I guess you could say I’m addicted to that rush.
Since the film is really about the relationships we develop and nurture, especially the companionship between women, which relationship in the film speaks to you the most and which one do you want to strangle?
I have a great amount of love for each of these flawed, amazing, culpable, lovable, hilarious women. Kellie likes to say the three characters are three parts of herself, and I can relate. I’m hopelessly optimistic like Bebe, but I definitely have the cynical, crusty side of Dee Dee in there. And as far as Clementine goes, well, I too have security blankets that I like to cling to.
When you were in Atlanta in March for the Atlanta Film Festival, you mentioned that a distributor picked up the film, do you know what the future of film will be as you were on the Festival Circuit, will you now go into Art Houses or Main Stream Theaters or will the movie go straight to DVD?
We are having what they call a “day and date” release. That means the film will simultaneously play in movie theaters in NY and LA and on all other platforms: movies-on-demand and on the web (iTunes and the like). The DVD will follow shortly after that. And we also made a deal with Showtime, so it will play there sometime down the line.
This is your 1st full-length directorial debut, how was it different from your previous experience directing Shorts and how was it similar?
This is actually the second full-length film I have directed. I have a production company called Daisy 3 Pictures. The company was started in 2004 with one of my classmates from Julliard, James Vasquez, and his partner Mark Holmes. We wanted to create a company that makes “gay films that you can take your Mother to and women’s films with a ‘broad’ appeal”. And that’s exactly what we have done. Our first two features were written by James Vasquez. I directed the first one, “29th and Gay,” a film about a guy looking for his place in the world and for another guy to share it with. James directed our 2nd film, which I produced and starred in. It’s called “Ready? OK!” about a little boy who wants to be a cheerleader and how his mother deals with the idea that he may grow up to be gay. I also directed a short called “Feet of Clay” by David Caudle. And we also shot a pilot for a web-series called “The Dody Show”, which I wrote and star in. It got accepted into the Independent Pilot Competition at The NY Television Festival (NYTVF) coming up in October.
Does being an actress help or hinder you when you are behind the camera directing other actors?
I’m someone who likes to be busy and creative at all times. Being behind the camera as well as in front of the camera is a great way to continue to educate myself about the creation of stories and film. It’s advantageous being on the other side of the camera because I really see what it takes to piece together a performance that an actor does. I’m more aware of the technical side of things having been in an editing room weeks and weeks on end editing other actors’ performances together and I see how important things like continuity are. I think that helps me be a stronger actor in front of the camera.
We are really in a an exciting time period for women in Hollywood, not just in front of the lens, but in all aspects of creating a project from directing to producing and of course writing; with that said do you see films like yours and other films like Bridesmaids shattering preconceived notions that women can be and do more than participate in Rom-Coms and while looking the ideal part?
I like to call our movie a chick flick that’s not for p***ies. It’s a “wo-mance,” not a “bro-mance.” It is similar to what Bridesmaids did, which re-defined the whole chick flick persona. We had great timing because our film was doing that whole redefinition independently of Bridesmaids, and it’s clear that there is definitely an audience for these types of films. People want to see movies that are a little more edgy and not just the 27 Dresses of the world… We have been literally and metaphorically watching men grab their crotches on screen since the beginning of film. I think it’s time to take women down off the pedestal and mess them up a little bit, too. ”Bridesmaids” had women pooping in sinks in all of its Hollywood splendor. Our movie has women scratching their vaginas in all of our low-budget glory. Our film is like the East Village cousin of Bridesmaids. And I’m glad there’s a world out there that’s ready for such things.
Finally, since you’ve wrapped this project, do you see yourself getting back behind the camera and directing or do you want to primarily stay in front the lens and do you know what your next project is going to be?
I am in development on several things right now. I have been attached to direct a few films outside of my production company, so I’m working with the writers to refine those scripts. I also hope to do more with “The Dody Show”, the web series I am writing and starring in. I’m also working with some producers and a writer on a pilot for a cable show that I would star in and executive produce, if we can get interest. So I am definitely continuing my work behind the camera. But soon I will also be acting in “The Good Wife” and “Person of Interest” again, so thankfully my work in front of the camera is still going strong! Did I say I love being busy??