Jane Adams (HBO’s Hung, The Anniversary Party and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) stars as an actress living in Malibu who faces harsh realities of the industry as her age exempts her from more and more acting opportunities. Amidst this career and life crisis enters the actress’s niece, played by Sophia Takal (Green, Gabi on the Roof in July, and V/H/S), who arrives for a weekend stay and ushers in a complicated prism of emotional insecurities. Can the actress confront her fears, navigate complicated relationships, and figure out how to navigate mid-life in Hollywood? The film also features some of today’s up-and-coming indie film personalities: Kent Osborne (Uncle Kent), Allison Baar (Bad Fever), Simon Barrett (V/H/S), Lindsay Burdge (A Teacher), Larry Fessenden (The Last Winter), Lawrence Michael Levine (Green), Susan Traylor (Greenberg) and Ti West (The Sacrament).
Factory 25 is releasing the film theatrically in NYC on December 20th and digitally on December 3rd via cable VOD, iTunes, Amazon VUDU, X-Box, Sony Playstation among other outlets. Prior to the film’s NYC release we spoke with the Jane Adams and Sophia Takal about the DIY approach to filmmaking, Joe Swanberg’s prolific directorial output, the appeal of improvisational acting and much more.
‘All the Light in the Sky‘ open at New York’s Cinema Village on Friday, December 20. Find tickets and more information on this screening – HERE
How long had you been developing this character?
Jane Adams: Joe (Swanberg) and I had began talking about, what would ultimately become, ‘All the Light int he Sky‘ in July of 2008. We were shooting ‘Alexander, the Last‘ and had a conversation about how I worked with a lot of young women; I had young friends in all walks of life, some of which were not actresses. I felt that there were not many movies made where women were supportive of each other, to which Joe thought as being quite interesting. You always see movies where an older woman is jealous of the younger one or they are constantly trying to sabotage each other. I had a problem with that because it has not been my experience. I also know other people who have not had that kind of experience. It would have been nice for me when I was young to see a film about supportive women and Joe thought we should make that film.
How much of the film was written vs. what ultimately ended up on-screen?
JA: Sophia (Takal) wrote everything she says in the film. The way it started was, Joe and I would trade emails, phone conversations and texts about the story or character. Joe then wrote an outline and I would add some ideas or recommendations, like “someone says this, this and this while set in a car with an ocean in the background”. This ends up being a weird writing process…
Sophia Takal: Can I ask you a question? Did Joe ever send you the original outline before he sent it to us to approve?
JA: He did send it to me, but the way we work is so strange since we never approve or disapprove of anything. There is no “official” sense to anything. I think one day I mentioned how I was going to make a carrot cake when my character’s niece arrives so I wondered if we would shoot that on the first day. Joe listens and then sends an outline with the carrot cake included in it. There really is no reason for me to know everything that will happen because I trust him.
Sophia, how did you come to be associated with ‘All the Light in the Sky’?
ST: I had worked with Joe in two other films.
JA: I had never seen Sophia’s work before Joe walked into my apartment with her and Lindsay (Burdge). Sophia is so wonderful in ‘The Zone‘. Also, her movie ‘Green‘ is great, which she wrote and directed. Joe is smart enough to pick an actress who writes and directs as well because then she can hold her own.
I’ve seen several of the cast in various indie films over the past few years, including Lindsay Burdge in ‘A Teacher’. How did the rest of the cast get assembled?
JA: Lindsay is so good in that movie!
ST: Lindsay was a good friend of mine and I recommended her to Joe. Kent was one person I had not met before but I had seen ‘Uncle Kent’ and thought he was great. He is a great actor.
ST: …I feel like we should start saying it was a long, arduous 7 month production or something (laughs).
How many crew members did you have at a time?
ST: We had a 300 person crew (laughs).
JA: (laughs) There were about 5 crew members at a time. Joe was shooting; there was a sound guy; we had all natural light…
ST: Joe can make so many movies because he is not spending an exorbitant amount on a bloated crew and fancy cameras, yet he can still make everything look beautiful. I like working that way as an actor.
JA: He shot ‘Drinking Buddies‘ after ‘All the Light in the Sky‘ and then made ‘Happy Christmas‘, which will be premiering at Sundance, on film stock. He has not shot on film since NYU film school. I was just talking about how it does not surprise me. When people think of improv people think of rambling dialogue which is cut down in editing but with Joe he has already written the scenes in his head. He will then get a couple of actors who know what he wants said. I think this is why he works with people who also like to direct because they know what it takes to make a scene. Joe is very aware of this. He shoots 1 or 2 takes. He could have shot this movie on film stock for no money.
Is there a preference of workflow or shooting style for each of you?
JA: There is not one that I prefer. For instance, when you read a Todd Solondz script you now what is going to be in the movie. He is very deliberate and you do not want to deviate from what is written. You do not want to make stuff up because it would just be wrong. There is a poetry to it.
ST: I don’t have a preference as long as the material is good. If I am saying the lines of a crappy script I would much rather improvise. If I am on a 2 person crew and they are assholes to me I would rather work on a bigger movie so it is all relative to the project…
JA: …Like ‘Poltergeist‘ was a $30 million budget with a big crew, but everyone was so lovely it was a wonderful experience.
Have you always had an interest in improvisational acting or is it something that has developed over the course of your careers?
JA: That’s a good question. I don’t know why I do it. That gets to asking why we do what we do. Why do you write?
…Maybe improv is a good hybridization of acting as acting and real life…
What was the general atmosphere like on set?
ST: Brutal (laughs).
JA: It was so much fun. I was sad when everyone had to go.
Since the film essentially is shot in and around one location, how did you come across the beach house? Is it one of your actual houses?
JA: It is actually not a beach house. It is a rental apartment on the beach. It is a tiny shoebox apartment that happens to have an incredible view of the Pacific. There are upstairs neighbors, as well as on every side.
This was on location?
JA: It is in Malibu. We mention how it is a cheap rental but I think people get thrown off by the view. I have read articles describing it as a lavish home but it definitely is not. The whole point is that she does not have the money that other people have to live that way but she still has the view since she wants to be around natural beauty.
Did you have any involvement in finding the location?
JA: I found it (laughs).
– Interview Conducted, Edited & Transcribed (on-site) by Steve Rickinson