For Ellen: Interview with the Director
For Ellen opens Sep 19, 2012.
With each film I have been learning, not just about filmmaking, but also about life and myself.
I started to write FOR ELLEN when I was filled with anxiety and doubts about being a decent parent, a loving partner, and a filmmaker. Our daughter had just turned two-years old and we were struggling with the release of our second films. My anxiety was great. This led to thoughts of my own father, whom I had only met once before when I was five. For the first time in my life, I felt a need to understand him better. While imagining why a man might leave his family, a character began to take shape. I was curious about the effect this father’s return could have on his child and himself. Through this investigation, Joby Taylor, a young struggling musician, came to be.
Originally, Joby’s character was in his mid-thirties. I was imagining someone who had failed at the early part of their life and was now looking back. However, my idea for the character changed when Paul Dano read the script and suggested that he play Joby. The change in the character’s age left the ending open for different possibilities. I liked this potential and felt lucky at the opportunity to cast him as the lead.
Shaylena Mandigo who plays Ellen was discovered at an elementary school in Massena, New York where we shot the film. We visited an elementary school and watched the kids play in gym class. We then selected and interviewed students from Kindergarten to second grade. Shay was the smallest kid in her class, but she stood out as a focused and serious student. After interviewing her, I felt she had the maturity to play the role. Paul and Shay met for the first time a few days before we started shooting their scenes together.
We had an intense production with just enough budget for an 18 day shoot. During the filming the temperature would dip below zero. It was extremely challenging, especially for our actor Paul Dano, who was only dressed in a thin leather jacket. There was a flu going around and Paul was hit hard with it. He had a fever over 104 and it wouldn’t go down so we had to take him to the emergency room in town. We were not sure if we would be able to finish. We didn’t have a back-up plan and thought maybe we had to pack it up. We lost two days but thankfully Paul pulled through and with the help of the crew, we finished the shoot with enough footage to complete the film.
My husband, Brad, and I attended college in Chicago, Illinois. During our school days we took many trips to visit his farming relatives located throughout the mid- west. These road trips made a deep impression on me. Every town seemed to be struggling to stay alive. The story takes place during the winter. The stark beauty of the vast farmlands and the desolation of the small towns are intended to serve as a backdrop to Joby’s emotional journey.
FOR ELLEN is a character study of a man who’s conflicted with the decisions he’s made in his life. Although Joby is a particular type of person, I believe the challenges he faces are universal.
Leave a Reply
- Only God Can Forgive: Interview with Nicolas Winding Refn
- Bling Ring: Interview with Sofia Coppola
- Before Midnight: Interview with Linklater
- Hangover Part 3: Interview with Director Phillips
- Reluctant Fundamentalist: Indian Director’s Film about Pakistani Man
- Oblivion: Interview with Creator Kosinski
- Place Beyond the Pines: Interview With Director Derek Cianfrance
- Host: Interview with Director Andrew Niccol
- Host: Interview with Writer Stephenie Meyer
- 42: Interview with Writer-Director Brian Helgeland
- Olympus Has Fallen: Interview with Director Fuqua
- Deep, The: Interview with Baltasar Kormakur