Today we welcome filmmakers Molly Green and James Leffler to talk about one of their favorite films and the influence it made on their filmmaking today. The writer/director duo met as undergrads at the University of Texas in 2007, and they’ve been collaborating ever since on screenplays, web series, music videos and short fiction. Forev is their first feature film, now playing in competition at The Los Angeles Film Festival. It’s a romantic comedy about how far you can go without saying what you mean.
The LAFF is a highly competitive festival to get into, this year receiving over 5,000 submissions. In it’s 19th year, the fest prides itself on discovering new filmmakers from around the world. As a recent MSN review stated, “One of the most enjoyable parts of attending film festivals is getting the chance to see small indie films made by promising first-time directors and featuring talented actors who are not yet household names…one of these is an odd little romantic comedy (of sorts) called Forev. The film stars Noël Wells and Matt Mider as two slightly damaged souls who get engaged on their first date…sorta.”
Please meet the Forev filmmakers and today’s guest bloggers, Molly and James.
Scream is one of the first movies we both remember loving. Maybe that’s a strange choice for writer/directors of a romantic comedy, but it’s true. Writing this, we discovered we both dressed as Ghostface for Halloween as preteens. What makes that even weirder is that one of us is a girl.
Why did we both bond with Scream so much? Why, as adults and film school graduates, did we look at a long list of great films of every genre, and both point to the same slasher movie from 17 years ago?
Well, for one, Scream is smart. And it taught us that it’s okay to be smart and embrace a genre. Wes Craven understands exactly what his audience expects, and then he delivers it, along with commentary on those expectations. That self-awareness is there if you want it, but never gets in the way (case in point; the name “Gale Weathers”). Sidney writes off scary movies for being “all the same,” for featuring a dumb female character “who’s always running up the stairs when she should be going out the front door.” In the next scene, that’s exactly what she does. And so the scene’s great on two levels: as an adrenaline-pumping slasher scene, and as a winking take on slasher scenes. That’s similar to what we wanted to do with romantic comedy — hit all the classic beats, but twist them just a little.
- At the video store, Randy tells Stu that all the police need to do to solve the murder is follow the formula of the movies. In this scene: Randy (Jamie Kennedy), Stuart (Matthew Lillard), Billy (Skeet Ulrich)
- Sidney's ready to go to bed, until a surprise guest comes through her window. In this scene: Sidney (Neve Campbell), Billy (Skeet Ulrich)
- In the wake of Casey and Steve's brutal murders, the police question Sidney and the rest of the high school students. In this scene: Deputy Dewey (David Arquette), Sidney (Neve Campbell), Billy (Skeet Ulrich), Stuart (Matthew Lillard), Tatum (Rose McGowan), Randy (Jamie Kennedy)
Scream is built around a set of “rules.” Watching it as kids was the first time it ever occurred to us that movies have an underlying set of conventions. When you’re little, movies are just stories and you don’t think about it much beyond that. It’s a big moment when you realize that a good story has an underlying structure and specific things to accomplish. But Scream goes farther than that, establishing the rules and then (no spoilers) breaking them in a way that’s satisfying, and frankly, a bit of a relief. So it took Deputy Dewey to teach us that rules exist, but breaking them is okay too.
Scream is also a movie that’s massively fun to watch. It was clearly made by a group of people who loved this project, and loved finding interesting details. Over the past two years, we’ve come to understand how difficult it is to make a movie. It’s exhausting and taxing, and the lines all start to lose their meaning when you’ve heard them a million times. And no matter your budget, you can’t buy enthusiasm. But enthusiasm shows on screen, and audiences pick up on it. Scream feels fun to watch because it was likely fun to make. That’s something we’ve aimed for too — we loved making our movie and we hope it shows.
Forev had its world premiere at the LAFF on June 15th. It has one more screening tomorrow night, June 19th, at 9:50pm – get your tickets here. The LAFF runs until June 23rd.
MOLLY GREEN (Director, Writer)
New Orleans native Molly Green directed her first full length play (Sherry Kramer’s “The Wall of Water”) when she was 17 and hasn’t looked back since. As a film student at the University of Texas, she shot additional footage and EPK for the feature film Elvis and Annabelle (starring Blake Lively and Mary Steenburgen) and received a grant from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense to film documentary footage about environmental research. That documentary took Molly and her camera into caves and sinkholes and onto research boats along the Texas coast.
Molly’s senior thesis film That’s Not Funny: Case Studies in Bad Jokes, used four intertwined narratives to walk the thin line between humor and pain. It won her a grant from the Standifer Foundation and screened in several festivals.
In Los Angeles, Molly worked as a development intern for producer Scott Rudin during the year his company was developing The Social Network and releasing No Country for Old Men. She also interned for casting directors Randi Hiller and Sarah Finn, eventually going on to become Randi’s assistant on such movies as Thor, and working in the audition room with directors Kenneth Branagh, Paul Haggis, Gavin O’Connor, and Peter Sollett.
Molly has directed music videos for singer-songwriters Jenny Owen Youngs, Bess Rogers, and, with James Leffler, has codirected music videos for Lelia Broussard. On the more experimental end, Molly shot a series of bizarre lipsync videos with actress Noël Wells. The final video in the series, “Sequence_4.mov” went viral with nearly 7 million views on YouTube. It appeared on The Daily What, Tosh.0, and the front page of Reddit. FOREV is Molly’s first feature film.
JAMES LEFFLER (Director, Writer)
James Leffler is a Los Angeles based filmmaker from Austin. After spending his freshman year playing baseball in Memphis, James finished college studying film at the University of Texas. In school he worked at the Austin Film Society and newly-formed Austin Studios, and capped off his studies with a 16mm short that required purchasing a sheep.
At UT, James met fellow student and his current co-writer/ co-director, Molly Green, while standing in line for a movie. They’ve collaborated ever since on screenplays, web series, music videos, and a flash fiction site. Their videos for singer Lelia Broussard have appeared on RollingStone.com, Spinner, Yahoo Music — and in Nordstrom stores nationwide.
Leffler has also worked in feature development since finishing college. He was Paramount Vantage’s longest running intern (a dubious honor) and assisted Warner Bros. based producer Bill Gerber for 5 years. His time with Gerber included projects with directors Richard Linklater, Jody Hill, Clint Eastwood, and Sean Penn, and he worked on location in New Orleans for the upcoming Sylvester Stallone/Robert De Niro comedy Grudge Match. In 2013, James was an associate producer on Tales From the Lot, a documentary that looks at WB’s 90 year history through the lens of the studio lot itself.