Every day through the end of the Sundance Film Festival, including weekends, indieWIRE will be publishing two interviews with Sundance ’06 competition filmmakers. Sixty filmmakers were given the opportunity to participate in an email interview and each was sent the same questions.
Joey Lauren Adams wrote and directed “Come Early Morning,” screening in the Independent Film Competition: Dramatic. She has appeared in a number of movies, including “Chasing Amy” and “Dazed and Confused.” “Come Early Morning” represents her directorial debut.
Please tell us about yourself…
I was born and raised in North Little Rock, Arkansas. I was 15 when I got my first job serving food to the residents in a retirement home — 22 years later I would shoot my first film in one.
What were the circumstances that led you to become a filmmaker? What other creative outlets do you explore?
I wrote the script originally as an outlet for the frustrations I was having as an actress and the roles that were available to me. Also, I found myself becoming self-destructive during my downtime between films because I was in the position of waiting to be wanted and of being bored. Writing gave me a place to be constructive and a right to bitch. After I finished the script, and after I figured out I liked it, I realized that I wanted to pick the cast, the locations, the music, the crew, etc. I couldn’t stand the idea of someone else interpreting the story, and I knew it wasn’t the kind of script that someone would necessarily want to interpret. I wanted to get the movie made the way I saw it in myself, so necessity, you could say, forced me to direct.
How did you learn about filmmaking and how did you finance your own film?
I’ve lost track of how many times this film almost got made in the five years it took to finance.
What I know now… The movie was not suppose to happen until the right actors and the right producers and the right financiers converged at the right moment, and the time I spent struggling was the exact amount of time I needed in order to direct it. I didn’t go to film school, so the majority of my work was done in those five years of hell and everything that happened would prepare me for what was to come in the five weeks it took to shoot the thing. In that time, I learned to take the punches and keep moving. I learned to believe in the project even if others didn’t [and] I learned the script, and most importantly, I learned to listen to the ideas of those who supported me.
What were some of the other biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making the movie?
Maintaining a belief in the project for the five years it took to finance was hard. Post was tough as well. I was familiar with sets and actual production, but the edit and sound edit were foreign, and I didn’t know the language. Also, I was at the end of a five-year battle and pretty much out of bullets. Meg Reticker, our editor, showed up with a box full.
What are your biggest creative influences?
Bruce Beresford’s “Tender Mercies” was the template for the film. I showed it to everyone involved. I’ve always admired its achievement in telling a story in the most simple and honest way. The combination of Horton Foote’s writing, the acting, the production design, the cinematography, the music and the sound design all lend to this.
Also, “Urban Cowboy” had a huge influence. It seemed to me the actors were never commenting on the people they were portraying, instead, they were just being. It was so important that the film not be a caricature of Southern culture, but instead an honest view of very real people and places.
Describe the moment you found out that you were accepted into Sundance.
I had just landed in Memphis and was driving home to Mississippi. I got the call, and the reception was bad so I pulled off the highway and into the Burger King parking lot. All I remember was a huge weight rolling off my back.
I didn’t have final cut in my contract with the financiers so when we submitted to Sundance, my only concern was that if it does get in, I’ll probably get final cut and if it doesn’t, I won’t. Now that we’re through with post, I think I’m just starting to process it and probably won’t fully react until it’s all said and done.
What is your definition of “independent film”?
Torture with less money and time.
If you were given $10 million to be used for moviemaking, how would you spend it?
Pay the crew.
What are some of your favorite films of 2005?
Due to making the movie, I completely lost 2005. But of the very few films I did see, “Crash” was my favorite. There were moments in the film that were so honest, I had no choice but to look at myself.