I’m not ashamed to admit that I can never pass up a romantic comedy–no matter how bad they can get. It’s a genre that can be extremely accessible–looking
at stories about love, friendships and family–but it is also one that can get stuck within in its own conventions and reinforce gross stereotypes about
love, gender and sex.
At the Los Angeles Film Festival, I watched, Forev, the feature debut of directors/writers Molly Green and James Leffler. It is the most
refreshing romantic comedy that I’ve seen in a long time. The film follows Sophie (Noel Wells) and Pete (Matt Mider)–neighbors in a Los Angeles apartment
building who don’t really interact with one another. Sophie, a struggling actress, is frustrated with the audition process and when Pete mentions a 6 hour
drive to pick up his sister Jess (Amanda Bauer) from college, she jumps at the chance to escape Los Angeles–even temporarily. The attraction between the
two is obvious and when a joke about marriage comes up on the ride–things quickly escalate.
The thought of not having to date awful people, being able to share rent and groceries and the possibilities of companionship are so great to Sophie and
Pete that they decide to go for it. Before you know it, they are engaged, stuck in the middle of the desert after their car breaks down with the
disapproving Jess and they can’t quite figure out how to express their feelings to one another.
is a romantic comedy that subverts the genre by being true to the messy, unsure area of budding relationships. Sometimes you don’t know what you want and
even when you do you don’t know how to say it. As Forev captures, figuring out what you want in love and relationships can be the scariest thing
Women and Hollywood got the chance to interview the awesome team of ladies behind Forev–director and writer Molly Green and producers Stephanie
Dziczek and Meg Charlton.
Women and Hollywood: I really loved the movie. I liked that it was a romantic comedy, but took a very non-romantic comedy edge. What was your inspiration
to create a movie like this when the genre is so stagnant and boring right now?
Molly Green: James, who is my writing and directing partner, he and I love romantic comedies. But, obviously it’s a genre that is sort of tough. People
don’t give it the respect it deserves and people don’t make the movies that the genre deserves. We felt like we wanted to make a romantic comedy that was
real to us and was real to our experiences. We wanted to take the romantic comedy and do something slightly different with it. That was the goal. Watching
it now, there are things that work and things that didn’t, we were really just playing around with it. We wanted to do something in that genre that had an
edge to it.
WaH: This is your first feature. How was that experience for you?
MG: It was the most fun and difficult thing I could ever conceive of in my entire life, I think for all of us. You know what you are getting into, but you
don’t really know what you are getting into. You are in the middle of the desert, trying to figure out how people are going to eat dinner and how to get an RV unstuck from the sand.
Meg Charlton: It’s the most wonderful and the most miserable thing you’ve ever done in your life. It was fantastic, but I remember a quote I think Mark
Duplass said “Every movie is a miracle.” I feel that way about Forev. A year ago during the premiere, we were washing the RV which was also
lodging for multiple people and a set. Getting stuck in the sand, literally in the middle of the desert, and thinking this might not come together.
It’s really gratifying seeing everyone’s work up on screen.
Stephanie Dziczek: It also feels really safe to make a first feature with your friends. It feels like no one is going to judge me because I don’t know
exactly what I’m doing, because we are all sort of in it together. I can’t imagine what it would be like to do this with strangers. For example, the RV
wasn’t supposed to do that. Sorry, guys.
WaH: Was this your first time producing a feature? How was that experience for you?
MC: It was different for both of us. It was a really small crew, with the complete cast there were only 12 of us on set at any given time. It was very
different from producing a large scale film, it was very small. But, it felt big to us. It was a crazy experience, but it was such a learning curve and it
was so fantastic ultimately. We both came out of it.
SD: One of the executive producers of 40 Years from Yesterday, Stu Pollard, is a filmmaker from Kentucky, where I am from. I remember going to a
Q&A in college and asking “How do you make indie movies? What is that like?” And this poor guy stayed after everyone left, past midnight, he was
bleary-eyed and answered all my questions. I went back to my dorm that night and was like, “guys, before I die, I’m going to make a movie.” I knew I had
the spirit. Then I did film development for a few years, which is probably like the worst place to be if you want to actually make a movie. Then I went to
commercial production, which gave me all the tools I needed—this is how sound mix works, this is how an edit works. It gave me the skills to
combine with a knowledge of film. I was really excited to tackle a completely worthwhile project for people I care about.
WaH: In the press materials you said that you wanted something that felt true to the reality of relationships specifically the confusion and uncertainty of
them. That spoke to me and I was wondering if you could talk about that.
MG: It’s a romantic comedy. But, in a lot of romantic comedies, everything is very black and white. It’s been my experience that relationships are never
black and white and always are just a complete mess of gray. James and I really wanted to find a way as a guy/girl team to feel what both people were going
through and to see the pros and the cons of both characters. I think that having a male and female perspective together helped to make it a two-sided
thing. It’s not typical, but it worked, I think.
MC: Molly, what was it like being one of the few female directors in this boy’s club?
MG: I’m used to it at this point. I went to film school and a lot of the time I was the only girl in the film production class. There are some moments
where it’s tough and you feel isolated and other times it feels like I have 15 brothers helping out. But it is great to meet another female director. I
also think it’s great that there are more female directors. I don’t know about you guys, but there are more shows that I can relate to like Girls
on HBO, a show that feels like my life. Finally!
WaH: The blog that I write for Women and Hollywood deals with women in the film industry. A lot of female filmmakers, when we talk to them have
female mentors or inspirations. Talk about the mentors in your life.
MC: Someone I put Molly in contact with was my friend Kate Nolfi. We were in a women’s writer and production group. It was myself, Lisa Duva, who is
another filmmaker, and Kate and our mentor was Jennifer Fox. The four of us would meet on a monthly basis and discuss what it was like as a woman in the
film industry and support each other in our work. They offered a lot of really great advice to me when I was beginning the process of this film. I felt
very fortunate to have this backbone of support from women who worked in the industry.
MG: I never really had a female director mentor. But, when I first moved out here I was hired by a casting director to be a casting assistant. Her name is
Randi Hiller, she is now the head of casting at Disney. She has been an amazing mentor through this whole thing. I used to sit in the room all day and
watch her work with the actors and read with them. She even helped out on this movie. She’s the best.
SD: I don’t know what to do with your question. I take my female inspiration from all places. From the female producers that I’ve worked with. I’ve marveled at the ways that these ladies have been able to handle everything with ease, add more, and always
hold their own. That for me was what I needed to learn to do.
WaH: Molly, what is the writing process with James?
MG: We’ve worked together as writers for about five years. We have a decent process by now, I hope. Generally when we write, we outline everything very
thoroughly, we talk through what we think is going to happen and whoever feels more connected to the scene just writes it. Then, person number 2 will sit
down take a pass and revise it, while the other person is always in the room. Then person number one will revise it and that becomes the final draft. It’s
been a good system for us. We wrote it in conjunction with our actors too. We did improv with them for every scene.
WaH: How long was the shoot?
MG: 19 days spread out over several weekends. But, we wanted a tight script, but we wanted it to feel natural. We had the actors improvise almost every
scene and that is a lot of the dialogue. It sounds natural because they wrote it themselves.
WaH: What’s your favorite romantic comedy?
MG: I’ll answer. I recently rewatched My Best Friend’s Wedding.
MG: It’s a great romantic comedy and it’s so messed up. The morality in that movie is messed up, but it’s delightfully messed up. She’s trying to break up
someone’s marriage throughout. But, it works. The performances are so good and the film is so fun. There is never a moment that isn’t fun.
SD: The one that comes to mind is Knocked Up. It’s more of a comedy comedy, but a realness comes through. A ridiculous realness, but a realness.
It just works.
MC: This is also a weird answer. The deep cut from the archives. Do you guys remember a movie called Practical Magic? I love that movie because it’s funny and charming, but in the same way that My Best Friend’s Wedding is ultimately
about friendship on some level, Practical Magic is ultimately about family and acceptance. Romantic comedies don’t just have to be working towards
a wedding. I think that’s what is cool about Forev, it flips that on its head. They are not gonna get married and that is the happy ending. It’s
about love in all of its forms, including family and friendship.
WaH: In Forev, I liked seeing how the relationship developed between Sophie and Jess. It’s always nice to see female friendship in movies.
MG: I loved the scenes between the two girls. I talked a lot about having to own being a girl. One of them is like alpha-girl and the other doesn’t really
understand what it means to be a girl and how she can be a girl. I really latch onto the girl/girl scenes. James sort of told me to just run with it. “I
don’t know what these conversations sound like, so just do it.”
WaH: What’s next for all of you?
MC: I’m moving to London to go to graduate school in an unrelated field.
SD: I’m still so in this, I can’t see the future. I want to work on something else, either a short or a feature. I can’t really think ahead. I’m ready to
take on the next thing. I might need a little breather though.
MG: James and I have already written a bunch of things, so I’m not sure what direction it will take next. Maybe another feature, maybe TV.
For more on Forev, check out their site.