Girls, Girls, Girls - Part III
by Eugene Hernandez
To read the second part of this article, click here.
The film began as a twenty-five page outline for a story called, "Girls"
penned by Jim McKay. He explains that while he has always appreciated
coming-of-age stories, "the circumstances under which girls have to come of
age are much more complex (than boys')...as a story, that intrigues me."
He reveals that the idea was inspired by magazines like Sassy and various
riot girl fanzines, as well as the writings of authors Angela Davis and bell
hooks. McKay also credits Leslie Harris' breakthrough film, "Just Another Girl on the IRT" as a significant influence.
After years of "non-dramatic work," McKay realized that he needed to learn
about acting if he was going to work with actors. He studied with New York
City acting teacher Susan Batson for nine months before embarking on the
workshop process. McKay describes acting classes as having a therapeutic
aspect that helped him get to know himself better, "it puts you in touch with
a lot of things that need to be worked on and developed or things that you
can access for your acting or your writing or whatever else." He continues to
take classes to this day, admitting that under the right circumstances he
would consider acting in a project.
Jim's plans for a workshop process to develop the script for "Girls Town"
stemmed from his appreciation for the style of many films from the 1970's and
his respect for the works of filmmakers' Ken Loach, Heather Johnston and
Gordon Eriksen, John Cassavetes, Mike Leigh, and Nick Gomez. "When I had the
idea it was really evident to me that I could not write it," he reveals, "the
best way to do it was open up the process, it made sense." He enlisted the
help of Zalaznick as producer and they embarked on the workshop as the venue
for writing the screenplay, transcribing the words uttered by the various
actors. Jim admits to still being flabbergasted that he was able to convince
such talented women to sign on for what, at the time, was a risky venture.
Early on in the workshop process the project was dealt a near fatal blow when
the actress playing the role of Nikki was forced, by her agent, to drop out
of the project. McKay was so devastated by the sudden departure that he
considered immediately shelving the project. However, Bruklin Harris came up
with an alternative plot development, enlisted the support of Anna Grace and
Lili Taylor and after a bit of plot tweaking, the project continued. The
sessions with Anna, Bruklin, Lili, Jim and others yielded a 400 page script
which he whittled down to 180, then 100 pages. "Basically, the way the
treatment changed was (that) it became (more) subtle," Jim explains.
In his original outline the girls' response to the rape of a friend leads to
anything but a subtle reaction, but in the workshop Jim and the actors worked
together to develop a more organic evolution for the retaliation the women
ultimately experience. In the finished product, the women seem rather
surprised by their empowered retaliation. From the actors' points of view,
the process was rewarding, but challenging. Lili Taylor explains that, "a
lot of it was falling down (and) getting back up. It was exciting and scary
and required a lot of trust and faith, too." Anna Grace agrees, adding, "we
were all like each others guides. A big part of it was developing a group
identity." She also adds, "it was led by a man but it was written by us and
I think that it is a different film because of that."
To continue this article, click here.