Writer-director Rebecca Thomas, a Mormon and native of Las Vegas, uses her fable "Electrick Children" to explore the story of a precocious yet sheltered girl living with her Mormon fundamentalist family, who experiences a spiritual awakening on her fifteenth birthday after discovering a rock 'n roll cassette tape. Claiming pregnancy by way of immaculate conception three months later, the girl (played by buzzed-about newcomer Julia Garner) runs away to Las Vegas in search of the tape's bewitching voice.
Below, Thomas shares one of her most challenging to shoot scenes from her debut, which opens in limited release this Friday, March 8. The film hits VOD on March 15.
Scene Nickname: MR. WILL ON DRUGS
We shot this scene on September 24, 2011. Call Time: 5AM. It was day 15 of 25.
We were in the thick of our schedule and had just traveled from shooting the first and last act in Utah. The company move from Utah to Nevada was tiring, but at least now we had electricity and running water. In middle-of-nowhere Utah, we were constantly battling the weather (Lightening strikes set! Bats attack Billy Zane! Floods!). But battling the weather is better than battling each other, and despite the storm, we had truly bonded -- we were officially Team Electrick Children! Now in Las Vegas, we were just a ride-down-the-Casino-lined-strip-away from our new location: THE ALAMO HOTEL.
The Alamo is an old (and possibly haunted) hotel that was converted into a haven for punk and hardcore bands to rent a room, hang out, and rehearse. It is set in the industrial section of Vegas and is not necessarily considered safe. You can find Kirk, the sweet and extremely tall owner of this fine establishment, as a featured extra in the Alamo introductory scene (when looking for Kirk, you will find a minor continuity problem…my bad). Though we enjoyed our time at the Alamo, the atmosphere had been tainted by decades of sweat, smoke, and loud sounds. The vibe was weird, and the actors and crew felt it.
I know it's tough to accuse a day of not going well because of bad vibes on set, but I chalk it up to just that. I’m fairly certain some of the crew had a night of losing at black jack leaving them fairly grumpy. Also, my actors weren’t totally getting along, which wasn’t really their fault as this scene presents three characters that are all in conflict with each other -- they needed to be fighting. But after hour three of irreconcilable differences in a 10X12 foot space, we called lunch. I went into the porta potty outside, had a good cry, and restrategized. Post-lunch, sugar levels were up, the crew settled into a coffee buzz, and the actors were now happy to be in conflict with each other. Lunch did the trick and I was off the hook. We did a few more setups of the scene -- everyone in full cooperation -- and moved on.
Consequently, my editor Jen Lilly and I reworked this scene the most (after the opening scene). It is the first big laugh-out-loud moment in the movie, so it needed lots of tweaking and test screening. I’m really happy with how it turned out! Liam, Julia, and Rory are a dream. I can’t wait to work with them again.