[EDITORS NOTE: indieWIRE is publishing two interviews daily with Sundance ’07 competition filmmakers through the end of the festival later this month. Directors with films screening in the four competition section were given the opportunity to participate in an email interview, and each was sent the same set of questions.]
In the Sundance Film Festival competition doc “Girl 27,” David Stenn explores the long forgotten story of Patricia Douglas, a teenaged dancer at MGM who was raped during a studio sales convention in the late 1930s. Based on an article originally published in Vanity Fair magazine, Stenn embarks upon a search for the aging woman at the heart of the Hollywood scandal all these years later, and tells her covered-up story.
Please tell us about yourself…
I was born/raised in Chicago and graduated Yale with a degree in 18th century British lit. There was no film department, or film major. But I always loved movies and ran Yale’s film society. It was a great way to share my interest, and play titles otherwise unavailable at the time. I remember running “Gilda.” Five hundred Yalies gasped in unison at that fantastic first shot of Rita Hayworth. I guess it was my way of showing that “classic” doesn’t have to mean “Citizen Kane.” But I never went to film school, or imagined I’d ever be making a movie.
Please tell us about “Girl 27,” and how did the initial idea come about?
I stumbled on this story while writing my second book, and couldn’t believe it had been suppressed for six decades. From the start, I felt outrage: first rape victim Patricia Douglas is denied justice, then her historic case gets buried. It disturbed me so much that I vowed to change it – by alerting the widest audience possible. I felt this was a unique, riveting story, and my job was just to not botch it up.
How did the financing and/or casting for the film come together?
Self-financing made every penny count; I was everything from producer to p.a. There were times when I sat in my car and cried, wondering what I’d got myself into…but like I say in the movie, “I don’t get discouraged, I get relentless.” That’s how I initially found this story, and how “Girl 27” wound up getting made.
Tell us about the moment you found out that you were accepted into Sundance, where were you, and how did you react?
I was walking up Sixth Avenue in New York City when I got the call. My kneejerk response was to wait for the downside: I kept saying, “Are you sure? Is this final? Can you still change your mind?”
What is your definition of “independent film”?
Zero creative compromise. Period.
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