First-time feature director Canadian Michael Greenspan made a splash at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Film Festival when he debuted “Wrecked” alongside its Oscar-winning star Adrien Brody. The thriller went over well with audiences and has since gone on to land acquisition with IFC Films. It opens this spring.
In “Wrecked,” Brody puts in a characteristically committed performance as an unnamed man who awakens in the passenger seat of a car at the bottom of a ravine with a corpse in the backseat, cash in the trunk and no recollection of how he got there.
Unlike his film’s lead character, Greenspan remembers all the steps he took to get where he is today.
A native of Montreal, Greenspan initially developed a love for the stage, but couldn’t pinpoint the reasons behind his interest in theater until he sat down to pen his own first script. In doing so, he learned his passion lay in telling stories. He wrote several within the span of a few years and then adapted some of them into short films “just for fun.” Bolstered by his newfound passion for filmmaking, Greenspan moved to Toronto in his early twenties to attend a film production program at Toronto’s York University.
“My directing and cinematography professors at York both had to leave Hungary because they were not able to tell their stories freely without repercussions,” Greenspan said. “These were two filmmakers who left with reels and cans of film under their arms to get them screened. That passion for telling stories rubbed off on me.”
After graduating with two short films under his belt, Greenspan moved to Los Angeles at the behest of his mother (“She said, ‘You’re going to get in your car, and you’re going to go down to Hollywood.'”) and spent his nights on a couch at a friend’s house for three months without a solid game plan in mind.
By luck, he met an American Film Institute professor at a writer’s workshop who had seen his short film “Lost and Found” and encouraged Greenspan to apply to the school. Greenspan was accepted as a Directing Fellow soon after.
“I had a place to be,” he said, “a place to go.”
At AFI, Greenspan shot a 25-minute short, “The Legend of Razorback,” starring Kevin McCarthy, which went on to win the Audience Choice Award at the Temecula Valley International Film Festival. Once out, he began brainstorming on a feature film with his long-time collaborator, writer Christopher Dodd.
“I wanted to do something unique, not for the sake of it, but for me,” Greenspan said. “I wanted to see what was possible with an actor, a situation and an obstacle.”
With that the idea in mind, “Wrecked” was born. Together with Dodd, Greenspan spent four years developing the project. From Dodd’s first draft, Greenspan knew who he wanted as his leading man.
“I always had Brody in mind,” he said. “He became the staple through which we crafted the project. I watched his films, studied his films. You can see when someone devotes everything they are to a part. Whatever he does, he does 100 percent.”
It only took a matter of weeks for Brody commit to the project after coming across the script. In addition, he signed on as one of the film’s executive producers.
“I believed that Michael had the ability to make something special,” Brody said at a press conference in Abu Dhabi following the film’s premiere. “The key to this working is that he really didn’t have to babysit me. You have to have trust in each other and I trust Michael.”