Premiering way back at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival, Bradley Rust Gray’s “The Exploding Girl” opened theatrically this past March to very warm reviews. The film follows Ivy (Kazan), a young epileptic woman home for summer break from college. Ivy struggles to balance her feelings for her fledgling boyfriend while her friend Al crashes with her for the summer. This weekend, “The Exploding Girl” will compete at the Film Independent’s Spirit Awards in the John Cassavetes Award category, which honors low-budget filmmaking (Gray was nominated in the category last year for producing “Treeless Mountain”). indieWIRE caught up with Gray over an e-mail interview last week, and this is what he had to say.
Gray on what lured him into becoming a filmmaker.
I was moved by some short films The Brothers Quay made for MTV.
On “The Exploding Girl,” the film he was nominated for a Spirit Award for…
I was influenced by a film my wife made, In Between Days. I always admired the narrative structure of that film and wanted to try to sort of make a “B-side” to it by flipping the relationship. When I reached page sixty on the script however, I realized I was going in the wrong direction. Cafe Lumiere by Hou Hsiao Hsien is my favorite film. So as an exercise I imagined my characters in one of his scenes. From that point, the script and story became quite clear. During the production we also attempted to adapt Hou Hsiao Hsien’s shooting style as a way of continuing the references to his film, and with the hope to learn something from his methods.
On what prompted the idea for the film…
A project I had been working on for a long time was suddenly put on hold for a year. This opened the opportunity to work on something else for that time period. I decided to write this new project for Zoe Kazan and once she agreed we went for walks and talked a lot.
On any challenges in making the film…
The same as every film I would guess, we had to make the film with less money and time than we would have liked, but the shoot turned out to be a very pleasurable experience thanks to a wonderful crew and cast.
On interesting stories or anecdotes from the set…
So and I work with a wonderful sound recorder named Misha Sterkin. He’s relentless. He’s Russian. He was insisting that he should get in a car we were shooting in to the point where he was about to crawl into the trunk. We told him he couldn’t get in the trunk. And he said, “You don’t know how many trunks I’ve been in in my life.” (pause) “And not always for movies.” He ended up driving the car with a mixer on his lap, Eric Lin the DP was in the front seat filming Mark the actor in the back seat, I was pulling focus from the back seat, and Zoe was laying on my lap holding the microphone for Mark and feeding him her lines.
On future projects…
I’ve been editing a little with So on her new film “For Ellen” which stars Paul Dano. It is really amazing. And I’m hoping she’s going to help me a lot on editing my new film,” Jack & Diane” which stars Juno Temple and Riley Keough. So’s film has more snow than mine, but mine has more blood than hers.
Previous 2011 Spirit Award Nominee Profiles:
Someone to Watch Award Winner Mike Ott
“Rabbit Hole” Director John Cameron Mitchell
“Please Give” Writer/Director Nicole Holofcener
“Marwencol” Director Jeff Malmberg
“Get Low” Director Aaron Schneider
John Cassavetes Award Nominee Matthew Bonifacio