The Scott filmmaking clan continues to grow with the release of Jordan Scott’s first feature film, the boarding school drama “Cracks.” As the daughter of British directing veteran Ridley Scott (“Gladiator,” “Blade Runner”), sister to Jake Scott (director of “Welcome to the Rileys”) and niece to blockbuster auteur Tony Scott (“Unstoppable”), it should come as no surprise that Scott has decided to follow suit and pursue what her family knows best.
Liker her father, Scott got her start by filming ad campaigns for prominent clients, including Nike, Land Rover, Budweiser and Sony. “Cracks” finds Scott exploring the effect one all-consuming teacher (played by Eva Green) has on her pupils in an elite British boarding school in 1934.
Scott sat down with indieWIRE in Manhattan to discuss what attracted her to the project and what it was like working with an all-female cast.
“Cracks” features an all-female cast, is based on a book by Sheila Kohler and was co-scripted by a female screenwriter. Was taking this on a deliberate move on your part to come out of gate with an inherently feminine first film?
I think it was a happy coincidence. I’ve always had a hankering to something about school life in Britiain. It is such a female centric film in a way. I think it just attracted those people for that reason.
What was it about the script that appealed to you?
The kind of boarding school life it portrays; the very stifled world of English private schools. Well in England it’s the other way around – they’re called public schools. Just the environment, the history and the fact that a lot of those schools are institutions really appealed to me. Maybe not quite so much anymore, but for a long time during the last century, during which nothing really changed, you’d still wear the same uniform as your Grandma if she went there. They’re rigid and historic places.
And you yourself attended a boarding school, correct?
Well I didn’t go to boarding school. I went to an all-girls school. That was the dynamic I was working through – my time spent there perhaps (laughs).
How did that play into your interpretation of the script?
Nothing terrible ever happened to me at school. But I’ve always been interested in the dynamic between girls; when you put girls in that sort of pressure corker situation, what can unfold. And how wonderful, supportive and nurturing girls can to be each other. The flipside of that is when it all kind of descends into a slightly kind of “Lord of the Flies” kind of state. Girls are very heightened in that way.
The film features Eva Green in the lead, but is also notable for its great, youthful ensemble. As a first time filmmaker, how did you command such a large cast, many of them teens?
I was really lucky, because coincidentally they all knew each other for the most part. They had at some point gone to school together. I cast them for who there were basically, for their personalities. A lot of them weren’t professional actors at that point. I let the dynamic play out and they fell into their roles in a way.
Juno [Temple, “Kaboom”] was very much the leader and everybody looked up to her. She really took care of everybody, which really helped me a lot. It worked out perfectly. They all stuck together as a pack, lived together and did everything together. I made a conscious effort to keep them away from Eva so she remained glamorous and mysterious.
Speaking of Eva, how was working with an actress of her caliber on your first feature?
We have similar personalities, in that we like to dig and dig and dig and ask questions. So we talked it to death before we started shooting. Once we began shooting I left her alone a lot more. She has a very thorough process; she was very deep into the role. But we discussed it very much – who Mrs. G was etc. She really embodied her.
Did you ever feel you were in over your head?
Not so much. I think that on occasion when five, six teenagers are going completely ballistic and you’re the source of all their woes, then you feel like the ‘bad teacher.’ But I think the challenges were only sort of practical ones. Shooting in Ireland in bad, gloomy weather…trying to work with ice cold water.
You started out by shooting commercials like your father. Had you always envisioned yourself to be a feature filmmaker?
Yeah, I’d hoped that I would. I still make commercials. I didn’t go to film school so my film school was on the job and figuring it out all through the commercials and the music videos…making mistakes. It was not so much theory, just practice.
When did you know you wanted to get into filmmaking?
During college. I went to Pasadena Arts Center for fine art and learned pretty quickly it wasn’t for me.
Did you grow up on film sets?
Ridley kept us away for the most part, which in hindsight was a very sensible thing to do. But yes, I only visited him on a couple of sets. My childhood was good. It kept me a lot more grounded, sort of away with the fairies.
What films did you watch as a child?
I used to watch a lot of comedies, which isn’t apparent at all by this film. My mom would basically only let me watch Billy Wilder films in the days of VHS. I seem to recall watching “Some Like It Hot” every single weekend. Once I was a teenager I was really into films like “Brighton Rock” and “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” Very sort of teenage centric things that I could connect with that weren’t just your average 80s teen movies. Those all factored in to why I made this.
Do you see yourself repeating yourself by tackling a similar subject matter in future work?
Oh no. Done that, moving on.
What do you have planned next then?
I’m trying to develop a Chinese love ghost story.
How far are you along?
I have a script!
Do you feel like you have to step up to the plate given your father’s legacy?
I think the good thing is, we’re all so different. There’s obviously a common thread; we’re family, we have similar interests, tastes and all the rest of it. But our personalities are so different. I don’t think it’s something I consciously think about. I think even if I tried to be like him I couldn’t. It’s not in my makeup.
Nor should you!
Well I wouldn’t mind (laughs). But it’s not who I am.