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Meet the 2015 Tribeca Filmmakers #3 : Gregory Kohn Crafts a Psychedelic Drug Trip in ‘Come Down Molly’

Meet the 2015 Tribeca Filmmakers #3 : Gregory Kohn Crafts a Psychedelic Drug Trip in 'Come Down Molly'

READ MORE: Meet the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Filmmakers

Gregory Kohn’s “Come Down Molly” may center around a struggling single mother, but the film’s existential exploration by way of psychedelic drugs draws directly from the filmmaker’s own history. “I felt like other movies always got tripping wrong,” Kohn said to Indiewire. “I wanted to show friends actually giggling at each other’s ideas. I wanted them to really be laughing or crying at the absurdity of existence, because that’s what it’s like when you’re tripping.” For the director, the film’s use of drugs is just the entry way into a story about existence, growing old and growing up. 

What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?

A struggling new mom joins her old guy friends at a secluded mountain home. Amidst tears, laughter and psychedelic drugs, they connect with nature and themselves.

Now what’s it REALLY about?

It’s really about a woman’s existential crisis. I think we all go through some sort of existential crisis as we grow older. What I found interesting about Molly’s character was that she couldn’t connect with her own child. I tried to empathize with what that would feel like, what kind of questions I would be asking myself about my own identity. I wanted to explore that further. To me, the movie is also about the ephemeral nature of friendship and also existence in general. We’re not here for very long. And when we are here, we’re such a small part of the universe that it’s difficult to understand the point of our own consciousness. Molly and her friends are searching for those answers, even if they know they might not find them.

Tell us briefly about yourself.

I grew up in Florida. I hated the beach, but loved playing sports outside. My dream of becoming an astronaut died when I realized I was afraid of flying and wasn’t very good at physics. I fell in love with movies early in high school when I became obsessed with Stanley Kubrick and the Bond movies. I can still probably name every Bond film in order. I moved to Brooklyn after film school, and made my first feature, Northeast. Come Down Molly is my second. My favorite things are my wife, my dog, and the Miami Marlins.

Biggest challenge in completing this film?

The drug section was the biggest challenge not only aesthetically, but also from a performance perspective. I felt like other movies always got tripping wrong. There’d be spirals of day-glo colors, or 70s synth music or CGI animations for more modern films. And the acting was usually very over-the-top. I didn’t want any of that. I wanted to show friends actually giggling at each other’s ideas. I wanted them to really be laughing or crying at the absurdity of existence, because that’s what it’s like when you’re tripping. It’s a very emotional experience, and I wanted to capture that honestly. In order to get this section right, the actors were set free to improvise for 6 hours at a time on our beautiful Colorado location. It was a difficult technical challenge for our camera and audio crew to film and record these scenes for that long. But ultimately, it paid off immensely. There are moments in the drug section that I could never have written nor imagined, and the movie would be nothing without them.

What do you want the Tribeca audience to take away from your film?

First and foremost, I hope they walk away feeling as though they just saw a very personal, intimate and authentic story about a real modern woman. I want the audience to love her as much for her flaws as they do for her charm. That was always my main goal. Beyond that, the film raises existential questions that affect all of us as human beings. In my opinion, it’s nearly impossible to incorporate the big questions of consciousness into a dramatic story medium like cinema. But I hope that this film does resonate a little bit on that level. And lastly, I hope they laugh with the movie. But I want them to laugh in the way that you laugh with your closest friends, because you know them so well, and you realize that your time with them is always fleeting. Most of the guys in the movie are my real-life friends, and I want to be able to watch this movie when I’m old and remember them just like they are now.

Any films inspire you?

I’ve been inspired by so many films that at this point it’s hard to tell where inspiration even comes from. It’s all become so muddied. I can tell you some of my favorite filmmakers are Erich Rohmer, Hal Ashby and currently Joachim Trier and Mia Hansen-Love. But I’m equally as inspired by actors like Michelle Pfeiffer, Emma Thompson or our own Eléonore Hendricks. The comedian Bill Hicks was also a big inspiration. He often questioned why you never hear any positive drug stories, and I felt compelled by that notion. Stylistically and aesthetically, I’m not sure I was trying to emulate other movies. Rather, I took part in a psychedelic drug experience in real life, during which I thought it was an interesting concept for a movie. How to capture that experience cinematically was based on trying to be as realistic as possible to what a drug trip actually looks and feels like.

What’s next?

I have another female-centered script about a middle-aged woman that I’d like to get produced. And there are other scripts that I’m hoping to write in the coming months.

What cameras did you shoot on?

We used 3 Ikonoskops, which are lightweight, Swedish-made digital cameras made to replicate the look of 16mm film.

Did you crowdfund?
If so, via what platform. If not, why?

Yes, we used Kickstarter to raise finishing funds for music and post. The rest of the film had to be self-financed by my wife and I through our paychecks. The movie’s concept would have been too difficult to fund in a traditional sense.

Did you go to film school? If so, which one? 

Emerson College in Boston.

Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.

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