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Springboard: Why ‘Big Stone Gap’ Writer-Director Adriana Trigiani Thinks Her Film Needs to Be Seen in a Theater

Springboard: Why 'Big Stone Gap' Writer-Director Adriana Trigiani Thinks Her Film Needs to Be Seen in a Theater

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Indiewire’s Springboard column profiles up-and-comers in the film industry worthy of your attention.

Novelist, screenwriter and newly-minted narrative feature director Adriana Trigiani doesn’t get too hung up on awards. Seriously. After winning the Best Ensemble Cast Award at the first annual Bentonville Film Festival this past spring, Trigiani nearly forgot her statuette at the airport, leaving it behind on a crowded breakfast table as she made her way to the flight that would take her to New York City, where the Virginia native lives and works. (Trigiani is, naturally enough, originally from the real Big Stone Gap, Virginia.) She only managed to remember the hefty honor when this writer, who was also making her way back to New York after BFF, grabbed it before it was lost forever in the hinterlands of a regional Arkansas airport.

She’s got it now, though. Presumably.

Trigiani adapted “Big Stone Gap” from her bestselling novel of the same name (which Trigiani helped market in a very hands-on way, this is one writer who loves book clubs), a sprawling story set in her own hometown, filled with colorful characters and some pretty swanky ’70s era fashions. The film stars Ashley Judd as Ave Maria Mulligan, a lifelong Big Stone Gap resident who, at the age of 35, has basically been deemed a spinster. As her community gears up for a number of big events, Ave Maria finds her life changing in some very unexpected (though not entirely unwelcome) ways. The film co-stars Patrick Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg, Jenna Elfman, Jane Krakowski and Anthony LaPaglia.

“Big Stone Gap” is in theaters today. Read more about the project, why people should see it together and what’s next for the multi-hyphenate, straight from Trigiani herself, below.

My cast loved making the movie. Which is a very rare thing, you learn that. You know the code, when they go, “Yes, it was interesting,” and they have that frozen look of fear on their face. [laughs] They’re good people and they enjoyed it and they got into it.

I have a block about awards. I’m not doing it for this. I don’t care about that. I care about the box office, so that’s why I go from town to town, because I want people to see it. I would give it for free, I just want those houses full of people watching it. 

I had to get away from [the first cut of] the trailer. I’m not an expert on trailers. But then I loved the trailer, after they did a few things with it and I went, “Oh, okay.” At first I was like, “Are you kidding me?” But then they did things and I liked it better. You just see your stuff snipped down. Now I like it, but it’s when you see things shrunk-wrapped, that you just go, “Oh, no! That’s not what it is!”

One of the big problems we had was, “where are we going to put the trailer?” So now they’ve found places — they did “A Walk in the Woods,” they put it with that movie “War Room,” they put it with “Ricki and the Flash.”

Next up, I’m writing a new novel, which I’m really excited about. And then, the next thing I do, is another movie, and it will probably be of my novel “Lucia, Lucia.” It’s New York in the ’50s. 

The studio sent me the list of theaters [where the film is opening], and I’m like, “Wait, I was in that town, I went to that book club, I went to that book club.” I’m just going to put my computer on and go, “Hey, everybody in Bellingham, Massachusetts! You know I came to your book club? It’s going to be at your theater! Can you guys go down there?” Why not? Never in the history of mankind has anybody been able to just call people. I have the ability, so I’m gonna do it! We’re just going from town to town. I have a new book coming out, so I do movie, book, movie, book, movie, book, every place we go.

This is like a major Hollywood movie, but it’s an indie. We’re just trying to make people see it in a community. We feel like it’s a movie to see in a group. Get your sister, get your mom, get your grandma, get your cousins, get your friends. 

If the movie had turned out differently, I would have marched right into television, I would have called Lifetime. But once we saw it, and when I was cutting it, I went, “Oh, it’s a major motion picture.” I could just tell by the scope of it, by the performances in it. We got a major motion picture. In this day and age, it’s harder to do, but then everybody agreed. And then when everybody agrees, you kind of mount the campaign and you figure it out.

I have a little bit of a feeling about this, that I feel like we’ve got to encourage people to go out and do stuff. I’m worried about people. We went to the technical Emmys — my husband was nominated for the fifth time for “Letterman” — and we brought our daughter, who is 13, and I’m trying to teach her stuff about being out in public. There was a lady in front of us who opened her purse, and she’s in an evening gown, and ate a sandwich. Just opened her purse and ate a sandwich. It’s a four-hour show, can’t you wait four hours to eat? Watching live people talking, like she’s watching a TV set. Then another lady comes in opens a bag of potato chips, another guy was eating peanuts. It’s like they’re at the movies, watching live people. 

People need to go out, in a group, and do things together, as opposed to being on their phones, watching it on a tiny screen. And also to see that photography big. To enjoy it big. Be in community, go out to dinner together, do things together. We lose that, we lose a lot. It’s important to come together. I think, especially a movie like this, with the message it has, which is so key. Put the passion back in your life. You can change your life, or turn the corner, why the heck wouldn’t you?

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

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