On a sunny afternoon in Locarno on 7 August, Boyd van Hoeij from Variety moderated a discussion with short film "Thirst" director Rachel McDonald and its stars Melanie Griffith and Gale Harold. The topics ranged from the making of McDonald’s film, to the actors’ takes on the differences between working with men and female directors, to ageism in Hollywood.
I asked Rachel McDonald about using crowd-sourcing to fund "Thirst".
Rachel McDonald : “We shot a teaser and put it on Kickstarter. I learned a lot about social media in a short period of time. We raised the money in two different rounds and were able to do the shoot. I was overwhelmed by the generosity and people who had faith in us. There are two donors here in the audience today; they drove three-hours from Italy today to be here! I think crowd-sourcing is amazing and people can be a part of telling a story in a different way.”
Rachel McDonald : "Thirst’s" themes are about compassion and about the human connection. There are definitely themes of mercy that reflect on ourselves and on each other. Sometimes that comes in the form of a complete stranger or those already in our lives. With an undercurrent of addiction.”
Melanie Griffith: “My character, Sue, is a down-and-out alcoholic. And this young man comes into her life and they have this sort of understanding and go through a metamorphous together. And Rachel, I must say was an incredible director and allowed what happened without the words, to happen in this world. I’m here because I love the film. I want to support her in many more movies.”
Gale Harold : “My character, “John” comes in about halfway through film; he has an oracle quality, he’s saying things he doesn’t have reason to know about and makes offhand statements that become echoed through the film.”
McDonald: “The movie takes place over a period of three days. The script, written by Michael Albanese, was inspired by a true story that happened to him when he was living in New York City in the 90s, and was broke and disconnected, and got a temporary job in Hell’s Kitchen. We developed the story together.”
Boyd: “You had a screenplay and a great story, but how do you get Melanie Griffith in this movie?”
McDonald : “We are very fortunate to have an amazing cast. We were working with a wonderful casting director and talking to her about the project and she recommended Melanie. Michael Albanese and I wrote an impassioned letter and sent it to her with the script, and she invited us over to her home so generously and we connected instantly.”
Boyd: “What made the script stand out?”
Griffith: “It was the letter, the story, reading the script and meeting Rachel; this made me want to do it. I thought it was a great challenge to play an alcoholic since I am a recovering alcoholic, and it was a good way to get it out of my mind, my psyche. When I met Rachel, I saw something in her eyes that was familiar to me, like meeting a person you’ve known before.”
McDonald: “I create a place the actors feel safe and where they can go to vulnerable places and in this story specifically they did so bravely. I’m a very visual storyteller, so I’m prepared with my shot list and what I want to achieve, and help bring the story to life.”
Boyd: “Obviously, Rachel is a female filmmaker. Is there a difference between a male and female director?”
Harold: “I think women and men filmmakers do bring a different perspective. Males can be emotionally-driven as well; some women are more driven though. It’s a different perspective when women and men tell a story.”
Griffith: “There are men who are sensitive with guiding an actor…they are few and far between. I do seem to be gravitating towards more female directors. I feel like -- men directors are amazing though -- with Rachel (and other female directors) they’ll look at a scene or a movie, and say, ‘I feel that the character would be doing this’ while a male director generally says, “I think the character would be doing this.”
Griffith then remarks on the overall disparity of women working in the film industry. “Only a small percent of women, maybe ten percent, are working in the industry. Considering more than half the planet are female – that’s not a good percentage!”
BOYD : “Melanie, you have nothing left to prove as an actor.”
Griffith : “I do have a lot left to prove. I always think if ‘Oh my God, can I do this role?’ It’s beautiful when you do it and make it work.”
Boyd: “Obviously you’re a daughter of a famous actor and your daughter is in "50 Shades of Gray".”
Griffith : “I think that Dakota is going to be better than me and my mom. She is amazing. She watched all the mistakes I’ve made and the things that happened to my mom. She’s a force of nature. I won’t see "50 Shades of Gray;" her father and I agreed we’ll just read the reviews.”
The Conversation concludes with an audience member asking about roles for women in Hollywood as they get older.
Griffith : “When you hit 40 it’s iffy. I did take a lot of time off to raise my kids, and now I’m doing a lot of work and have a couple of movies to shoot. I’m doing Pippin on Broadway in January. I now only have one child at home who will be a senior in high school and then I’m free. And I’m going to do whatever the fuck I want to do!”
Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, Susan Kouguell presents international workshops and seminars on screenwriting and film. Author of SAVVY CHARACTERS SELL SCREENPLAYS! and THE SAVVY SCREENWRITER, she is chairperson of Su-City Pictures East, LLC, a consulting company founded in 1990 where she works with over 1,000 writers, filmmakers, and executives worldwide.www.su-city-pictures.com , http://su-city-pictures.com/wpblog