Originally published on February 1st. Concussion opens in theaters and on VOD on October 4th.
Concussion was one of my favorite movies at Sundance this year. It was truly a revelation. Robin Weigert who we have seen for so many years as a supporting character in shows like Deadwood, takes the lead as a suburban lesbian mom whose life has become rote. After getting hit in the head with a baseball many things are awakened in her and she embarks on the unlikely path of becoming a high class lesbian prostitute. It's a fascinating look at marriage, at connections and at expectations of what we expect our lives to be.
First time writer/director Stacie Passon hits this one out of the park. It has been picked up by Radius/TWC and will also be playing in Berlin next month.
I was able to sit down with the team from the film the day after their premiere. They were exhausted and elated. It made for a very lively conversation.
Women and Hollywood: Tell me a little bit about where this story came from.
Stacie Passon: Basically, I got binged in the head with a baseball. My son hit me and there was this sort of gush of blood on my temple and I just felt not right after that. There was a ton of blood and I remember just going to the hospital, feeling very hazy, kind of getting up, moving around, feeling hurt, you know? And the kids -- yelling at the kids and being just not a very nice person at that point. And I was very hazy and to make a long story short, I got a little "broigus." I got a little cranky, ornery.
WaH: Is that Yiddish?
Rose Troche: First time I ever heard that one.
WaH: That's a Yiddishism I never heard.
SP: There was no dealing with me for a while and I sat down and I wrote. I think it just got to me the whole motherhood thing and wife and supporting my wife and it just came out.
WaH: Okay. You were a stay-at-home mom at that time?
SP: Yeah. We moved to the suburbs about three years ago and I had been sort of used to having intermittent clients. I said I'm going to fix up the house for a while. And I became isolated, very, very isolated and I think that's where Abby's story begins.
WaH: So you wrote this and then what happened? How did Rose get the script?
SP: I reached out to Rose. We hadn't talked to Rose for a long time.
RT: A gigantic fight. We should make up a whole back story, a gigantic fight we had.
SP: We just fell out of touch.
RT: She had kids.
SP: Kids, and we fell out of touch and she was doing The L Word and in those years I really didn't want to bug you. I was sort of like I'm sure so many people are glomming on to her. She was an old friend, but friends grow apart. But I felt like I needed to reach out to her when I wrote this because I needed her help in casting. And not because it was The L Word but because Rose is an amazing casting person. She has flawless taste in actors. If you look at all of her films you see discovery after discovery after discovery and when she makes those casting decisions they are so dead on. And I really respect who she casts in her films. Safety of Objects, Bedrooms & Hallways, all through those films you can just see emerging actors. I would just bring her ideas and she would give me just her take. And she looked at me, she said you want notes? And I said of course I want notes.
SP: And then we started talking and I remember just kind of asking for more and more and more and more and more.
RT: It was so nice to see Stacie again. I think we have to support each other as women filmmakers and as women in general and I think it's great and I think Stacie's going to get asked to do a lot of that now and I just believe in that. I read a lot of people's scripts and I'll give them notes and then that'll be that. And then there's on occasion times when I want to try -- like with Pariah, I was trying to hook up Nekisa Cooper and Dee Rees with a producer because I wasn't producing at that time and gave them script notes on Pariah. I got a little bit further with them because I love the short so much. And when this came around, I think there was just something about it that I was just like oh, this is different than all of this pile of stuff that I read. You know. And so it just -- when I gave Stacie the notes -- it was also like a reunion.
SP: There was a real connection.
RT: That was a big part of that. We started working on the script and she came back and said how about this. I forget how many rounds of script. It doesn't matter.
WaH: Before you became producer or were you already?
RT: Before. At a certain point she said, do you want to be involved? I said as long as I bring stuff to it, I don't want to take an executive producer credit.
WaH: It's not about ego for you.
RT: I'm not that big of a deal. You have to bring value.
SP: My first theory was just was Rose would "present the film" but at some point she became so inextricably linked as a collaborator that she couldn't be anything but lead producer. She did everything from soup to nuts and she is such a tireless creative and she was very much a creative producer on this project.
RT: Let me just make one thing clear, though. I never hovered over Stacie with her creative vision of the film. We worked closely in post. I remember being there on the first day and you were so like it's the first day, and I just felt like I went and stood next to you...She was just radiating this is my film and I just like understood, without even saying something out loud.
SP: I would say it in a different way.
RT: I was like I've got a lot of scheduling to do.
SP: I would actually say it in a different way. I would say that Rose is an auteur and I think that maybe the vibe that you were getting off of me was actually help me. It wasn't "go away." And I think that your instinct was to let me direct because that's what you wanted.
RT: She outlined the entire film. There was a tremendous amount of prep work that went into this and we were having this funny discussion last night, and not to take away anything from David, but these are all Stacie's ideas prior. It's not like the cinematographer came in and did the vision of the film. They certainly collaborated but -- there were real moments and she knew she wanted the back lit stuff. I want the light. I'm only going to shoot from here. I think it's a fine line when a writer/director produces for a writer/director.
SP: I think it would have been far less of a compelling film if Rose hadn't been involved with post and there's a reason why. Rose has some tendency of layering not ideas but imagery. She's a really interesting visual director. I let it sort of play out. And what Rose brought to that process is a sort of simplicity. She aught me about the ideas behind sound for instance. We spent five or six weeks doing sound and she kept on telling Anthony and I to bring in more environments.
WaH: Do you think people are going to think of this as a lesbian film?
RT: Yes, of course. I remember when Go Fish came out and B. Ruby Rich was like it's new queer cinema. I feel like with Stacie's film it marks a moment. When Go Fish came out they coined like new queer cinema and it felt like a turning point. I think that it quite possibly is going to be a moment where things shift and change again.
WaH: Talk about the change from Go Fish to now.