Part Three: On the Location, the Production, and the Cast
This marks the conclusion of my chat with Lynn Shelton. Though we talked for al-
most two hours, I thought it best to keep things concise and end here. Reminder: We Go Way Back has been extended at the Varsity Theatre through Thursday, 9/28.
Did you consider making this film anywhere
else or was it always going to be set in Seattle?
It was always going to be set in Seattle.
So, how did you choose the locations -- Ballard,
Whidbey Island...? I might be missing something.
The Key Peninsula, sort of down Gig Harbor Way. And the theater -- the in-
side -- was the Bush School Theater. That was the hardest location to get.
It works well in the film. It seems like it had sight lines so you could
film things -- so you could see everybody. I distinctly remember that.
It really works well. And I like how you can't really tell how big it is, because
it just goes off into black... I wanted something that didn't feel too dumpy.
So it was definitely a fringe theater -- it wasn't a wreck -- but it was a pretty nice
theater, basically. [laughs] My model was Empty Space. And it would've been
cool if we could've shot there -- I would've been thrilled -- but everybody had a
show up. There was no way to get the time that we needed -- there was just no
way to do it. They did let us use the lobby and the outside of the Empty Space. That
was nice, but that almost didn't come together. It was really last minute.
The Empty Space Theater
And there are a lot of scenes in the theater. I'm assuming all the stage scenes -- that's not set, but the Bush School Theater when you're actually seeing people
on the stage. [Kate has the lead in a production of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler.]
Yes, all of the rehearsals on the stage, that's all -- and actually when the direc-
tor [Robert Hamilton Wright] tells her [Amber Hubert's Kate] that they're gonna
switch ideas, it's not working -- that little woodshop is actually their woodshop, too.
I think we shot two whole weekends there -- five or six days, something like that.
Were any students involved as extras?
Yeah, Kyle was actually a student of mine. [He happened to walk into the
coffee shop during our interview.] He was crafty -- craft services -- and a PA
[production assistant]. A lot of -- I think most of -- our PAs were students of mine
or just graduated...art department PAs, grips...and a bunch -- we had this little
fleet of assistant editors, who helped a lot with digitizing and organizing foot-
age, and synching up the sound. There must have been eight of those guys too.
As far as the casting -- and this applies to both Maggie [Brown]
and Amber -- did you have them both in mind for these parts?
Maggie was the inspiration for the kernel that became the movie. I'd seen her in Megan Murphy's show The Rich Grandeur of Boxing at On the Boards, and as she constantly told me, she's not an actress. She doesn't consider herself an actress.
Isn't she a dancer?
Maggie Brown as Little Kate
She actually studied with the PNB [Pacific Northwest Ballet] for many years, and
then stopped. I think she stopped when she was 12 or 13, but she studied with
them for a long time. And she was amazing in this show. This is kind of a dance theater show -- I don't know if you've ever seen any of Megan's work, like Run/
Remain; it's similar -- but it's more kind of performance than it is play. She had
this incredible presence. It intrigued me, and I remember seeing her in that show and thinking I really would like to do a movie with her someday. And the summer before we did We Go Way Back, two summers ago, I had this sudden urge to -- suddenly all these visceral memories of being her age, 13... I spent a lot of time
at my folks' house on Whidbey Island (which is why we ended up on Whidbey Island). There's this little lake there, this cabin, and I used to spend hours there in this canoe. I would go out into the middle of the lake and I'd just lay down and float out there and I would bring my journal and stuff. And I was just holding everything in -- you know, like introspection, pulling in -- it's like I was getting ready for this sort of galvanizing adolescence that was about to hit. [laughs] So I dragged her up there for a couple of days, and I found a sound recordist, who was also a woman, so she would feel comfortable... It was wonderful. We had this two-day shoot out in this cabin, and the three of us paddling around in this canoe. And I took her out to these woods and wandered around after her and shot this footage. So I have this little five-minute short film that's also probably gonna be an extra on the DVD. She was the kernel of the 13-year-old self in the movie, but the main character was the most important casting decision, so if somebody didn't look like Maggie, I knew I wouldn't be able to use Maggie. I realized that from the very beginning... and I just couldn't believe my luck. Amber was like the last person I looked at -- I came really close to going to New York and looking for actresses there... It was one of those things where I kind of knew almost immediately when she walked in. And then the fact that they really look a lot alike... So, that's pretty great -- I'm really happy about that.
The Varsity Theatre is located at 4329 University Way NE. For more
information (show times, etc.), please click here or call 206-781-5755.