Saturday, March 22, 2008
A Southerner Looks to the North: A Chat With David Gordon Green
Raised in Texas and educated in North Carolina, Snow Angels marks writer/direc-
tor David Gordon Green's first Northern production. Shot in snow-covered Halifax,
the action takes place in an unidentified New England town (author Stewart O'Nan's rural Pennsylvania). The movie marks other firsts. To start, filmmaker Jesse Peretz (who adapted Ian McEwan's First Love, Last Rites for the silver screen) initially hired him to adapt O'Nan's 1994 novel, making the movie Green's first literary adapta-
tion and work-for-hire project. When a conflict took Peretz out of the picture, Green (George Washington, All the Real Girls, and Undertow) stepped in as he'd gotten so im-
mersed in the material he could no longer imagine handing it over to anyone else.
I spoke with Green while he was in town in support of his fourth feature. What fol-
lows are some excerpts from our conversation-and it's definitely more of a conver-
sation than a formal interview. I quickly discovered that the slight Texan loves to shoot the shit, but he's less enthusiastic about answering specific questions. At the film's blogsite, Green notes that "self-promotion" is "a pretty tough aspect of the job. Every ten minutes you've got a new person to talk to, a new set of questions, or an old set of questions that you want to put a spin on so you don't just end up re-
peating yourself over and over again." He isn't the first director I've encountered who prefers to talk about work other than his own. I did my bit to keep things on track, but we went down a few meandering paths, and I found it best to go with the flow...
You might find this of interest. It has nothing to do with your films,
but it does actually have something to do with you. When Aaron Katz
was in town [with Quiet City], I thought about you...
I know Aaron. Did you like his movie?
I did, very much.
It's a good movie.
I thought about you, because you went to the same school
[The North Carolina School of the Arts], and I think he men-
tioned that you've worked with some of the same people.
His DP on Quiet City. And his cinematographer dropped out of college to
work for free as a PA on All the Real Girls, which is my second movie, and
then, based on that, he heard about our school, went there, and met Aaron.
Interesting. He now kind of has, on a smaller scale, the same set-up as you,
in that he's working with a lot of the people with whom he went to school.
It's a good school. We went to a pretty cool place.
He had nothing but nice things to say about it.
Those people are taking over the world now. Did you
see [Craig Zobel's] Great World of Sound last year?
[Green produced Great World of Sound and fellow alum Jeff Nichols's Shotgun Stories.]
I did, and I was going to ask you about that, because I just watched Under-
tow, which is the only one of your films I hadn't seen, and I noticed Craig
Zobel. I knew he worked on the film, but I didn't know he was in the film.
Oh yeah. [smiles] And our line producer plays his bride.
She looked familiar, too. I recognized her from the "making of" featurette.
So, until [your film] Snow Angels, I hadn't heard about the novel. My under-
standing is that Jesse Peretz came to you with the idea for an adaptation.
In the press notes, you talk about really getting into it while you were work-
ing. Was there something in particular that really resonated for you?
I think it's the idea that it's an arena, an ensemble of characters, with intertwining love stories offering various perspectives, and the more you write that kind of thing, the more you personalize it-or at least [that's] me. So then the more I started personalizing it, the more invested I became in these characters-the more I really liked these characters, laughed with these characters, sympathized with these char-
acters-the more I started reflecting myself within these characters, then I got into
it, kind of self"ndulgently. I don't really know how to write things I'm not self"n-
dulgent about. I haven't mastered the art of keeping a character at arm's length.
Maybe that's good.
Well, it's good for my head, it's not good for my wallet.
Next: On the adaptation
Snow Angels is currently playing at the Harvard Exit Theatre. The Harvard Exit is located at 807 E. Roy on Capitol Hill (206-781-5755). For more information about the film, please see the official website (from whence the above stills originate).