Giles Alderson chatted to director Tracy Wren and screenwriter Jennifer Cooney about their film Rain Beau’s End, which is out now on VOD on lesflicks.com.
Making a film during COVID
Jennifer said that working on Zoom was great, because normally, in the film industry, you’re expected to be in LA to make it in the business. “I’ve always lived in Pennsylvania. So for me, this one-upped that capability of connecting with people no matter where you are.”
She also mentioned that the edit and composing was done on Zoom. Filming normally requires a fair amount of travel, so she preferred being able to “just sit down and pop on Zoom. And it really changed the way that we distributed it as well with everything being shut down.” They found lesflicks and it was the perfect pairing for their film.
Tracy said that, like everyone else, she had been watching more movies and concerts during lockdown. And as a result, it was great “for the release of the movie, online, because it’s reaching the audience that wants to see this movie. It’s really specific.”
She said that the great thing about it is that there is also still the option to release in select cinemas or submit it to film festivals.
How did it start?
Jennifer was contacted by a screenwriting friend from France, who had seen a job posting for a lesbian family drama.
“I didn’t have anything to show for it. I didn’t have a writing sample. I didn’t have a list of awards. I just said, I think I’m the person you’re looking for. Here’s my phone number.”
She hadn’t thought that she would get the job, but Joe Orlandino contacted her that evening and she “immediately knew exactly what he wanted to do with his story and his characters. It was just the perfect pairing of creative voices at that time.”
Writing the Script
Jennifer works “with a gigantic whiteboard and just writes ideas all over it. I use index cards and tons of notes on a notepad.”
She says that she likes “writing down my notes, it slows down my thought process. But for me, something that I wrote on the whiteboard really early on was this is a film about war.
You have this child who can’t be anything other than he is, and this woman who can’t be anything other than she is. And they’re both right, in their own way. And they both see the other as wrong and how do you rectify that? That was a guiding light for me throughout writing the whole thing and also reflected in Hannah and Jules’ relationship because they have very different parenting styles. They approach life in a fundamentally different way.”
Writing happens “whenever the spirit moves me. Sometimes, as soon as I wake up. Sometimes, right before I go to sleep. I go about my day and make sure that I’m always making time to write.
The thing I love about the whiteboard is that you can sit back and look at it all and just let the different pieces marinate and bounce off of each other.”
Jennifer says that it is “always about the character. I don’t write plot-driven. It’s always this can’t happen until we figure out where the character is going and why.”
Tracy’s Directing Journey
Tracy’s first “real movie was a 17 minute short called Neighbors – an adaptation of three Raymond Carver short stories.”
During that 5 day shoot, she learned a lot from her DP, Dennis Maloney. She also learned a lot from Claude et Albert editor John Murphy.
“We spent a couple of weeks editing that film together and he was so amazing, so solid and everything he said I found came true later on.
My instinct was to put everything in there. Everything that I had filmed I thought was so beautiful and it had to be there and I would say ‘this is important, that is important.’ And he taught me the meaning of less is more. I also learned about the rhythm of the film – if you put too much in there, it bogs it down.
And once the film starts to roll, you want to keep it rolling, and it picks up momentum. The last thing you want to do is slow it down. That took a while to learn.”
Director/ Writer Collaboration
Developing and nurturing the director/ writer relationship is so important on set. Jennifer said that it started being quite unnerving but as it progressed they found their rhythm.
“I think that that’s probably the most important step – a mutual respect and honouring of the other half that you’re working with, and just being able to flow back and forth.”
She said that her favourite approach is explaining why she wrote something the way that she did, and then if they still want to change it, they can figure it out together.
“A lot of times, when you’re writing a script for a year, a lot of things aren’t coming across, or they’re not going to come across until it’s visual or in the editing process.
Coming in early, people can go ‘cut this, or get rid of that or change that line’ without realising that it’s connected to many other things. So it’s just about mutual respect for each other. I think Tracy and I’ve really found our groove with that, being on set together.”
Jennifer also said that they defer to each other on certain things. Tracy “was one of the only parents on set. So whenever there were any references that we needed with parents, she’d be first in line. And I was the lesbian writer, so whenever there were questions about that, I had what I call ‘the straight alarm’. I’d be on the monitor, and if there was something happening with the actresses I’d yell my straight alarms going off and we’d confer. We were able to really learn to bounce off of each other in a really productive way.”
Tracy said that, for her, she “tried hard to honour Jennifer’s vision and Joe’s too, because it was their story. And I felt like a guest on set. At the end of the day, our goal was the same – to tell this story of these characters and what was the best way to do that.”
After reading the script, she would think how will this practically work and how can we possibly film this and keep it interesting. How can we keep the ball in the air and keep the story rolling.”
To hear more advice from Tracy and Jennifer, listen to their podcast here.