Writer/Director Jane Weinstock (The Moment)
Ten years after her feature film debut with Easy, writer/director/producer Jane Weinstock is bringing her follow up film, The Moment to audiences. Debuting at film festivals in 2013, the thriller The Moment is now in theaters and On-Demand. Ms. Weinstock sat down to discuss making this character driven romantic thriller starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Martin Henderson, and Alia Shawkat.
Coffin: I understand that you made sure that each of the different time periods we see in the film were represented different visually. How was that done?
Weinstock: Well, the colors on screen look different because we made those decisions during color correction which occurs during post production. We wanted the film to look color treated before, when Lee (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is full of life, and make the scenes appear bleached out when she’s in the mental institution. We decided to use that technique during the editing process. Color was certainly something that we thought about during shooting, but we decided on this particular approach during editing. I wanted people to be able to differentiate between the times easily, but I also wanted the visuals to reflect Lee’s state of mind. Earlier I wanted it to be apparent that she had a sense of optimism which is lost when she’s in the mental institution. And then the scenes in Somolia look very different as well, because that is a different part of Lee’s life as well.
Weinstock: There have been many films set in Iran and Afghanistan recently, and I wanted to differentiate this film slightly. But also, one of the important things about her character is that she’s attracted to danger, and when you think of Somalia and people going to Somalia as correspondents, you think of the danger that entails.
Coffin: How much research was done by yourself and Jennifer to perfect how she would approach photography as a war correspondent, compared to a commercial or art photographer?
Weinstock: Well Jennifer knows photographers personally and I certainly watched documentaries about war photographers. And we certainly wanted to show in those few scenes that she is friendly with her interpreter and they have an understanding about always asking permission before taking a picture of the women. But Jennifer was also kind of a natural playing a photographer.
Coffin: Having two characters in the film, mother daughter, who are both photographers, did you want to make sure that their work was different enough to make it clear that Lee’s daughter would never become a war photographer like her mother?
Weinstock: Yes, and in fact we hired a young women to do all of the photography Alia’s character Jessie did, and for Lee’s photography I used the work of Lynsey Addario, and also my husband.
Coffin: It always strikes me as so interesting when you have to use someone else’s art work and for a character, because it can’t be to close to the work they do for themselves. Did you husband find it difficult to channel Lee’s character and leave his own artistic vision behind?
Weinstock. Well, his photography in this is very different because he almost never does portraits and he specifically had to make them look like a war photographer’s portrait. And of course I did give him a little direction.
Coffin: How did the story or idea of the film first come to you?
Weinstock: Well originally I wanted to adapt a novel by Edith Wharton called The Mother’s Recompense about a very difficult mother daughter relationship in which the mother deserted her daughter for a long time so she could be free. Gloria Norris and I wrote that script but when it turned out that book was unavailable we started brainstorming other ideas.
Coffin: Would that film had been set in the time period of the Edith Wharton novel?
Weinstock: No, I never wanted to do a period piece or certainly not one that far back.
Coffin: Jennifer seems perfect for the role, because she is one of those tough as nails actresses who can also be vulnerable. How did you think of her?
Weinstock: Well, our casting director thought of her initially and told us to offer it to her. She read the script, we had a meeting and it all worked out. And she was a perfect choice.
Coffin. Alia is best known for doing comedies, specifically Arrested Development. How did you select her for this role, which is far more serious?
Weinstock: Well, she read with a lot of other actresses but we really needed someone who looked like they were capable of murder, and all these great actresses read, but none of them seemed capable of being that dark. And then she came in and we asked her to read the part as if she had committed the murder, and it was very, very interesting. Jennifer was there as well and she commented on how good Alia was. She has a toughness which makes that believable.
Coffin: One of the details we have to speak in general about is the fact that there is almost what is described as a false flashback in the film. Were you concerned about showing too much or making the audience feel as if they had been tricked?
Weinstock: No I wanted everything to seem like a fantasy; so he was telling his version of the story and the next time you see it, that is her imagined version of the story, which is probably is a little closer to what actually happened. But it was always meant to be open to interpretation.
Coffin: Did you study psychology and specifically post-traumatic stress to make this movie?
Weinstock: I did study post-traumatic stress. And it was interesting that during one of our screenings a women who had suffered from PTSD told me we had gotten it right and everything on screen made sense to her. Which was a relief to hear.
Coffin: The actress plays the psychologist, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, is very interesting and adds a lot to a role which could have been about pure exposition. What can you tell me about how you worked on that role?
Weinstock: I didn’t have a meeting with Marianne before starting, so she had done work on her own. When she came to set, she told me she wanted to take notes and I said a psychologist like her would never take notes, and so she agreed not to. But she had given herself a backstory, something like a tattoo on her back to suggest she had had a wild youth that she kept secret from her patients. And it was nothing like I thought the character I had written would be like, but it was a perfect interpretation of the character on her part and she was able to play that. But I should mention, that in the original script, we were going to have the same actress play the psychologist and daughter, but we decide it would be too strange
Coffin: It strikes me that this film is very female-centric, with a female psychologist treating a female patient and the mother-daughter relationship being explored, that the relationship with men could almost be considered secondary.
Weinstock: I wanted it to have both elements, and some people say they see it as a passionate love story first. But I think people bring their own interpretation to the film based on what they are most interested in.
Coffin: Because of non linear structure, were there other ways you could have laid out the film’s narrative?
Weinstock: How the film is now is how the film was in the script, for the most part. But at one point we did consider making it a linear film. But Jennifer didn’t like that at all when she saw a cut, and I started to think more and more about it as well, and went back to how it had been originally.
Coffin: What made you decide to start the film with Jennifer going into the house?
Weinstock: It was a way to set the film up as a thriller and mystery about this guy who has disappeared.
Coffin: Martin is great in the film, but as an actor he often has a very romantic side of him that we’re probably more used to seeing. How did the two of you decide how dark to make his character, so Lee would still fall for him, and when to show those shades in the film to the audience?
Weinstock: Well I think Lee is attracted to the dark side. I mean, apart from the fact Martin is gorgeous, there was always a certain darkness to his character that I think she liked that we didn’t need to hide.