At the Sundance Institute at BAM, David Gordon Green, director of George Washington, All the Real Girls and Undertow, screened his latest feature, Snow Angels, that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Green adapted Snow Angels from the novel by Stewart O’Nan. Together with cast members Sam Rockwell (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) and Olivia Thirlby (United 93), Green addressed the audience during a Q&A after the screening.
My knowledge of Snow Angels stems from my days attending SUNY Brockport about 10 years ago, where I took a class called The Writers Craft. If my memory serves me correct, it was actually O’ Nan’s The Speed Queen that I had to read for the class, and O’Nan came to do a reading at The Writers Forum . However, I read Snow Angels anyway on my own.
After watching the movie Snow Angels at BAM, I recall at least one major difference, that being that there seemed to be a lot more interaction between the characters of Annie (played by Kate Beckinsale) and Arthur (played by Michael Angarano). The plot unwinds differently in the film than it does in the book, but they both seem to have the same traggic effect.
Also in attendance at the screening were filmmakers Craig Zobell (Great World of Sound), Michael Tully (Silver Jew), Todd Rohal (The Guatemalan Handshake), and Aaron Katz (Quiet City). It was Tully’s blog, Boredom at Its Boredest, where I was reminded about yesterday’s screening of Snow Angels. Thanks for the reminder, Tully!
Here are my notes from the Q&A with Green (DGG), Rockwell (SR), and Thirlby (OT):
Q: What grabbed you about the story [Stewart O' Nan's novel]?
DGG: I read it in a couple of sittings. Takes place in the 1970s. Don’t know how autobiographical it was to O’ Nan. It felt immediate to me. It haunted me. The book goes into greater depth. I made it more comtemporary, tried to cast it appropriately and bring a humantity to the roles.
Q: How was it to adapt a novel?
DGG: It was the first thing I got paid for. This book is so full of good stuff. I took out some of the characters like Arthur’s sister. In the book, Arthur is grown up and looking back.
Q: What made you cast Griffin Dunne [in the role of Arthur's father Don]?
DGG: When I was writing the adaptation, I had him in mind. Everyone in the cast is funny. It was important to allow them to breath and laugh. Griffin has had a wonderful career balancing roles.
Q: What was your favorite thing working on this film?
SR: The collaboration. One of the best experiences of collaboration I ever had working with great actors. My acting coach is in the audience. David set a tone like movies in the 1970s, ie. Hal Ashby. It was just fun. David just let me do stuff most directors wouldn’t let me do.
OT: I second that. The entire crew were incredibly awesome people. That vibe translates onto the screen.
Q: What was the hardest scene to do? ***SPOILER ALERT*** DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS
SR: The suicide scene for example. Got a lot of help from people. That scene was very technical. They put sardine oil on my neck to get the dog to lick my neck, but he wouldn’t lick me. We had to deal with that. David let the last take go a long time before yelling “cut.”
Q: Showing the scenes of violence between Kate Beckinsale’s character of Annie and her daughter were courageous.
DGG: I wouldn’t call it violence, just parenting. We didn’t make it glamorous. Kate brought her own ideas into the reality of the situation, creating a more human portrait.
Q: Who did you model your character after?
DGG: People I probably shouldn’t mention. A lot of the prototype anti-heroes of the 1970s. Have a friend who’s a priest who helped him with “born-again” research.