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Lawrence Michael Levine, Kate Lyn Sheil and Sophia Takal (right) star in Green, written and directed by Takal.

Sophia Takal

2011 AFI Fest interview

Nov 05, 2011 Sophia Takal
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With her feature-length directing debut, Green, Brooklyn-based filmmaker and actress Sophia Takal wanted to examine how friendships between women can be destroyed by jealousy, and how the urge to measure oneself against someone else is detrimental to such relationships. Takal’s fiancée, Lawrence Michael Levine, is also a filmmaker/actor, and the emotional and psychological conflicts she explores in Green came to the fore for her last year, when Levine’s filmmaking duties required him to work intimately with other women while spending long hours away.

The most immediate association with the film’s title might be “green with envy,” but there are other connotations at work. In the film, Levine plays Sebastian, a New York journalist who ventures with his girlfriend, Genevieve (Kate Lyn Sheil), to Virginia to write a blog about sustainable farming. There, they meet a chatty and somewhat clingy local, Robin, played by Takal. The intellectual couple at first try to distance themselves from their less-cultured neighbor, but their perceptions of her evolve.

The film, which earned a Gotham Award nomination last month and a jury prize for Takal at SXSW, is distinguished by naturalistic performances from its three leads, smart dialogue, and Takal’s keen directorial instincts for mood, atmosphere and pacing.

Takal, Levine and Sheil are real-life Brooklyn roommates. All three starred in Gabi on the Roof in July, which played at festivals last year and in New York theaters early this year. Levine directed and co-wrote the film, and Takal edited it. It’s currently available on iTunes. Sheil appears in three other films at AFI Fest this week, and all three actors appear in Joe Swanberg’s The Zone, which screens on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Under the Radar spoke with Sophia Takal the day before Green‘s first screening at AFI. The film’s second screening is tonight at 10 p.m.

I enjoyed reading your filmmaker comments in the press packet. A lot of directors don’t like being so candid about their films. Is a write-up like that part of the submission process for festivals, or was that strictly for press notes?

Strictly for press notes. I’m always surprised by that. People say that a lot, that I seem particularly honest, but I don’t understand why anyone would lie. I feel like part of making movies, especially independent ones, is be honest and be open. I know that it’s true, but I just am always surprised when people sort of are bullshit.

Sometimes you’ll ask filmmakers and artists certain questions about their work, and they’d prefer you to mull over the question rather giving a direct answer.

Yeah, huh. Well, I’m glad that you liked it and don’t think that I’m really crazy.

In those comments, you start out by saying that intense jealousy has been an unavoidable part of your personality. If that’s the case, aren’t you in the wrong business?

Yeah, I’m starting to realize I am. [Laughs] But, I don’t know. There’s a lot of competition, there’s a lot of weirdness, but in the end, getting to make movies and express myself and getting to work with really talented people is just so rewarding that it’s worth it. And I feel like everyone that I am surrounded by is really supportive, and we all try to help each other any way that we can. At least at the level that I’m making films at, it seems like everyone wants everyone else to do well, even if there is a little bit of jealousy here and there. I think, Kate, who’s the other actress in the movie, is a really good example. She’s my best friend, and she’s an actress, and she’s doing really well, and it’s really hard not to be jealous sometimes. But, it’s important to ground myself and remember why I’m doing this, even though sometimes I have no idea why I’m doing this. [Laughs]

How did you two meet?

She auditioned for Gabi on the Roof in July, which is a film that Lawrence directed and I produced. She was recommended by another actress that we know, Amy Seimetz, and we thought she was one of the best actresses that we’d ever seen. She has a part in that, and she was such a pleasure to work with, and we became really good friends during that. She ended up moving in with us, and we decided to all make a movie together, and I felt like her part in Gabi hadn’t been big enough and really showed what she could do, so I decided to work with her on a more dynamic and interestingnot that her other character was not interesting, but just a little bit more of dynamic, bigger part because I thought she deserved it.

I remember reading an interview with Paul Thomas Anderson years ago in conjunction with Boogie Nights, and he said he felt jealous when Julianne Moore signed on with other projects after that. Even though he didn’t have a project for her, he felt an irrational sense of betrayal.

[Laughs] I really relate to that.

I was gonna ask if you can you relate to that.

Yeah. The thing about Kate, in particular, she obviously should take all the opportunities she’s getting, but there’s a sense of possessiveness that you sometimes get with people you work with. It’s challenging to make movieseven at a small level, maybe especially at a small level, in some waysbut you get so close with people, and you learn so much about each other, and you develop a rapport. I think part of what made Green so fun was that we all lived together, and we knew what we liked aesthetically. The issues that we were examining, we talked about before we even decided to make the movie. And, it’s always scary to think that maybe that was the last time, or things will change. And our relationship, tooif Lawrence gets asked to do movies, I get jealous, ‘cause I’m afraid that will change our relationship or make what we did seem less special. But, for most of the time, I’m happy.

Reading about you and the film, I can see how you’d identify with Genevieve, but I’m curious how you identify with Robin?

I really identify with one part of Robin, which is her lack of knowledge of the hipsters in Brooklyn. Like, Larry and Kate both know a lot about music. They’ve read a lot of both, they’ve seen a lot of obscure films, and they talk about that a lot, and I always felt like the odd man out, and even felt sort of frustrated that I was not included because people were talking about cultural references that I didn’t understand and, because I was a little younger, I was especially defensive, because I felt like that meant that there was something wrong with me. And, now I’m like, “There’s too many books and movies to know everything about everything.” And so, I feel less defensive now, but there are certainly still times where Kate and Larry are talking about a band that I’ve never heard of, and it’s not even that obscure of a band. I really don’t know anything about music. So, I really related to that outsiderness of Robin, and I thought it would be fun to play that character. I didn’t really wanna relive the feelings of jealousy; I left that up to Kate, and I sort of thought it would be fun to play the outsider. I think that my character’s really fun and interesting and maybe not as complicateShe doesn’t have as much of an arc as Genevieve, but I think has a lot of different dynamics that are interesting to look at and play with.

Where did you grow up?

New Jersey.

And you shot in Virginia?

It’s set in Virginia, yeah.

But you didn’t shoot there?

No, we shot at my dad’s house in Pennsylvania, ‘cause it was a free place to shoot.

OK, so how did you decide to set the film in Virginia and come up with the accent for your character?

I wanted Genevieve and Sebastian to first of all be physically as far away from New York as they could be, so that Genevieve was really trapped somewhere. But I also wanted them to be culturally and, lifestyle-wise, also removed from what they were used to. And I wanted Genevieve and Robin to be as superficially different as possible, so that when they did form a friendship, it wasn’t based on cultural touchstones, like, “Oh, you love that artist or that movie, so do I.” I wanted it to be based on a more intuitive [connection] as women. So, I think that allowed for Genevieve’s character to come out of her shell more, because there was no need to impress. And, at the same time, there was no way to escape who she really was by putting on a pose and talking about Proust or Philip Roth or whatever. The way to relate was to be authentic. And so, even though it didn’t last very long within the film, the moment where she achieves a state of authenticity is drawn out by Robin, and the difference between her and Robin. So, that’s sort of where I came up with that.

Green - Clip #1 from Sophia Takal on Vimeo.

In terms of playing a local, was that character based on anyone you knew?

Yeah, definitely. Actually, two people that I grew up with. I went to that house that we shot in every weekend and for all summer growing up, so, for 18 years, I was just there almost all the time, and it was based on two people that I knew very closely there, but like, with a Southern accent for them. ‘Cause a Pennsylvania accent is a lot harder than the Southern accent. Say what you will about my Southern accent, but the Pennsylvania one would have been a lot worse. [Laughs]

What sparked your interest in acting?

I wanted to do it for so long, and I guess the first movie I really remember seeing and being like, “I want that to be me” was Meet Me in St. Louis, and I got really obsessed with Judy Garland for a while. And kinda from there I started actually pursuing acting.

Did you go the musical theater route at any point?

No, I can’t sing at all. [Laughs]

And filmmaking came as an extension of acting?

It did. When I went to college, it was a liberal arts college, and, if you wanted to study acting, you had to study everything about theatertheater history and lighting and soundand I realized that I was more interested in all of those aspects of filmmaking, and that I would rather be watching movies and studying film history than reading Shakespeare. So that’s how I got involved in film. And both my parents majored in film, so I guess that was the model I looked at, and then I started making short films and acting a lot in my classmates’ films. And then Lawrence was my T.A. at college, and we met there, and then started dating and making movies together.

Are your parents still filmmakers?

No. My mom’s a publicist, and my dad has a production company, but he does a lot of internet videos and commercials.

I think you and Lawrence found an incredible balance with the character of Sebastian. He’s basically an upbeat guy, charming at times, he makes Genevieve laugh, but he’s also condescending and domineering in a way that can get under your skin.

Yeah, totally. People always come up to him after screenings and are like, “I assumed you were going to be a huge jerk.” He’s not a jerk at all. He’s really emotionally articulate and sensitive, and I think that allowed him to have fun with this idea of a guy who maybe is ignorant of the subtleties of the way Genevieve is feeling, but he also is really charming and funny, and we talked a lot about a character whoHis girlfriend is an extension of him. He’s feeding into all of her insecurities also. She’s pretty and she’s younger, and it makes him look good. We talked a lot about a character whose charm has enabled him to sort of neglect the women he’s with in the past. And, also, we thought it would be a really funny idea to have a guy who doesn’t know anything about farming writing a blog about farming.

What can you tell me about yours and Lawrence’s characters in The Zone?

We play a couple. It’s really interesting, because, when we were making the movie, clear characters emerged. We’re not really playing ourselves, even though the circumstance is so intertwined with our real living situation. It didn’t really feel like we were making a movie, but, in the end, somehow, we created these different characters. But, I actually haven’t seen the film, so I can’t really talk about it, unfortunately.

What’s your week going to be like? Will it be all press and business, or are you gonna try to see some films?

I’m gonna try to see some films. We’re leaving on Sunday, though. We’ve been here for a week, and we have to get back. We’re acting in a movie together, Lawrence and I. Yeah, we’re gonna try to see as many movies as possible but probably won’t be able to get to that many.

Do you still feel immersed in Green, or have you begun on a new project?

I’m working on two new projects right now. One is a comedy about a white girl who goes to Africa to find herself. And the other, Lawrence and I are writing together and hopefully directing together. Usually, we switch off, but we’re gonna really try hard not to fight and to actually make a movie together. So, that one, we’ll be shooting in January, in L.A. actually.

Green will screen tonight at the Chinese 3 at 10 p.m.

www.afifest.com

www.themoviegreen.com

Green - a film by Sophia Takal - Trailer from Sophia Takal on Vimeo.



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Ali Temel
November 6th 2011
1:36pm

ı copy this article for my webpage :) Okey admin ? :)

En Ucuz
March 26th 2012
6:10pm

yeeaapp! wonderfull.