Q&A Cont.: Rebecca Green & Laura D. Smith On ‘I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS’ and The Role Of A Producer


16914523419_33e6c21869_bPreston Barta // Features Editor

Yesterday we posted the first part of our interview with producers Rebecca Green (above, second from the left) and Laura D. Smith (far left), where we primarily focused on the stories behind the horror wonder IT FOLLOWS (view part one here).

The next segment of our conversation concentrates on their next producing work, I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, which opened the Dallas International Film Festival on Thursday night. We also discussed the role of a producer, their approach to taking on films, and where they plan to go from here.

Sam Elliot and Blythe Danner star in I'll See You In My Dreams. Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street Media.

Sam Elliot and Blythe Danner star in I’ll See You In My Dreams. Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street Media.

IT FOLLOWS and I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS are very different films. Is there a particular genre that you are more attracted to? How do you select the projects you take on?

Rebecca Green: “I worked at Lionsgate for a long time. The first film that I worked on when I started with them was Eli Roth’s CABIN FEVER, and I think that was the point when horror started to actually become something again. The kind of movies that I like to make are the ones that you haven’t seen before, and that can be any genre.

I knew that when I read IT FOLLOWS that it was something that I hadn’t read before. With I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, it was completely different in terms of story and tone, but there was still this provocative aspect to it. I hadn’t seen a sexy movie with 70-year-olds falling in love, aside from, you know, THE GOLDEN GIRLS— I just hadn’t really seen it. I think younger people may not at first be intrigued, but I believe once they sit down and give it a chance they will be pulled into it.

Ultimately, we’re looking for that original aspect and provocativeness in some way, but also something that is commercial, because we want people to see our movies. You look for that story that’s going to push the boundaries but also get people in the seats. I think that’s hard to find, but we found that with both IT FOLLOWS and I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS.”

I would definitely say so.

Laura D. Smith: “I think that’s a maturity with filmmakers, too. So often they’re committed to this obscure story and it’s all about– I mean, I’ve had filmmakers actually say, ‘I make movies for me and not for my audience.’ It’s such an irresponsible and immature way to approach it. At the end of the day when someone gives you millions of dollars, you’re not just in it for yourself. There’s a responsibility to that.

To find that balance where you retain your vision and have your voice and still make something commercial– I think that’s really something, like David [Robert Mitchell] (writer-director of IT FOLLOWS) or Brett [Haley] (co-writer/director of I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS). To understand that I’m not selling out in terms of my vision; I’m just merging my vision with something that people want to see.”

Green: “Yes. Both of these stories come from personal places. IT FOLLOWS is Mitchell’s nightmare, but he’s not in the movie. He didn’t make it about him and his nightmare, and a lot of filmmakers would just do that. He took it beyond that, and the same with [Haley]. [Haley] is a very curious person who doesn’t want to make films about himself. He would say, ‘Why would anybody want to see a movie about me? I’m a 30-year-old white man.’ It’s really hard to find that.”

I feel as though many people knew Mitchell from his first work, THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER, but with DREAMS, I don’t think as many people are familiar with Haley’s first feature, THE NEW YEAR. And you have veterans actors in DREAMS: Blythe Danner, Sam Elliot, and Rhea Perlman among others. How did you get that particular cast on board with such a relatively unknown filmmaker?

Post-screening Q&A with moderator Lee Papert (President and CEO of the Dallas Film Society), Blythe Danner and I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS director Brett Haley. Photo courtesy of Dallas Film Society.

Post-screening Q&A with moderator Lee Papert (President and CEO of the Dallas Film Society), Blythe Danner and I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS director Brett Haley. Photo courtesy of the Dallas Film Society.

Smith: “On the first couple of days on set you could rightfully see the actors kind of question whether or not a person knows what they are doing or not, especially with DREAMS, because we shot it in 18 days. So for [Haley] to say, ‘Yeah! We got it. Moving on,’ as a performer you’re probably really nervous about that. We would shoot until [Haley] felt like he got what he needed and then he would let the actors do a fun take, and often those ended up being the best ones.”

Green: “I think [Danner] started it. After one of her scenes she said, ‘Well, let me do one more for fun.'”

Smith: “You saw how– I think it was [Elliot] who would test [Haley] a lot, but [Haley] would come back in such a way where he showed that he was in charge, but in a collaborative way. It was so great to see. And then you see [Elliot] just go, ‘OK. I’m going to just let myself go to this person I trust with their vision.’ And with [Haley] being an editor, too, he just knew so clearly what he needed.”

He knew how to shoot for the edit.

Smith: “Yeah! He knew how to put it together, which was huge.”

Green: “Usually as producers you’re very weary when a filmmakers wants to edit their film as well.”

Understandably so.

Green: “But with [Haley] we didn’t really have any argument because we both loved his first film, THE NEW YEAR. It was definitely a leap of faith, but it was such an amazing shift of gears. One, it was probably one of the reasons why we were able to move to production in the way that we did, because he really thinks with that head-space. We were really amazed that when he was in the editing room he let go of the director’s hat and put on the editor’s hat. He was not precious. He was willingly to try anything, he took people’s notes, but he was also very clear about what he wanted with us from the beginning.

Yeah, there were some things that got cut, but when he watched it as a whole he would say, ‘Yeah. I don’t miss it.’ That’s what’s really rare. You don’t get filmmakers who can just switch mentalities like that and just know what’s best for the movie.”

Smith: “And I think that’s why I wouldn’t let most directors cut their own film.”

Green: “Yeah, but with [Haley] it was very easy. I would let him do it again.”

Smith: “We all have so much respect for him, and he deserves it.”

Green: “He’s a real leader.”

Was it like that with the writing, too?

Green: “Yes. He could turn around a first draft in two weeks. The same way that he’s not precious about editing, he wasn’t precious about writing. ‘Read it. Tell me what you think.’ He doesn’t hold it tight or is nervous to show us his work, which helps speed up the process, makes it more collaborative and fun for us, because we’re really in it from the beginning.

That’s the kind of work as producers you want to do. We’re get emails from people who say we have this script, this, that or whatever– but we want to develop stories from the ground up. We’re both storytellers, too, and went to film school. I don’t just want to be the line producer and just handle the budget and production. There are some producers who handle the creative side, some that just do money– I think that’s why the position is so confusing to people. There are people who just do certain elements, but we’re beginning-to-end producers, and that’s really what we want to be doing.

I think that’s what really is great about the three of us. We want to keep working together. We talk all the time about where we want to be, how we want to get there, and how we’re going to get there. I think a lot of filmmakers get caught up in the immediate filmmaker’s work from a place of desperation. They’ll do anything for money to get the movie made, and we were at that place at one point, but we want to shift that. We want to make sure we’re making strategic, smart decisions. We’re not only thinking about what’s next but two movies out. So if we’re really going to keep making movies, we need to be smarter and do it from a strategic, business aspect as well.”

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS opens in limited release on May 15.
Dallas-Ft. Worth: Landmark Magnolia, Angelika Film Center – Plano (May 22)

Our interview with Blythe Danner and Brett Haley (including the film’s trailer):

Feature Photo: Mary Katherine Corsland (executive producer), Blythe Danner (talent), Brett Haley (co-writer/director), Rebecca Green (producer) and Laura D. Smith (producer) on the Dallas International Film Festival red carpet for the regional premiere of I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS (Thursday, April 9, 2015). Photo courtesy of the Dallas Film Society.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.