Q&A: Rebecca Green & Laura D. Smith Talk Producing ‘IT FOLLOWS’ & ‘I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS’

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Film Independent Film Forum - Day 2Preston Barta // Features Editor

Rebecca Green (above, left) and Laura D. Smith (right) are two of the most inventive independent film producers working today. Having worked under the wing of Paul Thomas Anderson and contributed to Eli Roth’s blood-filled world in CABIN FEVER— it’s safe to say this duo has several successes under their belts.

Since becoming producing partners, Green and Smith have begun specializing in low budget horror films (IT FOLLOWS) and recently shifted into hard-hitting dramas (I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS).

Green and Smith stopped in Dallas for the regional premiere of I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, following the story of a widow (Blythe Danner) who decides to change her life and date again. The bittersweet film opened the Dallas International Film Festival last night, but it screens again tonight. Smith will also be representing another film in which she produced titled HOLBROOK/ TWAIN: AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY, a documentary about Academy Award nominated actor Hal Holbrook (INTO THE WILD) and his famed one-man stage show MARK TWAIN TONIGHT! All information on tickets and screenings can be found on diff2015.dallasfilm.org.

Green and Smith had a lengthy but extremely fascinating conversation with us about I’LL SEE YOU IN OUR DREAMS, HOLBROOK/TWAIN and their dead-teenager scarefest IT FOLLOWS. Our interview will be split up into different segments and will be posted over the course of the festival, which runs until Sunday, April 19. You can check out the first part of our conversation below, where we discuss the nightmare that is IT FOLLOWS, as well as the terrifying giant and scares within.

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Maika Monroe (THE GUEST) stars in IT FOLLOWS. Photo courtesy of RADiUS-TWC.

With IT FOLLOWS having just released and I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS coming up in May, you both have been really busy lately.

Rebecca Green: “It’s funny. I don’t think people realize that we wrapped IT FOLLOWS in November of 2013 and I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS in March of 2014, and we’re just beyond exhausted.”

Laura D. Smith: “Just one after the next.”

Green: “And Brett [Haley] (director of I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS) wants to make another film with us and all I want to do is take a break [Laughs].”

Hey, that’s totally understandable.

Green: “Yeah, we wrapped I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS this time last year. [David Robert] Mitchell (writer-director of IT FOLLOWS) had a 10-week director’s edit, and he truly didn’t want to hear from anybody during that time. So during that time we made I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS.”

That’s crazy and convenient. When we spoke with Joss Whedon for his Shakespeare adaptation of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING he mentioned that he shot the film while on a two-week break for THE AVENGERS.

Green: “[Laughs] Exactly like that. I remember when I told [Mitchell] about it, he was a little shell shocked that we completed a movie in that time frame.”

Well, congratulations. And congratulations on IT FOLLOWS getting a wide release!

Green: “Thank you! It’s been really amazing. People who know indie film know how substantial it is. It seems as though the theatrical release is coming back, you know, after the craze for VOD. Both IT FOLLOWS and I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS got theatrical releases. I know for DREAMS it’s getting a very traditional roll-out release.

And from a filmmaker’s standpoint, when you hear that a film is getting released on VOD, it’s just not as fulfilling. Even if the VOD numbers end up being bigger, there’s just something about people going out to your movie and making it a night. You don’t get that same audience. It’s hard making these kind of films, so it’s definitely more rewarding.”

Especially IT FOLLOWS, for me. I saw it back in September at Fantastic Fest.

Green: “Oh, how fun!”

Yeah! It just one of those films that leaves you with so much to talk about. So it’s nice to take that film in, in a theater setting.

Green: “Did you talk to Mitchell there?”

Yes. One of my colleagues did (interview here). And I spoke with Disasterpeace and Jake Weary.

Green: “Oh, cool. We love Jake.”

Smith: “Jake is so nice. Yeah. I was like, ‘You’re the nicest guy who has ever played an asshole that I’ve ever met’ [Laughs]. Even at the Eli Roth Q&A the other day, he was like, ‘Yeah. I’ve played an asshole a lot.’ He has that tough guy look but he’s also very good looking. He’s so sweet.”

That’s really funny. He’s a great guy. I enjoyed talking to him.

Green: “Yeah. Jake’s our favorite.”

Jake Weary and Maika Monroe star in IT FOLLOWS. Photo courtesy of RADiUS-TWC.

Jake Weary and Maika Monroe star in IT FOLLOWS. Photo courtesy of RADiUS-TWC.

Have you guys ever had experiences where a movie stayed with you, followed you after you saw it? I feel like that’s been the case for many people after seeing IT FOLLOWS. Well, it was for me at least.

Green: “Any Lars von Trier movie. He’s my favorite filmmaker, which people find weird because they probably wouldn’t put me and his films together. For me, it’s always been about, and it shows in IT FOLLOWS— everything in the frame is intentional. You go back and see different things and feel different things. Some things were not intentional, but it’s just what happened that day and was coincidental [Laughs].

When I walk away from a von Trier film I wonder what happened because he tells such deep, theoretical and lesson-filled stories– not in any obvious way whatsoever. People just have so many different interpretations.”

Absolutely. I’ve noticed a few documentaries have been made looking for deeper meaning in film, such as ROOM 237.

Green: “Oh, yeah! About THE SHINING.”

Smith: “I want to see that!”

It’s such a fascinating film where people present all their different theories and look for beyond-the-surface meaning in scenes. Some things were intentional, some weren’t– some of the stuff is just ridiculous, but it’s all good fun.

Smith: “Someone made a joke that in 10 years someone will do that with IT FOLLOWS [Laughs]. You know from a production standpoint, how much of it was–”

Green: “Just what it was.”

Smith: “Yeah! Arbitrary on a day, or just all the perimeters of production you’re battling.”

Green: “People are going to see it more than once. I haven’t seen that in a long time, or in the indie film world at least. I get messages on Twitter all the time from strangers and even my own family. My sister, who goes to Disneyland three times a year, saw IT FOLLOWS and said, ‘I just have to go see it again! I have to understand everything’ [Laughs].”

Smith: “There were people the other night who said it was their fourth time seeing it, which is amazing– to have something that engages you in that way.”

Honestly, I’ve seen it about that many times as well. It really does engage you in a way that you want to keep visiting it.

Smith: “When you saw it again, how did your perception of seeing it evolve? Did you feel any different about it?”

I got everything from my first viewing. It’s pretty simple to understand. My appreciation for it just grew.

Smith: “In terms of suspense, did anything change for you?”

No, not at all. It’s still terrifying to me as the first time. That one scene where that really tall guy comes through the door– it gives me chills every time.

Green: “GQ just wrote an article about the giants today.”

Really? That’s interesting.

Smith: “What was it about? How to dress dapper when you’re seven feet tall? [Laughs]”

Writer-director David Robert Mitchell and Mike Lanier, the seven-foot-seven giant of IT FOLLOWS. Photo courtesy of Mike Lanier.

Writer-director David Robert Mitchell and Mike Lanier, the seven-foot-seven giant of IT FOLLOWS. Photo courtesy of Mike Lanier.

Green: “It was about what it’s like to be a giant, and there is a photo of Mitchell standing right next to him. The giant in the movie is played by one of these twins.”

That’s really cool. I will have to check that out. Is it awkward when you have to reach out and do a casting call for people with a condition like that?

Smith: “It was a little sensitive because you’re trying to be respectful, since it is such a serious condition.”

Green: “Right. Even something as simple as driving is such a task for them, you know? Just getting into the car is. They cannot be on their feet all day. If they wouldn’t have told us, we would’ve had no idea.”

Smith: “They couldn’t even sit in the chairs that we had on set. They had to sit in the back of someone’s pickup truck.”

Did the script call for someone that tall?

Green: “I can’t remember how it was originally written but it didn’t call for a giant. I do remember when we were in pre-production Mitchell said that he wanted a real giant. It was supposed to be someone tall and scary, and all of a sudden he was like, ‘I need a real giant!’ We weren’t that far from shooting and I was like, ‘There’s no way. How are we going to find someone that quick?’ We were literally on Wikipedia, doing Google searches and it became this big thing. We were calling all these random people.”

Smith: “There was this guy in Germany and he was one of the tallest people in the world.”

Green: “Literally. But we couldn’t afford to travel even if they took our call.”

Smith: “That’s right, because we talked to a guy in Wisconsin, too. He’s the tallest man in North America.”

Green: “Yeah. But our location manager, who found one of the houses we used in the movie, she was just chatting with the people around the neighborhood and she brought up that we were looking for a giant. One of the people said, ‘Well, there’s these twin giants who live just down the street.’ She said, Really?! Do you have their number?’”

Wow! That’s incredible.

Green: “So we got their info. They were twins who lived in the town we were shooting in! They wanted to do it and that was that.”

Meant to be.

Smith: “That’s why I am a producer and not a director. If I was a director, I would have said, ‘Well, OK. That’s too complicated.’ I would compromise. But when you’re that committed to your vision–”

Green: “Everybody talks about that scene now.”

Totally worth it.

Green: “It really was.”

To be continued…

Feature Photo: Filmmakers Laura D. Smith and Rebecca Green attend the Film Independent Film Forum at Directors Guild of America on October 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, CA. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Leibson/WireImage.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.