A Conversation With The TEENAGE COCKTAIL Team

I met with director John Carchietta, actresses Michelle Bloom (who plays Annie) and Fabianne Therese (who plays Jules), as well as producer Travis Stevens on Sunday, March 13, 2016, to discuss their movie Teenage Cocktail, for which I also wrote a review. Here is a condensed digest of that conversation.

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed

Hammer to Nail: John, your film is fascinating. It starts off as a sort of lesbian coming-of-age story and then morphs into something quite different by the end. And quite violent, by the end. I’m wondering if you could just describe the evolution of the script. What came first? What elements interested you initially, and then how did it get transformed into what it became, or did you always have this in your head, exactly as is?

JC: Well, the script started with a friend of mine, Chris Sivertson, and early on, it was super-exploitative, in its own right. A lot of fun, but I think he grew out of it, and then I grew out of those same senses, but I always really enjoyed the general idea of the script. So he gave it to me, and was like, you know, will you rewrite it? Go to town on it. And early on I realized that I should be making a movie about my high school experience, because it’s so…outdated…and things started happening…I think maybe in the new things were happening, about webcamming, not even particularly teenagers, but it just happened to catch my eye. And I was like, oh, that…THAT should be what they’re doing. And then that just snowballed and evolved into just being on the Internet and realizing what teenagers were up to. Because you always hear stories about – wait, who wrote Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the book, not the movie?…the guy who did Almost Famous…well, you know, he went back to high school, because he looked young enough…

HtN: (after a few moments) Cameron …

TS: … Cameron Crowe!

HtN: That’s right, Cameron Crowe!

JC: That’s right. Well, he actually enrolled in high school, because he looked young enough, and that’s how he got all the material. There’s no way I could do that. I thought it would be super creepy if I tried to hang out with teenagers. So I was, like, what are teenagers today? It’s all Internet. So I just went on the web, and that just gave me…

HtN: (laughs) Which is creepy in its own way, but that’s OK …

JC: (laughs) Yeah …

HtN: You know, I kind of see the film as a Heathers for our Tinder era. I mean, not just to do these kinds of comparisons, but …

 JC: No, I love that. I’m going to use that!

HtN: I mean, it’s very much in that vein, with one person leading the other astray.

JC: Yeah, all those kinds of movies were very much in the back of my head.

HtN: So now on to you, Nichole and Fabianne. How much time did the two of you spend, during pre-production, developing your rapport? Because it feels really natural, as if you’ve been friends…well, you actually meet for the first time in the film, but then shortly thereafter it kind of feels as if you’ve been friends forever. You’re very, very relaxed. How much time did you spend getting to know each other? Did you know each other before the film?

NB: Well, we had met prior to the film, and we tried to hang out. But I remember that we didn’t have a lot of prep time. It was maybe like a couple of weeks, I want to say…

FT: But we really used the time well. We had sleepovers, and watched movies, and texted, and she had a crush on a friend of mine…(chuckles)

NB: Wait! I don’t even…OK…we’ll talk about that later…

(everyone laughs)

NB (cont.): But yeah, I think that during filming you just naturally get close through spending so much time together. And I think that we just, naturally, we just get along. And so it was not something that I felt like I had to put a lot of effort into.

FT: And John let us kind of rewrite some of the stuff from the point of view of how a girl would really think and say stuff. And I think that that also brought us closer, because it wasn’t just that we were going off to our own homes and then coming to set to do our jobs…

NB: Yeah!

FT: We were, like, after we would get off set, we would hang out, and then go over the stuff that we were shooting the next day, and then rewrite it, and then be, like, well, this happened to me when I was in high school, and this was how I handled it. And so the allowance of being able to create stuff in our own way, and have it be more of a collaboration, allowed us to really connect, I think.

JC: And I can [see] that from the outside, the first time I put them together, just sitting back and watching, it was just instant.

HtN: That brings up an interesting follow-up. Did you cast one, first, and then look for someone who would pair well?

 JC: It was kind of almost at the same time. It kind of overlapped in time…

TS: We had that approach, early in the process, where we were trying to pair, and it just went on and on and on, but then once we got Fabianne and Nichole, it was just…

JC: …it just made sense. Because it was also important to me that if I needed them to, they could play either role.

HtN: Interesting …

JC: And I could still see them, even if they swapped it, I could still see it working. And that was super important.

HtN: You know, I think that you should do the film again, with them swapping roles, and you can get the guy playing the father to swap out with the creepy guy …I would love to see that reversal. That seems fascinating.

FT: The thing is, though, that Annie and Jules aren’t so different. Like, you see it through her [Annie’s] point of view, but she’s doing all the same things. You know, whatever our backstory was that we worked on, they’re a lot more similar than maybe it seems at first. Like, we’re not foils of each other, but really similar.

NB: Yeah, I would agree, and towards the end of the film, they reach that place where they’re both finally kind of equal. And Jules does bring out Annie’s bad-girl side, or whatever. You see that come out of her, and…

FT: …like you see the power shift, like…well, Jules definitely has the power – which you actually see a lot when you have a new friendship, or love, or whatever – and then that pendulum definitely swings, and then at the end, because it’s from her [Jules’] point of view, at the end – well, I don’t want to give anything away – but you see my character’s insecurity, with her “Do you really love me?”…

HtN: Right – you’re the one asking that question…

FT: Right! And had the story been told from my point of view, it would have a lot of her insecurities…

NB: Yeah, that’s so true.

HtN: So, John, the film is really beautifully photographed, with a pretty plot-centered narrative, overall, but you do have these occasional moments of elliptical storytelling that are fascinating, where you choose to do a lot just by holding on the faces of your actresses. I’m wondering how you came about those moments, and for example, there’s a scene where Jules shows up to meet Annie’s family, and…they’ve already met. She says “Hi” to Annie’s mom in a very familiar way. But we’ve never seen that scene. You have a couple moments like that, where it’s kind of nice and refreshing, to not be telling us all the parts of the story. Did that happen in the editing? Did you always want to do things that way?

JC: Well, that scene, particularly, probably happened in the editing. But that is sort of an overall sense of how I wanted to approach everything, visually. I’m a very visual person, and I think that’s a huge and important key to storytelling. And I had sort of the same experience as I had meeting Fabianne and Nichole for the first time when I met the cinematographer [Justin Kane]. Because that was a brand new relationship. And we just had all the same references. We were into all the same kind of visual styles. And then while I was digging around on the web for teenage influences, we found this photographer, Petra Collins, and then that just became…we were just obsessed with her work and it became a huge influence on how to frame them, naturally, and to just have fun with the camera, and keep it moving. And making sure that everything just made sense. That close-ups made sense.

HtN: And what did you shoot on?

JC: The Alexa.

HtN: Great! Well, thank you, everyone, for your time, and good luck with the film!

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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