TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL | 2019
Drew Denny: "I'd like to retain some of the intuitive approach I had in the beginning but evolve that with the knowledge that only comes with experience and repetition."
MOMSTER | Premiere | USA
When notorious bank robber, the Momster (Amanda Plummer), catches her daughter Angel (Brianna Hildebrand) mid-gunfight, Angel thinks she's being rescued... until she realizes she has to do the saving.
Hi Drew thanks for talking to TNC, how's everything going?
Thanks for reaching out! I'm so glad to be speaking with you. All's well here in sunny California, currently recording on my first podcast project that will be released by the CBC in January and rehearsing a new play so... staying busy!
How does it feel to have Momster part of this years Tribeca Film Festival?
I am so honoured to be included in such a prestigious festival and could not be more excited.
Will there be any nerves ahead of the festival?
Of course! I've got butterflies just thinking about it. But that's usually a good indication that something is important, so I've learned to befriend the butterflies...
Momster is a female-led film with an all-female head of departments, how did this come about?
As a female filmmaker, I have experienced firsthand the discrimination that people are reporting in statistical analyses and news articles. I know in my bones what it means that only 4% of directing jobs go to women. So when I'm hiring I always intentionally seek out female and genderqueer talent as well as folks who identify as people of colour and/or LGBTQ+. To this end, I also founded a 501c3 non-profit organization called Allies in Arts which supports artists of all mediums who identify as women, LGBTQ+ and/or people of colour.
Will this continue with more films you make?
Can you tell me a little bit about Momster, how did this film come about?
I was taking care of my mom last summer- she struggles with early onset dementia- and during one particularly challenging day with her, I wondered what it would be like if, rather than shopping in the grocery store, if she and I were in the middle of something a bit higher stakes... like a bank heist. Amanda Plummer's character the Momster was born that day in the dairy aisle of Winn-Dixie.
What was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
I felt excited by the idea of telling a really action-packed story that just happens to be led by female characters who take turns saving each other.
"Now I always do a 'density pass' on every script and again on every shot list."
What was the most challenging part of bringing Momster to life?
I realize now it was a bit ambitious to try to do a whole action movie - with a bit of a romance and some comedy- in 10 minutes. We could only shoot 2.5 days on our budget so our greatest struggle was landing all the scenes and beats in such a short time. The most challenging moment, specifically, was capturing that one-shot scene near the end of the film -- I saw it so precisely in my mind, the way the camera would interact with the skaters and the cops and all the characters in Wild Ride... and I'm so happy to say that the shot looks exactly as I dreamed it would, which is such an incredible feeling.
Have you always been interested in filmmaking?
I wanted to be an actress when I was a kid. Then in high school, I fell in love with the camera and wanted to be a DP but sort of cheated on camera when I got into sound in college and started playing in bands. Directing is my dream job because I get to dig into each of these processes and collaborate with every department to bring it all to life.
How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut film?
I hope I've grown! I'd like to retain some of the intuitive approach I had in the beginning but evolve that with the knowledge that only comes with experience and repetition. After shooting and directing a few dozen documentaries, for example- where you rarely get to control any circumstances of your shoot- I feel really comfortable having to rearrange a shoot in the middle of the day, drop everything to chase a sunset, or try a new tactic when communicating an idea to actors or crew. I think the biggest gift of this film to my practice was the opportunity to think bigger - to cast such phenomenal actors and to assemble the talent and support necessary to achieve some of the more complicated visual set ups. Getting to test multiple kinds of blood or create a one-shot scene on Steadicam revolving around choreographed skaters and multiple characters interacting throughout a space, building an entire world and getting to employ all the bells and whistles that are, sadly, so rarely available to female directors... In many ways, the biggest change in my approach is to finally ask for what I really need to make visible to the audience what I'm seeing in my mind.
Has there been any advice you’ve been given that’s really stuck with you?
Oooh so much! A producer once told me to focus on density in a story - she was telling me that something I was sure was a multi-scene sequence was actually a single shot. And once I dug back into the script I was so convinced I ended up combing back through the entire movie searching for moments lacking density. It's wild how many layers of meaning can be communicated in a single moment through performance, costume, dialogue of course but also production design, sound design and music, makeup and hair, blocking, camera movement, the rhythm of the edit... all the levers available to filmmakers to conduct nuance throughout a moment...Now I always do a 'density pass' on every script and again on every shot list.
Do you have any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Don't censor yourself! There are enough police in the outside world, don't let them into your head.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?
I'm really into laughter-through-tears so that's one of the main reactions I'm always trying to conjure... but with Momster I really just hope people have fun. There's a lot of wish-fulfilment in this idea, tempered as it might be with a certain sadness - or perhaps not so much sadness as truth. I hope people can see themselves in Angel and celebrate with her despite the obstacles that surely lie ahead...