Interview by Univers-L team on November 8th, 2010 for Univers-L.com
This is your first full-length film and you did almost everything: you are the scriptwriter, the director, the editor. How do you manage to conciliate everything?
Well, they don´t all happen at the same time, which is good. I also had a lot of help from friends at different stages. Getting this project done took a very long time, so I got to perform these different tasks on different periods of time.
How long did it take to produce that movie from the original idea to post-production, the writing of the script, as well as the casting and the localization of the shooting places?
The entire process, from the original concept to finishing post-production took almost six years. I had my first thought about the story in the fall of 2004 and the film was completely finished in May of 2010. Writing the actual script started around April of 2006 and wasn´t finished until about November of 2008 (I went through a lot of drafts, maybe 6 or 7 or even more). Casting had to happen very fast! We had some “false starts” regarding production so that left very little time for casting. Both casting directors (Natalie Ballesteros in Los Angeles and Marx Pyle in Indiana) had about 3 weeks to cast all their roles. It was a little crazy! And looking back now I cannot believe everything turned out so well. I´m very happy with all the talent we got. Location scouting was crazy as well. Jason Shumway (the producer) worked very hard at it, specially considering that we had very little money overall. We shot the movie during the month of April in 2009, so I would say that finding all locations happened in the first 3 months of that year.
Did some movies dealing with the “initiatory journey to love” leave an indelible impression on you? Which ones?
Yes, I would say I´m a fan of coming-of-age movies in general. They are always interesting to me whether they deal with first love or not, or if they feature girls or boys, gay or straight. The ones that would initially come to my mind would be Blue Car, My Summer of Love, Igby Goes Down, et Lost & Delirious.
You could have decided to play on the sulfurous and glamorous side of the professor/student relationship but you didn’t. The story is beyond everything based on the two main characters but you choose to accentuate the psychology and the inner struggles. Why did you do so?
Well, I think that came primarily from the fact that I was talking about two characters that have a very different public versus private lives, each for their own reasons. I´m a very nosy person in real life so I´m always curious about what happens to people behind closed doors, what do they really talk about and what are they really like when they let their guard down, that sort of thing. Jackie was “famous” for a period of her life and therefore very well trained in maintaining a certain image when out in public. Catherine is one of the public faces of a university and has an image to uphold as well. I would think that those are the types of people that you would never really get to know unless you got to be very close to them. What they put out there and who they truly are are two completely different things, and the latter is much more interesting to me. I think if anything, Jackie and Catherine were happy to finally be able to be themselves around each other, if only for a short period of time.
Can you explain us what does the Bloomington Campus in Indiana represent for you or for the American audience? Why did you name the movie after it? Did you imagine some other titles? Which ones?
Ha! You caught me there! “Bloomington” was not the original title of the project. When I was writing the script it was called “East of Neptune”. I didn´t call it “Bloomington” until we decided to shoot in Indiana. The truth is, the script was “kicked around” different people and different companies for so long that I wanted to give it a fresh start. For some reason that I can´t explain I fell in love with the name Bloomington and decided that it would a good title for the project. In reality we did not shoot in Bloomington and the only contact I have ever had with that city was that I had dinner there once. For the record, Jason Shumway hates the new title eventhough he himself attended college in Bloomington. Funny, isn´t it?
The fact that the main characters are two women doesn’t make any difference. What is really important is their past. Is this something you have always wanted?
I guess so. And I´m glad you think it comes across that way. To be honest I never thought of the story in any other way. When I had the first idea I just thought of two women, one older and one younger, sleeping together for the first time and what would that night have been like. That was it. I never tried to turn them into anything else, that´s just how it came to me. I think to me what was the most interesting aspect was the gap in their “experience level”, and not the fact that they were of the same sex. That was really what I wanted to explore.
As the creator of Jackie and Catherine, do you consider them as lesbians or bisexuals? Do you think that this is something important for hers?
That´s funny, because I have heard of Catherine being refered to as bissexual a few times now. Here´s my thought on this: I think they are indeed both lesbians. What happens is that you don´t always get to act on who you truly are all the time and in all periods and aspects of your life, but that doesn´t make you any less gay. I myself gew up in Sao Paulo during the 80´s and mid 90´s and never thought it would be safe to have a girlfriend. I actually had a few boyfriends in school. Like I said before both Jackie and Catherine have a certain image to uphold and so those lines between who they really are and who they have to appear to be get blurred sometimes.
During the party where Jacky invite Catherine to come with her as a « friend », she used her and refused to say anything about their relationship. Do you think that by not making her coming out she wants to keep her options open? What do you think about the out actresses in the cinema industry nowadays?
I think Jackie needed some time to figure out how to deal with that new aspect of her life (having a girlfriend) and presenting Catherine as a “friend” was merely a panic move on her part. I think Jackie didn´t realize how rude that was to Catherine or how much that would hurt her. I really don’t think she wanted to keep her options open or anything like that. Jackie loved Catherine very much and at that point really wanted to make career and relationship work together. As far as actresses coming out, I think that things are slowly getting a little better, but I can see how someone would want to be careful with that kind of information even nowadays.
The way Catherine cuts Jackie’s meat at the table, the way she takes care of her give the idea that she considers her more as a child than a responsible grown-up. Why did you choose to give such a motherly vision of their relationship?
That´s funny! I get a lot of flack for that! See, to me it´s not about “being motherly” as much as it´s just the idea of taking care of somebody, and subsequently having power over them that was so attractive to Catherine. We take care of puppies and kittens all the time but we hardly refer to that as being “motherly”. You wouldn’t say that the boy in “Old Yeller” was trying to be a father to Old Yeller just because he was tending to his wounds… Now, I will admit that Catherine rather enjoyed the fact that Jackie would act dependent of her sometimes, and that the moment when that was gone (i.e., when Jackie got her job back and was about to leave) was a real problem for Catherine.
Do you realize the disturbing likeness between Catherine and Jackie’s mother? Was it deliberate?
Honestly, I think that happened in casting more than anything. If you´re asking if I did that on purpose then the answer is no. As far as how the characters are written on the page, I think they are both different people. I will admit that they both have similar problems in accepting Jackie´s independence but I still believe they are very different people.
As for Jackie or for Catherine, it seems that this is their first authentic and true love story they ever have. And yet their story is also a stage in their lives to know themselves better and becoming more self-confident. So, do you think they really love each other or do they use each other?
Oh I think there´s true love there, definitely! I think they´re both too reserved and self-concious to be using each other in that way, especially Jackie. I always describe the movie as a love story between two “fish-out-of-water” people that find each other and are able to open up for what is seemingly the first time in their lives. This is definitely something new to both of them.
Through the piloting lesson, the tryout of Jackie for « Neptune 26 » and the preliminaries of the love scene with off-beat dialogues, do you let your love for science fiction speak?
Haha! NO! For the record, I don´t like science fiction all that much. I used to, when I was very little, but not anymore. I think I just find it interesting that those people take their passion for the genre so seriously. That´s really all I wanted to capture. But I do have a great amount of friends that like that sort of thing. I lived with a trekkie roommate for 8 years!
You’re originally from Brazil. Do you know how your movie has been received there? What were the audience reactions in the festivals where it was released?
I will find out how the movie is received in Brazil in about two hours as I am about to leave for my very first screening here in Sao Paulo! Reactions in festivals have been fun and varied. Some people like it, some don´t, which is pretty normal I guess. I´m just happy that people seem to be entertained and not too bored. That´s really all you can hope for with your first feature, right?
What can we wish you for the future?
I am writing my second script now. We´ll see how that goes. I never thought that this one would get made, so naturally I don´t think the second one will get made either. But you never know! All I can say is that it´s in the horror-thriller genre. No romance this time.
Fernanda Cardoso and Allison McAtee on the set of Bloomington