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Apr 2, 2013

[Interview] Director Laurie Collyer on Naomi Watts' new film "Sunlight Jr."

Laurie Collyer Tracks a Couple Who Get Pregnant & Homeless at the Same Time in 'Sunlight Jr.'

Director of the Golden Globe-nominated "Sherrybaby," Laurie Collyer brings us another drama about a minimum-wage couple struggling to survive. "Sunlight Jr.", starring Naomi Watts as Melissa, a Quickie-mart employee and Matt Dillon as her husband Richie, follows a couple who get pregnant and homeless at the same time.

What it's about: "Sunlight Jr." is the story of down and out lovers Richie and Mel who get pregnant and become homeless at the same time. What to do?

About the filmmaker: Years ago, one of my Sundance advisers told me that I am a very bright and complicated person. I think I am less bright or complicated than I may seem at first, but anyone who tries to make a career of making independent films has to have a certain amount of recklessness. One thing I have learned from directing actors is that living in the moment is key to having a good life. Making movies has been an intensely personal journey, as any art-making should be. I don't like art as therapy, per se, but I do believe that a person must learn something about him or herself with every new project. Which I can say that I have. Next time I hope to learn that having money is awesome. Working on it!

What else do you want audiences to know about your film? "Sunlight Jr." is a character driven story about survival in a minimum wage landscape. It is also a love story which makes it as intimate as it is social, possibly even more so. I have directed extremely talented, well known actors in roles they've never played before. As with all my films, there is always hope, and a bit of sunshine, but I do also like to take the light and shine it on things we push under the carpet. The three movies I have made so far: Nuyorican Dream, Sherrybaby and Sunlight Jr all share the same DNA. They tackle tough subjects with empathy.

What was your biggest challenge in developing this project? The biggest challenge for us was time and resources. Chris had a defined goal, to perform on Coney Island by the end of the summer. We started in January of 2011, so we had less then nine months to get it all in. Filming started immediately as we didn’t want to miss any of his progress. Subsequently, in our rush to get filming, we bypassed opportunities to raise money and do it the ‘right’ way. This was our first film and we didn’t exactly know how things worked, like getting grants and getting investors on board, things that most seasoned filmmakers know all about.

What would you like Tribeca audiences to come away with after seeing your film? I always hope that audiences identify with the characters, that they understand the circumstances behind their actions and choices, that they care. I hope audiences leave the theater with new questions or new ideas. I always want to make people think and feel. I think every filmmaker has that goal.

Did any specific films inspire you? As I told one of my actors, I am much more inspired by life than by movies. That said, my DP and I watched "Dog Days," "A Prophet," "Hunger," "Fish Tank," "La Cienaga," and "Dogtooth" when coming up with a look for the film. There were many others as well, but those jump to mind first. I adore the work of Anna Magnani, she is like the Madonna of acting for me.

What do you have in the works? I am developing three projects on three subjects: legal prostitution, mid-life crises and the environment. Let's see which one hits first! Someday I'd like to make a children's movie so I can invite my kids to the premiere.

2013 Tribeca Film Festival will run from April 17 to 28, 2013.


johnQ said...

This film is also by a female director, Laurie Collyer.

Anonymous said...

Out of the 3 films Naomi has coming out this year, Sunlight jr, is the one I'm most looking forward to. The people involved need to get a trailer up.

Amy said...

I hope there will be a trailer up after Tribeca.

Karen said...

This is the kind of role she is best at. Highly anticipating.

landos said...

Love both of them.