Friday, August 15, 2014
By Abbey Khan
After is a family affair film with Pieter Gaspersz directing his wife Sabrina Gennarino, who also wrote the script. In this exclusive interview, they talk about working together, keeping secrets, and condescending mothers.
FUSHION: I have to commend you both because you managed to keep the secret until the end. I can’t believe how much trouble I had– I was trying to figure out what the secret was, who was in on the secret, were there multiple secrets, and so on. Sabrina, how difficult was it for you while writing this script to find ways from revealing the secret until the very end?
SABRINA: It’s a great question because I’m not sure how difficult it was. I didn’t actually set out to make this film. This was a healing process for me and the only medium I knew. I’d never written a script but I’m an actor and I thought well, okay, let me heal myself from this event because it’s based on my experience, so I always knew that if I was going to tell it, it had to sort of be that way because I didn’t want to make it about the event. It had to be about what this family was going through and so I always knew the ending, I knew the beginning, the usual, and I guess that I’m finding out, now that I’ve written more scripts, that was my first one so but yes very much so, because as I moved through it there was like wow, you’ll definitely get it there and everybody gets it at a really different time and that’s great, you know, how wonderful that people tune in to different things at different times and so cool to see the variances of that, I love that. But there were certainly parts which we were like, I got to cut that, that it’s so apparent, there were a lot of scene changes, that I was like, you got to cut it.
FUSHION: Did you make these cuts after you [Pieter] directed and filmed it?
SABRINA: We couldn’t afford that.
PIETER: It actually started off as this gigantic story and obviously we had to mold it and I think one of the natural aspects that Sabrina brought to the table, and coming from an acting background was rooting in performance and characters that obviously everyone can get drawn to. I think it was a natural progression just in being around the scriptwriting process because I didn’t partake in it, it was all Sabrina.
FUSHION: That might be a good thing, separate the two jobs, right?
SABRINA: That’s actually how we collaborate.
PIETER: The natural aspect of finding the secret really became about us looking to tell a very realistic, very real grounded story, we weren’t trying to have incredibly outlandish characters. It was about real people going through real events, dealing with real emotions. I think as you create, you expand, you shoot for the moon and then the story humbles you and pulls it in to what works.
SABRINA: Without seeming too “Lifetimey” because it’s difficult with the drama and you want to make sure you’re not going there, not that I don’t love my Lifetime. But, we needed to have lighter moments to keep it moving. It’s based on my family and that really is my family. We own a stone shop in Rochester, New York, that really is their business. It’s my take on how they would have handled it and sadly, yes of course we dramatized a tad for the film, we needed to up the stakes but that’s how my family would have reacted.
FUSHION: Now speaking of your family, some of the things Kathleen’s character, who plays your mother Nora in the film, said, was subtly insulting. Like when she said, “Dinner’s at 10. I made you some steamed veggies” or right before you were about to get married, she said, “I’m going to moisturize your eyes because that smoking is drying you out.” Is that based on your own mother?
SABRINA: A little bit, yeah.
PIETER: Sorry Mom.
SABRINA: One for the dynamic for the family, because of the situation that happened, there’s this realization that I’m not her favorite daughter. Obviously Nora knows, she’s fractured, so there’s a piece of her that’s well aware, so therefore her hatred sort of comes out on me. But yeah, there was a point I think in college, I gained that freshman 30 or 20 or whatever it was and my mom was like “So honey, this Dr. Dean Ornish book, it really helped me a lot. Like nothing was said, it was just the typical we don’t talk about things, that’s where the story came from, we don’t talk about it, it’s just let me get you something to eat. It’s fine, would you like a sandwich? I think it’s fine I can make you lasagna.
PIETER: And that was the tying of the family dynamic together and getting them, and obviously it’s rooted in Sabrina’s family but how many mothers do you know that are like this with their eldest daughter or the son.
SABRINA: People have told me that and it’s like you know my mother, you know.
FUSHION: You said earlier that you couldn’t afford to cut scenes during the editing process, so you had to do while writing the script, so how did you get Kathleen Quinlan to play the matriarch, and was she your first choice?
PIETER: There really wasn’t a first choice. We didn’t have time for that.
SABRINA: Yeah, there wasn’t time for that. We got it and we had two weeks of pre-production. We had the most amazing casting directors in Barden and Schnee and that they were so behind us on this film and they were presenting people, but of course the second they said Kathleen, I’m like don’t f**k with me, are you serious, we could get her, that would be amazing.
PIETER: And to know Kathleen on a personal level there is so much power in her and you meet her obviously, she’s beautiful and she’s Kathleen Quinlan, but there’s a power that’s behind her, yet such a sensitivity, and seeing her and getting to feel her energy through her being herself in the interview, you can see that she can grasp onto the fragility because she’s so gentle in her presence, yet she brings so much strength and you can see that if we can break away that strength, the fragility that was there was so Nora. And as soon as I was able to wrap my head around Kathleen and her being, this is our center point, Kathleen got the script three days prior to our shooting. She didn’t have any time to rehearse or prepare, we collaborated in the middle of scenes, we were discussing and we were, that really became my job, and was really allowing them to find their characters and bring the depth to it, we went right into it and she dove head first into this. The shoot was only 20 days long. I shoot very very quickly. We shot on 35mm film so you know, we had to move very fast. It was all about being in the moment in the instant. There wasn’t a lot of back and forth, that was the gift that Kathleen Quinlan brought, not only the professionalism but the collaboration that I as a film maker and a producer, you know having a clear site with her allowed me to manage things on set and so that became a big thing.
FUSHION: Pieter, After is your directorial debut, so what was it like to like to direct your wife?
SABRINA: (laughing) Well, I’m still here.
PIETER: (laughing) I’m still alive. Everybody asks that– how does it work? I think on a personal side, obviously, we have had to overcome a lot together and I think one great thing is that we’ve had a common battle, so it’s about us coming over the hill. But in all honestly I’m the new guy and this is my first time. Sabrina did The Sopranos, she’s on this, she’s done this, it was completely professional. There was a complete separation when we got to set, she wasn’t my wife and she was Sabrina as an actor and Peter as the director.
SABRINA: We didn’t talk about that, it’s just work we just both understood that.
PIETER: I think this project overall was just bigger than us and we knew it. It was bigger than our personal story and it was bigger than the effort and we were very much aware of that so I think that pressure, the tension we were under to be able to pull something off with a one-year-old with little amount of time, on the road for the first time and away from our family. It really just became about getting in there and diving in and Sabrina is as a phenomenal actress, so professional, and loves what she does that I didn’t treat her any differently than how I treated anybody else.
FUSHION: Well, obviously it worked out well for you two.
Read our exclusive interview with Kathleen Quinlan about her role in After HERE!
Sabrina Gennarino stars alongside Academy Award nominee Kathleen Quinlan (“Apollo 13”), John Doman (“The Wire”), Pablo Schreiber (“Orange Is the New Black”) and Diane Neal (“Law & Order: SVU”).