Brian Savelson, writer/director of In Our Nature

This afternoon I sat down for a quick Q&A with Brian Savelson, writer/director of In Our Nature. (You can read my previous post about the film here.) This is Savelson’s first time at the Sarasota Film Fest, and Jena Malone, one of the film’s stars and a veteran of SFF, will be joining him for a Q&A after the screening. See the film for yourself on Friday, April 20, at 8pm and Saturday, April 21, at 1:45pm.

Writer/Director Brian Savelson
Photo by Evan Sigmund

I just watched your film and really enjoyed it.

Did you watch it by yourself?

I did, I watched it at home.

What’s interesting is, and I’m sure all filmmakers are going to say this, but it plays really differently with an audience. I didn’t really notice it until I went to SXSW. I was terrified because I’d only watched it with a few friends and didn’t know how people would respond, and then I’m in a room with 200 people at the premiere. But people really responded positively. It got much funnier in a big room full of people, which I guess is to be expected with anything like that because there’s a kind of dry humor in the film. There’s no punch line; it’s real moments and you’re laughing at how familiar these things seem. The audiences were really laughing, and then they’d gasp at certain moments; it was a real energetic response.

There seem to be a lot of layers in the movie. What was the deal with the brief, flirtatious exchange between Jena Malone and John Slattery, when they were smoking pot outside on the porch? I liked how it threw me off, and then I kept looking for it through the rest of the movie.

There’s the whole smoking thing, and then there’s this kind of dreamy sequence moment, which is kind of in Gabrielle’s head. It’s subtle and people have interpreted in different ways as to it being real or as to it being dreamed.

Oh, I didn’t even think about that.

Either way, whether it is or isn’t fantasy, the core of it comes down to this tension between them that’s ricocheting through the house. I think that the goal was always to do something that felt really relatable and was layered with nuance and subtlety. I think that’s realistic, to have something like that. It’s realistic that there would be tension between a young woman and her boyfriend’s father, potentially because she sees things in the father that she sees in her boyfriend and of course he looks at her and sees a young, pretty thing. But what seemed realistic to me was that there would be tension, but of course nothing would ever transpire. Nothing would happen. I mean, maybe, but it’s very unlikely that you’d spend a weekend with your boyfriend’s dad and would actually kiss him or something. It would never happen. But there might be a moment where you imagined it. So that was really the goal, to capture that strange, weird interrelating that takes place but would never really go anywhere. I’m glad you picked up on it.

Photo by Evan Sigmund

Tell me about how the setting, the Catskills, works into the film. Could it have taken place anywhere else?

It could have been in the Berkshires, maybe, which is a similar place where wealthy people from the city have a second home. But outside of that it would have to be somewhere like that, where it’s kind of like the playground of wealthy New Yorkers. They are all city folk and it’s when they’re out in the country that things actually start to bubble up to the surface.

The really film started with the image of that house. Not that house in particular, but it was pretty close. It was an image of a house that came first, a single location that has all this meaning. It’s laden with years; at first there was a happy family there and then there was a dysfunctional one. So the house represents this broken family. In a way it’s the last weekend there for this old family, this father and son, and in a way it’s the first weekend for maybe what will be a new family, which is these other people who are getting involved.

Did you pull from personal experiences for the film?

Yes and no. Of course there are elements in there that are from my life, or people I’ve known that are amalgamated into other people, but the main conflict is between a father and a son and as far as I know my father and I have a healthy relationship. There are these four characters and I think they really may be a collection of many people I’ve known. I think the people watching the film may find them familiar.

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