WILDLIKE: Interview with Writer, Director, Producer Frank Hall Green
Wildlike is a thrilling coming-of-age adventure! A troubled teen must face the dangers of the Alaskan wild, as well as her own past, in order to find her way home. We had an opportunity to speak with writer, director and producer Frank Hall Green to discuss his feature film’s public release. Wildlike, which stars Ella Purnell and Bruce Greenwood, screened to acclaim at the DC Independent FIlm Festival in March 2015.
Where did you find inspiration for to make Wildlike?
GREEN: The origin of Wildlike came from several aspects of my life and interests. The social issue in the film had become important to me over time and I became dedicated to presenting the events of Mackenzie’s assault in a truthful and effective way. As an issue, it’s under-represented and too easily discarded as a plot device in film and television storytelling, especially when you consider the scope of how many girls and women are affected and the grave damage done to a person in all related circumstances. I had an inherent desire to tell a story about a person on a trajectory into the outdoors of the out-of-doors. I realized I really wanted the landscapes to speak to this, and Alaska popped into my mind and stuck. So over time I married the idea of adventure, being lost in Alaska and healing in nature with the social issue of the film, which in turn would be the cause of Mackenzie running away, allowing me to explore deeper characters and present issues important to me in the movie.
What challenges did you face at different stages of production?
GREEN: Two distinct difficulties with Wildlike were developing the story and writing the script. As I wove the images, characters and environments together into a story, I then had to translate a very full head of what I thought I understood down onto the page, where suddenly it was a mess with little structure and many holes. So when I began to write each moment and realize I need moments in between, suddenly I needed to know what an action of a character means, what decisions will be made, how will the character develop, what exactly will they say or not say, and then I was stumped. I especially had to take frequent breaks and spoke to a close confidant on a daily basis while writing the Uncle’s part. Brian Geraghty had a similar difficulty in playing Uncle, and we shared that, and I commend him for stepping up and portraying Uncle with vigor.
What was your favorite aspect of making this film in particular?
GREEN: For me there is something precious and singular about accomplishing one’s first feature narrative film. Naturally, one would do the best one could with a feature, but I think there is a perspective of humility, care, awareness and perfection that is crucial. In relation to this, the film has to be worth it, which to me means different, fresh, original and with meaning. Directing and completing a feature is a beautiful thing for a writer/director because you are forced to rework the screenplay all the way through into the editing room. You realize a final product that was once a kernel of an idea or image. This is a tremendous benefit for a director who is also a writer, and who counts himself or herself as a practicing and learning filmmaker.
Do you have any advice regarding independent film distribution?
GREEN: Recently, several filmmakers have asked about our festival strategy and distribution. To be fair, I did not have a plan for distribution different than the typical ‘go to big festival, sell the movie,’ but I was diligent and that has paid off. My advice would be to begin building a network of audience and collaborators. Every aspect of the filmmaking process should be to gather people into the fold of those who know your film and will support it. This starts with family, crew, crew’s family and friends, all who helped on the production and and in post. Add social media to that, during pre-production, and keep it going. Then that circle can grow at film festivals, screenings, special events and anyone you meet in the meantime. A distributor may or may not be willing to take on your film for any number of reasons, but you can prepare for the distribution conversation and offer by telling them you have been working on outreach and you’re ready to continue. They can distribute your film, but no one can market it grassroots-fashion like yourself. For better or for worse, that is what indie films need.
What’s next for you? Any projects in the works?
GREEN: I have a development and production company with producer Tom Heller: Catch & Release Films. Tom and I have several books and materials that we have acquired for adaptation, so those are underway on the producing front. For writing and directing, where does one go after Alaska? The pressure! No, seriously, I have several scripts, but I have not determined which is #2 yet. Rest assured the location will play a role. I hope I can arrange a great journey, physical and emotional, with poignant characters and restraint. I look forward to starting the independent film process over again!