Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Christopher Waggoner.
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Jordana Spiro took some time to talk about her new film, Night Comes On, during a phone interview with Cultured Vultures.
Thanks for joining us today. How exciting was it to be able to premiere Night Comes On during Sundance? It really was a dream come true to be totally earnest and sincere about it. It really was a dream come true for many reasons. I’ve looked up to that festival for a really long time and found really inspiring things to come out of it. Also, the amount of support that Sundance gave us through everything in making the film. It felt like a beautiful full circle moment. It was really special.
Night Comes On is your first feature film as a director. At which point did you decide that it was time to direct a feature? It was once I had done a short where I felt like I said with my short what I had set out to say. The final product of my short looked like what I wanted it to be. That I felt like I was ready to try my hand at features. I needed to have a couple of shorts under my belt to feel like I had enough of a sense of what I was doing. You never are going to have a full sense before you try something knew but I had enough of a sense that I had something to give.
Dominique Fishback gave one of the best performances that I’ve seen this year. Oh wow. Thank you!
Without the two of you having appeared on the same episode of Royal Pains, would this have been a very different film? (Laughs) It’s actually really funny because when our casting director, Julie Schubert, came on board, I think the stars were aligned for her to play Angel. When she came on board, I had emailed her an email but it just said, “Hey, can you make sure you reach out to Dominique Fishback and see if she’s interested in coming in for the part?” At the same time, she emailed me, “Here are the audition tapes we made today. I really recommend you take a close look at Dominique Fishback. I’m a really big fan of hers.” We had literally sent those two emails at the exact same time. If not for delivering her baby on Royal Pains—because she was so admired by our casting director, Julie Schubert, I think we would have found the second route to get to her. It was fate.
The script was co-written with Angelica Nwandu. If I recall correctly from when I saw the film during Sundance, you met her when you volunteered with Peace4Kids? No, as a matter of fact, I didn’t meet her there. She participated in Peace4Kids, and yes, I was volunteering there but they were actually at different times. I was volunteering at Peace4Kids and then moved to New York to go to film school where I started more actively working on the script.
It had been in my mind—just one of the ideas that are sort of percolating in the background that you don’t know what to do with yet but are always circling back to. I wasn’t thinking of myself as a filmmaker at the time as of yet. Then I went to Columbia because I wanted to learn how to write and direct. The story started to develop there and had kind of come up with the bones of the story. When I was ready to start writing it as a script, I felt like at that point, I wasn’t close enough to the community anymore to really feel like it was right of me to write it by myself. I reached back out to Peace4Kids and I had been gone for a few years because of film school. I said, “Is there a young woman who has recently aged out so they understand that experience to write with me or consult with me?” I really didn’t know I was looking for a total partner. Oddly enough, I named the character, Angel. He said, “Yes, definitely—Angelica.” She had started going while I had been in New York so we never actually met there. We met and there were these kinds of very uncanny resonances and coincidences between what I was already writing and her own experiences. Artistically, both of us had a lot of similarity in what we wanted to express and wanted to put out in the world. We took it from there. I met her through Peace4Kids but we were never at Peace4Kids at the same time.
Can you talk about the organization and what they do? Yeah, absolutely! I’d be happy to. They are an organization that supports foster youth in the Los Angeles area—specifically Compton, Willowbrook/Watts. They’re basically creating a safe space for kids to learn about themselves, learn about what’s special about them, learn about what they like to do in an environment where they’re free from the stigma that their background normally burns them with. It’s a Saturday program and oftentimes, it’s the only chance where siblings who are separated get to hang out together. They help young adults who are about to age out with that process and give them support through that process. They’re just an extraordinarily program headed up by an incredible man named Zaid Gayle. It’s a safe space that’s encouraging and inspiring.
Have you started to bounce around ideas for a sophomore feature or are you just going to take a break after the release? (Laughs) I appreciate that you said “or are you just going to take a break.” It’s funny—I have a bunch of different ideas sort of circulating around. I need to take a minute to sort of touch back into my life. I have the good fortune—as I was wrapping the film—going into season 2 of Ozark. With a young child at home, I just needed a couple of months where I was just like present, living life, reminding myself of what is inspiring and what I value. I don’t have anything concrete but definitely have ideas that are twirling around me.
As far as directing goes, who are your influences? I would say three directors in particular—Lynne Ramsay, Lucrecia Martel, and Jane Campion—but I’ve been recently having a Paul Thomas Anderson obsession where I’ve started watching or rewatching all of his stuff. Those three women—watching their films is the first time that I thought to myself that this is different and interesting. I don’t think I really saw a film like that before. Joachim Trier is another one.
Since television reboots seem to be popular these days, would you love to revisit My Boys at some point in the future? That would be a blast! That would be the funnest thing in the world. I love those guys so much. Our showrunner, Betsy Thomas—that would just be fun. That would be a no-brainer.
I met Jim Gaffigan when I was at SXSW for his new film. Oh, yeah? Did he make you laugh?
Oh yeah. He’s ridiculous but in a good way.
Thanks again for your time and congrats on the film. Thank you.
Samuel Goldwyn Films will release Night Comes On in theaters and VOD on August 3, 2018.