never goin' back review

What sort of atmosphere did you and your cinematographer want to create? 

We talked about invoking a feeling, so that’s what I kind of wanted to do and that feeling of being a teen and having the heat of the summer and all those things. So we definitely talked about that. But then we also talked about … we didn’t ever want to make it seem like a hazy, you know this distant thing, but we did want to add a graininess and a kind of a timelessness to it, so that it almost felt like it could have happened 20 years ago, it could’ve happened modern day at any point in time. It just needed to have a specific look, but it was also indistinct if that makes sense.

It does. Where did you shoot?

We shot in the DFW area, so the actual story took place, my life, in Garland, Texas, and we looked around Garland and didn’t find any locations, and so we ended up finding a bunch of our shots in Fort Worth and Grand Prairie and even the diner was in Bedford, Texas, or something like that. Still around Dallas.

When you were casting you did a lot of Skype calls, so during that time, what stood out about Maia Mitchell and Camilla Morrone? 

Their energy. Their energy separately, and then their energy together. And so initially I spoke to them apart from one another, and they just had this crazy youthful, devil may care attitude to a certain degree, but they were also really intelligent, and had a lot of good thoughts on the script. There were a lot of experiences that they could link back to the material that were personal and made it relevant to them. Those are some of the first things that I noticed, and then of course they were great actresses, but then getting them together was the key. ‘Cause I saw a ton of great actresses. I saw a bunch of people who were just fantastic, but them together was electric and magnetic, amazing.

When was the first time you saw them together in a room doing scenes?

That was back in July of last year. I came to California to do chemistry reads and so we had a day of girls coming in in-person and reading together with each other. They were, I think, the second group. I think Maia read with one other girl and then that was Cami’s first read was with Maia. And it was clear.

I’m always curious about first day of shooting. Which scene did you shoot first for Never Goin’ Back and what was the feeling on that day?

Yeah, so we’re lucky in that we had a week of rehearsals, which I’d asked for ahead of time. And I knew that once we started shooting it was gonna be fast and furious, and so Greta, my DP, and I had planned everything very, very specifically before we ever even started rehearsing, so we had a very detailed plan as to how we were gonna shoot it. We’d been working on that for a couple weeks, so we had a week of rehearsals, and then we had the house where we were shooting. And so on the last day we went over there, most days throughout that week and rehearsed there, but then on that last day before shooting, she had … her camera was there and we had the girls, and we went into their bedroom and we rehearsed with camera everything that we were gonna do on day one. And we still think back to that.

We could’ve just shot that, it was so exactly like what we did on day one, but it was hugely helpful. ‘Cause then we had this really stable foundation knowing just what we needed when we were going into day one. I think on that first day we shot almost in order. We shot the scene of them at the computer, ordering the beach trip, so we’d rehearsed that. And then we shot the stuff of them waking up before the robbery, and I don’t know if we … I feel like there was one other bedroom scene that we did that first day, but I don’t know if it was the dick on the face or not. It was something of them on the bed, but I can’t remember at this point.

The trailer and poster for the movie really tell you what this movie is and who these characters are. What’s it like working with A24 and their marketing department? They always seem to sell exactly what the movie is.

They’re geniuses. They’re like the dream, they’re the ultimate goal. They’re everything that I wanted when I knew that I was making this movie. They were the ones, ’cause they also make all my favorite movies. Everything they make, I see, and you’re right. It’s perfectly advertised. You know what you’re getting in. That’s just great. They have good ideas and I know when they finished trailer, I think I had two tiny notes, and that was it, and then they fixed it and that was it and then it went out with a poster.

You go back and forth. What if we combined this element with this element, and made this poster? But I love our poster. It was hard because the movie has these two girls who are… I mean, in real life Cami’s like a model, and Maia too, she’s just so stunning, and so all these pictures that we had taken on set, they felt just like these public model shots, so it was difficult finding something that wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, but also spoke to the comedy of the film, and I think they did such a good job finding the picture and finding the moment within the pictures we gave them that spoke to the comedy. I just love our poster.

It definitely captures the vibe of the movie. You mentioned all the work you and Greta did in pre-production together, but once shooting started, was there maybe a scene or two in particular that were more difficult than expected?

We had a couple. I’d say the biggest challenge was everything that happened at the sandwich shop, ’cause it’s all night. So, we were gonna be overnight on these days, and we had I think four days initially to get everything at the sandwich shop, and we had the big vomit gag, and we had them hiding in the closet. You know it was so much stuff, and then there was the spot where the sandwich owner is supposed to fall backwards, but he was an older gentleman, and so when we got him there we realized he’s also six-foot-five; he’s really tall [Laughs].

We had some challenges figuring out how to get that, but on top of all that, so we went from four days for shooting all that stuff to Cami hurting herself. So she went out one weekend and they rode mechanic bulls because we’re here in Texas, and I guess that’s what you want to do if you’re visiting Texas [Laughs], and she pulled a muscle in her neck and ended up getting injured pretty bad. I guess she still goes now a year later for physical therapy for the thing.

When that happened, we ended up missing a day and then having to take what was already the most difficult days of the shoot and compress them from four to three days. And so it became this impossibly difficult schedule. Our first AD said, “This is not possible.” We had 16 things, 16 pages or something crazy like that to get in this time frame. I don’t remember what the exact number was but it was something absurd, but we were like, “Okay, we can do it.” And Greta and I said, “We’re gonna do it. Let’s get another camera team, let’s get another camera, let’s get all these things compressed. What can we do? All these cool shots that we planned for the sequence out the window, we just need to get coverage.” So that was really difficult. You end up making it work, but it’s that thing where we had so much cool stuff planned here, and we don’t have time to get it anymore. But it became about survival, we just need something to put in the movie at this point in time.

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