I definitely want to ask about the soundtrack. How did some of these song choices come about?

Even in the writing process I always write with music in mind and I always use it to set the tone for scenes. And so when we were getting ready to start shooting I put together a bunch of songs and made a playlist, and I made a playlist for the guys and I made a playlist for the girls. I sent it out to all the actors and my editor, my co-editor Courtney Ware and Greta and everybody else and then when we put together the initial rough cut I had told Courtney, I was like, “Hey look these songs, they may not be right for the movie, but they invoke a tone and a vibe that I want to work with musically.” So she ended up actually putting almost every one of those songs into the rough cut. The first rough cut. They worked so well, I was like, “So they do work, but we can’t use.” There was stuff like the Cocteau Twins and Fleetwood Mac, and all this stuff.

So I knew, I’d been a huge fan of [music supervisor] Sarah Jaffe, she’s a local artist and I knew I wanted to ask her to do the music, and the score elements. And so when I did, I found that we were also able to use her body of work, and a lot of her songs have a similar vibe, so I was able to pull from those, and then we had this incredible song writing team. We had two guys, Andrew Tinker and Nick Seeley, they write songs professionally and so we sent them the songs from the movie and let them see the rough cut and then they created songs based on that. Or just based on notes, like the song on the car with the girls rapping.

It was a week before we were shooting and we kept being like, “So we’re either gonna have an original song here or we’re gonna have to cut this scene, ’cause we’re never gonna be able to put something known in the scene, and pay for the rights to it,” so they were working very hard to get something and that was just me being like, “It has to have this type of feel, and then it needs to have this moment where they go along with it” and just like the thing that we did as teenagers when songs would come on and you’re driving and it’s this feeling that you want to invoke. That’s how it all came together.

Did you ever play music on set for the actors?

I don’t know if I did in this. I know I did in the last version that I made, and then I did in the [HBO] show that we just shot, used music. I can’t remember if we did or not on set.

Is the soundtrack going to be available? 

It is. I just got a link to it. I can’t remember what company’s releasing it, but it should be coming out hopefully this weekend.

I read a bit about that other version you shot a few years ago and turned into a short film. After that experience, was there anything that was reassuring or maybe pointed you in the right direction? 

Yeah. Tons about it. A lot of people have asked, “Did you just feel like giving up after that?” And to be honest, it was kind of the opposite. It was like I’d known going in the compromises that I’d made, and I knew things that I’d rushed, and I knew things that I’d kind of not been 100% happy with. There was that initial feeling of … the depression that followed that film was more about why didn’t I just listen to myself? Why didn’t I trust my instinct? Why didn’t I do the thing that I wanted to do? And so that was kind of why I was so bummed out, and so going in to it the next time, it’s never completely the case.

You’re never at a point, for me at least, not yet, where I am going in to the movie saying, “Okay, trust your instinct,” and then you do. You’re still gonna be questioned, but going in the second time I was a lot more confident in my ability to fill things out. And to know what I wanted, and to be able to say, “Okay. This is what I’m envisioning. This is what I want. Now let’s get it.” And to feel I’ve made the right decision. It was more reassuring in that regard than it was making me want to give up or something.

So after trusting your instincts more and how well the movie turned out, how has that experience influenced what you want to do next as a filmmaker and the stories you want to tell? 

In a lot of ways it did. I still feel like there’s a lot to learn, and so it’s not like I’ve made choices that I didn’t believe in because I look at this film and I feel so satisfied with what I did and what I made. I know that it’s not for everyone, and there’s something that comes from being truthful, and so to me this film is truthful to me and what I wanted to accomplish. I just want to keep doing that, but I want to be able to combine that truthfulness with other elements that create an even tighter experience, if that makes sense.

We were working with almost no money, a very short schedule, so I see all the things, that I’m like, “Okay, so this could’ve been even better or tighter or more visually appealing or something like that.” But no, ultimately I’m really happy with it. I just want to keep learning to trust my instincts because you do start questioning that when you’re on set and you have people telling you this or telling you that, or you’re rushed and you have to make fast decisions. And I’m a person who has a hard time making fast decisions, so I’m like, “Okay, I just need to make the decision, it’s gonna be fine. Typically it’s gonna turn out the way that I hope it does.”

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Never Goin’ Back is now in theaters.

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