Right, and that goes along with the visual tone that you had as well, which was less sort of sentimental and more upbeat.

Yeah, Ned’s a very positive guy. To me, that’s really inspiring. It’s someone who really does see the best in life and he really does have the optimism of believing that he could make a difference. And I think that’s a really powerful thing, and I wanted that to be reflected in the tone of the film.

So how would you characterize the film exactly? Is it a film about illness? Is it a film about people learning to communicate? But it’s also sort of about 9/11 as well…

It’s not actually about any of those things. Those things are all part of the reality of life. I’m trying to take all the textures of real life for these people and let that be the world that they’re living in. It’s the facts that this family happens to be living in, the way that any family is living in their own set of facts. It’s set in a time where we were three years away from 9/11 and there was an atmosphere of fear in this country, and that was affecting people’s decisions and oftentimes making them make bad decisions because they were afraid. All of this was the backdrop of this moment in time of Ned’s life. So really I’ve always seen the story as a family drama that has some funny moments because sometimes real life is funny. It’s not a comedy, it’s not a thriller, you know, it’s a family drama that has some funny moments the way any family in real life has funny moments. Ultimately it’s people searching to find connections with each other and hoping that in those connections they can become better people. 

You made a brief appearance in the film too. Was it difficult to act on camera and direct at the same time?

It is definitely weird. I have a lot of respect for people who manage pulling off being the lead in a film that they’re also directing. I hope someday to pull that off. But I definitely enjoy while I’m in the zone of directing being able to see on the monitors and see everything, and being able to get in there and enjoy working with the actors and enjoy working with the crew. It definitely feels harder to have that same momentum creatively when you’re stopping and having to play the part and step away and rewatch everything. It just adds an extra step to things. Like I said, I have a lot of respect for anyone who pulls it off effortlessly. But I definitely prefer one or the other, I would rather be just acting or just directing. But I have a feeling that will be in my future someday, but I don’t know if it’s in my near-future.

This is your directorial debut after years of acting on TV and in movies. Was there an inciting factor that made you want to jump behind the camera?

It just seemed to naturally evolve. I started directing theater pretty young — I directed theater in high school, college, and a couple small productions when I first moved to Los Angeles — and I really enjoyed that. And as I was working more and more on film and television and exposed to all these creative people who knew all the technical sides to things, I started picking people’s brains and starting to try to learn about all of it. I really started to dive into the technical side of filmmaking just out of the curiousity of spending so many hours of the day around it and wondering if it was something I was able to do. I don’t know, it was just one of those things that seemed to naturally work out.

I had been thinking about it, but hadn’t really committed to directing something. I was helping a friend [Janelle Riley, who wrote the script for Morrison’s short Warning Labels] turn a play into a screenplay. And a producer I was working on a film with came to me and said, “Oh I came across this script and it made me think of you. Would you ever be interested in directing?” And I said, “It’s so interesting that you bring up that script, because I’ve actually been working with the writer to turn it into a screenplay,” so I was kind of connected to it without him realizing. And he was like, “I don’t know I just watch how you work on set, and how you think, and how your brain works, and I just feel like you’re a director.” And I said, “No I feel that way too, but I think I’d rather just start with a short film.” So that’s how the first short film was born, out of having those conversations where not only was I starting to think that way, but people around me were starting to think that way about me. So I thought, why not try this? And I really enjoyed it and felt really creatively lit up doing it. So I just wanted to try figuring out how to do more and more of it.

Continue Reading Jennifer Morrison Makes Her Directorial Debut With ‘Sun Dogs’

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