The new film, “Into the Forest,” stars Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood as sisters who have to learn to survive in a remote mountain locale after a large-scale power outage wipes out their access to technology. It could be described as a small-scale post-apocalyptic film. But for director and writer Patricia Rozema, the film was not easy to get made.
It's an inherently conservative business because it's so expensive. If you're not repeating something that's already a success, then people are nervous.
"Into the Forest" is an intimate movie that takes a close look at how the sisters must learn to survive in nature and with humankind. And one of the factors for the film's struggle to find financial backing was due to having female leads, as Rozema explains:
Even if I had a male who was the third-largest role, but he had some real name value, it would be easier to get the money, which is sort of heartbreaking. But I've lived with that my whole life.
Rozema adapted “Into the Forest” from the 1996 book of the same name by Jean Hegland. The filmmaker previously wrote and directed an adaptation of the Jane Austen novel, “Mansfield Park,” and she’s currently a director on the TV series, “Mozart in the Jungle.”
The Frame's John Horn spoke with Rozema about why she wanted to make "Into the Forest," her recent invitation to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and why having an opportunity to showcase her voice as a woman filmmaker is important.
On the intense "female humiliation" scene in "Into the Forest"
The world is awash with women being degraded and humiliated, and I didn't want to add to that image bank. It was also an option just to skip over it to the aftermath. But I did want to show the severity of it and I thought the only responsible and compassionate way to represent it was to just focus on her pain and not create any images that anyone can get off on.
It's a very complicated place to be, standing behind the monitor when you're a woman watching a woman being humiliated and thinking, This is gold! — loving the power of [the scene] and knowing that it's so authentic and it's a very intense moment.
On why she thought this scene was so important to the film
Your whole goal is to make something that vibrates on a level that's outside of the understandable. There's something compelling that you can't quite understand. I aim for that. In the whole structure I want it to work as a story, but then without you knowing how it seems to be relevant in far many more things than you're actually talking about.
On why she's passionate about making films
I grew up with a very religious background. From very young I was [taught] to ask questions of origin and purpose and destiny. But I really do believe that, in this one place in my life, I have a chance to make something that could last for a long time.
On getting an invitation to be an Academy member
It's an very interesting time. I'm fascinated by the fact that there's so much conversation around female representation on screen and behind the camera. I was wondering, Why now? We started with the Suffragettes and then there was the '60s and Gloria Steinem. It went quiet for a while and then it just sort of bubbles up to the surface and then goes quiet again. Why is it bubbling again?
Is this actually a fork in the road? Is this kind of a point where [producers] say, Why is it that the men are doing all the storytelling in the most popular art form of the day? It's kind of an odd theory. Maybe you can shoot it down in flames for me right now.
It used to be that when a woman stood up and said, I'm a feminist — women deserve the same rights to storytelling to ownership of property, you could cut them off at the knees by saying: "Lesbian." Now you can still think it, but you can't actually say it publicly because of the advances in gay rights. Women are less horrified by being tarnished as a homo.
I actually think that it's a fascinating situation where a more marginalized group is helping a less marginalized group — heterosexual women. I'm gay, I'm lesbian, but I feel like that might be why we can step forward and women are not as traumatized by being called gay anymore.
On how having other women in the writers' room is beneficial
The identity of the players behind the screen has an impact on what is on the screen. I also write sometimes for other [projects] and if I'm working with just men, I can't tell you how many times they ask me quite openly, sweetly and unconsciously: Can you just have [a character] not be so secure? And can she end on a question rather than a statement?
I was just in a meeting with writers on "Mozart in the Jungle," and they're a very feminist, interesting bunch. There were little lines that women would come up with that, maybe if I wasn't there as a female director, we wouldn't put in. It might have just been passed over and maybe someone didn't have the confidence to push it. Because there's a woman behind the camera saying, Hey, that's an interesting angle. I haven't heard that. Let's have her say that. So who's behind the camera has a giant impact on what happens on the screen, and that affects the hearts and minds of women.
I always feel uncomfortable with [saying], You gotta have more people like me out there! You gotta hire me! It's such a self-promotional thing. It's not [the point]. It's a benefit to everyone to have a more complete perspective on the human condition.
"Into the Forest" is in theaters on July 29 and is also available to stream on Direct TV.