Sophia Takal’s new film Green is a deliciously creepy and eerily compelling sexual thriller in which she plays the other woman in a love triangle with her real life boyfriend and roommate. The film won Sophia the SXSW Chicken & Egg Emergent Narrative Woman Director Award at the 2011 Festival in Austin. We spoke to Sophia about what made her want to make the film, and how her personal relationship with the actors affected the filmmaking process.
Rooftop Films: What made you want to make the film? What do you hope your audience gets out of the experience of watching it?
Sophia Takal: I’m a really jealous person! Too jealous for words. I always have been. I remember one time crying during nap time in kindergarten because my best friend, Lauren, had won a really cool raffle with white winter gloves and cool pink and purple things. And jealousy has stayed with me throughout my whole life. I guess things came to a head while we were shooting our last film, Gabi on the Roof in July. I was out of control, violent, imagining doing terrible things to the women Lawrence had to act opposite, it was awful for everyone. Once we were done shooting I looked at my behavior, realized I’d been completely insane, began to open up about it with friends, and found out that many other women had gone through similar feelings of irrational jealousy in their lives. I decided to take this idea that seemed to be very universal, but very embarrassing, something people did not want to acknowledge in themselves (or their partners) and come up with a story that examined these feelings.
I think people have been getting a lot out of the experience of watching the film so far, and I hope they continue to. I haven’t ever said what I want them to get out of the experience so I’m hesitant to say so now. I guess I’ll just leave it at this: I think that a lot of times people cause their fears to happen. I also think that it is important to remain individualized in a relationship, to not be co-dependent. And I think that relationships between women are extraordinarily important and often times destroyed either because of outside circumstances or internal turmoil.
RF: The beginning of the film seems contain all the makings of a horror film, but the film’s plot does not follow the typical horror formula. Why did you choose to use this device?
ST: I think there is something absolutely horrific about jealousy. It turns people into monsters. I thought it would be fun to play with horror tropes without being an actual horror film as a way of heightening Genevieve’s own jealousy.
RF: You star in the film, along with your real life boyfriend and roommate. How did this affect your filmmaking process?
ST: I thought I was going to be really jealous. Lawrence was nervous to make the film too because of how I reacted on our last film, Gabi on the Roof in July. We established some ground rules. One big one was that in between takes of intimate scenes between Kate and Lawrence, he had to be really nice to me and pay a lot of attention to me. But, really, on set it was easy! A lot easier than I could ever have imagined. I trusted Kate and Lawrence so much and jealousy wasn’t an issue on set. I don’t know if it’s because I was the one putting them in the situation or if I’m just evolving as a person. Probably the former, because I still get jealous a lot.
RF:What do you think it is about Robin’s character that has such a strong affect on the relationship of Genevieve and Sebastian? Do you think there is a larger point to be made about the nature of relationships through this particular love triangle?
ST: I think Robin’s strength and sense of self has a really strong affect on the couple. Genevieve’s friendship with Robin strengthens her, encourages her to feel into her real identity and not be afraid to show who she is or what she wants. Robin is giving Genevieve the opportunity to become a complete person that doesn’t only rely on the approval and attention of her lover. I think the tragedy in the film lies in that sort of missed opportunity – that Genevieve, in the end, is not brave enough to rise to the occasion, to feel worthy of her own identity.
I really wanted to look at two things: one, the way people in relationships who give away their whole selves and base their entire identity on their partner become desperate and oftentimes withdrawn. I found that when I had very little going on in my own life and when I looked to Lawrence for approval and a sense of self, that was also when I was least loving, open or warm. I needed him so badly, I was so scared of losing him, that I ended up resenting him.
The other, the way women can both encourage and support one another or tear each other down in these very damaging, psychologically manipulative ways. I’ve had both experiences with women, oftentimes with the same women. I’m always elated when I find a woman I can trust and devastated when that relationship becomes destructive. Talking to other women, I found they had very similar experiences and I thought this was something that was rarely examined in film.
RF: Why did you decide to play the character of Robin, instead of Genevieve? Is there anything about Robin’s character that you personally can relate to?
ST: There are a million things I related to about Robin. Also I didn’t necessarily want to relive the feelings of jealousy that I’d experienced and was examining. I think it was a lot healthier to step outside of it as a way of exploring it.
RF: You have the couple staying in a vacation home in what looks like the middle-of-nowhere Virginia. Why did you choose this location? How did you use it to heighten the film’s significant tensions?
ST: I wanted Genevieve to be as far away from her comfort zone as possible. I wanted Robin and Genevieve to be as different as possible so their relationship wasn’t based on superficial things like what bands they like or what books they’d read. I wanted it to go deeper than that, an unspoken shared experience, or maybe it was just out of necessity. Either way, I felt that the more isolated the characters were, the stronger the relationships and consequences would be.
RF: What’s your next project?
ST: I’ve been acting in a lot of movies, which has been really fun. Next, I’m going to produce and act in Lawrence’s next film, which we’re shooting in the fall. And the next film I’m directing, which I’m writing right now is a comedy set in New York and Ghana.