As part of my ongoing series on Women Filmmakers I got to meet Gillian Greene (pictured here with her husband Sam Raimi) after the screening of her feature-length debut “Murder of a Cat.” She proved to be as charming as her film was compelling and humorous.
Green is the wife of director Sam Raimi and the daughter of legendary actor Lorne Greene, so her connection to show-business is deep. But although she expresses some pride about it, she’s clearly emerged as an artist in her own right with “Murder of a Cat.” Greene previously directed a short (“Fanboy”) and got acting roles in “Battlestar Galactica” and “Bonanza: The next generation.”
What sold her about the script of “Murder of a cat” is the fact that it proposed intelligent comedy rather than crass humor. “I like smart scripts,” she said to me.
In fact, she was so honored to direct the screenplay, she added, that she allowed writers Christian Magalhaes and Robert Snow a lot of freedom and access to the filmmaking process.
MORE: see our review of “Murder of a Cat”
She worked on the script with them and sought their continuous input. She said her budget was small, with locations being her biggest expense but she got much in the way of support both from her cinematographer, Christophe Lanzenberg, and her actors, all whom very helpful in the creative process. “I love collaboration,” Greene commented.
Greene was involved from the very start in the process of casting. She remembered when Nikki Reed auditioned for the role, and that “earthy quality” not seen in other actresses.
Greg Kinnear, a friend of Green’s, fell in love with the script immediately and Fran Kranz, who appeared in Greene’s short “Fanboy,” was encouraged to do a great deal of improvisation as Greene believed that he had a knack for being funny.
The frantic pace of shooting (the movie was in the can in twenty one days) not only didn’t phase Greene but actually made for some great moments. “We only did a few takes and had to move on but sometimes we got the best stuff that way,” she told me. “These happy accidents are brought about by a certain pressure that causes everyone to bring their “A” game,” Greene added.
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And judging from the performances she was able to elicit from her posse of seasoned comedic actors, which includes Blythe Danner and J.K. Simmons, it’s manifest that everyone stepped up their game. This is a tribute to how much they respected Greene and trusted her ability as filmmaker and fellow actor.
Greene was pleased with her Tribeca debut and thanked everyone for their hard work including her composer and her editor during the presentation for the screening.
“The film was originally two hours but thankfully we got it shorter because all the best comedies are between ninety and one-hundred minutes,” she told me during our talk together.
And as for her post-festival plans Greene told me she’s already got a project in the works with the “Murder of a Cat” screenwriters.
As a major “Bonanza” fan myself I couldn’t resist parting ways with Greene without a nod to her famous father. To which she responded, “you’ve made my day.”