After her characteristic directorial debut The Fallout (2021), a movie a few high-school capturing, Megan Park was feeling the load of its emotional aftermath. “When you make a movie, you live in that world for years,” she tells Filmmaker at Sundance Film Festival. “I wanted an escape, and I wanted to be nostalgic.” So she went again house to Canada and began excited about what grew to become the genesis of My Old Ass, a bittersweet coming-of-age comedy, and, step by step, a reflective tearjerker that left Sundance audiences sobbing. “It was this idea of the last time your whole family sleeps under one roof, before one person moves away and starts a new season of life. And if you could go back and appreciate it in a way you hadn’t before, would that be good? I wanted to make a movie that kind of transported everybody to that moment in time, like the last summer before you leave home.”
From there, she layered one other concept on high of it—what in case you met your older self in the future and will ask her questions? How a lot would you need to know? That is precisely the dilemma that younger Elliott (Maisy Stella) faces when, throughout a lakeside mushroom journey together with her pals, she receives a go to from her older self (Aubrey Plaza). The older Elliott has some poignant and sensible recommendation, reminiscent of “spend time with family, get to know your brother, use moisturizer.” But she additionally tells her to keep away from a sure man, the small print of which the movie reveals in considerate doses (and won’t be spoiled throughout this interview).
Below is our dialog with Park about constructing her script, filming in a Canadian lake district with all its authenticity and dealing with Lucky Chap producers.
Filmmaker: My Old Ass has such a novel idea that solely distantly pertains to some time-travel or body-swap themed coming-of-age motion pictures. Did you’ve gotten any references in thoughts?
Park: I’m not an enormous style particular person and I didn’t need to make it sci-fi, and I stored it easy. We stored referencing 13 Going On 30 the place she’s within the closet and a few magic mud falls on her head and she or he’s transported. The buy-in is so nice, and that film is so fantastic that you just simply maintain going with the story. We wished it to really feel actually grounded like that. And the mushroom journey was a enjoyable method into the world that I haven’t seen earlier than, which might go away you considering, “Did that happen?”
Ultimately to me, it was about whether or not the buy-in was there emotionally. And if it’s there, then you’ll be able to type of get away with something. And that’s what I wished to get proper first. So that was a part of the thought course of. We had been additionally had been referencing a variety of nice coming-of-age movies that felt timeless, no less than felt timeless to me, like Now and Then. And My Girl. Those forms of movies felt very defining for my era. And I’ve extra curiosity in telling tales from the feminine perspective. That’s the life I’ve lived and people are the tales I need to inform.
Filmmaker: In each The Fallout and My Old Ass, you show to have a particular method writing teenage characters and giving them an genuine voice. Not preachy or condescending, however truthful.
Park: I don’t know why it’s one thing folks inform me that I’m good at. But I get pleasure from [writing teens]. I get pleasure from spending time in my thoughts writing these coming-of-age years. And I feel I spent so a few years in entrance of the digital camera performing at that age, at 18-19, saying dialogue that felt so inauthentic to me. So that’s positively been a North Star, to attempt to do it justice and seize the younger new era in essentially the most genuine method attainable. And I feel it begins with being open and never having an ego and considering every part since you don’t. Also, I don’t method the characters considering like I’m writing a teen character. In Elliott’s case, I’m simply writing Elliott. Maybe that can also be useful in case you’re not going, “Okay, what would a teenager do in that situation?” It’s about what would Elliott, what would this human do, who simply occurs to be 18. And then you must be open-minded each step of the best way: hair, make-up, wardrobe, dialogue. I all the time inform the division heads to permit that suggestions. If you’re going solid an 18-year-old to play an 18-year-old, you should use them as a useful resource: Would you utilize this phrase? Would you put on these pair of denims? Would you take heed to that music?
Filmmaker: I’m glad that you just really introduced up the costuming. There is one thing so particular, so lived-in about the best way Elliott attire. It appeared like a variety of thought went into it.
Park: I’m very shut with my costume designer, Tasha Goldthwait. She did The Fallout as nicely and completely killed it. Those Vada (Jenna Ortega) outfits have turn into so iconic and any of the garments she wore offered out in shops. So she’s very in contact with that era. This movie is admittedly particularly grounded in this type of Canadian wilderness. So a lot of the stuff was classic and sourced and handmade and she or he actually put a variety of thought behind it.
Filmmaker: And talking of the Canadian wilderness, there may be a variety of specificity within the movie about it. I hate to sound like a cliché, however the lake district location is sort of its personal character within the movie. Honestly, I wished to maneuver there.
Park: [Laughs]. You ought to transfer there. It’s lovely. I feel the story actually got here collectively each with the concept of speaking to your older/youthful self and in addition this location. So it’s a character. Muskoka, which is a lake district is simply north of Toronto. I grew up not removed from there and I spent each summer time going there as a child. I went to a summer time camp that was on an island up there. And we might lease cottages and keep up there and had pals there. It’s a timeless place with a extremely particular power. It’s actually uncommon that if you set a narrative someplace, the producers conform to movie it there. And it wasn’t like the most affordable or best place to movie, as a result of it’s extra distant. But fortunately the producers had been like, “This is such a special place, we have to film there.”
We wished to make it really feel essentially the most genuine. The neighborhood was so excited and welcoming. We used all locals as extras and other people would open up their cottages to us. And the superb cottage, Sterling Point, that we rented has been in the identical household for 100 years. And I went again this summer time with my household and stayed there and we lived there whereas we had been filming. So I feel as a result of all of us felt so linked to the place, we spent months there earlier than we began filming. The actors, the producers, everyone. We had been dropped into the tempo of life there and all of us fell so in love with it you can hopefully really feel that within the film. Now everyone desires to purchase cottages there. [Laughs].
Filmmaker: As on your producers, I couldn’t assist however discover the names Margot Robbie and Tom Ackerley. Their Lucky Chap manufacturing firm has this little Barbie film now. How did they first get entangled?
Park: I first met [executive producer] Bronte Payne on a normal assembly simply on the heels of The Fallout. She’d seen the film. And then I met Tom and Margo and finally Josey [McNamara]. They all love The Fallout and had been so candy and supportive. And they stated, do you’ve gotten any concepts? And I used to be like, nicely, I’ve been excited about this like mushroom journey if you meet your younger-older self. And they liked the concept. It was truthfully so pure, I simply acquired such good vibes from them immediately. The Fallout premiered in March 2021 at SXSW. I met them in April, possibly May. And then we had been on set filming subsequent summer time—it went from pitch to being on set in simply over a yr, which is fairly insane. It was actually collaborative. And they deserve every part, all the great issues which are occurring to them proper now as a result of they actually know the right way to assist filmmakers. They give actually good, considerate strategies and notes, but in addition give inventive freedom when it’s necessary. Everybody at that firm simply walks that line so completely.
They’re additionally such pretty people. I might describe their firm as a no ego firm. I see them deal with the leads of the film, the director, the PAs all the identical. They simply don’t imagine in any type of hierarchy. And I don’t imagine a set ought to have hierarchy both. It doesn’t create the very best efficiency and doesn’t make the very best film. And that’s I feel why we linked a lot as a result of we method it the identical method. And I feel that’s why they’ve a lot repeat enterprise with unimaginable filmmakers. It was a dream. Tom and Margot and Bronte, they had been all there. And Margot was additionally bringing me presents and cleansing my cabin for me in addition to being by the monitor. When I say “no ego,” I actually imply no ego. They’re all actually right down to earth and fantastic folks.
Filmmaker: What do you assume they responded to most in your pitch?
Park: I feel Lucky Chap goes with their intestine. And I’m the identical method, I’m a gut-check particular person. And I’ll say Tom has figured me out as a filmmaker earlier than I figured myself out as a filmmaker and he requested actually fascinating questions in regards to the forms of motion pictures I need to make. What they noticed within the concept was actually [seeing] me as a filmmaker and the potential in my first film. And then it was, are all of us on the no-ego prepare? Are all of us right here to simply create the very best film we are able to make? And we had been. They maintain saying, “You can’t get rid of us.” And I’m like, “No, I’m not trying to get rid of you [laughs]. Trust me, I want to make my movies with you.”
Filmmaker: Maisy Stella is completely superb as Elliott. What had been the qualities you had been on the lookout for when casting each Elliott (youthful and older), and her pals circle?
Park: I’m all the time on the lookout for people who embody the soul of the character in a roundabout way. And that’s tough in casting, however I additionally actually like when motion pictures really feel actually genuine in that method. So I actually wished them to be the precise age of the characters, not 27-year-olds play 18-year-olds. Lots of producers received’t allow you to solid actually younger actors due to the danger issue. Maisy was any individual I knew as a result of she’d written a music for The Fallout. I actually wished Elliott to really feel like a real, regular type of particular person. And Maisy is that—she embodied all of the qualities of Elliott. She has such a sparkle in her eyes, such a twinkle. And I feel so many younger characters have this jaded type of edge to them. She was simply the polar reverse. She’s so constructive and gregarious and magnetic and sparkly and candy. She’s the kind of individual that younger persons are going to be like, “Oh, I want to be like her.” As quickly as we noticed her tape, I used to be like, she’s the one. And then we constructed the solid round her. We didn’t solid older Elliott/Aubrey Plaza first. And then it was all simply solid chemistry reads and we constructed it round her.
Filmmaker: I don’t need to spoil the film in fact, however in a specific scene the place everybody together with me cried, you’ve gotten such an unimaginable tonal shift. How did you navigate that?
Park: One of the issues I’m studying about myself as a filmmaker is I actually like tales and tones of flicks that reside a bit within the grey space, the place it’s exhausting to outline the style of the film. I feel in case you got down to make a film that’s unhappy, it’s inevitably not going to be that unhappy. If you simply go into it coronary heart first and never attempt to manipulate folks’s feelings and reside within the character’s world, that’s when hopefully the actual emotion comes by means of. At the pageant, everyone’s actually responded to a distinct a part of it: all ages and all genders and backgrounds. And I’ve been so shocked the quantity of males of their 50s and 60s who had been like, “I cried the last 30 minutes of the movie.” I definitely wasn’t anticipating it to resonate in the best way that it has. But there was definitely part of me that was like, if that ending scene doesn’t land, that’s scary. I put stress on myself for that scene. But that’s why you solid actually superb actors. And the genius editor, Jennifer Vecchiarello, I actually relied on. She actually helped tie that collectively. It actually is surgical procedure on the finish of the day for these forms of moments.
Filmmaker: Can you speak about navigating Elliott’s sexuality in a really fluid and open method? She thinks she is a lesbian at first. But then she decides possibly she is bi, or pan.
Park: I assumed it was simply actually truthful to this era’s coming-of-age story. It was totally different after I was rising up and I feel there was a time when there was a variety of popping out tales And I hadn’t seen a narrative the place there was any individual who was out, had recognized as a sure label after which met any individual of the other gender. And it was by no means going to be, “Oh, I’m straight.” That was by no means the story. But it was in a method a reverse popping out the place her household and her pals and everybody knew and accepted how she recognized. But in the end it’s additionally not in regards to the label. It’s necessary to know what labels imply to folks and the way necessary they’ve been traditionally for folks. So it was a variety of actually necessary, good conversations with folks locally. I had a variety of conversations with the actors. It was crucial to them. And it was actually useful to listen to their suggestions and the way they felt about it. So it was delicate. And everybody’s journey is totally different. And there are some tidbits in there in case you hear fastidiously, about the place older Elliott is now.
Filmmaker: Would you ask your older self a query? Or would you need to give your youthful self recommendation?
Park: I thought of it a lot. Ask me day after day and the reply is totally different. Part of me feels prefer it’s higher to not know. I’m such a worrier by nature that if I do know an excessive amount of, it’s scary to me. So I feel I’m higher with ignorance is bliss. But I imply in fact I’d return first and inform my youthful self to spend money on Amazon and Apple, which is a joke within the film. But I actually wouldn’t need to do this. I feel the primary factor is, if I may return and meet my youthful self, I might actually encourage her to fret much less and benefit from the second. [I would tell her], every part’s going to be okay. It sounds tacky, but it surely’s true. But I don’t find out about being my older self. I’ve acquired to consider that. That’s scary to me.