Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

{Teddy Bears screened at the Seattle International Film Festival on 6/1 and 6/2 — and will hopefully get a wide release soon! I was super lucky to get to sit down and talk with the cast and crew. This is part 1 of my interview with Directors Thomas Beatty and Rebecca Fishman. Look for part 2 with the actors soon} 

TIG: I was just reading that you guys are married, and that the script for Teddy Bears, while not exactly what happened, is closely related to something that actually happened in your relationship. Can you tell me a little bit about that? 

Rebecca: Well Thomas wrote it. We had gone through kind of a  difficult time when we first moved in together … Thomas kind of had a little bit of a breakdown. 

Thomas: Mmm… more like a full breakdown. [laughing] 

Rebecca: It was really a rocky time. And we always go out to Joshua Tree with our friends for New Year's. We've been going out there for like 5 or 6 years now. It was during that kind of rocky time we were out there, and Thomas was …. lying on the bed I believe? And … 

Thomas: It was kind of after. We had sort of come out of the rough time. 

Rebecca: Yeah, we had. That's right. And … you can tell the rest of the story. 

Thomas: Oh gosh. Now this is the story I can't NOT tell! Haha! I said this on a panel the other day, and I was like, I can never put those words back in my mouth. We had been talking even before that about just wanting to make a movie, because most of my time is just waiting around for people to say things about things I've written, and we wanted to just do it. And we went out to Joshua Tree to this house we always stay in, and I was still feeling very sorry for myself. And I was lying on the bed, and everyone was off hiking, and I was all by myself, and the actual thought I had in my head was, "I just want EVERYONE to give me a blow job!" Like, everyone. 

And it was one of those thoughts, the second I had it, I could just look at it and go, "That is a crazy thought." And that day, it just sort of turned into a script for a short, for us to make at the house, at Joshua Tree.

Rebecca: Yeah, our original intent was to do something really small with our friends, because we have so many talented friends. And just to keep it really small, and shoot it at the house — just to get a short film under our belt. And then Thomas started showing it to people, and it just got this unanimous reaction of "Wow. This needs to be a feature. And, you need to make it." 

Thomas: And when we thought it about, with the technology that exists now, a feature and a short take the same amount of work. The same resources, and all that. So we were like, let's just make a movie. And then there was just a really wonderful response to the script, and that sort of took it out of the realm of just making it with our friends.

Rebecca: It really snowballed, very quickly. And it kind of just almost felt like it was out of our hands. The script took on a life of its own, and it got so much bigger than we had ever anticipated. But we just kind of went with it. 

Thomas: We both have a lot of background in production on bigger stuff, so I think that helped us. It was almost like it moved to something more familiar. Like, we were expecting to take on this unfamiliar role of making a movie with just us and our friends, and it got a little more like, "Oh, ok, we've done this before." 

TIG: Did you feel like when it was all done that it was a little bit like therapy? 

Rebecca: Oh, my god. In ways that were not even intended! Yes. 

Thomas: I think that making this movie definitely required some therapy afterwards. I would say that yeah, it was a cathartic and therapeutic time, that we had [gone through] before the movie started, and the movie was more about trying to capture that. More than the movie itself being the therapy. It was us trying to take this really hard time that we worked through where we had learned a lot, and get it into a form where other people could relate to it, and hopefully learn from it too. 

Rebecca: And in the meantime, we got married!

Thomas: Right. Yes. We wrote the script, and then we were like, "Let's make this movie, but let's get married first." Because then we will … really not be tired.

Rebecca: So then, we planned the wedding and …

Thomas: Yeah, planned the wedding, and then planned the movie. 

Rebecca: As soon as we got back from our honeymoon, we were like, ok! Production begins. We got back from our honeymoon, we had Christmas, and then we started pre-production. It was a busy year. 

TIG:  One of the things that I really liked about the movie is that it did feel very relatable, and very real. Everybody just seemed like they were friends, and got along really well. Did you get everybody together to get know each other before you started shooting? 

Rebecca: That feeling was really important to us, because it is a movie basically modeled on our friends. And all of our friends have been with us for long, and we really wanted that naturalism and that ease, so we did a lot of thinking about chemistry. Of course, there's no guarantee once you get everybody in a room. And we did not have very much rehearsal … we had one table read before we went out to shoot. 

Thomas: We definitely thought about casting people that we felt like we would want to be friends with so that would translate. 

Rebecca: And who would be believable as friends together. 

Thomas: And we were lucky because there were a few strong friendships already between cast members, like Gillian and Melanie were close beforehand. And Ahna and David knew each other, and they had mutual friends. So I think that helped. 

Rebecca: And once they got on set, they all got super close. And had an incredible bonding. 

Thomas: They become a really close-knit group of friends. We also thought a lot about how, especially in places like L.A., often your family is not your actually your family, it's more your group of friends. 

Rebecca: We talked a lot about that with the actors too. Who are you in this friend group, and what is your familial role? Who's the dad? Who's the mom? Who are the siblings? What's that dynamic? 

TIG: I definitely feel like this cast is kind a dream cast. 

Thomas: It is a dream. It's like winning the lottery. 

TIG: The writing is great, but what I mean is that the cast really pulls everything all together, in the way that they make it feel like you're really looking into this real world. 

Thomas: I would say our goal as directors is to cast people that you truly trust, who are great actors, and let them do their thing. And we were so lucky in this case, in that they are all so smart, and talented, and a lot of it was just me saying "Here's the material. Let me see what you do with it." And they all came back with really interesting, wonderful things. 

TIG: And that was another thing I was thought was really great too. I feel like it's really hard to do an ensemble cast like that and show everybody. But you did. It didn't end up being just about David and Melanie's characters. 

Rebecca: It was a long process to get there in the editing, because there was so much material. And whose story do you tell? 

TIG: But you did a good job telling everybody's.

Thomas: Well thank you for saying that. 

Rebecca: Yes, thank you! 

Thomas: We started with a 90-page script and shot a movie in 17 days, so it should have been about an hour and half, which is where it ended up. But the first cut of our movie was over 3 hours long. So we had two movies. And we cut a whole movie out. 

Rebecca: There's so much great footage that we had to cut. 

TIG: DVD extras!

Rebecca: TOTALLY!

Thomas: Yeah! The acting is so wonderful, I'm really excited to somehow show [those scenes] to people. They don't necessarily fit in, or need to be in, the movie, but they totally work with it. 

TIG: So what are you guys gonna work on next? Can you say? 

Thomas: We have a project that we really really really want to do, that is a slightly bigger movie, even within the world of independent movies. And there's a different path that we have to take for that. Like, we have to go through labs. I mean, we could get lucky and someone could fund it. But … hmm. What can I say about it? I will say that it is a love story … with ghosts. 

TIG: Alright. Have you guys ever thought about going the Kickstarter route? 

Rebecca: We did think about that. This was all funded through private equity. We did consider Kickstarter, we just felt … well, we didn't need to. And we felt like it's a lot of work. But I would do it in the future, sure. 

Thomas: I'm excited about the possibility of something being crowd-funded, where people can actually be investors, instead of just donating. I hope that someday there's a model where you can say, "Would you like to buy your ticket now?" and then if enough people buy their tickets, then you make the movie. And it makes sense. It's a bit of a cleaner model. 

TIG: And I always ask this at the end of my interviews: What kind of music were you listening to when you were writing Teddy Bears and/or filming it? 

Rebecca: Well, I'm also a musician, and we're both huge music nerds. So we actually thought a lot about the music that we wanted in the film. And actually my band was formed at the house we shot the movie at … so the music we were listening to was the music that we play. Like, a lot of 70's music — The Band, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zant, Flying Burrito Brothers, Emmylou Harris … 

Thomas: Michael Hurley. He was a huge influence and we were actually going to try to get his music in the movie, but he's tough to track down. And of course, we could not find him, could not get in touch with him. And then, a month after we finished the movie he was crashing on our friend's couch. Also, Paris, Texas was a big influence on us, so Ry Cooder and the music from that too. That kind of slide guitar sound. 

Rebecca: And all the music that's in the movie is all our friends' bands. Then the bookend songs .. the Withered Hand song at the end is a song that Thomas found a couple of years ago, and we just became obsessed with it. And we laid it in at one point, and knew we had to get it for the end of the movie. Our music supervisor it a dear friend, and he really came through. And the first song, the Deer Ticks song … 

Thomas: Deer Tick is someone we've been fond of for awhile. And we kind of knew, this is someone who represents this kind of music now that we really love. And luckily he said yes! Deer Tick — it's basically one dude — his one request was that he wanted a video of a famous person involved with the movie saying "Fuck Deer Tick!"  So he got a video of Ned Beatty in Central Park saying Fuck Deer Tick. 

TIG: HA! What's the name of your band, Rebecca? 

Rebecca: Well, I have two bands, actually. We have a lot of names, because we change our name regularly. Because it's not a real band … we just kind of play for ourselves. 

Thomas: It IS a real band! They just change the name every time they play. 

Rebecca: Our current name is Charlie Limousine, which is a terrible name. And I'm also in a Fleetwood Mac cover band. It's call Rumours, and I play Christine McVie. I'm actually headed to Alabama to play a festival there. 

TIG: If you ever come here, I am coming to see you! 

Rebecca: We have so many places to go! It's a pretty recent development, so we're trying to figure out where to play next. We should do a whole Pacific Northwest thing. 

TIG: Sounds good to me!