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‘The Moment’ Director Jane Weinstock on Doubles and Character-Based Thrillers

Director and co-writer Jane Weinstock talks about complex mother/daughter roles in 'The Moment,' a film starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Martin Henderson and Alia Shawkat.

Tribeca: Tell us a little about The Moment. What inspired you to tell this story? 

Jane Weinstock: Gloria Norris (who co-wrote the film with me) and I wanted to tell a complex mother/daughter story using a structure that is more associative than linear (more like the unconscious). We also wanted to deal with photography in some way. My husband is a photographer, so I’m around photographers a lot. The story we ended up telling evolved over several months as we brainstormed around issues that are inherent in mother-daughter relationships.

Tribeca: This is your second project with Gloria Norris, who produced your first film, Easy. In addition to producing The Moment, Norris also co-wrote it with you. Can you discuss your collaborative process?  How did you keep the timeline of the film straight in your heads?

JW: Gloria and I discussed everything in great detail. In terms of the actual writing, we wrote separately and then rewrote each other’s writing. We mapped out the timeline when we started getting confused.

Tribeca: The connections between your characters in The Moment are so vital to the success of the film. Was there a rehearsal period with the cast? Did you have concerns about the rapport between the various actors?

JW: I rehearsed for 4 or five days with Jennifer, Martin and Alia in various combinations. This was hugely important as the film is character-based. The actors responded to each other immediately, which was very lucky.

Tribeca: You have an absolutely fantastic cast—Jennifer Jason Leigh, Martin Henderson, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Meat Loaf and Alia Shawkat (in her first real-adult role). Can you talk about how they came to the project?

JW: All the actors came to us through our fantastic casting directors, Amy Lippens and Stephanie Laffin. They have great relationships with all the agencies and management companies and were able to get the script to wonderful actors. I’m really thrilled with our cast.

Tribeca: The theme of doubles is very apparent in the film—John and Peter, Jessie and Lee—but remains very subtle at the same time. How did you achieve this balance?

JW: It was very tricky. We ended up shooting a new Dr. Bloom scene about Peter looking just like John to help people along with the double theme. Also, Martin did a great job distinguishing the two characters.

We wanted Lee to have a profession that would create conflicts about being a mother.

Tribeca: It was also nice to see Jennifer Jason Leigh in a complex and challenging role worthy of her talent. Did she have any input into the crafting of the character of Lee?

JW: Jennifer had input on her lines and made some great contributions. She’s a writer/director as well as an actor. She also watched a few cuts of the film while we were editing and made some important suggestions.

Tribeca: Many of Lee’s psychological issues stem from her experiences in Somalia. Why did you choose to make her a photojournalist? Where were those flashbacks shot?

JW: We wanted Lee’s profession to raise political/ethical issues, so that led us to photojournalism. Also, we wanted Lee to have a profession that would create conflicts about being a mother and having to go away for her work.

The flashbacks were shot on a set in Santa Clarita (just outside of LA). Todd Fjelsted, our production designer, created the refugee camp from scratch. The set at the end of the movie (Afghanistan) already existed.

Tribeca: The structure of the film reminded me of great neo-noir mysteries like After Dark My Sweet and Memento. Were there other movies that inspired you as you made The Moment?

JW: Hitchcock’s Spellbound is a reference (it’s about a man who is convinced that he murdered his colleague). Also, Chabrol and some recent French thrillers like Tell No One are related although not directly. I also love Cassavetes, although I’m not sure how much of an influence he was on this film. HBO’s "In Treatment" (the tv series about a therapist) was on my mind at times.

Tribeca: What are you most looking forward to at Tribeca?

JW: I’m looking forward to watching the film with a NY indie audience. It’s a great place to premiere the film.

Tribeca: What makes The Moment a Tribeca must-see?

JW: It’s a gripping, thought-provoking film that will stimulate a lot of discussion. Also, Jennifer is fantastic and so are Martin Henderson, Alia Shawkat and Marianne Jean-Baptiste.

The Moment premieres Sunday, April 21, at the Clearview Cinemas Chelsea. For more information and additional showtimes, please visit our Film Guide listing


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