That’s an interesting question. Like every actress, obviously, she brought her own style, and she made a few changes here and there. But Gretchen, I think, from early on really identified with the character that I had written; it was part of the reason why I felt so trusting in her doing the role. I felt that she had a really great grasp on it, and other than changing a few lines here and there, she really stuck to it and built her own world around this character I created.
The thing about it is, as soon as I saw her she became Molly, so I did a rewrite based on Gretchen that really didn’t change that much but kind of tailored things a little bit to who she was. She definitely played within the parameters that I had set, but also wasn’t afraid to go off on her own and experiment. I always try to nurture the actors with a very collaborative surrounding, because you never know where the next great idea is going to come from. You have to assume that it’s not always going to be you who comes up with it.
This is her first starring role, and she’s pretty remarkable as Molly. How’d you find her? Was it just a blind audition?
It was, actually. It was an open call in New York, similar to what we did for Blair Witch. We were looking for non-SAG talent. We were looking for completely undiscovered, non-union talent, and even though we ended up going union, our intention was to find unsigned talent that nobody had seen before. We just got really lucky with the casting, and really lucky that Gretchen decided to come to the audition that day.
Just as important to Lovely Molly as Gretchen Lodge is the film’s sound design. From the unnerving score to the little sounds that are heard constantly throughout, you really used sound as a character, and it makes the film ten times creepier than it already is.
The sound designers were from this company called Studio Unknown, and they’re located about 45 minutes from my house in Maryland. I’d never worked with them before but they’re kind of the premier company in this area. They do a bunch of really low-budget films. I always knew that the movie was going to have a really unique sound palette—I didn’t want it to sound like anything else that’s out there. When it came down to the music, I’ve been a big Tortoise fan for a long time and I’ve always wanted to do something with them, and we had just enough money to pay for them for this.
I didn’t want new music for every scene; I wanted to stick to themes and certain sound palettes.
Sound design is more important in horror movies, to me, than in any other genre, yet too many filmmakers seem to overlook that and don’t use it enough as a real tool.
To me, especially in horror movies, sound is more important than the visuals. In horror movies that genuinely scare me, sound is the ultimate kind of tool for showing things without actually showing things, and sometimes it’s the only tool you have.
Blair Witch taught me how important sound is. If you look at Blair Witch and how effective it was, you realize how little you actually see in that movie. You don’t even really see the actors talking most of the time—they’re behind the camera a lot. That’s a movie completely built on sound, and then you have the classic examples like Robert Wise’s The Haunting, where the sound was terrifying and you really didn’t see anything.
I think it’s smart, especially in a movie like Lovely Molly, to really take your time with the sound and come up with something creative. It’s really the easiest and most effective way to create nightmares in a film.
Interview by Matt Barone (@MBarone)