While often times people complain about their relatives’ actions and beliefs, often times family bonds and relationships are the most important things that help people overcome the obstacles in their lives. Such is the case between the two title sisters in writer-director Adam Christian Clark‘s new drama, Caroline and Jackie. To the outside world, the two sisters have the perfect lives and relationship. But in reality, they’re still bonding over the conflicts from their childhoods, despite the questionable choices they’ve made as a result of those problems.
Caroline and Jackie follows the title characters (Marguerite Moreau and Bitsie Tulloch), two sisters who have grown closer as they’ve transitioned into adulthood. Caroline travels to visit her younger sister and her boyfriend, Ryan (David Giuntoli), so they can celebrate their birthdays with their friends. What starts off as a fun dinner quickly turns into an intense, emotion-fueled evening as Caroline initiates an intervention for Jackie.
At first it seems Caroline’s reasoning for the intervention is justified. However, as the group learns more information about the sisters’ upbringing, her own mental stability slowly begins to be questioned. Jackie initially insists that Caroline is just acting act for attention, but their bond slowly begins to alienate everyone else, as the sisters begin to rely on only each other for help.
Moreau, Tulloch and Clark, who is making his feature film directorial debut with Caroline and Jackie, generously took the time to sit down to discuss the film with us recently at New York City’s Hilton Fashion District Hotel during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. The three discussed the reasons why they wanted to make a film about the bond between sisters, the process of shooting a largely improvised drama and the limitations they faced filming an independent movie with a limited budget.
Check it out below.
We Got This Covered: Adam, you decided to write the film to showcase the bond between sisters. What was your motivation in exploring this bond in a movie?
Adam Christian Clark: Well, I think I’ve always found women really fascinating, as a man. I was fascinated with why family members could be so extremely cruel to each other. They could be so close and near to each other, and sometimes they’re the nicest and most helpful when you run away. You can abuse your family members and love them with the same court of malice that you love yourself.
There always seems to be a possibility of forgiveness, even on your deathbed. I thought, what better way to explore that than in a movie?
WGTC: You based the script on your own childhood. What experiences from your life did you bring into the script?
ACC: I don’t think I necessarily based it on my own childhood. I think I had a tumultuous upbringing, and I think that a lot of people did. With my upbringing, I’m more sensitive to the extremities with family bonds.
But I don’t have a personal story from my childhood that was the motivating factor. More the interaction of, or the dynamic of people being extreme in their reactions.
WGTC: Bitsie and Marguerite, what interested you both in, and motivated you to take on, the characters tat you play?
Bitsie Tulloch: The script was quite good, it was very intense. I personally find familial dynamic-the chaos, and everything that goes hand-in-hand with families, to be intriguing. It’s more profound, really, than any other relationship. Your relationship with your family is deeper and more colorful than a lot of times, even more than with a lover.
But mostly, I have a big sister, and related to it. I think the relationship between the two sisters is beautiful, scary, frightening and offensive. I was really looking forward to playing this character.
On page, the character did kind of read as, my initial instinct, was everyone is going to hate her. I don’t know, even though your character, Marguerite, turns out to be the crazier one. So it really was a bit of a struggle for me. I wasn’t judging the character.
Marguerite Moreau: I have a younger sister, so that was the work that we didn’t have to do. When a role like this comes along, you hold on as long as they let you. So it was a wonderful opportunity to do very big risks, and hope that they paid off.
I really loved not only the script, but that we were going to explore it together as well. A lot of the references and influences were brought to the table, in terms of explaining how it was going to look and feel and sound. I always dream of making movies where that is such a rich fabric.
I would also say as well, the family relationship. It’s probably why I stay working. I feel that I learn so much that I can pour in. I can be more patient and available, and love them better. I really appreciate working in this industry, because believe it or not, it’s where I grow.
WGTC: How did you both prepare for your roles before you began shooting?
BT: We rehearsed quite intensely, because technically, it was an improv drama. So we had a very thorough outline. But we had the luxury of getting together and rehearsing for weeks before we shot. So that was the main way of preparing.
One thing with Adam, which people are seizing on, rightfully so, is that he tried to keep us distant. We were distant both literally and psychically, and emotionally and figuratively, from each other throughout the filming process.
For example, during the intervention scene, I was in a room by myself. Then I would walk down by myself, and start shooting the scene. He would yell action, I would walk down, and the scene would start. As soon as it was done, I would be back up there.
ACC: We would already be rolling camera, and the sound would be rolling before she even left the room. Then all the camera assistants would be off the set.
BT: Which was a really wonderful and generous way to film. It was generous of him.
ACC: It was generous of the crew. (laughs) It was like, you all need to leave, but I can be here. (laughs) It was generous of them for us three and the rest of the cast.
WGTC: What was your motivation, Adam, in having the script largely improvised by the actors? Why did you feel that was important?
ACC: Well, I went to film school when I was 18. The only type of job I’ve had has been some kind of various form of either directing or editing, or being a camera assistant or operator.
I’ve always worked in this industry. I did it because my dream would be to make a 1970s American new-wave film every 16 months for the rest of my life. I was scared, like a lot of people, to fail when you first start things out.
When I made my first short film, I didn’t really embrace what I liked and wanted to do. I would do what I thought was the right thing to do. I would almost make like a Stanley Kubrick or Albert Hitchcock-type of film.
In doing that, it was so not playing to my strengths or my sensitivity. I would be so overwhelmed with that sense of style that I wasn’t able to focus on the acting that much.
So making those mistakes in the past, this film specifically, I wanted to put ever resource possible, and every strength and every bit of my attention into the acting. It would be story, acting, story, acting.
Everything else was important, and I think if you look at this film, it’s very stylized. There’s a visual look to it, and a sound designed that I’m very proud of.
But the improv was my way of saying, we’re going to go into this, and make it all about you guys. I thought it was going to give them a better resource to get what I wanted. It worked out, fortunately. I don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t.
WGTC: Since Caroline and Jackie is an independent film, did that place any limitations on what you could shoot?
MM: Yes, we had many. (laughs)
BT: We all did our own hair and make-up, which is the only time I’ve had to do that.
ACC: Marguerite brought that up the other day, that we had no hair and make-up.
MM: Yeah, it was awesome.
ACC: We had hair and make-up, it was all budgeted. They were hired, but these people wouldn’t show up. We didn’t have a conversation that we weren’t going to have hair and make-up. It’s like, where are the hair people? (laughs) Let’s just say we weren’t paying union-scale. (laughs)
BT: That’s actually one thing that I feel should be noted. Everyone did this movie because it was a first-time film director. When you sign onto a project, the first thing you see is the script. If it’s not there in the script, you’re not doing the project.
But it was there. It was very much an act of love, because people were working for free, like us, basically.
ACC: Everyone was essentially working for free. Nobody was paying their mortgage with this film. Everybody was paid something, but it wasn’t a lot.
That’s great, because of the energy of the people involved is very good. It’s also bad, because if anyone ever has a conflict that’s financial, they immediately bail on you. (laughs)
MM: Except the cast, we couldn’t not show up.
ACC: The cast, you get them. As soon as you get them for like 10 seconds on film, they’re trapped. Honestly, you guys did great. I don’t think there’s any scene that’s compromised with the hair and make-up. You guys were very good with the hair and make-up.
WGTC: Marguerite and Bitsie, did you find it easier to work with Adam as a director, since he came up with the idea for the film?
MM: Yes, he was certainly very clear, in terms of what he wanted, so that was always very nice. There wasn’t a third person, in to make it bigger.
BT: He was clear in what he wanted. I also found him to be open. Whatever we brought to the table about the characters, he was all ears.
MM: He said, we’ll try it, but we’ll try it this way, as well.
ACC: Yeah, I think you’re going to look the best as a director if you have really skilled people to do their jobs. As a director, you need to know how to do everybody’s job, at an elementary level.
But you know you’re going to look your best if you assemble a team where everyone is able to do their jobs substantially better than you would. Every director could probably fill in and hold the boom, if he needs to, or operate the camera.
MM: He really made the effort to talk to us. If we didn’t understand something, he would go the distance, instead of saying, just do it.
ACC: If I’m not going to be open to people’s suggestions, I’m just going to hurt myself.
WGTC: Bitsie and Marguerite, how did you come up your lines that were improvised? Did you come up with what you were going to say before you began shooting?
BT: Yes, because we rehearsed it. Obviously, on the day of, everything changes. I’m speaking for myself, but during rehearsal, I would give 90 percent, on a really good day.
On the day of, you can completely go for it. You’re in character and wardrobe. Everybody else is around. Just being in that environment changes everything for you.
MM: It depended on what actor you were working with, what the scene was, if you had rehearsed the scene. Also, in the outline, there were specific beats that had to be hit in every scene. So you weren’t flying blind. You knew where it started, where it ended.
Then you got a sense from Adam, now you can make it half as long. Or, just keep going. Then he could make the scene the length he desired.
That concludes our interview, but we’d liked to thank Adam Christian Clark, Marguerite Moreau and Bitsie Tulloch for taking the time to speak with us.
Caroline and Jackie had its world premiere on April 21 during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at New York City’s AMC Loews Village 7 theater.