Receiving a limited release this week, followed by a Blu-Ray/VOD release next week is Michael Goldbach‘s debut film Daydream Nation, a dramedy starring Kat Dennings and Josh Lucas. Dennings plays Caroline Wexler, a rebellious young teenager who gets caught up in a love triangle when one of her classmates (Reece Thompson) falls for her. The only problem is, Caroline has fallen for someone else, her teacher (Josh Lucas). The two start an affair and with it comes a number of problems, which only further complicates Caroline’s life.
We recently spoke to director Michael Goldbach about the film. He talked about how he got the idea for it, the casting, the soundtrack and more. Check it out below.
We Got This Covered: How are you?
Michael Goldbach: Good good.
WGTC: So can you start by telling us how the film came about, what inspired you to write it?
MG: I’m from a small town in Canada and I really wanted to make a movie about a small town that worked against the cliches. So instead of nothing ever happening, I wanted to make a place where everything was happening. A place that is sexy and fun and vibrant. A lot of these small towns are surprisingly drug heavy and there are weird surreal elements to them. And I wanted to capture that feeling, particularly in regards to what it’s like being a teenager growing up in a town like that.
When it came to Kat Dennings‘ character, Caroline Wexler, I just remember in high school there was always that girl in my class who was very intelligent and beautiful. She seemed very separate from the high school world and always seemed to be in trouble with older guys. And I always wondered, what was the deal with that girl? And it was fun to go back as an adult and look at that girl and analyze that character and find out who she really was.
In some ways it’s based off my own life experiences but it’s definitely exaggerated. There’s a kernel of truth and reality in every incident in the film.But it’s still surreal and heightened.
WGTC: Was the film Juno an inspiration? Kat and Ellen’s characters were quite similar.
MG: I wrote this about eight years ago, so years before I saw Juno. The characters are similar in that they’re strong female leads, and they’re sarcastic and they both have that attitude that they’re smarter than everyone else. But as the film progresses, you start to like them more. So in that way, they’re the same. But in terms of where they’re coming from, they’re quite different.
WGTC: You said you wrote it eight years ago, what took so long to get it to the big screen?
MG: It’s really hard as a first time director to get your first film made. Especially with a film like this. It’s kind of eccentric and unusual and clearly an independent film and it doesn’t play by the Hollywood rule book. There was no studio behind us and it was really just a small Canadian film. We’ve really been the underdog all along though.
WGTC: How did you bring on such great actors like Kat, Josh and Andie?
MG: Well I worked really hard on the script to make sure each of these characters had compelling moments and you know I think for a young actress like Kat, she read the script and thought ‘hey here’s a part where I can really show off my acting chops’ and in her case, it’s the first time where she’s carrying a movie.
Once Kat came on board, she’s actor bait so other actors come running. And that’s how we got Andie. And Josh Lucas is just one of the most underrated actors around. We were so lucky to get him and I think he knew with this part he knew he could show a different side of himself to people. And I’m thankful we got him because he really elevated the project.
Because it’s a small Canadian movie, we were only allowed 3 American actors, so that’s Andie, Josh and Kat. Everyone else was Canadian. 90% of the actors were local Vancover actors. And everyone on the crew had to be Canadian as well. Most of these actors I had no idea who they were before I started auditioning them. The exception was Reece Thompson, I met him years ago and he was always the guy I had in mind to play this part. I didn’t write it for him but once I saw him in Rocket Science, I knew he’d be perfect. He delivers a really understated fantastic performance.
WGTC: Ya, I agree with you about Kat, I was very happy to finally see her take on a lead role and carry a film.
MG: Thanks. It’s a great part for her, she really thrives in this movie. It’s an intelligent, sexy, young girl who also turns out to be quite complicated and that’s what Kat can do better than most actors her age. You really feel like she’s a complicated person.
WGTC: What were the biggest challenges you faced as a first time director?
MG: The budget. We shot in 22 days on an HD camera with no toys. If you watch the movie you’ll see, we literally couldn’t even get a stedicam. We just never had a lot of time to do anything. We had to become very resourceful. But it united us as a cast and crew and made us really push hard to ensure that we were always at the top of our game.
WGTC: What about the soundtrack, I thought it was great, did you help with that?
MG: I chose every song actually. We were such a small movie that we couldn’t even afford a music supervisor so I just chose all the music, me and the editor, we spent a lot of time doing it. I put a lot of thought into it. I wanted to put in the kind of music that these characters would listen to. If you’re going to name a film after a Sonic Youth album, you have to be careful about the music you choose. I wanted to make sure the music was always appropriate. I used a lot of songs with female singers when Kat is on camera to reflect her headspace, because it’s such a subjective film. I wanted to reflect Caroline’s taste with the soundtrack.
WGTC: When writing, did you expect to draw controversy for the relationship between Kat and Josh?
MG: I never really expected it to draw controversy. It’s just a movie and these things happen in the real world so why not explore it in a film. I don’t think that we’re dealing with it in an exploitative manner so I don’t think it has to be controversial.
WGTC: The film has been shown at a few festivals already, are you happy with the reception so far?
MG: I think the audience reactions have been great as well as the critics reaction. The challenge with a small movie is just getting it out there. There are so many movies out there with larger budgets than us and we’re competing for attention, so that’s always difficult. And depite having a positive response, we’re still fighting to get on the radar.
WGTC: What’s the release schedule looking like?
MG: Opening in NY and LA on May 6 and then will hit Blu-Ray May 17th. It’s a new thing with indie films because they think it’s harder to get people out to theatres so why not go to DVD sooner than later? Especially with VOD and Netflix. Part of me wishes it was opening wider but at the same time it’s a miracle that we’re getting the release we are.
WGTC: What’s next for you?
MG: I’m writing a film for Mark Waters. We’re doing a remake of a South Korean film called Castaway on the Moon and as a director I’m trying to get a script of mine made. It’s a small film though so it will be an uphill battle. Right now though my main focus is helping Daydream Nation find its audience, I’m really proud of the film.
WGTC: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us and good luck with everything.