I Dream Too Much tells the story of Dora (Edin Brolin), a recent college grad who goes to upstate New York to care for her reclusive great aunt. During the summer, the two help push each other to become better versions of what they are, along with some help and interactions with others from the small town.
After the film’s premiere at SXSW last month, we had a chance to sit down with the director, Katie Cokinos, Brolin and co-star Danielle Brooks, to talk about the project. We discussed crafting the story, weather challenges in New York and much more.
Check out the full interview below, and enjoy!
What was it about this story that made you want to tell it?
Cokinos: There were lots of different reasons. My usual response is that I wanted to write a coming of age film, but I also have a 14-year-old daughter who’s not into Twilight. That’s just not her thing. She really loves Gilmore Girls, so I kind of had her in mind when I was writing it. I wanted to write a movie that my daughter could see. I also wanted to shoot in our hometown of Saugerties, New York. It’s in upstate New York. It’s right on the Hudson River, it’s really beautiful. I love snow, I love winter. Being from Texas, I never saw snow. I wanted to capture that. I just sort of started developing that.
Why would anyone be in upstate New York in the middle of winter? We’ve got to have this young girl who’s coming up here. What’s going on in her life? It’s always a series of questions I have to answer every day when I get up and write for like four or five hours. The ball starts rolling. And I loved my title, though I’m still not sure what it means. I don’t think you can dream too much. It’s not possible to dream too much.
What was it about the script that drew you two to it?
Brooks: For me it was a few factors. I really like Katie. I’m from South Carolina, this is her first time directing and this is my first movie, so I thought that could be a good collaboration. I like her as a person, too. We got to sit down and talk before and she was so invested in all of the characters. You would think that every director is, but sometimes that’s not their focus. That being her focus, I was really into that. My character Abbey is an aspiring singer/songwriter and I have a love for music. At the time, I had just started writing music, so it felt like a good mesh. It was cool to have some of my music in the film and get to be in the studio and work with the local band.
Cokinos: They loved working with you too.
Brooks: It was fun.
Cokinos: Danielle’s voice is amazing. When we first met she played me her song and I was like, “Please be in my movie!” It was great.
Brooks: I’m a dreamer. I like the themes of the movie. I’m glad this was my first.
Brolin: What drew me to the script is that there’s a few indie films out there about early twenty-somethings and it’s nice to finally see a lead female character that’s not so cool and collected. She’s got a bit of a nerdy side to her. She’s not so good at keeping her nervous energy inside. I looked at it and thought it would be a really nice thing for younger girls to see. That it doesn’t always have to be the cool characters.
Cokinos: Dora is not hip.
Brolin: Dora is not super hip. She’ll learn. Or maybe not. And that’s okay. Reading that in the script was a huge draw to me. And you talk to Katie and she’s got this contagious, passionate energy that’s incredible. I had heard that Diane Ladd was attached to it too and knew that would be an amazing opportunity.
Cokinos: We talked a lot about Dora, what her position in the world is. Those were a lot of good discussions.
What was the shooting schedule like on this?
Cokinos: We shot for three weeks. Six day weeks. We had an extra week of pickups without the crew. Fast. We were shooting five pages a day. With two snow storms. We had two half days in there. I think we were able to shoot so fast since the director of photography is my husband, so he knew the script as well as I did. We had endless talks about how we wanted it to look. We were so prepared walking onto the set, I think that helped us shoot fast. And working with amazing actors. Eden was Dora, Danielle was Abbey. We could then play with the characters a little more on the set. I was totally open to last minute changes and spontaneity. It was a quick shoot.
Were there any specific challenges other than what comes naturally from such a quick shoot?
Cokinos: There was one day where the production office and where everyone was staying was not plowed out. It had snowed the whole night. We physically could not get to them. Our second AD was standing, raising his hands screaming while we were parked in the one area that had been plowed. I’m so thankful for all that snow. That was our greatest challenge, just the weather. We shot in our hometown, so I knew all the locations so well since I’m there all the time. That was great. The first location was at Aunt Vera’s estate so we got to really hunker down in this one home. That worked out really well. We were there every day.
Had you guys spent much time in upstate New York snow before that?
Brooks: I am a southern girl all day. I have lived in New York for a while, but I can escape to LA any time I want. For me, it was quite a challenge. Like Katie said, it really was beautiful though. We shot on the Hudson River and it was frozen. Me and Eden got to do a scene out there. I was a little more terrified than she was. She was guns blazing.
Brolin: It was freezing. That was the coldest day.
Brooks: You have to get your warmers and all that.
Brolin: I have a scar from a burn on my chest. I had put a warmer in my bra since it would keep my heart warm. Next morning I woke up and was like, “What happened?” Then I remembered and I looked at the warmer which says, “Do Not Have Contact With Skin.”
Cokinos: I felt so bad as the director. I just wanted to hug them. It was so cold.
Brolin: One of my mom’s really close friends is from near Saugerties, so I got to stay over at her place for a little while. I’ve been up there a few times and experienced New York winter, but New York winter up there is far different from the city. It was fun. I don’t mind the cold so much except all the wardrobe I was in wasn’t thick.
Cokinos: Especially the Jane Austen stuff.
Brolin: There’s a couple scenes where I’m in these really beautiful Austen-era dresses. I luckily had my big boots on and just trudging through the snow. No coat. Short sleeves. Thanks Katie. Thanks a lot.
Cokinos: I’m so sorry. I swear my next movie is going to be in the tropics. We’ll probably have a hurricane.
How was it having Linklater involved?
Cokinos: It was great. I sent Rick a script early on and he loved it. He’s never been involved in a project as a producer, but he said he wanted to be involved, so great. He was involved all the way through. I’d send him a couple drafts of the script and we would have story talks. He hooked us up with our casting director Judy Henderson. He was very involved.
What do you hope people can get out of this movie?
Cokinos: What I want, what I wanted last night, what I visualized was walking up onto the stage after the film and seeing everyone smiling in the audience. I created a film I wanted people to smile during. There’s not a lot of films out there these days that make you want to smile. It’s multi-generational film, so I was talking to fifteen-year-old girl in the audience and she loved it. Talked to a 24-year-old girl and she loved it. A woman in her 50s. The characters run the gamut. That felt very successful to me.
Brolin: I like that it’s a fresh take on an old idea. A coming of age story. It is multi-generational. It doesn’t just have to apply to someone who is straight out of college or someone who is straight out of high school. It goes far beyond that. I think it’s just a really, really nice, fresh take on an old idea.
Cokinos: What’d we say? You’re never too old to come of age.
Brooks: As cheesy as this might be, we all really need each other to fulfill our dreams. Sometimes your dreams aren’t yet realized. The way Eden’s character pushes Aunt Vera and vice versa. With Abbey and Dora as well. You need each other to fulfill those dreams.
Cokinos: It’s like a little community is created and you do. It’s like the film business.
Brolin: I really love the aspect of communication in the family. Family members like great aunts get lost, especially when you have a big family. You get to see them once a year at family gatherings, if that. There’s so much to learn from somebody who has gotten to live and go through the transitions you’ve been through. I think that kind of communication is incredibly valuable. It’s there and it’s there in so many parts of your family that you don’t necessarily get to connect with.
Cokinos: That’s really what I loved so much about creating Dora and Aunt Vera. How they help each other. And bringing Abbey into the fold, then Nikki’s burned out but he’s just sort of working. It’s true. Glad you brought it up.
That concludes our interview, but we’d like to thank Edin, Danielle and Katie for taking the time to talk.