Director Nadia Litz’s latest film is The People Garden, a mystery drama centered around a young woman searching for her boyfriend who has disappeared in Japan. The last place he was seen is a forest known as a place for suicides. In The People Garden, she writes in her press release, “I wanted to try to make a film that would be for young women who maybe craved something a little weirder and more off kilter than “Twilight”, like I did when I was young.” FangirlNation’s Catie Kovelman had the opportunity to ask Litz a bit more about the film and about her aspirations and beginnings as a film maker.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to do this interview!
How did you come up with the concept of The People Garden?
Nadia Litz: I felt like there wasn’t enough representation of young women in auteur cinema, which was a genre coming out of film school that I had been most immersed in. I loved the worlds created by directors like David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmusch, but while the female characters in those films were always intriguing they never drove the story. Other than Lars Von Trier it’s rare that great filmmakers have females truly driving the story. When you you have a female protagonist, movies still feels fresh.
Catie Kovelman: Is there a character you relate to most in the film? Why? Is there someone you don’t relate to at all? If so, why?
NL: I have insight into what makes them all tick, but I was closest to Sweeptea at one point in my life. Mak as well. Ironically I relate least to the Director character. He seems quite callous!
CK: What did you enjoy most about directing this film?
NL: Actual filmmaking is the greatest job in the world. There’s stuff that orbits around filmmaking that isn’t always fun. But I enjoyed every single minutes of making the film. I always do.
CK: What was it like working with Dree Hemingway?
NL: I had known Dree from her work in Starlet. She is very natural in that film. She is an exciting actress because her presence on screen feels unique. It reminded me of the feeling when I had when I saw first saw Elle Fanning, or Kirsten Dunst. She has a weight about her, but then also a girlishness. She’s also a fashion model. Part of new generation of young women who are a bit like Instagram ‘brands’. Like with casting Pamela Anderson in the role of Signe, I thought there could be some interesting play with that kind of persona, given the nature of the story.
CK: How did you choose your filming site? Were there any particular difficulties you had to overcome setting the scene?
NL: Many months locations shooting. We shot in three different regions over two countries to make the one location. That’s never easy – different crews in each region aside from the keys – but it is exciting. You make it work. It’s like a puzzle and if you like problem solving, solving the difficulties feels creative which is the feeling you are always chasing as an artist.
CK: What do you really want audiences to take away from this film?
NL: I like to leave it to the audiences to decide what they take away from a film. Personally, I love a film that I have to re watch to get more clues. I love a movie that generates conversation. I think this film falls into that category…
CK: How did you get into film and become a director?
NL: I was an actress for many years and then I went to school for many many years. Having both practical and academia in your background helps make you battle ready!
CK: What are your favorite movies or television shows? Do you have a favorite director?
NL: I have so many favorites. Akira Kurosawa is the greatest filmmaker of all time, likely. But I love some lesser known Japanese directors. Crazy Fruit is this brilliant, subversive incredibly original film. As is Boy by Oshima. Seek those films out for something different – you won’t be disappointed. I could talk about Fassbinder’s Marriage of Maria Braun for a lifetime. Lynne Ramsay’s Movern Callar and Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides were important film for me in discovering female directors and stories with protagonists and approaches that spoke to me. I’ll always watch films by Kathryn Bigelow, Wes Anderson, PT Anderson, David Fincher, Spike Jonze. Ana Lily Aminpour is the next great new hope for me.
TV wise I grew up watching Twin Peaks. I was really young and the show is dark but was on ABC so my family and I watched it together – eat cherry pie and drinking decaf coffee! Recently The Night Of, Fargo Season 2, Mozart in the Jungle… Last Chance U was a doc series on Netflix that I binged watched in 2 nights. So good.
CK: People always say the industry is changing. Do you agree? What direction do you think the industry will take in the next ten years?
NL: It has to change to stay vibrant, cool and fresh. A few years ago “going straight to video” meant your film was a dud. Now, people clamour to get their work online because people aren’t going to the cinema as often. Online TV has taken narrative structure to an exciting place. In terms of diversity – and I don’t just mean that in terms of gender, race, class, sex – I mean diversity in ways of story telling too, I think we have a lot of ground to cover which is not daunting – it’s exciting. I still find the reception of films directed by women gendered in a way that I don’t love, but you know what? Artists are good at changing things.
Trailer for The People Garden:
Synopsis for The People Garden
Sweetpea (Dree Hemingway) flies to Japan to break up with her rock star boyfriend. When she arrives, her boyfriend has disappeared, last seen shooting a music video with a 90’s sex symbol (Pamela Anderson) in a Japanese forest that harbors a dark secret. Sweetpea sets out to solve the mystery of Jamie’s disappearance, not knowing that the forest is most famous as a destination for suicide.
Transporting its audience to a place full of mystery, THE PEOPLE GARDEN is an eerie and sorrowful exploration of Sweetpea’s hopeless quest to find answers. In her second feature, Nadia Litz has created a beautiful yet tragic world where reality and imagination collide.
The People Garden comes out on VOD (iTunes, Amazon & more) on Tuesday, September 13 and will be shown on ten screens across the US for a week-long theatrical run.
RT: 83min / Not Yet Rated
Follow The People Garden Online
iTunes Pre-order: apple.co/2cm7XN0