We finished shooting our movie on a Tuesday night in the darkroom of a photo lab in Berkeley. We had to get out of there so the store could close and in the moment, it didn't feel like the end. Nor did it back at my apartment later, when we were all toasting each other and telling stories and no one was asking about the next day's call time because there was not going be another call time. It was only the next morning, when I woke up and Kristyn was already working from the living room, and I ran to the store because I was going to cook something in my apartment for the first time in several weeks that it felt like the end. Ana had spent the night in Caitlin's bedroom, which used to be my office. I was going to make her breakfast.There are around 115 scenes in the movie version of Hold Still. Caitlin is in 113 of them. One would imagine that we'd have held auditions for this role. But the truth is that Amanda and Kristyn and I had all fallen for Ana three years ago when we made the book trailer for Hold Stilland we had trouble imagining anyone else in the role, even though Ana had never acted before and wasn't pursing it. I sent her pages from the screenplay and we called her via Skype. We had a terrible connection. We could barely see or hear her.We offered her the part anyway.It was impulsive and risky and could have been stupid, but it ended up being the best decision we made. You'll understand why when you see the movie and watch how fully present she is, how subtle and emotional her performance is, how lovely and open she is in every scene. I can't wait for the credits to say, "Introducing Ana Szaky." Until then, it's my pleasure to introduce her here.NL: As you know, I sent you an email during our casting process telling you that we wanted you as Caitlin but that I wanted you to think about it because it would be really demanding work. I don't know if you could tell, but I was panicking a little. I didn't know you well yet and I didn't know if you would be able to carry an entire movie when you had never acted before. It turns out that I had nothing to worry about--you were the easiest person to work with and you managed to stay composed and funny and just all around lovely to be around even on the longest, most grueling days. I keep telling people about how on the second day of shooting you offered to change my tire during your brief dinner break. So now I want to know what the experience was like for you. How was it different than what you expected? What was going on in your head for those sixteen days of shooting?
AS: When you first told me that you were making Hold Still into a movie and you wanted me to read for Caitlin, I was definitely both surprised and very flattered. I have to admit that when things really seemed to be coming together and this became more of a reality, I started to freak out a bit too. I really admired how much effort you, Amanda and Kristyn were putting into making the film and I thought how awesome it would be to be a part of it. I was definitely nervous to come and read for you all. I have never acted before and I never liked public speaking, so I was a little apprehensive that I would be able to pull this off.
I remember that when I told my mom that I was going to make a film, the first thing she asked me was if I have to take my clothes off. I told her only partially and it was about time she read the book. After making the Kickstarter video, I re-read the book and while it made me really excited to start filming, I also realized all the things I would have to do.The process of making this movie was so different from the process of writing the book. After I wrote the screenplay I found myself letting the book go a little bit. I knew that with our limited budget I wouldn't be able to recreate Caitlin's world as it is in the novel. But I loved how in between shooting scenes I would find you reading the book. You referenced things from it that I had forgotten about. We joked about how you now know the book better than I do. So I want to hear about how that shift worked for you, from reading about a moment to conveying it.
It was a very interesting experience to read the book as if I was Caitlin. I felt even more captivated by the book this time because I was trying to feel everything you described as if it were happening to me. For example, during the scenes where I had to cry or be upset, it helped to picture the words in the book of what should be going through my mind. Like during the scene where Taylor confronts Caitlin in her room about how she told him about Ingrid, I kept thinking about how it was described in the book, “It feels like he just reached out and grabbed me by the throat.” I would just repeat those words in my head and during the scene, I really did feel like I was Caitlin. For the crying scenes as well, reading Ingrid’s suicide note to Caitlin always made me tear up because it felt so real. It was a great day though when we discovered that putting Burt’s Bees chap stick under your eyes helps you cry.Now that all of this is over, what moments stand out for you? Are there stories that you've been telling people? What will you remember most from behind the scenes?
Even though most of the days we spent filming where long, and sometimes very hot, I truly enjoyed every minute of being on set. There are so many memorable moments it’s hard to choose which ones to talk about. Some of my favorite memories include covering all the windows in Caitlin’s room with trash bags so we could begin to shoot night scenes. The room was so small, so stuffy and everyone just looked like they had emerged from a sauna after every scene. Another great scene I loved doing was Caitlin thrashing in her car. I am not really an angry person, but I have to admit it was kind of fun having a little tantrum. The furry seat covers was so perfect but there was so much fluff everywhere that I was still picking fur out of my mouth a couple hours after we finished shooting. Another car scene I loved was driving across the Bay Bridge. Not going to lie, it was definitely a little scary though. The first time we filmed it, Kristyn was hopping back and forth from the front seat to the back trying to get every and I remember thinking that, one, I hope we don’t get in an accident and two, I wonder what everyone else on the bridge thinks we’re doing. And then there was the first make out scene which was great because it started the whiskey cocktail nights. I thought it was really great that we were able to incorporate the tree house into the movie, but I did feel like such an artistic poser. Charlotte [Drury, our production designer] would be in the room creating this beautiful mural and then I would step in occasionally and paint a leaf and cry. It was pretty funny.
There are many things that I will take away from this experience, but the best part for me was meeting so many unique and talented people. Everyone on set was so nice and supportive that it made all the long hours and stress worth it. Not to mention, the food was pretty great too. For me, I didn’t really like to watch the footage after we shot it, but I loved how you, Kristyn and Amanda would gather around the tiny screen to watch each take. It was really great because it showed how much you all cared about this and the amount of effort you all put in was so incredible that it made me want to put my all into it as well.
(Portrait by Kristyn Stroble, Mural by Charlotte Drury)