Danny Peary Talks to ‘Snapshots’ Director Melanie Mayron

Louise and Rose in "Snapshots"
Louise and Rose in “Snapshots”

Melanie Mayron charmed her way into our hearts acting in Harry and Tonto, Girlfriends, Missing and other iconic films of the 1970s and early 1980s, and then again in the late 80s as a star of the seminal television series Thirtysomething. She now has won over a whole new generation of fans playing a recurring role on the CW’s Jane the Virgin. But did you know that Mayron also has been directing since 1990, including episodes of Thirtysomething and Jane the Virgin? And a July episode of Reverie?

She, in fact, has directed numerous television shows and two theatrical movies. That’s right: ONLY TWO THEATRICAL MOVIES! A crime considering her talent behind the camera. But at last there is a third feature, Snapshots, which has won every award imaginable on the festival circuit. It had its theatrical debut recently at the Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles, and since August 14 it has been available to download or rent on Amazon Prime, Vudu and iTunes.

The official synopsis: Set against the backdrop of Rose’s (Gran’s) lake home, Snapshots resonates with every person who has lived through the complexity of family relationships, It reminds us that if we are loved no secret is too difficult to hear and accept. Or is it? Rose/Gran (Piper Laurie) is the matriarch. She has lived in this house for more than 50 years. She and her deceased husband Joe (Max Adler in 1960s flashbacks) raised their daughter Patty in this home. Patty (Brooke Adams), now a widow, lives in St. Louis.

Each year the conservative, heavy-drinking Patty and her newly married but troubled daughter Allison (Emily Baldoni) spend a girls weekend with Gran at the lake house. This year will be different. It is different because Rose admits to her daughter and granddaughter that the love of her life was not her late husband Joe, but someone they never knew existed: Louise (Emily Goss in flashbacks), a woman the young Rose (Shannon Collis in flashbacks) had an affair with in the 1960s. Seeing newly developed photos of Louise from 50 years ago, Rose thinks back to that romance.

Watch the trailer:

In case you missed it, I posted an interview with the extremely talented Emily Goss (also the star of The House on Pine Street on Amazon Prime) in late June when she, Mayron and Collis were in New York City to promote their film at the SOHO International Film Festival.

I was very pleased to also meet Melanie Mayron, and we had this conversation over breakfast at a Polish coffee shop prior to a festival screening.

Melanie Mayron
Melanie Mayron, Photo: Danny Peary

Danny Peary: I assume that most people identify you with your Emmy-winning role on Thirtysomething, but many of us first were taken with you before that, in a number of important films in the 1970s. Was Harry and Tonto your first professional acting job?

Melanie Mayron: My very first job was an Arrow shirt commercial. I was from Philadelphia but went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts on 30th and Madison here in New York. I got a manager, Bill Treusch, who discovered me doing plays there and wanted to handle me and get me auditions in film, television and theater. He represented me, Carol Kane, Sissy Spacek, Christopher Walken and others.

I got the commercial and then I was cast in the bus-and-truck national tour of Godspell. When I came back to New York, I auditioned for the film Harry and Tonto. Bill’s office was downstairs from Marion Dougherty’s, and she was casting the film with Juliet Taylor. He gave me the script for Harry and Tonto.

DP: Could you tell right away that it was something special?

MM: I was just 21, what did I know? I thought it was a good story but I had never read a screenplay. Plays I knew, but movie scripts are different.

DP: So here you are in your first film, and at one point you are acting in a small space with the great Art Carney, Ellen Burstyn, right before she took off, and Josh Mostel.

MM: That year, Art Carney won the Best Actor Academy Award for Harry and Tonto and Ellen Burstyn won the Best Actress Academy Award for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Here I was in my first film doing scenes with both of them. It was an amazing experience. Our director Paul Mazursky was a quirky actor and writer/director, so he picked a quirky group of actors. Art was so great. Before he ate he’d always move his arms around, doing total shtick…

DP: Like on The Honeymooners when he took forever “addressing” the golf ball before swinging.

MM: Exactly. He’d call me Mel’nie. The director of photography, Michael Butler, played the hippie hitchhiker that Harry gives a ride to, along with my character, Ginger. We had a scene in which the hitchhiker is driving Harry’s car and Ginger is sitting next to him in the front seat and Harry is sitting in back. The camera car was in front of us and I had to work the slate and say, “Action” into a walkie-talkie.

The camera was on us and I was eating a candy bar and said the line that was Art’s cue to say his line. But he didn’t say anything. Michael and I looked at each other. And I said the cue line again. Still nothing. So I turned around and Art was asleep in back! I hit him and said, “Harry!” And he woke up and said, “What is it, Mel’nie?” So then we hear through the walkie-talkie: “Cut! Cut!”

DP: I saw it only once but have strong memories of the terrific TV-movie you made after that, Hustling. Lee Remick played a reporter doing a story on New York prostitutes, including young women played by Jill Clayburgh and you. Do you have nice memories of Lee Remick?

MM: I distinctly remember that when I was a teenager I stayed up late one night and watched The Days of Wine and Roses with Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. It is one of my favorite movies and favorite performances by both of them, and I couldn’t believe I got to be in that movie and work with her. Lee was so sweet and lovely and I’d never seen anything like her blue eyes.

I remember going, “My god, you can almost fall into those eyes.” I got to be friendly with Lee and her husband Kip Gowans. I was on the sidewalk in London with my parents while on a trip there, and a bus went by and I saw Kip inside it banging on the window, yelling, “Come with me!” And I waved goodbye to my parents and jumped on the bus. I went to their house and had tea with them. It was really incredible.

DP: Do I remember correctly that your character in Hustling got killed?

MM: You have a good memory.

DP: I liked her and it was sad that she died—and it was the rare character of yours who didn’t survive. Jill Clayburgh’s character did. Lee Remick was the lead, but Jill Clayburgh was on the cusp of stardom at the time.

MM: That’s right. After Hustling, I did Gable and Lombard with Jill and James Brolin. In fact, Paul Mazursky called me up and asked, “What do you think of Jill for my next movie, An Unmarried Woman? How is she to work with?” I gave her a rave and he cast her, and she went on to be nominated for an Academy Award.

DP: In researching you, I noticed that since you were young, you have made lasting friendships with actors you have worked with.

MM: With acting, your work is about revealing your emotions and the work conditions are so unique in that everybody is on the front lines. You’re all taken out of your private little lives and thrown together to create a whole other reality. So you’re going to get close to people.

DP: And you have been doing them favors and they have been doing you favors. You’ve recommended people for projects, and they’ve recommended you. Is that a good way to describe it?

MM: I think so! When I get a job I try to hire friends. For instance, when my friend Catlin Adams and I made Sticky Fingers we cast good friends like Eileen Brennan—who I’d worked with in The Great Smokey Roadblock—Carol Kane and Christopher Guest. He and I were cast together in Girlfriends and then we were also in one more film together as boyfriend and girlfriend. Lynn Redgrave was in the TV-movie Toothless [1997], which I directed and acted in, and she said, “I’ve become one of the Melanie Mayron Players.”

Eileen was in that too. I acted with Ellen Burstyn in Harry and Tonto and she was later in the first film I directed, The Baby-Sitters Cub [1995], and the girl starring as Kristy was Schuyler Fisk, the daughter of my friend Sissy Spacek. Peter Horton from Thirtysomething played Kristy’s father. I met Brooke Adams on Car Wash and cast her as Kristy’s mother, and now more than 20 years later, in Snapshots, I cast her as Allison’s mother and Rose’s daughter. Brett Dier, who plays Zee in Snapshots, is a regular on Jane the Virgin, which I’m on as a recurring character and have directed 14 episodes, and Emily Baldoni, who plays Allison in Snapshots, is married to Justin Baldoni, who plays Rafael on the show. I drag them all in!

DP: There’s always good word about you. And people, especially with TV shows, ask you back as a director. I think that’s something to be proud of.

MM: Having been actor, I know as a director what it’s like to be on the other side, and that’s helpful in making a connection.

DP: Claudia Weill’s Girlfriends, in 1978, is one of your major films. In my book Alternate Oscars, I wrote that only three actresses were Oscar-worthy that year—Jane Fonda, who won for Coming Home, Jill Clayburgh for An Unmarried Woman, and you for Girlfriends.

MM: Girlfriends was amazing. We shot it as a short in seven to 10 days. The short ended with my character Susan painting the red wall and her roommate Anne [Anita Skinner] getting married, and Susan having the apartment to herself. Then I went to California and did Car Wash. And while I was out there, Claudia called me and said, “Everybody wants to know what happens to Susan. So Vicki Polon is writing the rest of the story and we’re turning it into a full-length movie, and you have to come back!”

So we added scenes that took place a year later. And there were a few scenes that had to be shot and dropped into what we shot for the short in order to set up the new storyline. Now there was a whole other plot so we had to match things with what we shot a year earlier. It’s a great film and it really holds up. Lena Dunham hosted it when it played at Brooklyn Academy of Music. Rachel Weisz recently hosted it at the Metrograph in New York with a Q&A with her because it’s one of her favorite movies. And Claudia appeared with it in July at the Quad Cinema.

A snapshot of Louise in "Snapshots"
A snapshot of Louise in “Snapshots”

DP: I know Claudia Weill influenced you as a director. Why hasn’t she made more movies?

MM: She did a movie right after Girlfriends, It’s My Turn with Jill Clayburgh and Michael Douglas. They compromised her idea for that film, which was a shame because she’s a genius. I feel Claudia was ahead of her time, as were other women directing in the ’70s. Claudia, Joan Micklin Silver and Barbara Kopple were all pioneers. Claudia is still hugely, hugely talented and gets work. She directed several episodes of Girls and does theater as well.

DP: Another major TV-movie you were in was Playing for Time with Vanessa Redgrave, in 1980. It was set in a concentration camp and was about women musicians who had to play in an orchestra to entertain Nazis in order to survive.

MM: Vanessa was just phenomenal. She was so giving as an actress. She bonded with me right away because we were playing best friends. We got our hair cut off together, we sat naked with three cameras rolling. That was unique. She’s six-feet tall and I’m five-five and a half, and at one point she hoisted me up and carried me.

DP: You got to be in a political thriller with Jack Lemmon, Missing, in 1982.

MM: I was so thrilled. So I had acted with Lee Remick and now Jack. He was great. Costa-Gavras is a terrific director. I loved that I didn’t have to audition for him because he’d seen me in other things. We shot in Mexico City for 12 weeks.

DP: You co-wrote, co-produced, and starred in Sticky Fingers. Catlin Adams directed and you and Helen Slater played street musicians who are entrusted with drug money and go on a spending spree.

MM: That was hilarious. Christopher Guest is in that, too. It was really fun to actually raise the money and to do your own movie.

DP: I liked your character’s attitude.

MM: “All we need is one hit song.”

DP: Sticky Fingers came out in 1988. By that time, you were already starring in the groundbreaking television series Thirtysomething. Melissa Steadman, probably the character you’re most identified with, was a photographer. You had already played a photographer in Girlfriends and Missing. You always seemed so comfortable carrying a camera, as if it was second nature to you.

MM: It was! My dad gave me a little box camera when I was nine. So I started taking pictures and loved it. Since then I’ve always had a camera. I even did photography professionally, taking head shots of actors. I still will shoot friends when they need photos of themselves.

DP: There is a recent documentary called Half the Picture, which is about how difficult it is for women to get directing assignments in Hollywood. People will look at your career and say, “Look at those many, many director jobs she has gotten on TV dating back to two episodes of Thirtysomething.

They include The Larry Sanders Show, Dawson’s Creek, Arli$$, In Treatment, The Naked Brothers Band, Army Wives, The Fosters, Switched at Birth, Pretty Little Liars, and Grace and Frankie. In addition to directing episodes of Jane the Virgin since 2015, last year she directed episodes of Seal Team and GLOW, and this year she directed the eighth episode of Reverie, which aired in late July. She has never stopped working!” But until Snapshots you hadn’t directed a feature film in 17 years, so there must have been some frustration there.

MM: My first feature was The Baby-Sitters Club in 1995 and then I did She Gets What She Wants with Piper Perabo in 2001, and that was my last film! Because if a movie comes out and doesn’t make a lot of money, and it was directed by a woman, that’s it for her. Snapshots is an independent film that I helped develop with the producer, Jan Miller Corran.

Our budget was $490,000 and I pulled together a lot of people I knew and we did it in 15 days with one camera, and then used a Canon 5D to pick up some other footage. It was crazy. But I was desperate to do it because while episodic television is amazing you’re always doing somebody else’s show and trying to give them the best of what their show is. On Snapshots I got the final cut, which is unbelievable.

DP: Snapshots is based on Jan Miller Corran’s true story?

MM: The inspiration came from Jan’s 94-year-old mother, who on her deathbed said, “Louise is here.” Jan had never heard of Louise before then. When her mother said, “Louise was the love of my life,” Jan was like, “What?” In real life, Jan’s mother’s relationship with Louise was in the 1930s, when it was a real, swinging open time. Jan thought it would be better to bring it to the early ’60s to make the time of their relationship more challenging.

DP: I think Snapshots is the perfect film for you because like your first two films, it is about female bonding and has female characters from all generations. It’s even similar to The Baby-Sitters Club in that it is about someone keeping a big secret.

L-R: Brooke Adams, Emily Baldoni and Piper Laurie as Patty, Allison, and Rose in Snapshots
L-R: Brooke Adams, Emily Baldoni and Piper Laurie as Patty, Allison and Rose

MM: That’s right! Also, it is both a comedy and a drama.

DP: She Gets What She Wants, or Slap Her, She’s French, also is about the relationship between two females and also has someone keeping a big secret—Piper Perabo’s conniving teenager is not French and has taken someone else’s identity—but I think it is more akin to your TV-movie, Mean Girls 2.

But, again, The Baby-Sitters Club, like Snapshots, has two female best friends sharing a secret, a mother played by Brooke Adams and a big reveal. Ellen Burstyn, who lives next door to where the girls in the baby-sitters club hold a summer camp, fits into the grandmother category, so we see three generations of females, as in Snapshots.

MM: I hadn’t thought of that!

DP: Tell me about casting Emily Baldoni as Rose’s granddaughter, Allison, who is questioning her marriage. I’d seen her only as the star of a pretty good science fiction film, Coherence.

MM: So did I! Wasn’t she amazing in that? That is a good movie, a smart movie—and what a premise! When I’ve directed Jane the Virgin, Emily would sometimes read for other people at the run-throughs. And she was always really good. After we got the green light for this movie, I saw her at a Jane the Virgin wrap party and I thought she’d be great as Allison, so I went up to her and asked if she’d read for it.

DP: How did you cast Shannon Collis as the young Rose and Emily Goss as Louise in the flashback scenes of Snapshots? They are exceptional.

MM: Shannon read for the young Rose first. Jan had found her on the internet, I think. We loved her. Jan also found Emily through a friend who had used her in a short film. Emily had starred in a horror film called The House on Pine Street and she was great in it.

So she came in to audition for Louise, and I had Shannon do a chemistry read with her in my dining room, and they were incredible together. And I was like, “Oh my god, there’s the movie.”

DP: When I saw the red-headed Emily Goss I assumed she was playing the young Rose because she looks almost exactly like the young Piper Laurie, who plays the older Rose.

MM: Emily is actually blonde, like Shannon, so I asked her to dye her hair red.

DP: Which of their scenes did you have them do at the reading?

MM: All of them, including the scene in the kitchen when Rose and Louise kiss for the first time. I didn’t know if they were going to kiss for the audition, but they went for it.

DP: The word “bold” is used in regard to whether Louise can make Rose more daring. But I think Rose is bold from the start. I think you do, too.

Emily Goss (L) and Shannon Colis as Louise and young Rose in "Snapshots"
Emily Goss (L) and Shannon Collis as Louise and young Rose

MM: Yeah. That’s why Rose leans into the kiss in the kitchen rather than pulling away. Louise leans in and then stops. And then Rose takes it the rest of the way. She wants the experience. It’s a 50/50 thing with them—they’re both bold.

DP: Female friendships, connections and relationships have always been what you’ve been interested in. So that’s why I think you were excited to make this film.

MM: That’s true. I loved the notion of two young married women falling in love, and showing there are different kinds of love.

DP: In your director’s statement, you said Snapshots spoke to you about “the complexity of love. What unites us as human beings is the experience of love.” Louise tells the young Rose, “Love is all that matters.” Is it?

MM: Well, in their story love wasn’t enough because Rose was terrified of, as she says, “not being normal.” I was born in 1952, and we lived in a housing development in the Philadelphia suburbs. When I was about nine or 10, in the early ’60s, my mom and the other moms, who were all in their early 30s, were talking about one of the other moms who was getting a divorce.

It was as if a nuclear bomb had been dropped. I told Shannon and Emily, “In the early ’60s, just a man and a woman splitting up was gigantic news—let alone if two married women fell in love with each other! Two married women falling in love was just unheard of. Such a thing wasn’t even on the grid.” So when Louise asks Rose to go away with her, she’s thinking, “Leave my husband? Divorce Joe? What are you asking?” And yet Louise was the love of her life.

DP: What’s interesting is that everyone loves each other in some way in your movie, if you think about it. Even Louise and Rose’s husbands, Zee and Joe, love each other as friends.

MM: Yeah. As I said, there are different kinds of love. I love when Allison asks her grandmother, Rose, if she loved Joe, and Rose says he was her best friend for 50 years until he died, but Louise was the love of her life. She could love Joe as her best friend and they could adopt a child together—Allison’s mother Patty—and have a family life.

DP: Is the Louise that the young Rose falls for in the film true to the real Louise, or fabricated?

MM: I think she’s made up. I don’t think Jan got any information about the real Louise before her mother died. In our script, Louise went to Smith College, she became a photographer and an artist. She is a free spirit. Rose had a very different background. Rose was sheltered, her father didn’t believe college was for girls and thought she should just go get married. Rose says later, “Before I met Louise, I thought the world was flat, but Louise came in and told me it was very, very round.” Louise opened up her world.

DP: Louise is a photographer in Snapshots, which you surely related to. Did you make her a photographer?

MM: That was done when we were developing the script. We were thinking about why this weekend in which Allison and Patty visit Rose at the lake house happens. There was in the script a roll of film in an old camera and it gets developed and Allison and Patty bring the photos for Rose to see. Of course, only Rose knows the identity of the young woman in the photos. Louise. They’re why Rose has flashbacks of the time she knew Louise. The camera was a great vehicle to get into their story.

DP: Many times in movies, we can’t see why two people are attracted to each other but that’s not the case with Rose and Louise. How did you make sure of that?

MM: I wanted it to be real and honest between them. Louise is vulnerable and shares how she feels, so Rose is like, “Wow, who is she? What’s she about it?” We see how they come to understand and appreciate each other.

DP: What was your discussion with Emily and Shannon prior to shooting the sex scene in which Louise and Rose officially become lovers? Did you have to assure them it wouldn’t be exploitive?

MM: They were both very open to whatever we were going to do. They knew I wanted it to be tasteful. We told them that Louise might have messed around with other women when she was drunk and in college. But she never really fell in love with another woman before. Rose has never been with a woman before, but she has fallen in love with Louise. At one point Rose whispers, “I’m scared.” Louise says, “Of what, baby. Of what?” And Rose says, “How right it feels.” I wanted it to be more like a scene with moments than a sequence with them having sex the whole time. We went through the love scene moment by moment.

When Louise is kissing the inside of Rose’s thigh she stops and I wanted it be that she is asking permission to continue. Earlier in the film Louise had said, “Don’t worry, I’m not a man, I only go where I’m invited.” Rose gives her a little nod that it’s okay to continue, just as she had leaned in and met Louise half way when they first kissed in the kitchen.

The other thing I wanted was for Rose to turn and change places with Louise, touch her chest, explore her, see what it feels like to be with someone like yourself. She pulls her up into the kiss. I wanted the scene to be about them communicating, and I wanted it to be about moments and beats that we specifically talked over. They always say love scenes are technical, and they are.

DP: I called it a “sex scene,” and you called it a “love scene.” Is that how you described it to them?

MM: Yeah.

DP: You pulled it off. I think that scene is erotic, passionate and intimate.

MM: I wanted it to be all that because when we cut back to the older Rose in the present and she’s looking at the floor where they made love 50 years before and the same fireplace, you get what she experienced.

DP: Afterward did Shannon or Emily say, “I’m glad that’s over with?”

MM: No, no, no. We did it the Monday of the last week of shooting. We had only about an hour and a half to shoot it, so it went by very quickly.

DP: Before Louise and Rose become lovers physically, do they love each other as friends?

MM: Yes. And then they fall in love. I wanted to put dates on the flashbacks so we can see the progression of their relationship. The first flashback is summer 1964 and then it goes further back to early summer 1960, when they met. We made sure the transitions weren’t lame. I watched The Notebook, in which they go back and forth and just cut rather than using any transitions. I added the dates.

Every story is different and this story is because they become good friends, and are part of a great foursome with their husbands. One of my favorite scenes is of the two of them kissing in the kitchen after the four of them smoked pot in the living room.

DP: And you worry their husbands are going to come in and catch them!

MM (laughing):  I know! And they do come in, but Emily and Shannon had worked it out so that Rose and Louise are wiping lipstick off their mouths, which makes Joe wonder what’s going on. He comments to Rose after Louise leaves the kitchen that, “She’s different from your other friends.”

DP: When young Rose goes to sleep that night, is she thinking, “What am I doing?” or “I can’t wait to see Louse tomorrow!”?

MM: A good question. The night they kiss in the kitchen and their husbands walk in, they are very excited about being alone together the next night. Louise tells Rose not to make love to Joe that night. Rose doesn’t question what she’s doing. She’s into it with Louise.

DP: Does Rose label herself a lesbian?

MM: No. The word “lesbian” is not used in the film at all. When she’s asked if she had any other female lovers, she says no, “I fell in love with Louise.”

DP: But Patty jokes to her daughter and her mother that she’s the only one of them who’s not gay.

MM: That’s just Patty being all label-ly. They love to put labels on each other. Patty says to Allison, Are you saying you’re gay?, and Allison says, I’m saying I fell in love with a woman and it’s serious. Call it whatever. In other words, Allison isn’t putting a label on it. I wanted to say that when it comes to sexuality everyone in this country wants to label everything. But love can be more complicated. A woman can be in love with a man and then out of the blue fall in love with a woman.

People today use the word fluid. My life experience has always been that I fall in love with the person and it isn’t so much what package they are in. In this movie I just wanted people to understand that someone can fall in love with someone of the same sex and that doesn’t mean she or he should then be labeled. It can just be an experience with that one person. Rose would be with her husband for the next 50 years while carrying Louise in her heart.

DP: In your director’s statement you say, “It takes courage and tremendous risk to reveal a secret long-held.” It’s not always the case, but I think when the present-day Rose reveals her secret to Patty and Allison, they understand her more.

MM: For Allison, it helps because she realizes her grandmother went through something similar. But when Patty sees Louise’s photos and hears her mother say, “She was the love of my life,” she feels she didn’t know her mother at all. So I think it’s the opposite for the two characters.

DP: But the positive impact of Rose revealing she loved another woman is that Rose, Allison and Patty can now move forward and get to know each other better.

MM: Yes, absolutely! They all come full circle. That’s the beauty of this particular weekend. It explodes for everyone and then it calms down.

DP: It’s interesting that Snapshots is a tragedy but only in the half of the film that takes place in the 1960s. The other half of the film is about three women finally coming together in a good way as result of discussing that tragedy.

MM: I love the snapshot at the end with Allison and her female partner, Dani, and she’s holding the baby. It’s one more snapshot and everyone is there and you get that everyone is accepting.

DP: When Rose tells Allison that she’d be a great mother, why does she think that?

MM: Because she knows her. She knows how kind, nurturing and responsible she is.

DP: Allison has a lot of friction with her mother, Patty, but like a lot of young people has a stronger connection to her grandmother, Rose. When you were growing up, you often went to Israel and visited your grandparents, and I’m curious if the relationship you had with your grandmother in particular influenced you artistically in regard to directing stories about the connection between generations?

MM: It was always exciting to see my grandparents in Israel, but every time we left we wondered when we’d see them again. My grandparents on my mother’s side were Russian Jews and I was close to my grandmother here, too. I saw her, Frances/Nanny, far more than I saw my grandparents in Israel because they were far away. Frances had been an actress in the Yiddish theater. When I was in my early 20s people would tell me I was “an old soul.” I always spoke to older people and always respected them.

Just like with Art Carney in Harry and Tonto. I value who they are and their life’s experience. I’ve always been like that. I thought it was cool having 84-year old Piper Laurie starring in my movie with Brooke Adams who is in her 60s. [Laughing] Probably only an actress-director whose parts are getting few and far between would want to give big roles to people of their ages.

DP: Does destiny play a part in this story—Louise and Rose meeting; Allison and Patty finding the camera with the old photos of Louise?

MM: It was Rose’s destiny to not be with the love of her life for all those years. She took a detour and went away from her relationship with Louise. That’s why she can now tell Allison, “Just live your life.” She’s giving her a real gift by telling her not to do what she herself did when she was a young woman.

DP: That implies Rose has regret that she didn’t run off with Louise, but I’m not 100% sure that she was wrong not to do that.

MM: She wasn’t wrong, because as she tells her daughter, Patty, “I chose you.” That was a major reason she stayed with Joe, besides being too afraid to leave. She really wanted a child, which she couldn’t have with another woman in the early 1960s. What’s amazing in the movie is that 50 years later, Allison can have a child with another woman. When Allison tells Patty she’s having a relationship with another woman and her mother goes off, Allison says, “What’s the problem?” Because women are having kids together all the time now. With the young Rose and Louise, it wasn’t an option.

DP: This film is a little more complicated than it seems at first.

MM: It has a lot of layers. A lot of people have said to me, “I thought the husbands were going to find out about their affair” or “I thought they’d find out and get into it with them.” A lot of people were surprised that that we didn’t even go there.

DP: But you have given them nice husbands. It would have been easier for them to leave their husbands if they were treated badly by them.

MM: They’re really good guys. I wanted them to be likable. I love the scene when the four of them smoke pot.

DP: It’s interesting that of the four female characters, the most rebellious one, Louise, is the only one who ends up with a man. Louise remains with Zee.

MM: She still loves her husband.

DP: We see the Rose of today and Louise’s ghost shows up at the pier. Of course Louise is still young. Has Rose had this experience often over the years or has Louise shown up for the first time?

MM: I don’t know. Louise is not there with Piper Laurie’s Rose at the beginning of the film in the same location. But after all the new snapshots Rose has seen over the weekend, all the memories that have come back have brought Louise back.

DP: Talk about your color scheme through the movie. For instance, some the early scenes at the lake with Rose, Patty and Allison are cheery bright, as in The Baby-Sitters Club.

Snapshots movie poster
“Snapshots” movie poster

MM: We had one camera and were really running and gunning. The first three days at the lake it was 108 to 110 degrees. There was a huge heat wave and the first day I was throwing up in the bushes because it was so hot. The medic told Piper she had to go home, so Michael Negrin and I just shot scenes with Brooke and Emily Baldoni, like the one in which Patty asks Allison for a hair dryer, and some other stuff. We were trying to find the best light. We also shot Louise and the young Rose kissing by the boathouse in a 1963 flashback, and when they leaned back we could see the sun setting behind them. Michael used a certain filter for the 1960’s scenes so they would have a slightly rich amber tone.

DP: When they’re outdoors and wildly making out against a car in the woods, you play “Angel Baby” on the soundtrack. Is that because it was sung by Rosie and the Originals?

MM: No, I just love that song! I couldn’t believe it when someone pointed out the singer’s name.

DP: How does Snapshots fit into your career?

MM: I got to make a movie after 16 years! I’m now attached to some other films. I co-created one with my friend, Patrik Carlock, called Sweet. A bunch of actors have signed letters of intent and we’re trying to raise money for that. And there are several other projects. They’re all independent and we’re trying to raise money. I’ve always been attracted to people stories, and the studios are rarely financing them anymore.

DP: Snapshots has won more than 30 awards on the festival circuit, including by you.

MM: Yes, it has. It has won Best Picture Awards, Audience Awards, I’ve won a few Best Director awards and my cast has been winning Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor awards. Everyone has been nominated and won something. The nominations have been interesting because of who sees who as the lead actress. Max Adler has won a Best Supporting Actor Award. Our editor Josh Rifkin has won, our composer David Michael Frank has won, everybody has won. We’ve been winning at mainstream festivals and also LGBT festivals.

DP: So has that been gratifying for you?

MM: What’s even more gratifying for me is sitting in a theater and hearing the audience laugh in the right places, because there is a lot of humor in the film, and also hearing dead silence at times because people are feeling really moved by the story. That feels amazing.

***I hope everyone will pick up a copy of my new book with Hana Ali about the origins of her father’s most famous quotes: Ali on Ali: Why He Said What He Said When He Said It (Workman Publishing).

Danny Peary has published 25 books on film and sports, including Cult Movies and Jackie Robinson in Quotes.


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