Director Michael Greenspan Talks Getting 'Wrecked'

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Director Michael Greenspan Talks Getting 'Wrecked'
Director Michael Greenspan's name is a relatively new one to the filmmaking landscape--hopefully the new thriller Wrecked will change that. Set in an unnamed wilderness, the film features Adrien Brody as a man who wakes up in a nearly demolished car with no memory of who he is or how he got there. As he slowly pieces together the elements which have conspired to get him in this situation while attempting to make his escape, he'll have to contend the elements, injury, thirst, hunger, animals, and flashes of fractured memory.

I'll have to come back to the movie itself in a proper review in the future, but it brings to mind films like The Edge and 2006's amnesia thriller Unknown elevating the material, and allowing me to settle into the mood and tone of the movie that is about desperation in the wild, but never comes off as desperate to convince us that it's a thriller with wild-eyed histrionics.

The movie is being presented by IFC Midnight starting April 1st in New York, and April 8th in L.A. with a VOD release nationwide at the same time.

ScreenAnarchy: Could you tell us a bit about your background before directing Wrecked?

Michael Greenspan: I studied film as an undergrad--film theory and film production at the undergraduate level, so that's where most of my training took place. I studied in Toronto and then I came out to Los Angeles and I went into a directing program at the American Film Institute. As a result, I graduated from there with some films, and with those films I travelled to festivals worldwide.

I always wanted to make the leap to features and was always looking for the right opportunity and I was always looking for the right material. So basically, between the time of graduating and Wrecked being in development, I spent a lot of time developing material by myself, [and] with a lot of different writers. Chris Dodd who wrote Wrecked, he and I developed a lot of material together.

So it was just a matter of writing, writing, developing until this material seemed to excite people. It was contained, it was exciting, it was dark, it was thrilling, it was chilling. People saw the opportunity to make something for a small amount of money and I guess the nature of the economy helped that as well because people are looking to spend a [small] amount of money. So, I don't know, maybe it was a mixture of timing and something that [allowed] this piece of material to jump to the top of the pile.

ScreenAnarchy: You mentioned the "containment" of the film. A lot of it was limited to only a couple of locations which Adrien handling the bulk of the acting. How were you able to maintain the tension given those limitations?

MG: Because we weren't moving much, and because we were in the same spot for a good part of the time we had to find a way to tell our story and convey what we wanted to convey, just within the frame and with the actors. You use the tools that you have. I spent a long time working on how to do that, I had miniatures of the car, I had little lipstick cameras. I shot tons of photographs inside cars, outside of cars, just looking at how to sort of find that tension and create the mood and like you said the tension that I was after.
So, yeah, I spent a lot of time in a car.

ScreenAnarchy: And how did you prepare for the rigors of a wilderness shoot? They can be notoriously tricky.

MG: We shot for 18 days and I must have scouted close to 60. The reason was that we were looking for, first of all, the right location, [where] I could literally turn the camera around 360 degrees and you would be able to see and feel what the character saw himself. And that was very important to me.

Also we wanted to find an area that looked somewhat untouched--somewhere that hadn't really been cut down or, I don't know. Believe it or not, it's hard to find an area nowadays that's untouched by human beings. Anyway, we looked, and we ended up finding this amazing spot a couple of hours north of Victoria on Vancouver Island, and the main problem was that there was no way in--there was no road, there were no paths. So we basically decided that because we loved the location so much and it offered us everything we could have asked for, some of our budget went into building roads, building paths, and using helicopters to bring a lot of [equipment]--especially the car. And at the end, 18 days later, it had to be lifted out again.

That's just to give you an idea of how remote we really were.

ScreenAnarchy: And how did Adrien come to be part of the production?

MG: It went through proper channels. Our casting director, Kerry Rock, knew Adrien's agent, and sort of passed the script along to him. You know, I was always a fan of Adrien's work, I love the choices in roles that he plays and the characters that he plays. And I always thought he was perfect for this, and you know, I guess his agent felt the same way, and when Adrien read it I guess he felt the same way too. Once Adrien read it, things happened--needless to say--very, very fast.

Getting to that point took quite a while--getting the script to a place where we thought he would respond to it. But once he read it he really responded to the material and it wasn't too long after that that we were making the movie.

ScreenAnarchy: What kind of prep work went into helping Adrien develop his character, allowing him to "find himself," I guess through the course of the story?

MG: Well for one thing, we shot the film in order. It's rare to do that these days, but I felt--and Adrien agreed--that it would make sense for the character if we shoot the movie in order so that we could continuously move forward as opposed to jumping around to "Now you know this about yourself, tomorrow we're going to shoot the part where you don't know that."

And because we were left alone out there in the wilderness, we were kind of free to--so long as the schedule made sense--just shoot the movie in that way. It really helped me, it helped the crew to sort of get a sense of where the story was going, what was happening, and for Adrien to find that character.

The movie is so delicate, and it's so subtle in its approach--it's gently thrilling. We wanted that feeling throughout the entire movie, and I think shooting in order and allowing Adrien to find slight nuances with his character as we moved forward was, I thought, the right choice.

ScreenAnarchy: What influences did you draw from for the production of the film?

MG: Tons. I grew up a huge fan of thrillers of the 70's. Anything that was incredibly very dark and character-driven--which pretty much, most 70's thrillers [were]. It's really that period of film that I drew from. We watched movies where the character was the center of the story and the films were dark--not just in tone but just in the frame. If you look at movies like Klute, if you look at movies like All the President's Men, look at Cronenberg's The Fly, anything Polanski did. You know, all those movies are so dark and we wanted [Wrecked] to look like that and feel like that, where there's black in the frame, so a lot of us spent a lot of time those films and drawing as much as we [could] from them.

ScreenAnarchy: Can you talk about any of your upcoming projects?

MG: Nothing I can talk about yet, but I have several films that I'm working on. Some of them actually have more people in them.

The idea of the character-driven thriller is one of my favorite types of films, so I'm trying to stay with that and I have one project I'm developing right now that ventures into slight science fiction, so I'm very excited about that.

ScreenAnarchy: Are you writing or primarily working on development?

MG: A little bit of both. I work best when I have multiple projects and movies all going at the same time. Most of them I'm working on with other writers, Chris and I are developing some screenplays together, and another one of them we're writing together.

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