"NO WAY HOME" - Interview with Writer/Director Buddy Giovinazzo

 

What inspired you to write this screenplay?
I wanted to do a 40's style film with real characters, you know, an old-fashioned, `meat and potatoes' type of film like the old Robert Mitchem, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart type films with just, you know, it is the characterization that carries the story. And I also wanted to do something I could do low-budget and I knew it had to be a real story driven piece.

How would you describe the story?
I would describe the story as a modern day "On the Waterfront"...modern day depression type of story; it's, you know, old-fashioned characters in an economic downfall; it's the story of this neighborhood, where we're shooting.

Are the characters based on real people that you knew, since you grew up in Staten Island?
Not really, can't say that they're anybody I knew, they are composites of people I knew; it's not autobiographical at all.

How did you go about the casting of the major roles...did you have them in mind ahead of time?
I didn't have this cast in mind, I wasn't thinking in terms of doing the film on this big of a level. I actually wrote the film very, very small as a 16mm low-budget feature with people that I've known with equipment I knew I could get for free, I was a film teacher at the School of Visual Arts in the College of Staten Island, so I had access to free equipment and I was gonna do it really like... kinda like this...I was gonna rent a big house and just go into it, but just a bunch of friends, not...not on this scale.

Did you end up bringing any of those friends or students into the production?
Yeah, I have about 12 students working on this film right now, you see them, they are all over the place. It's great for them, because' they get to see not only from what they learned in the classroom, but what they're learning here is better than school. One of `em dropped out and is on the camera crew, so he had the option of joining our camera crew as a paid production assistant and he took it and it's better....he'll learn much more here.

What challenges have you had in getting this film made?
I've been trying to make this film for 4&1/2 years so we...getting the financing was the hardest piece of the puzzle, basically because I didn't have names cast throughout and it's a rough project, it's not really a major commercial piece and it's got a dark edge. In some ways it's pretty dark for studios. A lot of studios expressed interest in it, but the budget was so small they felt they couldn't do it, they couldn't jump on board.

Why was it important for you to shoot on location in Staten Island instead of something that might have been easier in terms of location and for the cast and the crew to get to?
We had to shoot out here because the story is about this place, I grew up out here and when I was a kid this was like a thriving community, this was like...before there were malls and shopping centers, the main street of this town was it, it was packed with people shopping every afternoon and then I come home now and it's like... barren, empty...like it will be in the film. So, I felt it was really about this place and I know these characters better than anybody...I know what they think, how they think, what they look like, I know their behavior...so it's great, it's like coming home...doing a film.

Is there a lesson or a moral that you think audiences are gonna take away from the theater when they go in to see this story or is there something that will be left in their minds or is there an overall point in the characters' lives here that is important for you to convey?
Not really...it's not a moralistic tale. It's like a modern day Caine and Abel in some ways. It has that type of scale, that tragic scale. It's not really a morality tale, it's actually very grey...there aren't any completely good or bad characters.

As a first time director for a full-scale motion picture like this, describe the experience working with the actors of this caliber and this full-scale crew...is it what you expected...is there an anecdote from it?
It's actually better than what I expected. It's not as daunting as I thought it would be, it's actually pretty much the same as doing my smaller films...I did a small, low-budget feature and this really isn't that different you just have more people. Other than that I was surprised how similar it is, although I have learned a lot, especially working with this cast, I've learned a lot about how to work with the talent, things not to do as well as things to do.
Official Selection - Cannes Festival - 1994
Quinzaine des Realisateurs

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