It’s becoming a rarity these days to see directors that are directing material that isn’t their own. For Gillian Greene though, it’s a necessity.
“I wish I could write,” she says during the week of her first feature’s premiere at Tribeca Film Festival. “That would make it a lot easier, but I’m not a good writer. I’m a good editor and can recognize good material though.”
Greene found “Murder of a Cat” on the Hollywood Blacklist while reading scripts after her short “Fanboy” in 2011, but hadn’t come across anything she liked.
“One of my producers suggested I check out the Blacklist, and this title jumped out at me,” she recalls. “I read it, responded to it and set up a meeting with the writers. I had to persuade them to let me direct it, since I’d never made a feature before.”
The threesome hit it off and the rights were optioned, although it took two years to begin production. “It’s a small movie,” she admits. “It’s not one that you look at and think immediately ‘This is going to make a lot of money!’ So it took us a while to raise the funds.”
“Murder of a Cat” is an oddball little script about Clinton (Fran Kranz), a man who hasn’t fully grown up yet and is still living with his mother (Blythe Danner) and his best friend, Mouser, a cat. When Mouser is murdered, in true noir fashion, the story follows Clinton as he sets out to expose his cat’s murderer. The film also stars Greg Kinnear, Nikki Reed and J.K. Simmons.
Not a fan of broad comedies, Greene was looking for a “smart comedy” and fell in love with the characters of “Murder of a Cat.” “It really comes down to the fact that it was extremely well-written,” she notes.
The writers, Robert Snow and Christian Magalhaes, worked together in the writers’ room of “New Girl” and had done a short in 2010, which is when their script first appeared on the Blacklist, a roundup of the top unproduced screenplays in Hollywood, as voted on by top development executives.
“This is also a coming of age story,” she explains. “Clinton is unlikeable at the beginning – a curmudgeon and mean to his mom – but there’s a really great character arc. He becomes a hero and you really root for him. All the characters were well drawn [like this].”
Greene’s character arc, if you will, is one to note as well. She married prolific film director/producer Sam Raimi when she was only 20 and had five children with him. During the last two decades of raising them, she also worked very closely with her husband on almost all his projects, learning the business the best way possible – hands-on experience.
“I was behind the scenes,” she says, “but got so much experience from it. By the time I made my short, I felt really confident. I don’t think I would’ve been ready at any point before now [to direct a feature]. I never actually thought I really wanted to be a director. When I read the script, I wanted to produce it, but trying to find a director that would fit wasn’t working. I [decided to] direct it myself so that it would be the way I wanted it to be.”
Greene is currently developing another project with Snow and Magalhaes, so perhaps her fears of finding another script as good as “Murder of a Cat” can be put to rest.