Joseph Greco writes and directs Canvas about Chris (Devon Gearhart), a young boy who lives with his father (Joe Pantoliano) while coping with his mother's (Marcia Gay Harden) schizophrenia. This marks Joseph Greco's directorial debut, which is based on his own childhood experiences. I had the privilege to interview him.
Screen Media Films releases Canvas on October 12th, 2007 at the Regal Union Square 14.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was the hardest part about making Canvas?
JG: The hardest part was finding producers who believe in what I wanted to say. The advantage of it being such a small film is that I was able to make a film that I wanted to make. I had final cut and didnít have to answer to people making creative demands. That ending could remain truthful.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you make sure to portray schizophrenia accurately?
JG: When I was a young boy at Devonís age, I watched my mother battle schizophrenia. During the writing and re-writing [process], I consulted with mental health professionals to make sure that I would portray the illness accurately.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you feel while writing based on your own childhood experiences?
JG: Whenever Iíd write, for two or three hours, I would be bawling because all these memories came flooding out. I found it to be extremely cathartic.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did your mother react to watching the film?
JG: I showed my mother the film and, about halfway through the movie, she looks and me and points to the screen and says, ďThis woman really needs to take her medicine.Ē It was this really wonderful moment where my mother was able to step outside her own experience.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Whatís the significance of the metaphors you used in the film?
JG: Building the boat, John does want to preserve the family. The family is torn apart and the boy, [Chris], wants to stitch it back together. The idea of patching [the shirts] seemed appropriate. Also, I love sailing, so the water and all of those symbolisms of the maternal presence. I love metaphor. You can really do so much with it in film. Itís a collection of all these different art forms. I appreciate that you picked up on that.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Please talk about how some scenes feel inspired by European cinema, such as The 400 Blows.
JG: I love that you brought up The 400 Blows. Thereís a little homage there with the boy at the fence. I love European cinema, but I think itís more difficult to weave those things into a movieóespecially youíre first time out, thereís all this pressure of being commercial.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Have you considered continuing the story of Chris in another film?
JG: I donít know. Never say never. The reality of it is that Iím still dealing with the illness. It still affects me because my mother, sadly, still lives with the illness. Sheís an assisted living facility, so sheís doing well [though]. In some ways, I see another chapter about how he deals with it as an adult. Mental illness is something that fascinates me, so Iíd love to make a film about it again.