Film Rie releases White Girl nationwide on September 2nd, 2016 at Angelika Film Center and AMC Empire 25.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Elizabeth, how much of White Girl was based on your own experiences?
Elizabeth Wood: It was important to me that Morgan not base this character on my experience, and that she gave a character that went on her own adventures. That being said, anytime she had any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
Morgan Saylor: Elizabeth was pretty clear from the beginning. There were some things that had happened to her in a similar way, but it was a story that we were telling, and this is Leah; this isn't her. It's a character that we're crafting. Whenever we talked about it, it was in reference to Leah. I wasn't like, "How was this for you?" I did ask a million questions. Some were more about what it's like to be so daring---things that Elizabeth might have a better understand of. And she was pretty daring to making this film
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think it is about the age that Leah is that makes her and others around her age behave irresponsibly?
EW: We all have this feeling of being away from a home that we grew up in, and kind of trying to craft a new kind of life. A character like this coming from a certain place of privilege. Bad things haven't happened yet. Maybe a child psychologist would say that she experienced childhood trauma that maybe this character simply is going out there to try be hurt, but in the end I don't think that she'll have that same feeling of invincibility or optimism.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Justin and Chris, what do you look for in a director?
Chris Noth: Someone who tells me the truth, but gives a little leeway into improvisation. I thought about my character and realized that he's an opportunist in his own way. It seems like all of the characters are opportunists. There's always a price that has to be paid somehow.
Justin Bartha: A clear point of view. When you read the script and can really tell what the writer is trying to say and if it comes from a specific place---and tonally, if it's consistent throughout. Then, I figure out if what they're trying to say is something that I want to say, also. I identified with what Elizabeth was trying to say and was interested in the themes, and there was a consistent point of view throughout. On top of that, you don't see those characters in mainstream movies, but you hardly see them anywhere. There's something so grounded within that specific world that you just have to go along with it.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How comfortable were the costumes?
India Menuez: I had to remove my cynicism about growing up here in NYC. It was a big challenge for me to do that. I focused on the relationship between the two friends and explored what that friendship meant.
Brian 'Sene' Marc: I grew up in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, so a lot of the themes in the movie are things that I'm very familiar with. I moved to California and built a new life for myself---a music career---and came back separate from that lifestyle. When I opened that script, I realized that I would have to dig deep to open some things. I waited my whole life to get away from it, so that was a challenge on its own.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Were you influenced by films from the 80's when making White Girl?
EW: Even before the 80's, I really related to Midnight Cowboy. It's interesting how this kind of experience can happen in any generation: you come to New York, despite how it changes, your life changes for the time being and you get lost and wonder whether you're going to survive or not. So, I was definitely influenced by so many films growing up, but it was also completely new to me experiencing it and trying to figure out how to tell my version of it.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Morgan, which do you feel is more intimate to bear onscreen: emotions or nudity?
MS: Emotion, completely, because my body and me in the film doesn't feel like me. It does feel like Leah even though it's my physical body. The emotion feels closer to me, oddly. It seems a little erotic, but it does feel real because I'm kind of manipulating myself to create the emotions which is what you do as an actor. As a body, it didn't feel like my stance there.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Elizabeth, what kind of conversations did you have with the actors about the themes of the film?
EW: I first talked to them about the themes and the world that we were going to inhabit together. As we got closer to showtime, it became more specific to each character without thinking about the bigger picture: just who they were moment to moment.
BSM: I remember, specifically, when we were speaking about my character and why it would be so enticing knowing that it was these white people moving into the neighborhood. Why would that be so enticing when everyone else sees that as a threat or as an alien presence? We started talking about why I left Brooklyn. What did I picture was on the other side of the fence? What did I do to get there? We spoke about those things at length seriously. That was the only time I went home and thought about them myself. She told me early on to just build this character without worrying about similaraties.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What would you want to double feature with White Girl?
EW: Jurassic Park.