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Interview with Zoe Cassavetes, writer/director of Broken English

Zoe Cassavetes writes and directs Broken English, a romantic drama about Nora (Parker Posey), a lonely New Yorker in her mid-30s who falls in love with a sexy French guy, Julien (Melvil Poupaud), but struggles to commit to a serious relationship. This marks Zoe Cassavetes' directorial debut for a feature film. She has previously directed TV commercials, music videos and a short film, Men Make Women Crazy Theory. I have the privilege to interview her.

Magnolia Pictures will release Broken English on June 22nd, 2007 at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

NYCMOVIEGURU: How do you feel about being in the film industry just like your parents, Gena Rowlands and Nick Cassavetes, and grandfather, John Cassavetes?

ZC: I had people warn me about that, but that didn’t stop me. I was going to do what I wanted to do in life and this is what I wanted to do. Part of the reason why is because my parents made these wonderful films and created this family that was always in our house—they shot movies in our house. It just seemed like what fit naturally for me. I’m lucky that I have a friend like Sophia Coppola who I can talk [and relate] to.

NYCMOVIEGURU: What was it like working with your mother, Gena Rowlands?

ZC: She’s wonderful and I love her so much. I have such a good relationship with her. She’s always been somebody I could talk to about anything. She’s really smart, besides being such a force as an actress. I think she understood what I was trying to do, too, and found it interesting. She taught me a lot about being a director Also, it’s really hard to make a movie and to be able to share that with my mom is very cool. She gave me so much respect and I gave it right back to her.

NYCMOVIEGURU: Why did you choose France as Julien’s native country?

ZC: I’ve always been attracted to France and European culture. I just happened to meet my match in a French guy, [my current boyfriend]. When I met him, I was like, “What are you here for? A rewrite or something?” [laughs]

NYCMOVIEGURU: What makes Nora such a lonely woman?

ZC: [She’s lonely] for a lot of reasons, such as the social pressure and time when the clock is ticking. Also because, when I reached [the mid-30s], I finally stopped and re-evaluated my age and thought, “Oh, my God. I’m an adult now. How did it happen so fast?” That’s a huge time when you take inventory on your life. It sets you up for the rest of the path of where you’re going. You can go so fast that you ignore that stuff. She’s doing a lot of things for other people in her life, [like] working in a hotel, taking care of her mother and her friend. She’s emotionally giving so much to everyone else without taking care of anything about herself, which leaves her [feeling lonely]. It’s starting to magnify for her to that point that she can’t even ignore it.

NYCMOVIEGURU: Why did you choose Army of Shadows as Nora’s date movie?

ZC: It wasn’t originally Army of Shadows; it was In a Lonely Place, which is actually the clip we used from the movie. I love [its director], Nicholas Ray, and love that movie. After we shot the Army of Shadows poster, they gave us permission to use [the clip].

NYCMOVIEGURU: What was it like shooting in High Definition?

ZC: We made it with a company called HDNet, so one of the things that you have to do is make an HD movie. It was really interesting and I was really happy even though I never worked with HD before. Lucky cinematographer, John Pirozzi and I worked a lot on commercials and music videos, so we had a really good dialogue with each other about it. It’s nice to just step up to the technology plate and learn something. It looks great—you really can’t tell the difference anymore between HD and [35mm], especially when you transfer it to film and get that grain back.

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