by Joanna Orland
Graham Chychele Waterston has made his latest film And It Was Good a family affair. Co-produced by his sister Katherine and starring his brother-in-law Louis Cancelmi and his father Sam Waterston, And It Was Good is a beautifully absurdist love and life story which we reviewed at this year’s Raindance Film Festival.
Graham and his family were kind enough to take time out of their busy schedules to discuss this standout short film. Here is our interview with Graham Chychele Waterston and his sister Katherine Waterston.
What was it about And It Was Good and the prospect of working with Graham that led you to producing this film?
Katherine: I’m a fan of his. I read the script and wanted to see this film, so I produced it. Graham is a filmmaker. He has a singular voice and he’s visual— people use these words to describe filmmakers all the time but he really has a genuine gift for cinematic storytelling. These days, it seems, there are more films being made than there are filmmakers being made. I love cinema and I worry it’s dying. Producing And It Was Good was a bit like adopting a whale, it doesn’t save the oceans but it helps!
How much were you involved in the creative process?
I wasn’t involved at all. Graham is a confident, inventive, unflappable director; he knew what he was doing, he knew where he was going, I just paid people and panicked about locations and insurance paperwork.
What inspired you to write and direct this film?
Graham: If I don’t write everyday I feel like a dead dog. Most of the time I’m writing something to shoot. So, I guess the inspiration was to not feel like a dead dog but like a live dog with a script ready for filming.
What are some of the challenges of telling a story in short film vs feature length?
No matter what kind of story you’re telling you hope to say everything you want to say in the amount of time you have to say it. That said, time constraints are something to be aware of. I spent a while considering what kind of story/ what storytelling approach would work best for me in short form before the idea of what to write came around
What kind of techniques do you use for short film to get the audience engaged from the start of the film, as you don’t have the luxury of time to get them on side?
Attractive people running around in their underwear.
Your film has a very distinct aesthetic – can you talk a bit about the process behind creating the look and feel of And It Was Good?
I hope for style to come after content is understood (by me) so that everything about the look and the feel is there to enhance the story. By the time I’d finished the script I had a head full of ideas about the style of the film, and I brought all of those ideas to my department heads and opened them up for discussion.
When you have an idea for a dress or a pair of gloves and you bring it to someone like Ellen Lutter, she’ll come back to you with a full understanding of the piece your looking for/ story you’re telling etc and give you the goods.
Who are some of your creative influences?
I’ve been in London the past week or so and Sonic Youth has really been kicking out the cobwebs. I don’t know what that has to do with London. They just go well together… But there are so many. My uncle James Woodruff is a painter and he’s always been a huge influence on me creatively. I can’t get Leos Carax out of my head. The Marx Brothers.
Did coming from a show business family influence you to explore a career in filmmaking? Do you think you would have pursued it if it weren’t for them?
I’m sure it did. If I had grown up in a family of athletes or butchers or politicians, maybe I’d be the ball throwinist, meat cuttinist president of all time, but I can’t speculate on a life that never existed. I just know I liked making up stories from an early age. It might only be blood but I think it’s more.
With many actors in your family, why is it writing, directing and behind the camera work that appeals to you?
I got shot down for the kid in Sleepless In Seattle and never got over it.
This film is very much a family affair as you co-produced with your sister Katherine, and your father and brother-in-law star in it. What are some of the challenges of working with your family?
Oh I think it’s pretty damn great. I’ll continue to work with those people forever. I wish I had some good dirt for you, but I guess all I can say is when you work with family and friends you don’t just have the work to protect.
And It Was Good was funded successfully through Kickstarter, and these days a lot more Hollywood stars are turning to independent cinema for work. What does indie film offer an actor that Hollywood doesn’t?
I’d say it’s more project to project than Hollywood vs independent. Actors can find wonderful or terrible environments to work in in either arena. Budgetary restrictions can effect what is possible, but what is focused on or given most importance is dictated by those helming the particular project. I don’t mean that to be a safe answer, but most broad generalizations are usually easily debunked.
What’s up next for you?
I’m about to start in on a web-series I’m co-writing and directing with another New York filmmaker set to shoot next January. I’m also developing two documentaries while I gear up for my first narrative feature which I hope to shoot next summer.
If there were only word to summarize Graham Chychele Waterston, what would that one word be?