(From left to right- Georgia King, Brie Larson, Amy Ferguson,and Rooney Mara)
Tanner Hall is a story that centers on four girls coming-of-age in a boarding school. Having just been released in theaters last Friday, we’re thrilled to introduce our 2 new favorite filmmakers that birthed this intimate film about breaking through the threshold of adolescence. The women are Tatiana von Fürstenberg and Francesca Gregorini, both whom share glamorous mothers. Tatiana von Fürstenberg being the daughter of Diane von Fürstenberg (who Stan interviewed a while back) while Francesca Gregorini has the elegant Barbara Bach to call mom (Ringo Starr as stepfather too).
(Directors Tatiana von Fürstenberg,Francesca Gregorini. Photo: Jeff Vespa/Wireimage)
The film was written and directed by Tatiana and Francesca and stars Brie Larson, Amy Ferguson, Rooney Mara, Georgia King, Tom Everett Scott, Amy Sedaris, Chris Kattan, and Shawn Pyfrom. It’s their first feature film with an ode to some of their own childhood since the filmmakers themselves met in boarding school. All the actresses perform as a strong ensemble with Rooney being the secret weapon (think Mark Zuckerberg’s sharp ex girlfriend in The Social Network) We asked one of the co-Directors, Tatiana, a few questions about the film, and the personal journey of accomplishing such an amazing project.
The movie centers around a boarding school which I assume was inspired by your own background? What was the biggest synchronicity moment while shooting back in the old stomping grounds of Rhode Island?
Francesca and I actually both went to boarding school in England, so I think that our perception of what a boarding school can be is very different from what an actual American boarding school is. We scouted and found a majestic, but crumbling castle as the exterior and the bedrooms were housed in an old men’s club. But, Francesca and I did become friends in Providence, Rhode Island when we were both at Brown. We rented an old house, we cast our Drama teacher to play the headmistress, we bought our groceries on Federal Hill (Providence’s Little Italy) and we went to the same little Vietnamese dive restaurant on the rougher side of town. My old neighborhood which used to be the Portuguese neighborhood is now fancy. But, the character of Gio (Tom Everett Scott) drives a Datsun hatchback and listens to The Replacements– we decorated his man cave with my friend Dennis’ guitar amps and records, etc (I met Dennis while he was at RISD). I guess what I’m saying is that through that character, I recaptured what cute guys were like at that time.
How did you first meet your codirector/cowriter, Francesca – and as previous musicians, how did you two decide to take on the complex journey of moviemaking together?
Had we known what an enormous enterprise it would be – an ensemble cast, over 50 sets, backing into a cold winter, limited time and a tight budget – we would have done it anyway. It was time to raise the stakes and be challenged in a big way. It was less scary because there was two of us and we were doing it together. We did not know it then, but all of the competencies that life had taught us- construction, renovation of spaces, efficiency in writing (when I used to write features), endless hours at my mother’s office as a child watching her make executive decisions, sound mixes, studying applied psychology, teaching high school, homemaking…. all of the things that have made up the fabric of my life were called to action during the making and shepherding of Tanner Hall.
I saw a picture of Francesca in Interview magazine. She was already at Brown and I still wore braces, brushed out my curls and was in my dorm room at Boarding School. She had black eyeliner and a motorcycle. I imagined that all of Brown would be made up of intimidating girls like her and I was filled with fear.
I saw her on campus, driving a dented 1960’s sports car or doing wheelies in the snow on her motorcycle. She was iconic and we were never friends at Brown. I was 16 when I got to Brown and though I had fun, adventurous friends- they never invited me out at night. I was everyone’s daytime friend.
Eventually, Francesca noticed me too and sent me a postcard from Thailand, where she was traveling over Christmas break. The postcard was very descriptive and told the story of her trip. That postcard broke the ice between us.
Rooney Mara is quite a gem. How did you ladies have the foresight to nab her so early in her career?
Because she is inherently dignified. She walks the line between being very reserved and still and yes she is brave and open and responsive. It is beyond compelling– she is the opposite of a performance “look at me” actor. Still waters run deep and her subtle, yet very engaged and engaging presence is intriguing and interesting and conveys her emotions and the emotional journey of the character.
Tell me about the chemistry on set with all the actresses and how long everyone has known eachother. They all seem so close and personal on screen… or was that just acting?
We were backing into cold weather, Thanksgiving and Christmas– so we had to move very quickly and seize the opportunity to make our movie with only 3 weeks of pre-production– so there was not a lot of time for rehearsals, read throughs and time to get together. What we did do, though, is house the girls at a Hotel away from any other adult on the production. We wanted them to feel that independence and autonomy mixed with anticipation that you first feel when you go to boarding school. It worked, they quickly became friends and clicked and hung out in each other’s hotel rooms and explored Providence together. We also never had separate trailers, etc. for the actors so it was very communal. Everyone– cast and crew– hung out together, altogether hanging around the monitor and participating in decisions and the directing process. Because there were two directors and Francesca and I were bouncing ideas off of each other; everything was out in the open. There was no hierarchy or exclusion. Francesca and I overcome conflict easily because of how long we have been friends. The actresses witnessed that fearless trust and maybe it resonated?
Who are the top three directors that have changed your life?
Eric Rohmer, Pedro Almodovar and Roman Polanski and Fassbinder and Werner Herzog.
As first time directors, did you guys just jump into the fire and self-navigate or were there any mentors who took you under their wing during this process?
There was no time to consult with a mentor. We had to trust our intuition and make decisions based on that and move forward without wavering.
Tell us something…anything…about Amy Sedaris. We love her.
Amy is generous. Her mind is interesting and eccentric and funny– and to be bathed in her individuality is a gift. She crafted parting gifts for the cast when she was wrapped– decorated granny panties for everyone– that said Tanner Hall on them.
What went through your mind after your first premiere at The Toronto Film Festival?
Being accepted in as an Official Selection of TIFF was the first validation that we received. It was the first time that I let myself believe that there were elements of the movie that were being appreciated and enjoyed and were resonating somehow. The entire cast came in support of the movie and we all took to the stage together. It was so good to be reunited with them and to know that they were proud enough of their performances that they wanted to celebrate the film.
What was the biggest lesson you learned on your first film in terms of the business?
That there will be challenges on most days, but to keep your mind sharp and clear so that you can navigate and solve the problems. Also, I was in service of the film and everyone who generously contributed to the making of. Therefore, with that in mind, I tried to make the best decisions for the film so that it could become autonomous and have a life in the world– on screens of all sizes.
On a personal tip, what was the biggest revelation the project illuminated for yourself as a person?
That I am energized by problem solving and that there is a way to make room in your life for both the poet and the warrior that exists in all of us. And, that being inspired is critical to my happiness….
We hear you’re coming to NY to attend moms show this week. Which other young designers are on your radar now?
Honestly, I have not really done much thinking about fashion week. I will be in town to attend my mother’s show and then I’m going to rest with my 91 year old grandmother for a week.
In terms of project, what is next on your plate?
I have a script that I have to have exactly right, ready for me to want to shoot it. I would like to be in production by Spring.
Tanner Hall is currently in theaters as of Sept 9th. Please go see this film within it’s first week to support independent film.
All photos (except #1 and Filmmakers) are by Jessica Miglio, Property of Anchor Bay Films