One of the five Festival Award-winning narrative films is the personal story of Lauduree in Future Weather. Lauduree is a young girl who is very talented in biology, but is confronted with difficult emotions when her mom abandons her and she has to live with her grandmother. Writer/director Jenny Deller has been telling the story of Lauduree for many years and now it all pays off with this great feature film. We were able to talk to Jenny about the road it has taken to get to this point and the way that Lauduree sees the world.
Heartland Film Festival: There’s always a caution to work with younger actors, but Perla Haney-Jardine gave an excellent performance as Lauduree. How did you find her and what drew you to cast her in your short film “Save the Future”?
Jenny: Discovering Perla was one of the most serendipitous things that happened in making Future Weather. We met her agent in 2009 (we’d sent him the script for a different role) and he said “I have someone perfect for Lauduree.” At first we were skeptical, but when we watched her performance in Summer in Genova we knew she had the chops to pull off the role.
Perla grew up in a small town in North Carolina, and while she’d had roles in some pretty big films (Kill Bill Vol. 2, Spider-Man), she was a regular kid. She ran around in the country, went to the mall with friends, liked school. That was something that really appealed to me for Lauduree. At the same time, Perla is an old soul. She has depth and a sophisticated sense of storytelling. Her onscreen presence is at the same time refreshingly natural and cunningly subtle. I knew she could carry a film and bring something unique to the role. We were very lucky to be able to shoot the film when Perla was 13 (the actual age of the character), because we caught that beautiful, transitory moment when she is at times a girl, at others a woman.
Heartland Film Festival: In your short film “Save the Future”, you introduce Lauduree’s troubling relationship with her mother and her focus on the environment. Yet this isn’t a shortened version of “Future Weather”. What was the history of this short and how was it used to help create “Future Weather”?
Jenny: We had the opportunity to shoot “Save the Future” in 2009 when Future Weather, the feature, was selected as a semi-finalist for the Netflix FIND Your Voice Competition out of 2000 entries. We were tasked with creating a 3-minute companion short for the film that would be featured in an online voting component of the competition. We had 30 days to produce the short from soup-to-nuts, so it was incredibly challenging. I came up with a script concept that introduced the character of Lauduree in the form of a PSA. It gave us the chance to work with Perla and find out if audiences connected with the heart of the film. We shot it in Asheville, NC, where Perla is from, in two days. It was a fantastic adventure.
Heartland Film Festival: In Future Weather Lauduree uses her obsession with science and the environment to distract herself from her difficult family situation. What was it about that topic that you felt would connect with this character?
Jenny: When I started writing Future Weather, I knew two things: that Lauduree was particularly gifted in science and math, and that the story was set in a rural environment, specifically Southern Illinois, where I grew up. I imagined that because her mom wasn’t around much of the time, Lauduree probably took a certain refuge in exploring the wilderness around her, getting to know the plants and animals she came in contact with. I also imagined that she was initially attracted to science, because on the surface it seems to offer certainty and answers in a world full of unknowns. By the end of the story, she learns that while incredibly rich, science is not so black and white.
Heartland Film Festival: You subvert a lot of expectations with the supporting characters. You never completely villainize the mother; the teacher isn’t the ultimate saving grace we’ve seen in a lot of films; the romantic interest isn’t exactly Romeo. Were you conscious of this when you were creating this world?
Jenny: Yes. I want my characters to feel like people you know. Though it might make life easier, it’s difficult to write someone off as simply “bad” or “good”, so I didn’t want to do that in my story either. This is actually one of the main things that Lauduree is learning: how to see adults fully and accept their flaws. The more I let myself be guided by what people might really do in life vs. what they typically do in movies, the more freedom it gave me. The plot became more exciting and open in a way, because I wasn’t limited by what’s expected. It also put the main character in more challenging positions, which is always good for drama.
Heartland Film Festival: With the short film and now Future Weather, you have been telling this story for years. Are you looking forward to your next project? Is it another tale of Lauduree or is it something new?
Jenny: My next project will be a script based on the life story of Jane Elliot, a revolutionary schoolteacher who invented an exercise called Brown-Eyed/Blue-Eyed to teach her students about racial discrimination the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Jane is incredibly dynamic, and the time period in American history is fascinating me. I can’t wait to dig in.
Heartland Film Festival: What have been the moving films that have inspired you as a filmmaker?
Jenny: The films that I remember moving me the most all seem to be from my childhood: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the Gene Wilder version), Irreconcilable Differences, The Black Stallion, E.T., Amadeus, Sweet Dreams. Then later it was Hannah and Her Sisters, Ponette, A Woman Under the Influence, Nights of Cabiria, Europa, The Passenger, Ratcatcher. All of these films somehow grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.
You can purchase tickets for Future Weather for the following days…
– Friday October 19 at 1:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14
– Saturday October 20 at 2:45 p.m. at AMC Showplace Traders Point 12
– Sunday October 21 at 3 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14
– Tuesday October 23 at 5 p.m. at AMC Showplace Traders Point 12
– Thursday October 25at 5 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14
– Friday October 26 at 3:30 p.m. at AMC Showplace Traders Point 12
– Saturday October 27 at 6 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14.
Interview conducted by Austin Lugar