Following up a critically acclaimed first feature is a challenge for any director. In the case of GEORGE WASHINGTON, writer director David Gordon Green was contending with a debut that was praised at festivals worldwide, awarded the New York Film Critics prize for "Best First Feature," and listed as one of the top films of 2000 by Roger Ebert, The New York Times, Time Magazine and many others.
For his second film, Green has returned to a story that he developed with Paul Schneider, his friend and classmate from the North Carolina School of the Arts. "I wrote the script for ALL THE REAL GIRLS before George Washington, while Paul and I were still in college," says Green. "I wanted to make a movie that captured the genuine feeling of being young and in love. There have been so many movies made about that, but I find most of them full of cliches. For me the appeal was to make a believable and effective movie about young people and their relationships. "
Schneider, who at the time was studying editing at NCSA, recalls the birth of the idea a little more bluntly: "When David and I were seniors in college, we both got dumped by girls that we were madly in love with. We were completely depressed and we just sat in my room listening to the most melancholy music we could find. Trying to find a way out, we decided to write a love story and we came up with the idea for the script. But to me, it's more than just a love story. To me, it's about a guy who idealizes a woman and thinks that she can save him from a bad situation. In the end he realizes that his life is the bad situation and he's the only one who can do anything about it. "
Green's ongoing interest in collaboration was key during the writing process. "It's not like we were in the same room. I would send Paul some pages and he'd come back at me with ideas," continues Green. "And this was four or five years ago. Since then, the script has evolved insanely. To me it's a lot more realistic and the emotional details are a lot more specific. "
The story of the film is told primarily through the character of Paul (played by Schneider), who, says Green, "is just a guy living his life and going with his instincts, not thinking about the future, or the consequences of his actions. With Noel he starts to recognize that there can be strength and honesty in a relationship and that there's something more to be had than just one night
Adds Schneider, "In movies about guys living in small towns, they are usually trying to see past the horizon but Paul hasn't really even looked. He's pretty solidly where he's at. I don't think he's ever thought about his attitudes towards relationships but when Noel comes into the picture, he all of a sudden realizes that he can be 150% genuine with a woman. And it's really new and weird for him. She knocks him off balance and he likes that. By the end of the film, Paul can honestly say 'I'm confused, I don't know what the hell I'm doing and I don't know where to go,' and that complete confusion is something that everybody can relate to. "
Says Deschanel, "I play a girl who's been away at boarding school since she was 12. Now she's 18. She knows she's more educated than most people in town but she's also less savvy. To me Noel and Paul are like a train wreck at the exact moment of impact. My character wants to be more worldly, and his character is trying to get away from that. We're heading toward each other but we don't realize how quickly we're moving, and we crash. " One of the things that impressed Deschanel when she read Green's script was the chemistry between Paul and Noel. "They're funny, and charming and they see things in each other that other people aren't willing or able to see. The problem arises when they start to have expectations of each other. " Deschanel was also excited at the prospect of approaching a love story differently. "There have been so many movies made about being young and in love, but David is approaching it in a new way. The story isn't glossy, it ends ambiguously, and doesn't make falling in love look like this perfect thing. "
ALL THE REAL GIRLS sets itself apart even in its opening scene. In most love stories audiences see the moment when the characters first meet, Green chose to begin the movie with Paul and Noel having already met. "We shot them meeting," explains Green, " but it just wasn't that interesting. The opening scene with Paul and Noel standing there while that song by Will Oldham plays sets the story up right. You are there. "
Veteran producer Jean Doumanian was eager to work with Green after seeing GEORGE WASHINGTON. Says Doumanian, "I was truly impressed by how a young, first time feature filmmaker could have such a strong sense of style and direction. The way he captured the environment, and his ability to expose such small, yet wonderful reactions from his young cast really caught my attention. After reading ALL THE REAL GIRLS, I thought it would be interesting to mix David's sense of style with a contemporary story that dealt with young love -- a subject that hits close to home with David. "
Doumanian, who has worked with such accomplished filmmakers as Woody Allen, David Mamet and Barbara Kopple, admits that she went out on a limb with ALL THE REAL GIRLS, producing a film with a relatively unknown actor as the star. Says Doumanian, "Paul and David conceived the story together, and many of the feelings and events involved in the film come from Paul's past experience. I was intrigued by that, but felt more at ease after watching Paul on tape and discussing the risk with David. Paul is a natural on camera, and David's confidence in him is immeasurable. Looking back on making such a risky decision, I'm very glad I did. Paul was perfectly cast, and I have very high hopes for him as a young actor. In the end I felt comfortable trusting David's instinct -- and that says a lot. "
Producer Lisa Muskat, who also produced GEORGE WASHINGTON, concurs with Doumanian about David's natural filmmaking abilities. "David is one of the most talented directors out there. He's inspiring to work with, he's a great writer and he's really good with actors. He also knows what he wants and has a way of inspiring the people he's working with to be the best that they can be, in whatever position they are in. "
The cast of ALL THE REAL GIRLS began with the character of Paul, and
Green's only choice for the part was Schneider. From there the casting process
became a truly collaborative process with the help of casting director, Mali Finn.
Finn's experience ranges from big films such as TITANIC ,LA CONFIDENTIAL
and 8 MILE to smaller movies like MANIC and films in between like THE
WONDER BOYS. Finn first became interested in Green's work after she saw
GEORGE WASHINGTON and actually met with some of the cast when they
were in Los Angeles for the Independent Spirit Awards. So when it came time to
cast ALL THE REAL GIRLS, it was clear to the filmmakers that she had the
passion and the power to bring in the kind of cast they were looking for. The first
round of auditions were held in Los Angeles; then Schneider was brought out to
work with the other actors. "We needed to see how he related to the other
actors," says Muskat. "David wanted to be sure they had a real rapport. That's
how we found Zooey. We looked at a number of really fine young actresses, but
in the end, she had the best rapport with Paul. "
Green explains: "Casting the female lead was difficult. We knew Paul's
character inside and out since we had written it together but we didn't have that
history with Noel. Our first impulse was to see every actress in the country to find
the girl that we had in our minds.
"We wanted to make sure that she was just as fleshed out as the guys," says
Schneider. "But David and I aren't smart enough to come up with a character as
complex as Zooey. " Adds Green, "With Zooey we found someone more intriguing
than the character we had written. We had this strong male character but we
didn't want the relationship to be one sided. We needed a girl to come out and
say 'Listen, I'm here too, and you better sit down and hear what I have to say. '
Zooey did exactly that. " When we put her in a room with Paul it was pretty clear
that she could play. We had them do the break up scene and Zooey came out
blazing and so completely tore into it that I think she scared Paul. Also
physically, there's something very classic about Zooey," continues Green. "She's more than just a cute girl. There's depth in her eyes, she's got a great voice and
her sense of humor is totally wicked.
The role of Elvira, Paul's mother, is pivotal to the story--her relationship with Paul
is both strong and playful; she is his best friend and his mother same time. The
role was filled by Emmy award winning actress Patricia Clarkson. Recalls Green:
"We knew what we needed to find someone with guts. And it was important to
me that she be from the south, that she have some kind of real connection to that
culture. Patty comes from New Orleans---what more do I have to day? She has
the accent, the language, and the emotion. "
As he did with GEORGE WASHINGTON, Green wanted to use a pool of
professional and amateur actors drawn from many different places, including
North Carolina. "Great things can happen when you put an experienced actor in
a room with some kid from the hills who has something to say" says Green.
"There's a scene in ALL THE REAL GIRLS when Noel is talking about men with
a friend who is played by Amanda Lambert, a local girl from Marshall. She's
never been in front of a camera and works in a store in Hickory, North Carolina.
It's a very small scene, but to me it's the most natural moment in the movie. "
Continues Green, "When we were casting Paul's friends it was important not to
have all the clichés -- you know, the fat guy, the good looking guy, the crazy
hard-wired high-strung guy, and then the stable guy. Of course you want people
that have strong characteristics that are distinguishable from each other, but to
me it was important to stay away from broad stereotypes. Green was able to do
this with his choice of actors.
To land the role of Tip, Paul's best friend and Zooey's protective older brother,
Shea Whigham was willing to go all the way. "The character of Tip is so intense,
but he also has this human side,' says Green. "Shea showed up at the audition
in character and when he left he was tears. We thought, "that's the guy who's
going to punch a hole in the wall and do what it takes to get into this character. "
Greene was already a fan of Maurice Compte, who plays Bo. "I'd seen his work
and really admired it. Like Bo, Maurice really has that philosophical almost
religious way about him. When he puts a hand on your shoulder, he doesn't
need to say a word. "
"Bust-Ass is definitely the comic relief so when it came time to cast his role,
Danny McBride was Bust-Ass," says Green. "I went to school with Danny, we've
worked together before and he's also a writing buddy. He brought a lot of
vocabulary into the film, and Bust-Ass is now one of my favorite parts in the film. "
Many of the crew were old friends who had worked with Green on GEORGE
WASHINGTON. For Green, this was essential. "It's great to take a bold step
with people that you trust. And to know that any idea they bring to the table is
going to be just as good as yours, if not better. We brought back the same
production designer (Richard Wright) and the same DP (Tim Orr); as well as the
same editor, and our producer Lisa Muskat. He adds, "these are filmmakers that
I know from GEORGE WASHINGTON or from school or just from my life. It's a
group of people I like making movies with, and just as importantly, they're people
I trust, and enjoy hanging out with.
Muskat, who met Green (as well as Schneider, Orr and costume designer Erin
Aldridge) while she was teaching at the North Carolina School for the Arts,
agrees that the filmmakers share a special bond.
"Making GEORGE WASHINGTON turned out to be a great experience for us all,
so we all agreed to come together and make another movie. It's really like a
family. Originally, David wanted us to live in the same house together. Our line
producer, Derrick, put an ax to that reminding David that the crew that was three
times as big as the one we had on GEORGE WASHINGTON. So we
compromised splitting everyone into three houses with the overflow in a local
For Green, finding the right location for ALL THE REAL GIRLS was everything.
"Our production manager found Marshall. The landscape is the same as it was in
1954, there isn't a Burger King or Walmart in sight. It was amazing. That kind of
timelessness was essential to the story. It was also important to me that ALL
THE REAL GIRLS not take place in a specific place or a time," continues Green.
"Most movies are made to open big, play a few weeks, and then go to video. I
wanted to make a film that that seemed almost outdated --not defined by the
clothes or the music or the landscape of the moment. "
It was also important to Green that his entire crew respect both Marshall and the
people who lived there. "I didn't want us to be the shithead film crew that moves
in wrecks the place and then leaves. We really tried to make ourselves part of
the community while we were there. The locals were very cool. They would sit
on their porches and watch us and we'd go feed the ducks and show up at their
For Doumanian, making ALL THE REAL GIRLS was a true collaboration from
start to finish. "I have always been a hands-on producer and have enjoyed the
creative components of my job. Casting ALL THE REAL GIRLS was a great
experience and when it came time to edit, our Asheville production office became
our editing suite. This was a money saving tactic, but I also think it was
inspirational to David and our editors to remain in North Carolina.
Green was thrilled to have a producer with Doumanian's skill and brilliant track
record on board for ALL THE REAL GIRLS. "Jean structures her productions in
a way that encourages a collaborative effort among the cast and crew. With the
level of trust everyone had with each department, we were able to support
exciting creative risks. It is crucial to have a producer like Doumanian in this type
of environment. She brings bold ideas, a great deal of experience and a sharp
sense of humor to the table. "
The response to GEORGE WASHINGTON pleased Green, even as it caught him
off-guard. But the level of expectation is irrelevant to him. "For me this is a solid
but ambitious second step. And the time for this film was now," he says. " I
remember thinking 'We've got to make this while we're young so that we're not
some cynical old guys looking back on the good old days'. It was like 'you're in
this now, you feel this now, let's go make this film quick'. "
For Green, another essential element in the making of ALL THE REAL GIRLS
was its music and sound. From the very start of production, the challenge for the
filmmakers was to commission a score and to find artists and songs that would
maintain the thematic integrity of the movie and support Green's overall vision.
"A song or score works when you are watching a movie and you hear sound that
either intentionally keeps you in a specific moment or takes you out of it as you
realize what it is that you're watching," says Green. "It isn't always something
you can sing along to --sometimes its purpose is to distract you. But it takes only
a few moments for music to have a powerful effect in a film and those moments
are what makes someone want a soundtrack album as a kind of keepsake of the
The music in ALL THE REAL GIRLS features an original score by David Wingo
and Michael Linnen and a number of songs performed by a wide range of artists.
Will Oldham, best known for his work with the Palace Brothers, wrote and
performs the main title song "All These Vicious Dogs" which is playing at the very start of the film when the audience sees Paul and Noel together for the first time.
"I can't imagine that scene without Will's voice and words," says Green. "It's one
of those songs that takes your right into the scene itself. " Also featured are
brand new songs by a number of young artists and although not written
specifically for ALL THE REAL GIRLS, the film will be introducing these songs.
Other artists worked directly with the filmmakers to find the best use of an
existing song for a particular scene. In the case of Sparklehorse, their track "Sea
of Teeth" from their album "It's a Wonderful Life" worked perfectly. "It was so
great to go back in an artist's catalogue and rethink a certain composition," says
Green. "And at the same time, it's just as exciting to be introducing music by
some new artists whose work we completely believe in. "
Featured bands on the ALL THE REAL GIRLS soundtrack include:
Founded in 1995 Sparklehorse consists of Virginia-based Mark Linking and a
revolving group of musicians that includes Bob Rupe, Johnny Hott and David
Lowery of Cracker. Sparklehorse is known for its southern influenced music that
ranges from lo-fi acoustic to guitar driven rock. The song "Sea of Life" is from
their 2001 Capitol Records release "It's A Wonderful Life. "
Five young Scottish men--Stuart Braithwaite, Martin Bulloch, Dominic Aitchison,
John Cummings, and Barry Burns--formed Mogwai in 1996. Named after one of
the characters in the film Gremlins, and inspired by the music of Joy Division and
the Jesus and Mary Chain, Mogwai was committed to creating serious guitar
music. The Glasgow based band quickly became known for its complex,
challenging sound and are considered one of today's most important
instrumental rock bands.
The Promise Ring
This Milwaukee based quartet was formed in 1994 by four veterans of the local
band scene: Jason Gnewickow, Davey von Bohlen, Dan Didier and Scott
Schoenbeck. As The Promise Ring, they created their own brand of power pop
and then merged it with introspective lyrics. They are widely credited as the
godfathers of the emo genre.
Mark Olson and the Creekdippers.
In 1995, after 10 years as one of the key musicians in the critically acclaimed
Minneapolis based band The Jawhawks, Mark Olson packed it in and headed to
the desert to pursue his vision of American music. Joined by his wife Victoria
Williams, and a number of alternative country artists including Joshua Grange,
Michael Russell, David Wolfenberger, Danny Frankel, Jon Birdsong and Don
Heffington, The Creekdippers were born. Since recording their first album in
Olson's living room in Joshua Tree, California, they have continued to pursue
their own vision of American music.
Pyramid was formed in the late 90's with the goal of creating abstract
improvisational music. With eight members from North Carolina and Georgia
and eight different musical styles, the band draws on influences from folk, rock
and roll, jazz and classical. Their instrumentation consists of cello, violin,
clarinets, saxophones, accordion, guitars, bass, bells and cello. Pyramid is:
Joey Stevens, Ben Best, Chris Walldorf, Kris Baucom, Tyler Baum, Ryan Blaine,
Ben Kennedy and Brent Bagwell.
The complete track listing is as follows:
1. All These Vicious Dogs - Will Oldham
2. Beautiful Stars - Issac Freeman
3. Hottub - Michael Linnen & David Wingo
4. Sea of Teeth -- Sparklehorse
5. Cantus for bob Hardeson - Michael Linnen & David Wingo
6. Fear Satan - Mogwai
7. Goin' Back Home - Paul Jones
8. Body On Fire - Steady Baker
9. Streets Were Raining - Pyramid
10. I Wanna Dance 4U - Michael Linnen & David Wingo
11. Cactus Wren - Mark Olson and the Creekdippers
12. Say Goodbye Good - The Promise Ring
The soundtrack for ALL THE REAL GIRLS will be released by Combustion Music
in late January 2003. It was co-produced by Ken Levitan and Chris Ferron.