“Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?” Is premiering on Lifetime June 18, 2016 at 8/7c, this is also actor & writer James Franco retelling of the 1996 classic originally starring Tori Spelling, who is also starring once again in this same-sex vampire love story, directed by Melanie Aitkenhead, who is telling The Urban Twist what makes her and this project #Twistworthy!
It all started at USC with James Franco teaching a class there. I was picked along with 11 other directors to direct Actors Anonymous, a feature based on his book. After finishing the movie, I continued to work with James on another project and later that year he called and told me about “Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?”
Almost everything was revamped! We did keep the mother/daughter relationship, and little elements that paid homage to the original, like the dinner scene and the ‘home made cooking’ scene.
Your directorial vision is influenced in many stages. After you read the script you start envisioning the world and then the actors bring in their own ideas and your vision enriches and so forth. I go through the script and jot notes of how I see each scene. I think of emotions and colors and try to imagine the movie as the audience would see it. Visualizing the scene makes the collaboration with the cinematographer and other key creatives much more efficient.
What was your favorite scene to direct in this movie and why?
It’s hard to pick one scene since I loved so many. I had a lot of fun with the theater scene. We needed to shoot with buckets of fake blood and it was so graphic. Blood in the theater? Count me in. I was also doing a little cameo so that may have also boosted my excitement.
When filming sensual scenes, what is a technique you use to make sure that the love scenes are tasteful and sensual, and not tacky?
Think of sexual scenes like any other scene in the sense that the focus should be on the actions and intentions, not the specifics of sex.You make sure the characters are coming from a real place and not from a judgement on what they are doing. Once you create a safe place for the actors, the rest flows.
Tori Spelling was in the original lead in “Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?” as the daughter who sleeps with danger, but in this remake she plays the mother whose daughter is sleeping with danger. What was directing Tori like, and did she offer any insight from the original film?
Tori is super sweet behind the camera and a superstar in front of it. It was great to have the chance to work with her. In regards to the project, she embraced all the new elements of this version.
In terms of casting, we were incredibly lucky in “Mother”. I can’t single out one person from the cast because they were all equally amazing to work with. No one in particular stands out as needing little or no direction. This is because I believe an actress, even if she nails the performance on the first take, wants to touch base with the director and often try out some different performances.
Have you ever worked in front of the camera before? If so, when and for what project? If not, do you have any plans to?
I took acting classes a few years ago to better understand the actor’s process and to be able to direct them better. For “Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?” we had a scene with James at the theater and while we were rehearsing, the idea came about that perhaps his character needed an assistant. James gave me a look and I was like ‘no way!’. Next thing I know, I’m going through make up and getting ready to act in the scene with James. Of course, he’s hilarious and I couldn’t stop laughing on the inside while we were doing the scene, it was great.
What do you feel sets your vision apart from other directors, and why?
In film, I am drawn to movies about dysfunctional relationships, so when I’m directing I pay more attention to the psychological beats in the scenes more so than other aspects. That’s another way of saying that I am an actor’s director. Connecting with the actors on a personal level and allowing them to flourish will bring the movie to life. I embrace the idea that I don’t have control. That fluidity allows for my collaborators, both in front and behind the camera, to do their best. A rigid vision, in my view, can hinder the full potential of the film.
Do the background actors need direction, since they are not speaking and can go un-noticed by the audience? Is it difficult to come up with so many things for the background actors to do and and making sure they don’t take any attention away from the main actors?
The background actors always need direction, general direction on where to look, when to react, what to be doing, etc. The first AD (asssitant director) is usually the one directing them. The audience is sensitive to everything that is happening within the frame. Good background direction will reinforce the illusion of cinema, while poor background direction will destroy it.
Director Melanie Aitkenhead was born and raised in Guatemala City, Guatemala & currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. She holds a BA in Advertising from Southern Methodist University. Look out for her other directoral debut scheduled for later this year starring Eric Roberts, Keegan Allen, Scott Haze, and once again James Franco in his adaptation of “Actors Anonymous”. The film will explore the lives of young actors in Hollywood, from the highs to the lows, to the lies and the heartbreak.
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