I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS
Behind The Scenes
As a filmmaker, Brett Haley counts himself an admirer of 1970s-style
naturalism and tried to bring
that kind of feeling to I'll See You in My Dreams. "Filmmakers of that era got
to the heart of the issues
people face every day with brutal honesty and truthfulness," he says. "They had
a sense of independence and
working around the system that I hope I have to a large degree. I try to make
films that don't fit into any
clean package. They have more emotional beats than one would expect."
The director says he tries to let real life inform everything he does on set.
"I don't like showing off as
a director, with soaring music and crane shots and Steadicam. It wouldn't fit
this story. I've been working
with Rob C. Givens, my cinematographer, since college. We have an efficient
shorthand, and we collaborate
very closely. My first feature really solidified us as a team, and I see myself
working with him for a very long
time. Knowing he's handling the camera means that I can focus on my actors with
the confidence that he's
going to shoot what we discussed and make what's in the frame look even better
than what I had
Having only 18 days to shoot a full-length feature meant getting each scene
right quickly and then
moving on. "That was one of the biggest challenges," says Haley. "I had to go
with my gut. I couldn't get a
lot of coverage or a lot of takes. We had to really nail it and keep going."
The story was originally set in Florida, where Haley was raised. But the
producers urged him to
consider setting his story in Los Angeles for financial and other practical
reasons. "They astutely pointed out
that it would be more difficult to get such a high-caliber cast in Florida," he
says. "In Los Angeles, people
would be more willing to sign on to a small project with just a few days on set.
So we rewrote it for Southern
California. We found the perfect house with the perfect pool for Carol in Studio
City. It's a recognizable part
of Los Angeles, but not 'Hollywood' or necessarily Los Angeles in any specific
The retirement community where Carol's friends live is the real-life Royal
Oaks, a be.group
community located in Duarte, a small city in Los Angeles' San Gabriel Valley,
where the original Kickstarter
video was shot. "It's not the prototypical California with palm trees and
beaches, which could evoke a
specific type of person and lifestyle," says Smith. "We wanted as neutral a
setting as possible so these
characters could exist in the world Brett and Marc created without being defined
by the shooting locale. And
they were so great and engaging at Royal Oaks when we shot the video there, we
wanted to return for the
film. Many of the residents volunteered to be extras, and they let us into their
community and their homes.
They literally opened their doors for us and helped bring it to life."
Costume designer Mirren Gordon-Crozier was asked to develop for each of the
women a signature
style in tune with her character's personality. "We wanted all of them to look
great and have their own
specific way of dressing," says Haley. "For example, Rhea's character's style is
loosely based on how my
mother dresses - plaid shirts and cute jeans and little sneakers. Blythe brought
a lot of her own sensibility to
the way Carol dresses. Carol is beautiful and elegant but also a little edgy. It
was really important to have both
of those elements. Mirren did such an amazing job of working with each of the
actresses and making them
feel comfortable and appropriate for the character."
From a touching and amusing evening of karaoke to the film's final poignant
anthem, music features
prominently in I'll See You in My Dreams.
Composer and musician Keegan DeWitt provided the film's evocative score, one
of six he has
written for Sundance Film Festival selections in the past three years. DeWitt is
also the lead singer and
songwriter of the band Wild Cub, whose hit song "Thunder Clatter" recently spent
over 12 weeks in the top
15 on the Alternative Radio chart.
"Keegan gave us a terrific musical score," says Haley. "He has let me use
music from his band in
other films, and I really wanted work with him on this one. His music has the
ability to drive the storytelling
in a way that I think is just great. It has momentum. We wanted the score to be
in that sweet spot - emotional
without being sentimental. I'm really specific about music, so it was a real
DeWitt also wrote the original song, also called "I'll See You in My Dreams,"
for an important
moment scripted in the film. "I didn't give him any specific direction except
that I wanted him singing to a
ukulele," says Haley. "Some people interpret it as a spurned lover saying
goodbye, but I see it as someone
who lost the person they love and they are looking forward to seeing them again.
Keegan tells a story about
writing it while looking into the next room at his newborn baby in the crib.
Whatever you personally connect
it to, it has such a poignancy and simple beauty. I remember hearing it for the
first time while I was on a
location scout, and he had just nailed it in a way that I never imagined."
Haley is gratified by the reception the film has received even before its
theatrical release. Screenings
at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival were greeted with standing ovations. "It's
been a dream of mine to have a
film at the festival since I was a 12 year-old wanting to make movies and first
heard the word Sundance," he
says. "Getting into the festival was a dream come true. To have an audience of
1,300 people watching my
movie for the first time was pretty emotional. The response showed that the
audience was truly connecting. I
knew then I had made something I could be proud of."
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