Kris Elgstrand’s latest feature stars Arabella Bushnell as Carol, an inward woman who finds her voice (and loses more than a few friends) when she starts writings songs about the people and interactions around her. As Carol’s humorous story unfolds, we learn a bit about self discovery, and a lot about how one person’s journey can affect those around them. Visit songsshewrote.com for info.
Tell me about Carol’s origin story. Is she based on anyone you know? I think we all know someone like Carol. For whatever reason, she’s shy, reserved, unable to express herself, and in desperate need of an outlet. She’s not based expressly on anyone I know, but I certainly identify with her. After the film’s first few screenings we discovered that a lot of women have identified with her. We’ve had some requests for “Carol” to write and sing songs inspired by a list of ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands.
What sparked the idea for the movie? In a strange way, the movie grew out of the music. I happened to write a few songs that seemed funnier being sung by a woman. [They were] funny and threatening sung by a woman, and just threatening when they were sung by a man. Arabella Bushnell, who plays Carol, had performed some of the songs on my live show as I was developing the material, so it was a natural progression to write for her and Brad Dryborough, who also performs on my show and plays Dave in the film.
I couldn’t help but get a strong musical theater feel from it. Did you grow up acting in/directing/watching a lot of musicals? You’re the first to ask about a musical theatre connection and you are not wrong. When I wasn’t smashing our piano with a hammer growing up, I was playing it. I did theater — some musical, some not — in elementary and secondary school. And it’s not possible to overstate the impact of watching The Muppets and, in certain respects, the Jerry Lewis Telethon had on me.
Can you tell me a bit about the street performance thing? Do you guys know when/where it’s going to go down? I believe we’re doing a brief performance at the Paso Nuevo Mall at 1:00 p.m. on Friday. I’ll be doing my best to make my fingers hit the right keys in the right order at the right time. I’ll sing some songs from my CD, Songs of the Sad Sack, Volume 1. I’m so disappointed and Arabella will join me to sing a few of her songs from the movie. Of course, some of the material will be edited for content. We might roll our eyes like Mick Jagger on the Ed Sullivan Show singing, “Let spend some time together,” but we aim to not ruin anyone’s lunch.
What was the biggest challenge presented to you over the course of making the film? One of the most exciting elements of making the movie was shooting on actual film. We shot on Super 16, which was great, but presented a few unique challenges. My DP and a producer on the film, Amy Belling, handled those challenges beautifully and achieved wonderful results. Never having shot or directed anything on film before, it was a huge learning curve for me. Almost no one develops film anymore, so I was driving our footage across to Bellingham, WA (we shot mostly in Vancouver, BC, Canada) to ship it to L.A. every few days.
What was the biggest take-away for you? What did making Songs She Wrote teach you about yourself? We had a very small crew, but it was still the largest I’ve had on any film. My last feature had 12 people on it, including the lead actors and producers. This film had more than that. I learned how amazing crews can be. How hard they work and how much of the film rests on their shoulders. As for what I learned about myself? It’s okay for writers to be uncomfortable and awkward around people, but not so much for a director. So that’s just a little something to work on.
What do you hope people take away from the film? I’m super happy when people watch the film, laugh, and have a good time, but it’s particularly gratifying when people recognize something of their own experience in it. As for Santa Barbara area audiences, I hope they catch the few shots we grabbed here and that they don’t mind that we didn’t ADR the line that misidentified the area as Northern California.