[interview] Gren Wells, the director of THE ROAD WITHIN

Présenté in competition at the Champs-Elysées Film Festival, THE ROAD WITHIN, focuses on three young patients with Tourette syndrome (Vincent), anorexia (Mary) and OCD (Alex). A nice road movie that convinced the parisian public, who came to attend the premiere of the film in France, the cinema le Balzac, Wednesday June 10, 2015. For the occasion the director Gren Wells was present to answer the audience’s questions after the session. A session of Q&A during which Gren Wells is delivered, including sharing his own experience on the anorexia.

THE ROAD WITHIN will be reissued, always in the framework of the festival, Tuesday, 16 June at 20:30 at the UGC George V.

For your first film, why they wanted to treat the neurosis of youth ?

I am part of my past. When I was younger I was anorexic and bulimic. It is a part of my life. Also my mother, she was depressed. Because of his illness, I was ashamed to bring friends to the house because it is immediately stigmatized. I’ve never understood this stigma around mental illness. It was therefore important for me to talk about it.

At the centre of the film there is a difficult disease to treat in the cinema, the Tourette syndrome.

I really wanted to make a film real, which opens the mind and shows things differently. Often films that deal with Tourette syndrome falls in mockery or, conversely, the drama weighing. This is a topic that is not easy to show and watch. I want to give people another point of view on the different people, that there will be more compassion and understanding.

How the actors have prepared their role ?

Robert Sheehan, Vincent in the film, trained with me for six months. And we had the opportunity to work with a person with Tourette syndrome during a month. By his testimony he has allowed us to remain authentic. Zoë Kravitz (Mary) and Dev Patel (Alex), met with doctors and patients who are suffering either from anorexia or OCD.

The subject is hard but your movie made laugh a lot.

Yes, these diseases are serious, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t laugh. Because we all have something weird in us. And I wanted to show that the characters had a sense of humor. They happen to be self-deprecating which is very important.

Was it difficult to find the right balance between laughing with the characters and not of them ?

The first few minutes are deliberately uncomfortable in this sense. There is a delicate balance to find it is obvious.

In the film the classical music, it soothes the characters. Is it a reality ?

Quite. This is something that a lot of characters with Tourette’s have confided in me. A way for them to unwind and relax.

Tell us about Robert Sheehan who embodies Vincent ?

I’ve searched a lot of players. I wanted someone who you could fall in love. But also with a real energy. And it was hard to find. When my producers have asked me to define it in one sentence, I replied : “I have to have the desire to sit on his face !” (laughter) I had to meet all of young Hollywood, but without the audition. As I didn’t think we had to delay the filming. Finally Rob came in, dressed as a clown, looks completely mad, we would have said that he already had the Tourette’s. It was perfect to embody Vincent.

”I want to give people another point of view on the different people, that there will be more compassion and understanding.”

What is the meaning of the title THE ROAD WITHIN ? And tell us the theme of the trip.

This is not a long trip but it is very emotional for the characters. Vincent, due to his illness, has remained completely secluded. It can not go down to the supermarket. For me the journey is their destination. The important thing is to take that first step, to go step by step. And so this little trip is going to become a test procedure.

In your film, Mary, can not fall in love because of her anorexia. Can you tell us more ?

First I wanted to stay vague about the reasons for his anorexia. There is no such reason that can explain it. It is a mental illness that can happen to anyone. It was so simply spoken with Zoë of his character, of his past, so she can create. With love, the character of Mary love. But she can’t express it simply because she doesn’t like Vincent more than she wants to be skinny. It is still too much in the disease. And Vincent can’t win against it.

Zoë Kravitz has lost a lot of weight for the film. Has it been monitored ?

Yes, she lost twenty kilos. It was followed by a doctor, a nutritionist, and by me. With my experience I knew him to say stop at one point because I could see that it was working. It was marked by this step. But after the shooting she resumed her pounds and she is even better than before now, it is stronger and it shows.

You speak of your experience, with a past of anorexic, wasn’t it hard during the shoot ?

It was strangely easy for me to detach from my life simply because he had to. There are still the scene to the hospital, which was difficult for me and the whole team. Especially the last scene that we shot, when Vincent takes the hand of Mary. It was an unsettling moment.

You are also actresses. What you did-it helped to direct the actors ?

I think all directors should take acting classes. Because we ask the actors to live strong emotions to the request and need to be respected. So, I told everyone that if they had any problem they could come to talk about it. That one could and should say. Finally, no one has had anything to say and it went very well.

For this first film, what was the most difficult ?

Already not to be able to wear heels on the set ! (laughter) but Otherwise the days were long but in the end I was still happy with what we had done. I think it is important that the developer remains positive.

However, if you do one day a road movie, check it before if your players know how to lead. Because Zoë comes from New York and so she has the habit to use public transport. Rob had some sort of permit with the irish, so it was no use. And Dev has his license and perhaps the worst driver I’ve ever seen ! It was difficult to manage ! (laugh)






– Nrc and of the cffs 2015 : programming

– Nrc and of the cffs 2015 : the films in competition

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