Writer\director Matthew Brown’s new feature, Maine, follows the journey of a married Spanish woman named Bluebird (Laia Costa), as she attempts to hike the entire Appalachian Trail solo in order to find clarity. Her solitude is interrupted by a young American hiker, Lake (Thomas Mann), and the pair develop an emotional and romantic connection while traveling together. Maine is set in remote locations, were the locations where he shot the movie as remote as they look?
“Yes,” Brown says. “For the most part. They were pretty far out there.”
Remote locations, he admits, present certain logistical problems, such as just getting the crew and equipment to where they need to be. But is there a creative advantage you get from being that far away from civilization, particularly given the kind of story he was telling?
“I felt like personally there was, because it just felt like we were actually out there where this story was meant to be taking place. I would imagine that it would have been easier on the actors to just drop into their characters due to the circumstances. There was less imagining to do. They were literally in the space, and I was like a generator three ft away from them…Some of us didn’t use the bathrooms. I would just pee on the tree or whatever.”
Which actually anticipates the next question I had wanted to ask, but wasn’t sure how to broach. Leading lady Laia Costa certainly seems very unselfconscious. She not only does nude scenes during the course of the movie, and in fact pees on camera. Was that difficult for her or is she that really that free-spirited?
“Actually all of the pee is really her pee,” Brown says with evident pride. “She really wanted it to be real. We had like a pee rig on standby but she had an exceptional bladder and she wanted it to be real, and could pee on cue. She wanted to title the movie Pee Girl.”
Both Costa and co-star Thomas Mann are billed as executive producers. Did that make it more difficult for Brown, in terms of having a director actor relationship while he was actually shooting?
Brown is adamant. “No.I think it was just something to sort of sweeten the pot for them we’re working on the deals. I was very into the idea because they were so instrumental in making the film, and had so much outside of the typical role of an actor I think they really had a lot to do with how the movie was shaped and put together. But no, it didn’t affect our day day-to-day work, definitely not in a negative way. It was just that they were more involved in the movie then typically what’s usually happening behind the scenes.”
Bluebird is a difficult character. She’s moody, she’s distant and she’s not always nice to Lake. What kind of a dynamic did the actors have dealing with each other during the shoot?
“They were definitely buddies,” Brown says. “I think when we were like plotting the next shot, or during in-between time, they were kind of always together, messing around with each other. Laia is extremely playful in real life and not so fickle as her character. We all got along really well, and became close friends throughout the project.”
So how did the two of them get involved with the project? Laia Costa is Spanish, with a slew of professional credits, but few in Hollywood reporter projects.
“She is just starting to get a lot of American credits, but she is working all over the place. I think she is doing an Italian TV show right now.” He paused. “Maybe I’m not supposed to say that, I’m not sure. She did a film in Scotland not too long ago, and then she did this British film, so she’s kind of working with everybody now. She’s started to get into American films but isn’t just solely working on American films like a lot of foreign actors who make a name for themselves do. As soon as they get one American project they are working the way up that ladder. And I think she’s always going to do what she wants to do if she likes the content. If she likes the script then she’ll do it, no matter what country it’s from.”
So how did the director get hooked up with Costa and her co-star, Thomas Mann?
“Laia came on 1st way before Thomas Mann. I saw Victoria and I was pretty hung up on her and I told a mutual acquaintance, and said this is who I want to work with, this is who I want to play the part, and they made it happen for me. And way later down the road it was sort of the same thing with Thomas. I had someone else in mind initially, but when that didn’t happen, Thomas came into the picture. We Skyped a lot, and I had to convince him to audition and that I knew what I was doing.”
Whatever else Maine is, it isn’t talky. There are at least ten minutes with no dialogue in the movie before we ever hear a human voice. Of course silent movies came first. But is there a special challenge to sort of work without words?
Brown, a hiker himself, has a simple answer: “I didn’t think of it as a challenge, I just thought of it as an effective way to begin the story. I wanted to connect them on an animal level before before I started connecting them on a level specific to humans. It has been my experience that that’s sort of is how it is out on the trail – that you can go with your best buddies and spend twenty-four or thirty-six hours outdoors and not speak a word to each other – you just kind of keep your head down and keep going.”
Is Bluebird escaping from something or searching for something or both?
At this, Brown is a little evasive. “That sort of question is something where I don’t feel it’s my place to answer. I have my own interpretation and obviously Laia and I knew what we were playing, but when audiences have asked me questions like that it’s I think it’s open to interpretation for a reason I think a lot of what we were trying to do with the film is leave a lot of room for audiences to try to think for their own selves so I wouldn’t feel quite right about answering that.”
What’s up next for Matthew Brown?
“I’m working on this project, just finished the script for it, we’re probably going to start this week. It’s called The Apocalypse and it’s sort of a departure from my first two films. It’s sort of an inside out critique of masculinity. I grew up in an all-male family in North Carolina and it’s sort of made a lot of things difficult for me growing upof because just the idea of what it means to be a male. It’s kind of a film are the people have the worst envisioning of that sort of situation. It’s very different.”
Maine is currently playing in theaters, and is now available on VOD and digital HD.