“In Our Nature”, the first film from writer/director Brian Savelson is a cabin in the woods drama of a slightly different style than, well, Joss Whedon’s “Cabin In the Woods”, when a scheduling mistake leads to an estranged father and son to share a vacation home with their respective girlfriends. Starring Zach Gilford (“Friday Night Lights”), John Slattery (“Mad Men”), Gabrielle Union (“Bring It On”, “Bad Boys II”) and Jena Malone (“Pride and Prejudice”, “Donnie Darko”), the film explores two couples at a crossroads, and a father son relationship in need of repair.
Mandy Griffiths spoke with Brian Savelson and Gabrielle Union following its SXSW premiere
Brian this was your first film, and you wrote the script as well, what made you focus on the real family relationship. You read that it’s set in a cabin in the woods and you think it could be a horror film but it’s not which is great.
Brian: [laughs] No it’s not. My background is in theatre, so this felt like a good transition film. It allowed me to really focus on the performances and the nuances of the characters. Just get four people in a house and watch it unfold.
Being such a character driven piece it’s so important to get the casting right, and you did such a great job in assembling the talent, was that a long process for you?
Brian: Yeah it was, getting everyone together and in the same place at the same time is always a struggle. But more important than anything is making sure they are exactly right for the part, and all fit together and match each other. There are only four of them, and each of them represents a quarter of the film. And Gabrielle of course, Gabrielle brought everything to the film.
Gabrielle, what attracted you to the film?
Gabrielle: Anytime there’s a strong character that’s nuanced, they generally don’t want me [laughs], so I always chase these projects! It was one of the few times where I loved a project and Brian was open to me and it worked out perfectly.
It did, I have to say I’m used to seeing you in very athletic, strong roles and it was nice to see you in a much more restrained and sophisticated part.
Gabrielle: Yeah there was no way I was not going to chase it. I was more humbled that he would trust me [laughs].
Brian: I’ve followed her career for a long time, and I was excited to see her do something like this. I wanted to give her the opportunity, and she blew me away actually.
Absolutely, and the rest of the cast was also fabulous, was it a nice environment to work in?
Gabrielle: Oh yes, the great thing about the four of us, was, with a different bunch of people in such an isolated location, it could have really gone south. We could have really turned on each other and it could have really affected the film in a negative way. So I don’t know how much Brian was trying to figure out personalities in casting this, but I’ve seen it, I’ve been on sets where you just stop caring about the words, you stop caring about the story or the character because you just don’t like the people you’re working with. This was great, not only because we were working together all day, but we didn’t have trailers so we were just hanging out in the guest house together, and then at the end of the work day, we weren’t bothered by each other, we stayed and hung and had dinner together every night. We really enjoyed each other and I’ve kept in touch with all of them. Which is pretty rare!
Had you worked with or met any of the others before filming?
Gabrielle: I didn’t really remember meeting Zach [Gilford], but apparently I had met him before, and tried to trade him off in a celebrity game that I was coaching.
I bet he remembered that…
Gabrielle: Oh yeah he remembered that, very much so, but I’ve done a pilot with his now fiance who I loved. You have all these six degrees of separation with everyone. Me and Jena [Malone] had shared a manager at one point, you have all these different connections.
Was there any scene in particular that you really enjoyed filming or how it turned out?
Gabrielle: There are two scenes that I’m sure were of a particular challenge for Brian. One that was really fun was the kayak scene, because there was a lot of moving parts and trying to get the stunt together and the sun was setting…
Did John Slattery actually do the kayak rollover stunt?
Brian: He did do it. He actually was much better than he looks in the film, I made him struggle more in the edit to give it a little more tension, but he popped right up when we were filming.
So he was probably like ‘no, I can do it better’ when he saw it
Brian: Exactly. He took lessons.
Gabrielle: He even did it in the Hudson River.
Brian: The Hudson River which is famously disgusting and he was a trooper to go in. He was looking forward to the gross pond actually. But Gabrielle was not looking forward to the gross pond.
Gabrielle: No I was not, but that was a fun day. Luckily it all worked out. And there’s another scene, the scene where we’re at the campfire, and there’s an agreement, and I had an immediate reaction reading the script. I felt strongly that it should go one way and Brian felt strongly that it should go another way, and we had a lot of conversations about it. [laughs]. But yeah we had a compromise which seems to serve the film.
Brian: Yeah there has been a lot of conversation generally about that
Which is what you want.
So what’s coming up next for you guys?
Brian: Well of course as a first time filmmaker this is going to play a major role in my life for the next couple of months, getting this out into the world and making sure it gets seen, but I’m working on another script, and it’s a little bit larger in scope, not just four characters in one location this time, but hopefully it will retain that same kind of quality of character and nuance.
Gabrielle: I have a film in theatres at the moment which is “Good Deeds”, then I have “Think Like a Man” which comes out April 20, and another little indie called “Miss Dial”, which will hopefully find its way into the world, and then I did a documentary for PBS with Nicholas Kristof called “Half The Sky” based on his Pulitzer Prize winning book, where he basically sent six actresses of six different parts of the world to explore the oppression of women and girls. So that’s with Eva Mendes, Olivia Wilde, Diane Lane, America Ferrerer, myself and Meg Ryan. I got to go to Vietnam to discover the educational disparities of young girls in Vietnam. So that was exciting.