Alongside partners Matthew M. Welty and Elan Gale, veteran actress Molly C. Quinn is on track to take the film production world by storm with their burgeoning company, QWGmire.
In the wake of the premiere of her latest film Agnes (directed by Mickey Reece, the eclectic indie filmmaker behind Climate of the Hunter) at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Molly followed up our last chat with her for a more in-depth look at the production side of Agnes as well as how she’s applying the lessons learned from a life in the acting biz to the even bigger world of production.
Tribeca has come and gone, and it’s been a busy time. But it seems like Agnes was pretty damn well-received, which is awesome to see. How has it felt to have it out there in front of everybody?
Molly: Scary and wonderful. Every day, we were looking to see what people were saying, what their takes on it were, which is always really interesting to me. I love hearing different people’s ideas about what the movie is about, because since we deal with religion and spirituality, everyone just kind of puts their own perspective on the film – which is what we wanted. So for me, it’s really exciting to see that happen.
For some of our friends and family, it’s really rewarding. It’s awesome that they get to see this thing that we worked so hard on, and that they ended up really liking. There’s been more than one person being like, “you know, I didn’t think it’d be my kind of movie, but I really loved it and it went in a direction I wasn’t expecting!”. I’m like, “I appreciate the honesty!”
That’s when you know it comes from a sincere place, when they’re like, “I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but I do!”.
Molly: “I thought it was gonna suck!”.
It might not be 100% flattering, but yeah.
Molly: Anything that follows that, you’re pretty well set.
The aspect of Agnes I really wanted to discuss with you since we last spoke is that this wasn’t just an acting role for you, but a production role too. Am I mistaken in thinking that this is the first feature film production out of QWGmire?
Molly: Yeah, we pronounce it “quagmire” because it was just a bad joke. Basically, we had writer’s block, and our partner Matthew Welty was like, “what if we spelled it Q W G, like all of our last initials, but we put ‘mire’ at the end and pronounced it ‘quagmire’”. Then our other partner Elan was like, “yep”.
We got ourselves into a bit of a pickle with that, but that’s kind of who we are. And yes, this is our first film produced as a company.
That’s all worked out pretty well so far, then! I suppose if you ever create something, whether it’s a film or a production company, you think of them as your babies. Your babies are both out there, and they both seem to be doing well. Does that feel like proof that it’s all working out how you’d hoped?
Molly: Absolutely. We’ve continued to look – even while we were in production – for what we wanted to do next. It’s amazing that Agnes has been received well and that we have that Tribeca stamp of approval. We couldn’t be happier. But we’re also all of the mindset that we’re just going to keep doing it. It’s great to get that validation with the first one out of the gate, but we were already prepping our next movie. We’re actually going to start production in September, which we’re really excited about. It’s been fun to reach out to people and be able to change our bio with that Tribeca tag of course, like “we’re really doing something here!”
We’re really supporting unique filmmakers, we’re getting different types of stories out there – which is really our mission statement. We want to help artists. We believe in collaboration. We believe in bringing the knowledge that we have to a set, and to boost the creative vision. We only see ourselves as help to the director and the writer’s vision, and what they want to get on screen. To me, that’s what a producer does: you talk about what someone wants to accomplish, and then you try your best to make that happen by the finish line. It’s really exciting that we did that so well on Agnes. It gives you a pep in your step! I’m definitely feeling on fire to start this next movie.
It sounds almost like a mentorship – finding these diamonds in the rough and helping them sing.
Molly: Yeah, we learn from them as well. I wouldn’t go so far as to say mentorship; that might sound silly because I’m 27 years old [laughs] but I started as an actor when I was 13. I’ve continued working in this industry for a long time. I want to help people who maybe weren’t as lucky as I was to find the right people so quickly. So yeah, giving a helping hand, but we’re also all learning together. That’s why I think collaboration and the partners you choose is so important.
It seems like the film industry can be quite a lonely place if you don’t have those connections, that experience and that confidence. There are plenty of people out there who are incredibly talented and have plenty in them to share, but don’t have the right network and means.
Molly: You said it perfectly. Unfortunately, with talent there doesn’t seem to come a sense of tenaciousness. I’ve experienced this myself – you have to be sensitive to take on the world and to write these stories and play these characters. It’s not normal to have the flip side of emotions, which is just tenacious and going after it and pounding the pavement, taking it on the nose and waiting for that one “yes!”. You have to wait a really long time. Because of that, I think that’s another thing that we bring: we help that step along, and help people learn that you just have to keep going. If this is really what you want to do, you have to take a lot of rejection. I don’t look at it as rejection, I look at it as a rejection of time. It’s just not the right time yet. So if you believe in your idea, if you believe in your art, you just have to keep moving forward.
Absolutely. I see a lot of authors I know on Twitter putting out open calls for anthology books, and they’re very clear about the fact that they can’t say yes to everybody. In fact, they have to say no a lot more than they can say yes. And it’s not “hey, your work sucks”, it’s “at this particular point in time, it’s not the right fit for us – but there’s a space for you out there somewhere, sometime”. Patience is certainly a virtue.
Molly: Absolutely, be patient and not give up, and also be willing to modify. Sometimes, if you really believe in an idea but you keep getting “no”, maybe you can find people who say “well, maybe here’s an idea”, or “this is a plot point that people keep bumping up against”. There does have to be a willingness to work with others in order to continue shaping your vision. I know a lot of people don’t like to think about that, they like the idea of something staying pure. It doesn’t really work that way. I don’t think art has ever really worked that way. There have always been people who help shape an idea, a story or a project to get it to its final place. As much as you have to believe in yourself and believe in your art, you need to have that door open a little bit to take good advice and still do it your way – but be open to incorporating other people’s advice.
There’s such a fine line between maintaining your artistic vision and being realistic about what sounds good on paper but might not work if you want to get it made. I imagine it’s not an easy decision to come to somebody and say “hey, listen, i know that’s your baby – but we’ve got some notes”.
Molly: That’s just part of it, especially if we focus on the film industry. Even when we signed on to make Agnes, we liked the genesis, but we needed a rewrite before we even started filming. Once we had those rewrites – which were just creating more of a through line, bumping up the scares a little in the first half – it was really great. And then when we got to shoot, we even continued to bump it up. We were working on that script every single day, making sure the dialogue was as good as it could be. Once you start working with other human beings, you want to infuse their personality and the work they’ve been doing individually into the story. There’s just no such thing as a one man band. And that’s why I think I love making movies – you get to meet a bunch of creative people, and it’s all of your ideas together that make that umami, that perfect blend of everything.
Would it be fair to say that Agnes has a loose feel for the kind of movies that you’re particularly interested in helping to bring to life? Not necessarily just in terms of genre, but perhaps in the sense of films a little out of left-field, a little off-beat, but still with plenty to say.
Molly: I would hope so. That’s definitely where we want to go. I think that’ll happen as long as we trust our story-makers. The genre might change a little bit, even though we are all as a company very interested in scary stuff, in horror and psychological thrillers. But we’re also open to the uniqueness of the story-teller. So the genre may change, but I do hope that it’ll always be something a little different for people to see. We’re not a big company. We’re not making blockbusters. We want to show that there’s room in this industry for things that are a quirk on a genre, a little bit of a different take. I hope that we continue to, as you said, come out of left-field.
Here in New Zealand, we have our annual International Film Festival, and there’s a section of the festival I look forward to every year called Incredibly Strange. It’s actually a super broad category – there’s horror, there’s sci-fi, there’s drama, there’s a little bit of everything and everything in between. So it’s cool to hear that you have that sort of vision going ahead, because even though the average audience member might not be memorizing every production company’s name and output, I think there’s still a lot of people who like to have a name they know will deliver the kind of fun they like to have.
Molly: Thank you. And I love that name of the genre at the film festival. That’s awesome!
Yeah, they’ve been doing it for probably over thirty years now, and every time they announce the festival lineup I scroll straight to it.
Molly: That’s awesome. I’ll have to go to New Zealand and join that – I want to see what they’re playing.
It’s a truly great film festival we have here. Hopefully some QWGmire films end up there!
Molly: I hope so. I love New Zealand. I would love to come back. I shot a movie there when I was sixteen, and I just had the best time. It was a Disney movie called Avalon High, and we were shooting it on a rugby field that they shaped to be like a football field. It was all so crazy. But the All Blacks were shooting a commercial next to us, and I knew rugby because my brother played in the States, which was so odd. I just left the set and ran to the team and started gushing! They were all so tall, and I was like, “you guys are so great!”. I really had a great time.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me again, it’s always fun to look at everything from a slightly different angle and I’m so pleased Agnes has received so well – and that you’re so happy about it!
Molly: Oh, thanks so much. We’re ecstatic. We feel so lucky, and thank you for taking the time and for wanting to talk again! I really appreciate it.