My interview with writer-director, Shana Feste and teen actor Lewis MacDougall was conducted via phone as I was ill with a bad cold, which was a shame as I prefer to meet talent face to face and in this case–the missed bonus of a meeting her sweet dog, Loretta. We chatted on June 14, 2018, about her semi-autobiographical film Boundaries and Lewis’s role as Henry the son and grandson.
The film stars Vera Farmiga (Laura) is a single mom living in Seattle, with her troubled teen son Henry, played by Lewis MacDougall; you see, she has an unremitting need to put others and animals before herself. Laura also has another problem—setting boundaries. Her estranged father, played by Christopher Plummer (an ex-con drug dealer) calls and asks if she and Henry will go on a road trip from Seattle to LA— as you can imagine Jack’s shenanigans are outlandish—as his alternative motive is to drop off marijuana during their journey to his old customers—while enlisting the help of Henry in the caper.
Sarah Knight Adamson: First of all, it is so wonderful to be speaking with a female director. Congratulations on writing and directing Boundaries. I found your movie both funny and heartwarming. I know the script is semi-autobiographical. Can you tell us a little bit about your real father and the background of the script?
Shana Feste: My real father, who Christopher Plummer definitely plays a version of him, was one of the most charismatic men I’ve ever met. He was hilarious and funny and wonderful and also a total lawbreaker, which is a very interesting combination. He was in and out of prison for non-violent crimes. Mostly selling marijuana, trafficking marijuana actually. He was married six times, has six kids. The movie was really my way of exploring my relationship with my father, understanding some of the kind of resentment I had, even though I was kind of ashamed that I even felt that because I loved my father so much.
SKA: Was he able to be on the set and is he in the movie?
Shana Feste: He is in the movie. Christopher Plummer deals weed to him in one of the montages. He’s wearing a mustache and one of those reflective vests.
SKA: Yes. I think I remember it. I love it. That’s fantastic. I wanted to also tell you my favorite scene from the film; it’s the breakfast scene when Christopher Plummer is making eggs and tossing them. To me, you captured the sense of family perfectly. Honestly. I got chills. Kind of like The Descendants at the end of the movie when they’re just sitting there eating ice cream. You really did capture family. Can you tell me how that scene came about?
Shana Feste: That was a fun scene because when you read the script it just says, Jack and Henry have breakfast. Christopher Plummer and I wanted to bring out some of his charm. How can we show his really playful side? Because my biggest fear in making this film is that when you look at his character on paper, you might judge him. When you see him with his family, it’s so easy to fall in love with him.
SKA: Hi Lewis, I just wanted to let you know that I raised two boys of my own and I have to say I was actually happy when you were out of that bullying situation in school. Can you talk about that and how that felt as an actor to play a person who is bullied?
Lewis MacDougall: I think that last scene in the school where Henry’s walking with his mom down the hallway, that’s a very special scene, and you really just see horror on his face when the crowd runs past him and you can really tell at that moment this isn’t, it’s not a great place for me.
SKA: Working with Christopher Plummer, was it hard to keep a straight face? Did he make jokes? Did he make you laugh on set?
Lewis M: Yes! He did make me laugh on set; he made everybody laugh. He’s an incredibly charming, and funny, great man, and I feel so honored to have had a chance to work with him, and he makes everybody bring their game up. I learned so much just from being around him and being able to watch him.
Sarah: Shana, I have to ask you, what’s going on with the female disparity and film criticism and I just quickly looked on Rotten Tomatoes and saw that you only have five reviews so far, I know the film hasn’t come out yet, but they’re all male.
Sarah: Can you speak to that as far as, what do you feel a woman critic has to offer your film in particular?
Shana Feste: It’s incredibly disheartening, I started out making The Greatest my first film almost ten years ago, and I’m seeing the same critics that were reviewing The Greatest, that still reviewing now, you know Boundaries. I’m in the same press rooms as you would know, the same people and that just needs to change.
Sarah: Well, I’m going to tell you. I wanted to make a change about this so I decided to apply to Rotten Tomatoes. And I have to tell you, right now, as of yesterday, I’m in.
Shana Feste: Yay!
Sarah: So, I have to ask you about the hardest scene to film. Is it the botched robbery scene or the car scenes with all the dogs. They both look terribly difficult to me.
Shana Feste: They were. I want to say one thing about you being a critic, which makes me really, really happy.
Shana Feste: When you’re a female, and you make movies that you know women will respond to and you make movies for other women and being reviewed by all men can be really frustrating. And so I’m just so thrilled that this is something that you are passionate about and that it’s slowly starting to change.
Sarah: Thank you, so much.
Shana Feste: Now the toughest, the scenes with the dogs in the car. I literally broke every rule I could possibly break on this film.
Sarah: So Lewis, you grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. Beautiful city, by the way, I really enjoyed spending time there.
Sarah: Hey, did you ever make it to that castle very much? And what was it like growing up there?
Lewis M: Yeah, it’s great. I’m still growing up there. I’ve been to the castle and I’ve seen everything. It’s a really beautiful city and its got really good theater and it’s good for all the arts and things to be out and accessible which showcases all that. Yes, it’s great to grow up in that atmosphere, yeah.
Sarah: Oh, fantastic. Hey, did you get attached to any of the dogs or did you have a favorite dog that kept following you around?
Lewis M: Yeah, I got extremely attached to every single one of the dog. And right here, right now, Shana’s dog, Loretta. I feel very attached to her. I hope she feels the same way about me.
Sarah: Okay, Shana. I have to ask you about Peter Fonda. You know, I interviewed him before a screening of Easy Rider, if you can believe it, in 2010. And then I also did the Q&A with him. I actually spent about an hour with him, afterward. He’s so perfect, road trip, marijuana; what did he bring to your film?
Shana Feste: He just brings class. My father is very different than Jack [the character] in real life. You know, my father was covered with tattoos, a prison guy and from Texas. Christopher Plummer is a Shakespearean actor and so sophisticated. I needed to have him to have really classy, fancy friends.
Sarah: Who are some of the women directors, if you could name a few for me that you admire?
Shana Feste: Oh, there’s so many of them. I really admire Susanne Bier, Sofia Coppola, and Patty Jenkins
Sarah: Lewis, who are some of the actors’ work that you admire?
Lewis M. I really love. I love Ewan McGregor, James McAvoy as well. And there’s a Scottish director, Lynne Ramsay; she directed the film You Were Never Really Here.
Sarah: I know this is your fourth film. How has the writing, let’s say, and the directing changed in ten years? What changes have you found in the process?
Shana Feste: Well, I think with this film, I just got back to something that I did when I started out, which was writing what I know and writing things that were really personal to me. That feels like that’s the lane that I should stay in, it feels the most organic.
Sarah: Louis, Tell me a little bit about yourself so that I can tell your fans. What kind of things do you like to do? Maybe in your spare time, or there’s a favorite book you like to read, or what do you like to do when you hang out?
Lewis M: You know, I really like to play poker. Not with real money but with my friends, I play poker. I love reading George Orwell; I like Chris Rankin, [an actor who played Percy Weasley in the Harry Potter films.] I like playing soccer. I love watching soccer and I’m really looking forward to the world cup.
Sarah: Last question. Shana, what would you hope that people take away from this film and I usually end with what would you like to say about the film, if there’s anything you want to say about the movie?
Shana Feste: Well. The practical, I would love for everybody that watches the film to be inspired to rescue a cat or a dog, because that’s something I’m incredibly passionate about and want to shine a light. I hope that they look at forgiveness in their own lives and see the value in that for themselves and also for their family, it will make them ultimately stronger.
Sarah: Thank you both, so much, and best of luck with the film.
Sarah Knight Adamson© June 30, 2018