Cleveland International Film Festival } March 25 – April 5, 2020 } Tower City Cinemas

Suburbia, Through the Looking Glass

April 06, 2019   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers


It started off as a short film, a 15-minute 2015 excursion into a bizarre alternate suburban idyll. When “Greener Grass” creators Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe finished touring the festival circuit, their original hope was to turn the premise into a TV show. That didn’t come to pass, but the idea just wouldn’t let them go.

“What started happening,” they told Women and Hollywood, is that we kept finding ourselves saying ‘oh my God, this (particular unusual thing) is so “Greener Grass.”’ Or people who’d seen our short would pitch us things from their lives that were ‘so “Greener Grass.”’ And we naturally started building out the world, especially as bits we’d do with each other.”

In the aftermath of Election 2016, the timing was perfect, too. “The news started getting, well, very ‘Greener Grass,’” they continued. “Adults acting like petulant children, people in power unable to see past what’s right in front of them, and a desire permeating our country both politically and culturally, to return to the ‘good old days.’”

Skewering those imagined days was easier than ever given their shooting location: “The oh-so perfect world around us in Peachtree City (Georgia),” they enthused to 25 Years Later. “The people, the manicured lawns and brightly colored identical houses, the 100 miles of paved golf cart paths!”

In fact, they decided that nobody in their fictional world drove anything else. “We couldn’t show any vehicles other than golf carts,” they told Women in Hollywood, “which are comedy gold.”

They created a world in which the desire to compete and conform is so intense that everyone, even adults, wear braces in an attempt to make their teeth even more perfect, and if someone wears underpants as a scarf, everyone else will swiftly do the same. But even at its weirdest, it’s all just one small twist away from life. Except, probably, for the boy turning into a dog. Probably.

Although Luebbe and DeBoer had pulled in Saturday Night Live staple Paul Briganti to direct the short film, they decided that they wanted to co-direct the feature-length version themselves. “Our favorite thing to do as writers,” they said, “is create unusual worlds with their own unique logic and aesthetic. And we found that no one could better bring those specifics to life, exactly the way they exist in our brains, better than we could. So we started directing our own stuff.”

People warned them that it was a lot to take on, especially given that they had little experience with directing and no formal training. They didn’t let that deter them, and they don’t think it should deter anyone else.

“You don’t have to go to film school,” they told Women and Hollywood. “This applies to anyone, male or female, who hasn’t gone to film school and is afraid that means they can’t direct. It’s scary to feel like you don’t know all that technical stuff, but our experience has been that you learn those things fast when you’re thrown to the lions. And you’ll be surprised--you probably know more than you think.”

Lara Klaber

PHOTO: Directors Jocelyn DeBoer, left, and Dawn Luebbe, right, told Collider that “Greener Grass” is “a horror film in the skins of a comedy, satirizing the world of suburbia.”

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Related Screenings:
04/05/19 @ 4:20 PM – Greener Grass
04/06/19 @ 9:40 PM – Greener Grass
04/07/19 @ 1:50 PM – Greener Grass

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