There’s really no one like Molly McGlynn. Fearless, brash, well-connected, the New Jersey-raised writer and director unveiled her first feature film Mary Goes Round at TIFF, and the film features strong performances by Aya Cash and Sara Waisglass. Yet it’s McGlynn’s naturalistic directing style that helps elevate the film into a relatable and empathetic experience. Trust us, you will recognize way too much of yourself in these characters.
We spoke with McGlynn via email prior to the film’s TIFF premiere and the following is the condensed version of that conversation.
Brief Take: What is the most difficult aspect about working within a microbudget?
Molly McGlynn: The most important thing about being smart about a microbudget comes down to the script. You have to be economical about locations and characters as much as humanely possible. That being said, I thought I did a pretty good job with that on the page, but when we went to shoot it I realized how big the scope actually still was. Not everyone will get as lucky as I did to have producers who bent over backwards to get it done. Some tricks – using 209 Mavety (a defunct police station that is near rubble) in the Junction that functions both as the police station, jail and Mary’s workplace. We had an incredible production designer, Rupert Lazarus, who was able to turn saw dust into a sandcastle. Is that a real metaphor? Unlikely, but you get the point. In summary, if you think you did a good job with economy on the page, cut two locations out and five characters. Then, find multi-use locations (also to save time with unit moves) and get a wizard production design team. There, now you have all the secrets.
I also worked with our cinematographer, Nick Haight, pretty diligently in prep to make sure we understood the palette, framing and look. We walked into day 1 knowing exactly what page we were on. Even though this is a character driven story, it was crucial to me that we juxtapose a lot of close coverage with wide, beautiful shots that give the sense of Mary being quite small in the world.
BT: What was the importance of having Aya Cash [who is not a Canadian but has experience in You’re the Worst] playing Mary? Was it tough to get her to pronounce “Toronto” properly?
Molly McGlynn: One of my best friends got me onto You’re the Worst and I was like “THAT IS MARY!” Second thought was, how on earth will we convince her to do this? Magically, she took a chance on us, a bunch of strangers in Canada. Aya can walk the razor’s edge of pain and comedy in a way not a lot of people can do, so I knew she was perfect. That being said, Mary is very different from her character in You’re The Worst. I think people will be excited to see a slightly different side of Aya and her work. So funny that you caught the “Toronto” pronunciation! I will give Aya (who misses absolutely nothing) total credit for realizing very early on that she was not saying it correctly. Out of an entire crew of Canadians, we didn’t notice that she was initially pronouncing Toronto with the second ‘t’. She’s so smart that one – and thank God. That is such an important detail. I grew up in the U.S., so I think my ear was just aligning with her American accent until she called it out.
BT: How much of a find was Sara? How different were your characters on the page vs. on the screen?
Molly McGlynn: There is a huge amount of talent in Toronto in that late teen-early 20s age range and we saw a lot of amazing actors. That being said, Sara taped for us (off of Degrassi EP Matt Huether’s suggestion) and she got the part off of that. It’s all in her eyes. She sold me. Sara was pretty true to what I had in mind, but she really brought out a vulnerability and innocence that was a little less obvious on the page. I’m so happy we found her; she is so mature and professional. I think she’s got a long career ahead of her.
BT: Your filming style is very fascinating. It’s almost observational, a little documentary style, but almost more voyeuristic than anything else.
Molly McGlynn: I do love a good close up. Mary Goes Round is not a plot driven film. It’s all about the characters and the performances, so I want to be as close to them as possible. Mary starts off as quite a self-involved character who is living in her own version of reality, so I wanted the audience to be so close to her that they feel an intimacy with her, even though they don’t yet fully understand her. As the narrative progresses, Mary joins the world a bit more and then we see her in it more. There’s a bit more breathing room in the frame. Nick and I paired this super close coverage with these wide shots where Mary is in a room or in the world and she’s quite small. In a lot of ways, the film is about getting outside of your own head and narrative to care for someone else who needs it more than you. I think the shooting style reflects that. Nick is an incredible cinematographer who not only makes a shot beautiful, but prioritizes the narrative and emotional heart
BT: Based on your experience with 3-Way (Not Calling) , how do you come to make films that should not be funny but somehow…are? What inspires the aesthetic of relatable but still removed?
Molly McGlynn: With 3-Way, I was trying to see if I could make a purely comedic film. It is a comedy, but when I think about it, it’s really about existential dread and how that plays out in your sex life which I guess isn’t that funny. I think the drama I do always has an undercurrent of dark comedy and the comedy I do has some emotional truths under it. I am not much of a joke writer, but I try to write what is painfully true – and very often that can be funny. I am also part of a large Irish Catholic family and there is a certain sensibility that comes from that. I can’t really describe it, but there’s an acceptance of the darkness of the world, but at the end of the day, you’ve gotta find a sliver of light. Have you been to an Irish funeral? It’s kind of like that. Everyone’s crying their eyes out, but then there’s a bit of a party after cause what else are you supposed to do? None of my protagonists are me, obviously, but there’s parts of them, their ugliest truths, that I have felt in some way at one period of my life. I figure, you know, if I’ve felt that very weird or sad or funny thing, then there’s a chance other people have, too.
Mary Goes Round will open in Canada on Friday, March 30th at the Cineplex Yonge and Dundas in Toronto