REEL Ladies talks to Mia Goldman, director of the film Open Window.
The intense, intimate drama revolves around Izzy (Robin Tunney), a struggling photographer, Izzy’s fiancé, Peter (Joel Edgerton), and how their relationship unravels after she is raped by a man who enters her studio through an open window.
Both Izzy and Peter are devastated by the rape: “I wanted to show how the act violates not only the woman, but also the man — and how it creates circles of pain that may extend to the entire family,” Goldman says.
RL: WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE INVOLVED IN THE FILM INDUSTRY?
MG: When I was ten years old I saw a film called the SHOP ON MAIN STREET. It was directed by Ján Kadár, who was a great Czech director, the film won best foreign film in 1965. I left the theatre weeping, as I had never been so moved. I think it was at that point that I wanted to make movies. Theatre was in my blood, because my father, Bo Goldman, was a playwright at the time. He later became a screenwriter.
RL: HOW AND WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO BE AN EDITOR?
MG: Once again, nepotism comes into play. After I graduated from the United Nations International School, we didn’t have enough money for my first year of college. My father was working as a writer and producer at WNET in New York City and had a friend, Vicky Hochberg, who was an editor he was working with who offered to teach me the basics and gave me a job as her apprentice.
I went to college planning to go to law school, but after that year in NYC working first for Vicky and then for the great Dede Allen, by the time I graduated from Vassar it seemed as though a path in film was more suited to me than law. Those women inspired me by their commitment, intelligence, creativity and drive.
RL: AS A WOMAN, DID YOU FIND IT DIFFICULT TO GET YOUR FOOT IN THE DOOR?
MG: No, I didn’t. Editing is one area of film where women are well represented and respected for their history of artistry and collaboration with directors. I think their quiet attention to detail and fearlessness when it comes to chaos has something to do with it.
RL: HOW DID YOU ESTABLISH A NAME FOR YOURSELF AS AN EDITOR?
MG: I was lucky enough to begin my career after college working with Carol Littleton. Her career took off when I started as her apprentice in Los Angeles. At the time, Carol was cutting a feature, FRENCH POSTCARDS, for Gloria and Willard Huyck (STAR WARS) and then she did ROADIE for Alan Rudolph and following that, BODY HEAT for Lawrence Kasdan.
After doing BODY HEAT, which was Larry’s first film, her career continued to climb, from E.T. to THE BIG CHILL and SILVERADO, etc. I benefited from her success and she promoted me on each film that we did together, later suggesting me to Alan Rudolph as his editor on CHOOSE ME.
RL: YOU HAVE A POWERFUL STORY BEHIND THIS FILM, OPEN WINDOW. CAN YOU SHARE THAT WITH US?
MG: I was raped on location in 1989 on a film called CRAZY PEOPLE. It changed the trajectory of my life. I was a successful film editor at the time, but had always wanted to be a writer-director. The experience of being raped nearly killed me. As the philosopher Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” I made a short film 2 years after the incident and then wrote a screenplay and was invited to the Sundance Writers and Directors Lab. The film was called TO HAVE AND TO HOLD, and it had nothing to do with the rape. But it did prepare me for writing OPEN WINDOW, which had been coalescing in my mind. Going back to the SHOP ON MAIN STREET, I had always been taken by human tales with a moral tale at the center.
RL: WHAT WAS THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS LIKE FOR THIS FILM?
MG: Hell. It took 10 years. Rape is not your most commercial subject.
RL: WHAT WAS YOUR VISION FOR THE FILM?
MG: Coppola, Bergman, Kieslowski, Louis Malle and Woody Allen – these are the directors that have always inspired me. I love films that catch the intimate details of people’s faces and emotions — character driven pieces that make an audience reflect on their own lives. I’ve always felt that there is no landscape more interesting than the landscape of the human face — how it can reveal, surprise, terrify, redeem.
RL: BEING YOUR FEATURE FILM DEBUT, WERE YOU NERVOUS AT ALL?
MG: I don’t think I was nervous, but I was anxious. I wanted the film to really stand out and be as good as it could be. So often the dream doesn’t match reality.
RL: WHAT WERE SOME CHALLENGES FOR YOU IN MAKING THIS FILM?
MG: No money, scheduling, getting great actors, and the hell of marketing.
RL: HOW DID YOU GET PAST THEM?
MG: My producers, Tom Barad and Midge Sanford, the support of my extraordinary cast and crew…determination and the belief that somehow OPEN WINDOW would help heal other people who may have experienced irrevocable trauma.
RL: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SCENE OF THE FILM?
MG: After Peter and Izzy have broken up and we think there is little hope of them getting back together there is a scene where Izzy comes back in a surprise visit to their old house. Peter reveals the secret of his own sense of guilt and Izzy admits her responsibility in the break up of their relationship. I love scenes with undercurrents and revelations.
RL: WHICH DO YOU ENJOY MORE; EDITING, WRITING OR DIRECTING?
MG: Directing. Because you have so much help realizing your vision. But I love editing and writing in different and equal ways.
RL: AS A WOMAN TO HAVE BOUNCED BACK FROM SOMETHING SO HORRIFIC, WHAT HELPED YOU ALONG THAT JOURNEY?
MG: Hardcore psychoanalysis and the love of my husband.
RL: WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU?
MG: I am writing an adaptation of a novel by Cheryl Mendelson entitled “Anything for Jane”. It’s the third in a trilogy, which begins with “Morningside Heights” and is followed by “Love, Work, Children”. I feel so lucky to have found this author, her sensibilities resonate with my own.
For more information about the film Open Window, visit http://www.openwindowmovie.com