It’s not everyday a girl escapes a cult when she gets knocked up by a rock’n’roll song. But that’s exactly the premise of Rebecca Thomas’ new film, Electrick Children – think Kids crossed with Martha Marcy May Marlene. Wonderland scored an exclusive clip and chatted to director Rebecca Thomas about this modern-day nativity story.
Where did this idea come from?
I was raised Mormon – the family in the film are meant to be a version of fundamentalist Mormons. My extended family lived in Utah so I would always visit and see these people dressed up funny at the store. That’s where the idea sprung from: that there’s a boy and a girl that left one of the colonies and went to Las Vegas, which is a hop, skip and a jump from southern Utah.
Why did you choose ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ as the song that got Rachel (Julia Garner) pregnant?
I had this list and it was called ‘Songs that could get a girl pregnant’ – it’s a very embarrassing list! I haven’t told anybody the list but there was some like Led Zeppelin on it.
But I needed a song that could bridge the gap between 2011 when the movie took place and the 1950s/60s where I felt the characters were in terms of their ideology. ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ bridged that gap. It just seemed perfect and got stuck in my head for 3 months straight.
What about Julia Garder, how did you cast her?
She came on the week before production started. I’d gone through a mess of casting different actresses for the role and then firing them. I needed to find somebody who was virginal, innocent, naïve but bold. Julia looks like an angel and has an emotional depth. This was her first film as a lead, so she has an emotional depth that she doesn’t have total control over yet, which I felt was very teen-like.
Weren’t you nervous about casting someone who’d never been a lead before?
Yeah, definitely. But Julia took it above and beyond. Without her the film wouldn’t have the sparkle that it has.
The desert landscapes in the movie are amazing. Where did you film?
We were shooting in a little ghost town in Utah, there was no water or electricity. We had to bring everything out there with us. It was quite an adventure. On our second day lightening struck the set, and I thought we weren’t going to be able to do it.
Sounds very biblical – any other messages from God while on set?
Well, this project did take a lot of faith. I wanted to make it a $20,000 micro-budget project, and then all of a sudden $1,000,000 fell in our laps from our angel invester Richard Neustadter. We were just going to have the faith to make it happen and then it happened. I don’t know if that was inspired by God, but at least it was a test of trying and going for it.
You still consider yourself Mormon even though you don’t practise. Do you find that leads people to make certain assumptions about you?
People definitely have preconceptions, like how it must limits you as you can’t be funny or political – you can. My life is much more well-rounded than just this little aspect of it. But in another sense, it gives you this chance to surprise people.
This is your first feature and you’re only 27. What else do you have coming up next?
I want to do this project I just wrote which is tentatively called ‘Miss New York’. It’s a psychological horror thriller about a lonely girl who’s a PhD student who falls in love with the girl contending to be Miss New York. It’s harder for females to make films, so I feel really lucky that I had that opportunity to make Electric Children – it seems like a miracle!
Check out the trailer for Electrick Children here. The film opens in the UK on 13 July.
Words: Zing Tsjeng