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Interview with Director Greg Harrison About His Indie Film, "November"

Harrison on "November," Courteney Cox Arquette, and Audience Reactions

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Interview with Director Greg Harrison About His Indie Film,

Courteney Cox Arquette stars in "November"

© Sony Pictures Classics
The Story of "November:" Greg Harrison follows up "Groove," his feature film directorial debut, with the indie drama "November," starring Courteney Cox Arquette, James LeGros, and Anne Archer.

Cox Arquette dresses down and gets serious in this psychological thriller, playing a photographer who suffers a traumatic loss. As she deals with the life-changing event, she begins to question exactly what happened, what's real, and what's merely an illusion created by her confused mind.

With "November," Harrison crafted a film that's nearly impossible to discuss without giving away anything from the plot (the short synopsis in the prior paragraph doesn't do it justice). As I was preparing the transcript from this one-on-one interview, I found myself chopping out giant bits of info that might disclose too much. A gritty, cinematic puzzle, "November's" a film you have to experience for yourself.

Harrison’s Thoughts on How Audiences Interpret “November:” “I feel like from Day One I wanted to make a movie that used ambiguity to draw people in to the movie and involve them in the meaning of the movie. So, for me, it couldn’t be more satisfying to hear people engage it and discuss it and bring back to me meanings that, whether they’re aware of it or not, seem to express their own experience. I love that. I feel like that’s really the goal of the movie.”

Casting Courteney Cox Arquette: “I had met her because I wanted to cast her in this studio project that we had at Fox Searchlight - it was a script I had developed with Garry Trudeau who does ‘Doonesbury.’ It was an ensemble comedy, very much in the tone of his work, and I met Courtney and cast her in that. It was really off of those meetings that I got to know something of her personally and I just really was struck by her willingness to be, for lack of a better term, emotionally vulnerable and discuss her feelings about things in her life, or in her career, or in her work. She wasn’t protective in that way that you might think a celebrity would be.

I got to know her personally and felt like she was very capable of drama and was very willing and wanted to transcend her comedic persona. [She] was very open to the transformation of herself physically, which I thought was very key in giving her a new character. So it really came from that, those early meetings. When ‘November’ came along, giving her the script and her willingness to go off and do a movie for $150,000 in fifteen days where there’s no trailer, where she’s acting four major emotional scenes in one twelve-hour period. It couldn’t be more different than, I think, her experience on other films.”

Courteney Cox and Her Interpretation of the Film: “We discussed it a lot and she wanted to know concretely where I was at with it. And when I felt it was appropriate, I would tell her and give her insight into my personal meaning of the movie. But other times I would avoid her questions and say, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll answer that….I’ll be right back,’ and then just kind of… I felt like it was important for her to treat each scene as truthfully as she could, emotionally.

Ultimately it’s being told completely from her point of view, of her fractured memory, so I feel like as she struggles from the now to acceptance of what really happened, you know, each time she’s kind of creating a partial narrative that she’d like to be true. So as an actor, each thing needs to be approached as truth. I wanted to keep her from intellectualizing it too much or giving her too much of the bigger picture because she’s got to be in it.”

Collaborating with Screenwriter Benjamin Brand: “I was really involved. Ben Brand had given me the script. Danielle Renfrew, my longtime partner – producing partner - we’ve all known each other, Ben, myself, Danielle – so he gave us the script. We were working on something else at the time and I found it fascinating. It was a very bold, fragmented narrative and I think he wrote it also as a movie that could be made for very little money because he was interested in seeing a screenplay of his produced. He had written and gotten paid for a number of screenplays, but as a lot of screenwriters find, it’s difficult to actually get one produced. So I think he came at it kind of an abstract exercise in narrative, which I thought was exciting and bold.”

PAGE 2: Greg Harrison on Editing "November," the Shooting Schedule, and Mini-DV

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