: Liliana Greenfield-Sanders
Official Film Festival Selection
: Jackson Hole Film Festival (2007)
In 1945, 21-year-old Truman Capote wrote the harrowing short story ‘Miriam’ which launched his career. This film is a faithful adaptation of that tale. Mrs. Miriam Miller is an elderly widow living a quiet existence in her Manhattan apartment. She has no friends and even her neighbors never seem to notice her. One day, during a rare journey outside, she meets a precocious little girl, also named Miriam. Much to Mrs. Miller’s surprise, the little girl later appears at her door demanding to come in. As the story unfolds, little Miriam becomes more shocking and impertinent as Mrs. Miller becomes increasingly disturbed by her. ‘Miriam’ is a haunting tale of a woman whose mundane existence becomes exciting and frightening as she discovers the truth about ‘Miriam.’
Liliana Greenfield-Sanders is a filmmaker living in New York City. Born and raised on the lower East Side of Manhattan, Greenfield-Sanders has worked for Anthology Film Archives, Fine Line Features, Perfect Day Films, and Maysles Films. She graduated with honors from the Art-Semiotics department at Brown University. Before attending NYU Tisch Graduate film school, her first film "Ghosts of Grey Gardens" premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2005, has screened at the Museum of Modern Art, and made its television debut on PBS in June, 2006. Her film “Anna” recently won first prize in the LMN TV Student Filmmaker Contest, screened at the 2007 Hamptons International Film Festival and made its television debut on Lifetime Television in December 2007. She just finished production on a new film “Adelaide,” starring Anna Margaret Hollyman, Hank Harris (Pumpkin), Damian Young (Californication), and Christine Nielson (The Savages).
What inspired you to make this piece?
I had never made a narrative short before, so I was reading short stories by some of my favorite authors to get an idea of what good short story writing should be and how I could use that in my attempt to write a script. I came across "Miriam," the first short story Truman Capote wrote in 1945, and was immediately struck by how filmic the language was. I could see every word of it on screen and I knew immediately I wanted to adapt that story.
Briefly tell us about how you made your film or video: what camera and format did you use to shoot your piece, and what system did you use to edit it? What is your working process? Did you use any special techniques to make this work?
I shot on the DVX100A. Mini-DV. Standard Def. I edited on Final Cut Pro. The only thing I did to the footage was desaturate it quite a bit because I had decided from the beginning to stay true to the feeling of the original short story and it just felt too modern to have bright saturated colors.
Do you have any interesting behind-the-scenes stories about the making of this particular work?
I’ll never forget the first call I received from the legendary actress Marian Seldes. I was twenty-two at the time, so getting Ms. Seldes to read my short script--let alone star in it--seemed like a long shot. Nevertheless, I sent it to her, along with a very heartfelt letter, and a few days later, I received her call. There was a wonderful pause on the other end of the line, and then I heard, “I’ll do it.” From that point forward, everything seemed to fall into place.
I almost feel bad telling the other story because Bettina Bresnan, who played the younger Miriam, was (at twelve years old) one of the most poised and professional people on set. But there was a funny incident. We stopped production for two weeks for the holidays. When we resumed shooting, I was shocked when Bettina arrived on set with a deep tan and freckles. In Miriam, she’s supposed to be “pale, almost ghost-like,” not to mention that her new look did not match all the footage we had previously shot. Bettina's make-up became a daily challenge, but it all worked out with a lot of white powder.
What is the relationship between your work as a video/filmmaker and life in the New York metropolitan area?
I was born and raised in the East Village, so I’m inevitably drawn to New York stories. My films tend to be intimate, psychological, character-driven stories, and New York is the perfect setting for them because we all live and commute in such close quarters.
What films/videos and makers have inspired you or influenced your work? And why?
I’m very influenced by Todd Haynes and particularly his film “Safe”. I particularly admire that Haynes delves so deeply into Carol White's character, and his ability to use every element in the frame to tell the story is exceptional. I'm also influenced by (Japanese director) Yasujiro Ozu. I tend to gravitate towards static frames, I’m not a fan of hand-held shots unless I’m shooting a documentary.
I wanted this film, which looks considerably different from my other films, to have the look and feel of an old-fashioned thriller, so I took notes from “Sorry, Wrong Number,” “Gaslight” and other darkly lit films from the forties. I also reexamined one of my favorite films “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”
If viewers are interested in obtaining copies of your work for rental or purchase, whom should they contact and at what address and phone number?
Viewers interested in purchasing the film should email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
. I also would encourage them to visit my website at www.lilygs.com