MovieWeb talks to the cast and crew of Mean Creek

In retrospect of Mean Creek's DVD release a month, MovieWeb got a chance to ask some questions to the cast and crew of the film.

Set in a small Oregon town where secrets are hard to keep and lies even harder, Mean Creek flows with a simple elegance of truth and consequences as it follows a crisis in the lives of its teen characters, keenly directed by first-timer Jacob Aaron Estes. The journey within begins as a plot for playful payback on a local troublemaker; the journey onscreen begins with a river, as a ragtag group of troubled-and-not teenagers set out on a boat trip to celebrate the birthday of their youngest member. As a sort of boyish Heart of Darkness trip develops, cracks in the crew form when some of the teens have second thoughts about what they are about to do. Photographed in mossy greens and bark-colored skies, Mean Creek exposes a strange natural growth that appears in the nuanced performances of a fantastic cast, almost as if audience and child are forced to grow up together. What is so fascinating is watching an instinct-driven morality play itself out, swirl in fits and starts, float along for a while, and then finally settle into decisions that will haunt the characters for the rest of their lives.

It is very rare that a film about youth such as Mean Creek captures the frustrations and challenges of being a teenager so realistically. Which real life experiences did you draw from while writing this film?

Director Aaron Estes: When I was a kid I was desperate to fit in and I was willing to have heaps of abuse layered onto me in order to achieve that. This was a motor of the film, for George and Clyde particularly. Also when I was a kid I took pleasure in abusing others as they abused me. It was give and take like that. This was a motor of the film, for Marty and George particularly. The list goes on and on like that. On the bright-side, when I was a kid I liked to have fun. I think really Rocky et all see this plot as a playful prank, and they expect great fun.

What was the budget for this film? What would you have changed if you had more financial backing?

Director Aaron Estes: The budget was next to nothing. And so it was the experience it was. I can't conceive of the film at this point having had a larger budget. What would I have done differently? I would have had a better wet suit and better catering I suppose. The constraints are what make the film though. Limitless resources do not make a film better necessarily. We moved the way we moved because of our financial environment. The whole thing would have been different in a different environment or on a different river. Imagine the film with someone else playing one of the characters. It's hard to do, and very hard to know what it would have turned out like. If we had shot on 35mm I think it would have looked a bit better, but I like the way it looks. It's rightly humble and grainy and raw. i would not have used a dolly more. I would not have cast any differently. I would have had us stay in a better hotel with in room jacuzzis.

Another lead role you played this year was a comedic one as a sensitive, lovelorn world traveler in Eurotrip. Would you say you are partial to serious roles such as Marty from Mean Creek or comedic ones and why?

Actor Scott Mechlowicz: I'm much more attracted to films where you can really tear apart your character; just shred him to pieces and find what his vulnerabilities are. Drama tends to afford that to you more easily.

It must have been enlightening to be the only female in an all-male cast. Describe your most memorable experience on the set.

Actress Carly Schroeder: Yes, being in a cast with all boys was enlightening. The first week was the biggest shock. Week one was total bonding wheather we wanted it or not. The cast and director traveled together to each location and discussed the script for a full 6 days. Let's just say I learned more about the way boys think and act then any girl should ever know. And for some unknown reason boys feel that everyone wants to see their butts. These boys mooned people like it was a national sports.(tee hee) Enough said.

Mean Creek is your first lead role in a mainstream film. What are your plans for pursuing your acting career further? Do you have any upcoming projects?

Actor Ryan Kelley: I have moved I to Los Angeles to further pursue my career. The first week I arrived, I booked a guest spot on "Boston Legal." I love Los Angeles and I am looking forward to attending the Independent Film Spirit Awards. "Mean Creek" is getting a special award.

Sam's protective brother Rocky is more mature than some of your other characters. How has playing this character affected your future project choices?

Actor Trevor Morgan: I don't think it has. I do not beieve playing a charachter can change which future roles to pick, only how you look at them.

Movie PictureHow did you convince investors to spend money on a realistic teen movie that is not about cute relationships, choreographed dance scenes, and poppy soundtracks?

Mean Creek Producers: In the beginning, we set out to form a company that would bring the voices of emerging filmmakers to the screen. We would provide some capital and a lot of expertise and experience to take a chance on first time directors because we knew we had the know-how to back them up. That was supposed to be the insurance for investors. That once we set the course, it was almost an absolute certainty that we would reach our destination.

The combination of enthusiasm, experience, expertise and insight enables Whitewater Films to produce movies that have as their signature, a strong script, riveting performances from ensemble casts, an attention to detail not commonly found in smaller films and a visual look that belies the films' budgets.

While recognizing that the movie business is a business, the philosophy of the company is that a work of art and a work of commerce can be combined in the same project without sacrificing objectives on either side of the aisle.

In addition, we walk our talk. Most of the money invested in Mean Creek are funds I invested personally. By keeping the budget of the film extremely low, we didn't need to convince alot of other investors - only a few. We just needed to have the courage of our convictions...

Mean Creek will turn out to be a seldom realized paradigm - an artistic achievement that is also a commercial success.

CLICK HERE for more info and video clips from the DVD!

CLICK HERE for our DVD review!