In the critically acclaimed independent film, "Swimming," director Robert J. Siegel brings us a touchingly sweet coming-of-age tale set in a small beach community. Frankie (played with perfection by "Six Feet Under's" Lauren Ambrose) has an antagonistic relationship with her older brother and is best friends with a mixed up body-piercing artist (Jennifer Dundas Lowe). Into Frankie's small town life wanders Josee (Joelle Carter), a wild child brimming with life and sexual energy. The three young women form a complicated triangle that, throughout the course of the film, maneuvers its way through love, betrayal, loyalty, and friendship.
I had the opportunity to speak with the film's writer, Lisa Bazadona, about "Swimming" and the script's journey from senior thesis status to the big screen.
You started working on this project in 1997. Was there ever a time that you doubted it would be made into a film or have you always believed the film would be completed?
I always thought that somebody would see it only because, even though it's been such a long time, it's been such a slow and steady process. We re-wrote the script for an entire year so I was working on it all the whole time. After that was up, it took six months or so to start prepping to shoot it, then we shot it and then edited it. It's like all this happened so slowly and I was involved with it the entire time, so I never felt detached from it.
How difficult was the process of bringing your script from senior thesis status into a completed screenplay for a feature film?
That process was done after I finished school. I was involved in every single draft of it. The original script was my thesis and I'd only done one draft of that. My whole education came from doing several drafts. I learned more from that than I did in four years of school.
How close is the finished product to your first draft?
I think that everything that I was trying to say in it was said. It was a very different script but it still had the original ideas and characters. I think it just turned out much better.
How personal is the story?
It's not my story. I spent three or four summers living in Myrtle Beach when I was in college so it's based on a lot of people that I'd met there. It's really not that personal.
You just mentioned that the film is based on some real people. Are they aware they're included in the film?
No, it was all fictionalized. I took little bits and pieces from many people but it wasn't really based on anybody in real life. I've worked in a few restaurants so the Neil character, for example, probably is a combination of 10 different managers I've worked for.
How much of you actually ended up in the finished script? How much do you feel you're a part of what the characters are all about?
I wrote it; the original story was my idea so I think there are parts of me that are all over the place. You know, it's so hard because I wrote it so long ago. It's hard to remember exactly where I was then and how much of me I put it in. I feel that the three main female characters all have some priorities of myself.
As a woman, do you believe "Swimming" does a good job of capturing that specific coming-of-age time in the main character's life?
I definitely think so. That's what's hard for me to remember, being in touch with that part of my life. After watching the film again, I remembered the things that I felt back then. What I wanted to do with the script was to make a film about female friendships and I think that it did a really good job of that. That was my main goal.
Were you able to bounce ideas for the film off of any close female friends while you were writing the script? Do you have a friendship that's similar to the friendship portrayed by Lauren Ambrose and Jennifer Dundas Lowe?
I do and it's funny because at the time that I was writing the script, we had been friends for 10 years and we had a down time. We'd broken off, which is what I wanted to portray in this film. That when you are at that age, those relationships are more important than the kind that you have with men. Girl friends do break up and it's just as traumatic. The biggest thing that I wanted to portray was a real film about female friendships. That was my biggest goal with the film.
The script is based on your work, and then others elaborated on it. Is it hard as a writer to allow other people to work on your script?
It was my first time, so no, because I felt like everything that everybody else had to offer was making the script better. I was kind of young and they were showing me how to say what I wanted to say. I think in this situation I just worked with really great people. I don't know how I would feel about it now. I think it might be a little bit harder for me now to do that. Then I was very open to it. It also completely depends on who you are working with.
This was basically a former professor of yours that you were working with. Did you keep up the student/teacher relationship in that or did it become more of a collaborative effort?
I think it totally became a collaborative effort because although he had more experience with screenwriting and directing films, I lived the world that we were writing about. I think that balanced it out perfectly.
I see that you are listed as a co-producer. What did you do in that capacity?
Many things. I sort of brought the whole production to Myrtle Beach - well I didn't personally - but I pushed Myrtle Beach and helped them with locations. I did all kinds of different things.
Were you involved in the casting process?
Actually, I was involved in probably every aspect of it.
Do you think that the three main female leads - Lauren Ambrose, Joelle Carter, and Jennifer Dundas Lowe - captured what you intended?
I do. I can't imagine anybody else. I think the three of them were amazing.
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