In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, writer/director Patrick Green talks about the making of his coming-of-age thriller, Mommy’s Little Monster. Find out what happens when a mother and her little boy discover something horrifying in the woods.
Trapped in the mountains with his mother, a little boy struggles to adjust to his new surroundings and overcome his fear of being hunted down.
Before the premiere at at Horrible Imaginings on Aug. 31, Patrick Green discusses creating the suspense behind a mother and son on the run, the physical challenges of shooting in the woods, and directing a child actor. Join Green and I as we head on over to the director’s studio and discuss the craft of visual storytelling.
Villain Media: Tell me how Mommy’s Little Monster came about.
Patrick Green: Mommy’s Little Monster is a psychological horror/thriller about a mother and son on the run from an abusive relationship, but it’s also a cathartic journey into my unconscious. As a child, it was hard for me to comprehend that my dad was abusive to my mom. I both loved and feared him. As the years have passed, I’ve realized that the only way to overcome your fears is to revisit the things that scare you, until they don’t scare you anymore. I told my story to our producer Vanessa Perez, who brought in Jenny Pellicer (actress/executive producer) and assembled an amazing crew. The goal was to tell a story about domestic violence through a genre film lens. Horror, thriller, fantasy, etc. stories allow you to take on subjects that are hard to talk about and present them in a form of entertainment that thrills, chills, and often ends with the monster being vanquished by an unlikely hero; order is restored. Everyone lives happily ever after… at least in the movies. [Laughs]
VM: Tell me about working with Jenny Pellicer, who delivers such a heartfelt performance as the struggling mother, Kim.
PG: What I love about Jenny is that you have this beautiful exterior that she can wear like armor, which was perfect for the role of Kim, who isn’t your typical mom. She’s trying to shield her son from the horror of her own reality, but she’s also vulnerable underneath. Jenny’s also got these piercing eyes that can be cold, warm, detached, and intense. In the opening shot, we have a close-up of her eyes, which look like a deer in headlights, but in that final shot, in the showdown with the “monster,” she looks like a fierce “mama bear.” She’s a major talent who is perfect for this form. I can’t wait to see what she does next!
VM: What were the challenges of directing Tate Birchmore, who has to play Philip as a victim of domestic abuse?
PG: We auditioned a lot of child actors who were real pros, but Tate had something extra that we could feel right away. He’s got an incredible backstory and an amazing mom (Katherine), which helped him embody Philip. I had never worked with a child actor before, but I was a teacher — and Philip is loosely based on me — so I tried to explain things without giving him the answers. The goal was to have him not “act,” but “react” to what was happening in the story. What’s great about Tate is we would do a heavy scene and after I would yell “cut,” he would show me an “Indian rock” he had found, or challenge me to horseshoes. He’s a child who acts not a child actor; that’s hard to find.
VM: In a few scenes, not only does Jenny Pellicer have to carry Tate Birchmore on her back, she has to run with him as well. What were the physical challenges like during shooting?
PG: The most challenging sequence was ironically the most intimate. We shot in an 1890’s mining cabin in Big Bear, CA which added a lot of production value, but was also off-the-grid. For that bath scene, we filled up a vintage tub with milk, but it kept draining so after every take we had to keep filling it back up with milk, which of course you have to keep cold so it doesn’t spoil. Jenny’s naked, dunking her head under cold milk, like a human Oreo, and we’re inside a cramped space with a compost pit toilet and buzzing flies. It could have been a sh*t show, but turned into this surreal “outhouse to arthouse” scene.
VM: The cinematography of Nico Aguilar captures an isolated and nostalgic cabin that carries its own memories. Tell me about shooting in this setting.
PG: Nico is a true artist who you will be hearing a lot about for a long time. The cabin represents a safe haven at first; so those sequences are full of natural light and open spaces. But as night falls, things get darker and closed in. I recently dug up the mood board I had given Nico before shooting and I was blown away how he captured the tones, textures, and themes that I had envisioned. Every scene has its own look and feel, but his use of shadows is masterful, especially how he projects them across Kim and Philip’s faces, perfectly capturing the impending fear that is always looming over them.
VM: How did Mommy’s Little Monster change you as a filmmaker?
PG: This was the by far the hardest thing I’ve done professionally for many reasons. I made a documentary and had a son in-between “shooting” and “finishing” the movie, but what kept me going was that it was so personal. The biggest thing I learned as a filmmaker is that there’s always going to be challenges that aren’t all related to the actual filmmaking, but if the story means something to you, it will motivate and inspire you to take it across the finish line. Mommy’s Little Monster was a long time coming but I think it was worth the wait.
VM: How can the readers of Villain Media find your movie?
PG: We will be premiering Mommy’s Little Monster at Horrible Imaginings on Aug. 31. We’re just starting our film festival run with another screening at Sin City Horror Fest in Las Vegas (Sept. 13-15). You can also follow me at @ByPatrickGreen (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) for upcoming screenings, latest info, etc.
VM: What are you working on now?
PG: I’ve got a feature script of Mommy’s Little Monster on ice. I’m also working on a new story, DiEPhone, about “an aspiring social media influencer and her doting ‘photographer’ boyfriend, who find a cursed cellphone that offers ‘Insta-fame’ at your fingertips, but turns its users into demonic versions of themselves.” It’s another social commentary wrapped up in a genre tale. I recently got the pitch published in a magazine. The goal is to raise funding and shoot it in 2020.
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]