Los Angeles is not all about glitz and glamour. It’s also the land of the lost.
Diane Marshall-Green stars in this emotional drama “Other People’s Children,” about a young filmmaker who falls in love with a homeless subject in her latest documentary after the death of her famous artistic father.
The film also stars Chad Michael Murray, Michael Mosley and Scott Patterson.
Latino-Review had an exclusive phone interview with director Liz Hinlein for the movie. We discussed her feature film directorial debut, Los Angeles, homelessness, the cast and the transformation of Chad Michael Murray into character.
“Other People Children” is playing in limited release in New York today and will be on video on demand on various digital platforms on January 5th.
Latino-Review: Let’s try to start the New Year right then. Tell me how you came aboard on to this project of “Other People’s Children.”
Liz Hinlein: I was introduced to my two partners Adrieenne Harris, writer/producer and Diane Marshall-Green, the lead actor and producer, by another producer in Los Angeles. They were actually looking for a woman filmmaker. They had different iterations of the project. It was optioned before since before that it was a play. We ended up having a really wonderful working relationship.
Latino-Review: I understand this is your first feature directorial debut. Why is it important that this would be that project for your first?
Liz Hinlein: That’s a good question. I went to NYU for undergrad and AFI for grad school. I was pretty trained in those schools to do features. I’ve always wanted to [film a feature] and always been intimidated by it. It’s a huge endeavor. And it’s also on not knowing the story that I quite wanted to tell. When this came up, there were a lot of things with the story of a woman feeling alone and isolated in the world. The woman had challenges relating to family members.
It’s something like that I could really grab on to, because we made it so small [production] with a lot of people overlooking my shoulder. I could make it as visual as I wanted. I’m a very visual storyteller. I was able to flex my muscles with it. That’s what brought me to it.
Latino-Review: Yeah, I saw the film. It looked visually stimulating. The cinematography is great. Is that because the experience in your background?
Liz Hinlein: [Chuckles] Yes, and thank you. We also had an amazing cinematographer Edward Button. We both went to cinematography to get our MFAs at AFI. We had this very similar language. He was such an asset to the film as well.
I like using all the mediums that goes into a film whether it’s the sound design, music, wardrobe, hair and makeup. It’s all those things that build up the story and not just the dialog.
Latino-Review: Since you moved from cinematography to the director’s chair—how was that overall experience for you?
Liz Hinlein: I’ve been directing the short format for the last fifteen years. I’ve been a commercial director. And before that, I’ve did music videos. I’ve became a cinematographer to enhance my skillset as a filmmaker. [It is also] to have more visual language at my control as a vocabulary.
So to do the feature is really a hand in glove experience. There is something satisfying about creating a world. Even in our very low budget way, I wanted to create a world that’s hyperreal in which it’s Los Angeles and a magical place as well. Los Angeles sometimes can and cannot be.
I think by having a cinematography background—we make sure that Los Angeles had a real vibe to it. People always thought of the beach, palm trees and 90210. I wanted to show a different side of LA that could have some heart into it as well.
Latino-Review: So basically Los Angeles is another character in this feature film.
Liz Hinlein: Exactly. That’s what we were going for. It’s not the land of “Entourage.” It’s a land full of artists and people who are searching for themselves.
Latino-Review: Speaking of which, you mentioned this as a low budget film and the setting of Los Angeles—were there tremendous difficulties trying to get this off the ground or completing it?
Liz Hinlein: Holy moly! You’ll hear this from all the indie filmmakers—it’s very challenging. Making a feature film is not for sissies. LA is a very challenging city to shoot in, because they’re so jaded about filmmaking. Unlike a small town in the South, they might be excited to help you there. For here, they want you to go away. You’ll have to pay so much for all these different things.
It’s definitely very challenging. I got a great caliber of cast. The story fits perfectly to the homeless youth of LA. Although it fits perfectly for this town, shooting it in this city doesn’t make it easier for you.
Latino-Review: The topic of youth homelessness was basically brought into light in recent years. I found out there are 20,000-30,000 youth who are homeless in Los Angeles alone. What did you learn in particular while working on this project?
Liz Hinlein: We always wanted this to be a film about a woman’s journey and the coming of age. There were two levels of homelessness. The homelessness in the film was doppelgangers for her emotions. She felt emotionally homeless. Everything around her and everyone she was with was homeless. Then we also interacted with real homeless youth we had in the film.
What I’ve found, which is interesting, was that they were there by choice. Or at least the ones we’ve interacted with and used in the film. They do not want to be part of the system. They weren’t really runaways. There are a lot of people who wanted to live off the grid. We were surprised with that.
Latino-Review: While I was watching the film myself, I wondered if the homeless youth were all actors or you may had used homeless youth in the film. Did that actually went over well with them?
Liz Hinlein: Oh, yeah. They loved being in [the film]. It’s the couple at the bus stop who were the homeless kids. The rest of the people who played homeless are actors. The actual homeless kids came to the screening at the DGA. They’re not homeless anymore. They have jobs at Target and they’ve cleaned up more or less. They were thrilled to be a part of it.
Latino-Review: Wow. That sounds awesome. Certain people have bad experiences with homelessness or working with them.
Liz Hinlein: Oh, no. They were super-professional and came in on time. We had to do an early shoot one morning and put them up at a little hotel. We paid for them to stay so they could get up early to go to the shoot.
Latino-Review: You also got to work with some experienced cast members like Scott Patterson and Chad Michael Murray. Could you talk a little bit more about that?
Liz Hinlein: They were both great pros to work with. For Scott, we only had one day of shooting with. He was amazing for the amount he was in the film. He was a lot in the film from the one day of shooting we got with him. He was a total pro and lovely to work with. He was incredibly committed to his character. He stayed in the clothes the whole time. He lost some weight for the role. He sort of changed his persona. So it was exciting to work with guys who were willing to step up their game as well as for them to work on something that wasn’t typical for them.
Latino-Review: Now I’ve seen headlines about Chad Michael Murray losing twenty-five pounds to play a homeless man. Was that your idea or was that all him?
Liz Hinlein: [Laughter] It was mostly, mostly him. I had to take credit for his looks though. We dyed his hair really blonde. We had him grow out his facial hair. He was dirty most of the time. What was great for an indie film was that he only wore one outfit. So that was perfect.
He really took it to himself to get into that bod. You’re homeless. You’re not working out. You’re not eating all the time and maybe you’re doing drugs. You’ll see those guys around with these muscle-like bodies, which they can run away from cops and jump over fences basically.
Latino-Review: Well, you did a fine job. I didn’t recognize him as Chad Michael Murray until halfway through the movie.
Liz Hinlein: Oh, that’s great. Maybe at the end when you see him all clean shaven. You may say, “Oh! There he is.”
Latino-Review: That is true. Do talk about Diane [Marshall-Green] a little bit. After all, she is the lead actress. It’s probably very important that all of this came from a female perspective.
Liz Hinlein: I’m so happy with her performance. She was so emotionally opened. She really went there with her emotions and showed them on screen. She was very available for direction and knew what was right for her character.
Another thing is that she also did all the paintings in the film. I think that was really wonderful and I saw that across the board with the talent we had. A lot of talent in Hollywood is worried about looking cool so that they don’t want to overact. That also means that they don’t want to show a lot of emotions on screen. They’re just running on fumes and there’s nothing that drives those characters.
Diane could show her upset on screen. You can vicariously get into the film and carried into the story. You’ll see her human qualities. That shows what kind of mature talent she is.
Latino-Review: Can you talk about any other projects after “Other People’s Children?”
Liz Hinlein: I have two different features that’ll be a little bit more personal. It’ll still be intensely visual. We worked hard on the soundtrack on OPC. One is called, “Getting Tommy Laid” and the other one is “Move.”
Latino-Review: Thank you for your time and I wish you good luck.
Liz Hinlein: Oh, thank you so much. Have a great holiday.
“Other People’s Children” is playing in limited release in New York. It will be available On-Demand on different channels on January 5th.