Recently Compliance director Craig Zobel, and actors Dreama Walker and Pat Healy, took part in a joint roundtable interview. The film focuses on people working at a fast food restaurant, where a call comes in claiming to be from the police, investigating one of the employees. During the roundtable, reference is made to characters in the film: Sandra, the manager, and Becky, the targeted employee. These are selected portions of the interview.
Zobel was asked about the psychological tautness of the script
Craig Zobel: There is definitely built into the idea of it. The best way to kind of show that is in a screenwriting way, all of the different people that interacted, I didn’t really… I had looked at these true stories and knew some amount of what had happened from the true stories, but you had a lot of gaps. To me that was the reason to make the movie was to fill in the gaps. This happened seventy times. There had to be a way that people got from point A to point B. What were those little points? For me it was like trying to build variation one, this is what the manager would say; variation two, this is what the peer who is a friend would say; and whatever and try to do those things and try to find some behavior that seemed real and believable.
There is the basis here for a great 1970s Wes Craven exploitation film. Was there ever a moment where you thought to just dismiss it out of hand because it is so sordid, that this is such a tawdry idea that you didn’t want to go there?
CZ: I was very scared to make this movie, if that’s a good answer to that question. I didn’t necessarily not want to go there because I felt that it would be a Wes Craven’s 1970s exploitation movie as much as that if we were going to do it right, we were going to have to ask some hard questions. I mean to me the real story, reading all these true events, made me kind of have more and more questions and there was less and less like what was black and white, and there was a lot of gray area to it. I was pretty scared to make the film, and I would say I was like that because of wanting to make sure to keep it nuanced and make sure that we could hit more than just the black and white—the exploitation version, which I think would be the very subjective; you know, Dreama has these people coming after her the whole movie. I thought the interesting way to do it would be to be somewhat removed and be able to look at those people and say like, alright, Sandra, the manager, is doing something bad, but is there a way that we can also have sympathy for that too and recognize some sort of empathy in her at the same time. And if we fail at that, then we’ve just made what you just said, a bad exploitation movie.
Can you talk a little bit about the relationship between the two women, how you saw that and how it evolved during the course of the film?
Dreama Walker: Well, it was definitely something interesting that Craig came up with when he wrote the script, but it’s also something we sort of experimented with when we were making it and doing different takes. It was a very interesting idea that this woman would sort of maybe sometimes like subconsciously allow these things to happen because of her resentment towards Becky. That was an interesting thing that was cool to explore, and I thought it was really cool that Craig put that in the script. One of the first scenes is when she starts talking about getting engaged and I kind of roll my eyes. It was something that we played with, and yeah we were talking a lot about how this brought out a whole different element to the movie and a whole different thing that was really interesting.
CZ: It’s still one of those things where you think about it and you assume like you hear the like 500 word newspaper blurb version of the story and you’re just are like, that’s crazy. But you have to think like that partly happened because of the interpersonal relationships of people. And so it was interesting to figure out what those would have been that could have let that go.
DW: And how it got to that point. And I think Craig did a really cool job of kind of bringing up an issue still runs very much in society of this whole older/younger sort of women thing. You’re kind of confronting that and talking about how that happened and he took us to where we needed to go.
What was the appeal of playing a character who would submit to all this stuff, because the character you play on your TV show is so much smarter?
DW: Well, I don’t think Becky’s dumb. I think that given the circumstances and the ways they were presented to her and kind of that effect of getting pulled over by a police officer when you’re driving and you’ve done nothing wrong. There’s a real compounding of all of your emotions and all of your fears; they kind of consume you, and I think that’s what happened to Becky. I wouldn’t say that one character was really smarter than the other. I think it’s really easy for us to sit back in the audience and be like, “Oh, I wouldn’t do that,” but who knows? Who knows what anyone would do in that situation. It’s a very primal question.