Hannah Marks spoke with Solzy at the Movies about her Tribeca-winning film, Mark, Mary, & Some Other People, opening on Friday.
The film, written and directed by Marks, stars Ben Rosenfield, Hayley Law, Nik Dodani, Odessa A’zion, Matt Shively, Sofia Bryant, Maggie Wheeler, Joe Lo Truglio, Haley Ramm, with Gillian Jacobs and Lea Thompson. Marks took home Best Screenplay during this summer’s 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.
It’s good to see you again. It’s been so long since Sundance 2020!
Hannah Marks: Yeah, it’s been a minute. It’s been the world’s most longest years.
What was the genesis behind the screenplay for Mark, Mary, & Some Other People?
Hannah Marks: Just that I had always thought it would be really, really fun to tell a rom-com through an open relationship lens. I mean, you know this. I love rom-coms and love classics like When Harry Met Sally... I thought there was a really opportunity to do a polyamory take because there are so many new topics that that can be discussed within that subject and it just felt like a really, really fun time.
Were there any films in particular that inspired the look?
Hannah Marks: Well, there’s this movie I loved a few years ago called Ingrid Goes West that I thought had such a compelling look. It was super colorful but had these vintage anamorphic lenses. There’s part of it that felt old-fashioned, but part of it that felt new, which is really what I was trying to capture with this movie—the balance between traditional and old-fashioned and more experimental.
Can you talk about directing Ben Rosenfield and Hayley Law?
Hannah Marks: Oh, they’re terrific. They are such trusting actors. We did so much improv over the course of this movie. They were so game. You have to be really willing to be silly and fall on your face sometimes so the fact that they gave me that trust was really, really meaningful and made it such a great experience.
When it comes to improv, how much of a percentage of that final cut ended up being from the improvised takes?
Hannah Marks: I guess it’s hard to give it a percentage but I would say in every single scene of the movie, there were some aspects of improv. There was always a script and the scenes were written out in completion but the idea would be, we would do one or two takes scripted, and then after that, we just throw it out. So inevitably, an improvised line made it into every single scene of the movie. It was a really fun way to work in something I hadn’t done before. A challenge I set out for myself.
What was the most challenging aspect of the production?
Hannah Marks: Just anything that’s new feels always challenging. I hadn’t directed band scenes before and there’s some quite a bit of music in the movie so that was a new experience but I loved it. And then, just shooting in Los Angeles with no budget is super tricky because locations are so expensive. Just having to hustle. My producer, Pete Williams, and I were the location managers on the movie, too. That was a new challenge that I will not do again. I have a great respect and appreciation for location managers now.
Mark, Mary, & Some Other People marks your second feature as a director but the first solo outing. How did the experience compare to co-directing After Everything?
Hannah Marks: Yeah, there are benefits to both ways. It’s really fun having a partner that you can collaborate with and someone you can constantly bounce ideas off of. It’s also really fun knowing you can be the one to make sole decisions and things move sometimes faster because you’re not always debating everything with another person. But I think there are benefits to both. You’re never alone in making a movie regardless. It’s always a big collaboration of a million different people so in that sense, there’s not a huge difference because it’s always a collaboration.
When did principal photography end for this film?
Hannah Marks: It was the end of January 2020 so I think right before I saw you at Sundance, we wrapped and then post was all during COVID. So all on Zoom.
What were the biggest challenges of doing post-production during a pandemic?
Hannah Marks: Yeah, it was totally new because this was before I even really knew what Zoom was. It was definitely a learning curve for figuring out how to how to do it. But the one bright side was that we weren’t in a rush. The world was shut down so we got to take our time and have fun with it and make some weird choices that maybe we wouldn’t have made if we were on a shorter timeline.
Where do things currently stand on the film adaptation of John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down?
Hannah Marks: I am still making it so that’s going to be the next one. I’m really so excited that it’s finally going to happen. As far as I know—knock on wood, fingers crossed—but that’s the next one.
What do you hope people take away from watching the film?
Hannah Marks: I hope people take that this is not preaching that this is what an open relationship should be or what monogamy is or what polyamory is. This is just one couple’s experience. I hope people see it as something that feels fun and real and like this character study and not necessarily any kind of preaching attitude that’s one way or the other because that’s why I wanted to tell a story of characters that have two different perspectives on the topic because I think everyone’s view of it is completely valid. I hope people just take the experience with them and it gets them talking.