Last week I had the complete pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Yes, God, Yes writer and director Karen Maine to talk about her wonderful feature debut.
Before we get to the interview itself, I originally wanted to make this a viewable video, and annoyingly on the same day, I had neighbours having new windows put in, a screaming child outside and lawnmower. So it was recorded in my kitchen. As you can predict, watching it would’ve been a bad experience.
Actually, As I started, I got incredibly nervous and when I do, especially speaking on camera (or even in podcasts) I stutter and trip over my words. I didn’t want anyone to see me make a complete arse of myself.
Furthermore (and away from my issues), Yes, God, Yes is one of my personal favourite films of the year and highly recommend checking out on digital. Read my four-star review here!
Shaun – I loved the film, and I watched the short film yesterday and was there anything you wanted to keep from the short to expand in the feature? Because there’s a lot of similarities between the two.
Karen – “The short was always intended to be a proof of concept. I started writing the feature in 2014, and we made the short in 2017. To only prove that it was a good movie and I could direct, so the short grew out of the feature.
“I was just trying to find a way to tell a story as quickly as possible. So the fact that it kinda blew up and a lot of people saw it was great as it helped us get financing, but at the same time, people are now like “the feature doesn’t expand on the short”, sometimes people say that, and it’s really frustrating it’s just not how it actually happened.
“So I mean, no. I was just trying to find scenes from the feature that would be interesting out of the larger context of the full film to shoot. So those were the ones I went with, and there are some similarities between the two.”
Shaun – And you just answered my second question of if you were writing the feature whilst creating the short film.
I want to take this moment from the interview, after listening back to my question and would like to apologise to Karen if my question was in any way disrespectful to your movies, I honestly didn’t mean to, and I’m sorry.
Back to the interview.
Shaun – Was having Natalia Dyer (whose name I butchered throughout the interview) onboard helpful with financing due to the success of Stranger Things?
Karen – “Yeah, sure. I mean no one came out and said outright, but yeah. Natalia has star power, she’s reconigable, Stranger Things is massive, so yeah I’m sure that was a key part.”
Shaun – And what was it about Natalia when creating the film?
Karen – “She looks like a teenager (laughs) and honestly I really didn’t know who she was when we started casting the short and it was a really quick production from the short. It was three weeks from deciding to do it and actually filming it.
“One of my producers recommended her from Stranger Things, which had just come out the week or two and I hadn’t even watched it. So I scribed through the first episode and some of her scenes, and we quickly saw she was really talented and we sent her a cold email, and she responded to the script, which is great.
“It was more so the first day on set where I got to see her act and worked with her that she blew me away. Every time we did something, she would do something different and interesting and she really elevated the character to a place we couldn’t have imagined before.”
Shaun – Do you describe your film as a teen sex comedy or a teen sex dramedy?
Karen – “Yeah, I think it is a teen sex dramedy. I just think unfortunately that term is pigeon hold to something pacific. Which is probably a symptom of the fact that most have been about male coming-of-age stories and they expect them to be quite raunchy and dirty.
“I think there needs to be more room for gentler, quieter teen sex dramedies/comedies because all experiences are different and any teenage sexual coming-of-age (barring any horrible scenarios) is quite funny. It’s awkward; it’s uncomfortable, it’s just naturally funny.
“So the fact there isn’t any room for a gentler version, I’m glad I made one but some people are rubbing up against that in a not so positive way because it’s not raunchier it’s sort of mislabelled or falls flat.”
Shaun – I loved the fact it was gentler, especially with what we got in the 90s, and the funniest in it for me was the erotic arm hair and found that incredibly funny and different.
Karen – “I think women, especially younger women, and generally with men you’re expecting very specific things that they’re attracted to, but with women, it can be more varied and fun and there can be different things that turn them on.
“I had an interview with someone else and they were like ‘it was the Adams apple for me’ and you know it was various things. So yeah, I wanted to explore the less obvious parts of the body that people can find attractive.”
Shaun – Another thing I loved about the film is you shine a light on the hypocrisy of faith was that important for you and your experience growing up with what they were telling you and what they were doing?
Karen – “The point of the film isn’t to unveil the hypocrisy of Catholicism, I mean everyone knows they are there but rather show one girls journey to discovering that for herself. I think regardless of religion when you’re younger, and you’re growing up there’s a point when you realise the adults in your life aren’t perfect and don’t have everything figured out and sort of the human condition.
“But when you’re younger you just assume when you’re older, you’ve got you stuff together, and you don’t. It’s obviously not the case, and it’s such a strong moment when you realise that.
“So the context here is Catholicism, but also with her dad and talking about where she’s going to go to school, or eating sushi which was exotic for someone in the Midwest. It’s sort of the moment you start going down your own path, a classic coming of age.
“So it wasn’t just about Catholicism.”
Shaun – There was a lingering question of who spread the rumour about Alice that wasn’t truly resolved. Who was it that you believed spread the rumour because I believe it was her best friend?
Karen – “(laughs) So that’s based on a very real thing that happened to me in high school, where I was like alone with a boy at a party, and we didn’t do anything and then all of a sudden at school this rumour that I tossed his salad and I honestly didn’t know what it meant.
“I never found out who started it and I remember getting notes when making the film ‘people wanted to know who started it’ and ‘Make it more obvious that Wade started it or something’, but no because I don’t know either who started it.
“I think it’s the genesis of these sort of things someone says something and then it grows and it’s a game of telephone and it becomes something else and I kinda left that open ended intentionally, but I like that you have your own theory.”
Shaun – In the scene, there was clearly slut-shaming, was that what happened when you were growing up as a teenager?
Karen – Yeah, for sure, yeah (laughs). I mean the movie Mean Girls, I think that come out in 2003/2004, but I graduated from high school in 2003 so I feel that film encapsulated slut-shaming really well when Tina Fey’s character says “You’ve got to stop calling yourselves sluts and whores because it just makes it ok for boys to call you that.
“Not that I agree with that logic, but yeah for sure. I think it’s been around (maybe we had a different term for it) but think about Grease, I know it wasn’t actually filmed whenever the film is set, but it’s the exact same thing.
“I think it’s been around for a very long time and I’m not sure it’s gone anywhere, but hopefully it gets better.”
Shaun – My final question is what’s next? Have you got something in the writing or directing pipeline you want to do?
Karen – “Yeah, I’ve got lots of stuff that I’m writing and working on, but I’m hopefully about to direct a new TV series for BBC Three/HBO Max that’s written and starring Rose Matafeo.”
At this moment of the interview, I annoyingly cut Karen off about the series called Starstruck and loved to known more. We did talk about Rose’s series of Taskmaster, which is easily one of the best series of the shows run.
Once again, check out both Maire’s short and feature Yes, God, Yes and once again I’m sorry Karen if I dropped the ball during this interview.