Patrick Green’s psychological thriller Mommy’s Little Monster follows a young boy and his mother as they escape into the woods to hide from a monster. It’s a deeply personal story which features a powerfully utilisation of genre as a means of catharsis. Green was amidst the film’s festival circuit when the worldwide pandemic hit which has forced him, like most filmmakers, to take a step back for the time-being. We caught with him during this gap to talk the power of genre, channeling Spielberg, and the future of his filmmaking.
Mommy’s Little Monster has a real personal essence to it, what did you set out to search for with it?
Mommy’s Little Monster is a psychological horror/thriller about a mother and son running away from their fears, but it’s also a cathartic journey into my subconscious. As a product of domestic violence, it was hard for me to comprehend that my dad was abusive to my mom. I both loved and feared him. For the most part, he was a great guy who happened to be a bad drunk. As the years have passed and with the recent birth of my own son, I’ve realised that the only way to overcome your fears is to face them.
How do you think making a genre film allowed you to better express those intentions than perhaps how a straight-up drama would?
As a filmmaker, I always want to tell personal stories that have a universal message. Domestic violence is a heavy subject that can easily turn to melodrama or a PSA. A genre film lens allows you to give your point of view on subjects that are hard to talk about in an entertaining way. You don’t have to be so obvious. The genre films I love allow the audience to inject their own interpretations of what the movie’s themes are.
Mommy’s Little Monster definitely occupies some Spielbergian territory, very family-centric and dealing with grand emotional themes, were films like Poltergeist and Close Encounters of the Third Kind influential to you at all?
Wow. Thanks! It’s an honour to even have a toe dipped in Spielbergian territory, but that was actually a starting point for me. When I was writing the script I came across a Spielberg interview for The BFG where he was talking about a big ugly tree that he was scared of as a kid. I had a similar tree, we all probably did, outside my bedroom window that I would stare at when there were bad, violent things going on behind bedroom walls. It was often the last image I saw before drifting in and out of sleep and probably took the form of a lot of my nightmares.
How did you work with Kim and Philip to establish their relationship and make them comfortable with each other?
To be honest, it was easy when you have great actors like Jenny Pellicer and Tate Birchmore, who bring so much of their own depth, personality and backstory into the characters. Jenny is a true talent who added so much to what was on the page. She has this beautiful exterior that she can wear like an armour, which is fitting because she’s trying to shield her son from the horror of her own reality, but she’s also vulnerable underneath. Tate is a precocious, oddball kid who was ‘Philip’ in so many ways. That’s how we approached their mother-son relationship. It was tough-love from both sides. And, I think that came off on-screen.
I have to ask that age-old film school question. Given how prominent a role Philip has in the film, I’d love to know what challenges and benefits working with a child actor created for you?
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, which helped him embody Philip and relate to Jenny’s character. 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 challenge me to a game of horseshoes. He’s a child who acts not a child actor; that’s hard to find in Los Angeles where kids have been auditioning since they came out of the womb.
And last but not least, what will be seeing from you next?
Mommy’s Little Monster was still on the film festival circuit with a bunch of screenings that have been postponed because of COVID-19 but my last short, For Your Consideration, a Harvey Weinstein street art documentary is now streaming on Amazon Prime. While in quarantine, I’m finishing up a short documentary on Bundini Brown, who was Muhammad Ali’s trainer but also had this amazing life outside of the boxing ring. It’s based on an upcoming biographyDon’t Believe the Hype by Todd Snyder, and I’ve been having a great time working with the Hamilcar Publishing crew. I’m also working on a feature script of Mommy’s Little Monster. The goal is to take the next step and shoot a feature when the world gets back to normal or at least the new normal.
Mommy’s Little Monster will be appearing online in early 2021.
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