Let Your Heart Fly: Interview with Director Terri Farley-Teruel
Writer-director Terri Farley-Teruel was Manager of Feature Production Services at Universal Studios for ten years. She left that job to devote more of her time to her own writing and directing. Among her several short subject films are two that won dramatic awards, Finding McQueen and Kaileen’s Gift.
According to Farley-Teruel, it was director Peter Weir “who made me want to direct really direct movies.” Specifically, it was Weir’s The Last Wave which hooked her: “There’s utter and complete poetry, using music, art, story, and performance. That was it.” Although she writes, directs, produces, and edits, she says that “the world makes me a producer, but my love is directing and writing.”
When I met with Terri Farley-Teruel, we discussed her experience directing the beautifully romantic feature film, Beautiful Dreamer.
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How did you become involved with Beautiful Dreamer?
I have two producing friends, Jack Robinson and Chase Chenowith, and we were trying to produce a film called The Legend of Thunder Canyon, which is the script I had written with my husband, Mario Teruel. Chase had written Beautiful Dreamer for another producer several years before. While they were fundraising for The Legend of Thunder Canyon, Chase called the producer, who was raising money for the Beautiful Dreamer script.
It turned out he was desperately looking for a producing team to help him make that movie, because he didn’t have much money. We all decided, “Why don’t we turn our attention to Beautiful Dreamer?” I would interview for the directing position and maybe we could pick up this project as a team instead, or at least first. Then we all got caught up in Beautiful Dreamer.
What was it about the script that you liked?
I really liked that it was a period film. Imagine being able to do a period film as your first feature. It was really exciting. And then it was very easy to slip into understanding Claire, the main character.
I was very close with my grandparents, and I could see the way their love evolved, the sturdiness of the times, the way love was in that time. Claire was an easy character for me to understand. Whenever I’d have any questions, I’d kind of look to my grandmother (who passed away several years ago).
How did Brooke Langton enter the scene?
Well, we were starting from scratch and we were very small. Brooke Langton was someone Jack knew. I was working at Universal at the time, so she met us there. She wore a lace shirt that was really sweet; she came in as the character sweet but strong. Underneath, Brooke Langton is a tough cookie. She’s very strong. When she brought on the softness for us at the interview, her strength was underneath but her subtleties were great. She was perfect.
How about Colin Egglesfield?
Colin Egglesfield. That was an interesting decision on our part, because we had a big casting director, Mary Vernieu, and Shalimar Reodica, who worked with her. Mary’s company took it on, and Shalimar brought together the cast. They were looking at all the hot guys at the time. This was a great part for someone, so we got a lot of good people in.
Then Colin walked in and he was not very known, but he did really good work on an episode of Nip/Tuck. I saw the tape of him before we met. When he walked in, he was mild and polite, but he had this smoldering strength. As soon as Brooke met him, their eyes couldn’t stop locking. Oh, it was perfect. I know Jack was hoping for someone with box office draw Colin wasn’t even in soap operas then.
We shot, edited, but then went down for quite a while. Then one of our primary investors bought the whole film and put more money into it. We brought the actors back for six more days of shooting. Colin had gotten his part on All My Children and had cut his hair super short. So we got little clips of hair and put it in his hair. And Brooke had just dyed her hair black when we called her for the re-shoots. You dye your hair too much it could fall out. So we found organic dye that wouldn’t mess up her hair. We even looked at wigs. It was crazy. We ended up finishing last spring and did color correction last summer.
What makes Beautiful Dreamer different and noteworthy?
We talked about what we felt wasn’t being addressed in movies. We talked about films like Random Harvest and The Best Years of Our Lives, and the original conception, when the original producer hired Chase to write it, was “They don’t make movies like this anymore, but we think the public wants them.”
I watched The Best Years of Our Lives and it helped me take the time to develop the characters you know, letting a moment play out, because I thought that was beautiful to see between two people. There’s a nice scene where they’re at the piano in The Best Years of Our Lives. It’s just two people talking, but you hear so much about hopes and dreams. I wanted to make sure we had some of that.
So the original conception was we believe human beings haven’t changed that much. They do still care about such things as the quiet desire of someone who doesn’t have their loved one with them. It didn’t need to be all titillation and excitement. Sometimes it’s also about devotion. People would still want to see that. And luckily people do. We feel vindicated that audiences love it.
There are a lot of people populating the planet that weren’t born in the ‘80s. They want to rent a movie to watch with their families. Maybe they would like this kind of movie at Christmastime or Thanksgiving. Maybe this is the kind of movie the family would like to talk about together. There needs to be movies like that for all of us.
My nieces and nephews watched it I expected them to leave. They’re 5, 9, and 13. Even the little one stayed. It was when Joe walks into the restaurant and doesn’t know who Claire is that got the 5-year-old wondering what was going to happen.
Jack and I had a conversation about that particular scene right after we filmed it. He wasn’t on the set, and it was important that it was right. I had seen in a film maybe a Peter Weir film, because he’s one of my favorite directors when the human eye looks right into the lens, something happens. It hits you. It’s like a little lightening bolt. I wanted my actors to look straight to the lens, even if it was just for a fleeting second.
There really is a fine line when those two eyes meet. You can miss it by a sliver. I probably drove my editor crazy. It had to be a moment when two eyeballs met. It’s very fleeting, but what I shot was what I wanted.
There were discussions about making it even more magical, like backlighting the guy at the door or otherwise punching it up so it would sparkle somehow. But we’d be busting reality. So I did it with sound, some odd stuff inside Claire’s head. Almost as if your ears filled with water. The source music disappears. Different music plays and an echo comes in. We get a hovering. The eyes meet. Then the source music fades back up as she comes to again. So we tried to make it a moment.
Tell me about Beautiful Dreamer’s great 1940s music.
The guys said, “Terri, we don’t think we’re going to have any source music.” Then out of the blue, one of the composers we had spoken to about the movie wanted to be part of it so badly that he wanted to create the source music for us for almost no money. And he did. Herman Beeftink. He did excellent work. That’s the magic of this movie. People who wouldn’t ordinarily do something wanted to be part of it. It was the ‘40s era music. He had access to some of the Glenn Miller guys, and he brought them in and he and I got to sit and create the tunes we used. Everything is created from scratch for the movie. The neat thing is the subject matter made people want to be part of the film. That was really nice.
Ramon Balcazar, our composer who did the score, is another giant just starting. Bringing him in felt like I won a big prize. I held out for him. And he did such a good job. I’m so happy. I’m so proud of the music in this movie… Music will be a major part of all my movies.
Are there themes you are especially interested in exploring on screen?
The thing I most believe in is giving hope to people triumph of the spirit. That drives me. I don’t believe people should think of themselves as not capable. Anytime you can take somebody who is feeling weak and empower them I love those stories. I really feel the nobility of the human spirit is key. And beauty how beautiful it is to just be alive, you know? We don’t have enough stories that just embrace the beauty of a moment. That’s why I like Peter Weir’s films so much. At the end of Master and Commander, music is juxtaposed with a wide shot of the boat when it goes to the new adventure. You know those characters so well. Your heart just flies with them. I like movies like that.
What projects are you working on now?
We’re taking Beautiful Dreamer to film festivals and preparing for a limited release in Atlanta soon.
And I have four feature projects. I’m writing one entitled Rewriting Violet, a historical drama set in the late 1920s and 1930s about a woman trying to make it in Hollywood at a time when sexuality in films was changing. With my husband, I wrote The Legend of Thunder Canyon, a family film, featuring a little boy who loves cowboys. That’s currently in development. It’s set in the 1950s but there is a time travel element back to the 1880s.
Another script I’m hired to direct and co-produce is Montebello Ice, which is set in the 1940s just after the Italian surrender and is also in development. And then there’s Old Creek Road, which is actually set in the present. It’s a drama about healing, about going home. The main character goes back to his hometown to help an old sweetheart but discovers that her father, a man who broke his father’s spirit, was involved in murder.
2007 Film Entertainment Magazine / EMOL.org. All rights reserved.