Releasing on Lesflicks on Monday, March 8th, Rain Beau’s End is a complex drama with a deep emotional core. The story of ambitious Hannah and empathetic Jules as they grapple with the adoption of a 4 year-old child named Beau, diagnosed with 47,XYY, is heart-wrenching. I spoke with director Tracy Wren and screenwriter Jennifer Cooney about their journey making this film, the influence of Hitchcock’s Rebecca on the script, Jacob’s Syndrome, working with Ed Asner, and the inception of the film’s haunting score. Read on for my exclusive interview with Tracy and Jennifer.
Can you tell me about the genesis of this movie, and how you became involved in the project?
JENNIFER COONEY: The original story idea was from our producer, Joe Orlandino at Atlas Media Ventures. He hired me having the idea in mind of a kid with XYY named Rain Beau with a set of adoptive lesbian parents named Hannah and Jules. He had the basic outline of the story, and when he found me, it was such a synchronistic magical matchup. It was as if I already knew the characters, and the story was already mapped out. We knew that we were meant to tell this story together.
A week later, after going through however many applications he got for the job, he hired me and I went on to write the script. I went out to Chicago and hammered out a bunch of details with him. Then Tracy, when you came on board, you and I went through more revisions of the script. We did more fine-tuning with Hannah as a politician. We added a lot of details there, and really took into consideration your perspective as a parent. We peppered in those realities to the script. I really think all of the incarnations the script went through just made it better and better every time. Finishing with the final version of the script, which is the final edit by Wayne Kumingo—I really just think all of the people involved in this film were so driven by their heart, and their passion to tell this story. I think it really comes across in the final product.
TRACY WREN: Well, Jennifer and Joe, they worked for a couple of years on the script before I became involved. I basically met Joe at the American Film Market in Santa Monica, about three years ago now. We just met in a hallway and chatted—we had been introduced by phone, by a mutual friend (writer/director Veronica Craven) and we just hit it off. We met for about 10 minutes and then we stayed in touch and eventually, many months later, he contacted me and asked if I’d be interested. He sent me the script, and I thought it was great. The dialogue was catchy and it was a very interesting story. And so, I jumped on board.
I watched a screener of the film and I enjoyed it a lot. I really liked the score. I feel like it set the mood and the tone very well. Was there a long process that went into selecting the choices for the movie’s music?
TRACY: So the music was done by Enzo De Rosa, who’s Italian and works in Italy. It turns out that Joe’s wife Lucia Mauro is also a filmmaker, and she and Enzo have made several films and projects together in Italy. It was their choice before I even came in on the project. I believe Enzo watched the movie and read the script, and started working on the music while we were filming. I think it was really his creative decisions that Joe went with. So, I do think the music is very beautiful too.
I’m also a violin player. So I was really touched to learn that the music was actually recorded by a live orchestra. Those are not computer instruments. Joe recently wrote words to Hannah’s theme, and it was just recorded by the Prague Philharmonic. I don’t know what’s going to happen with it, but it’s pretty.
The choice was made to not show Beau after they pick him up near the beginning of the movie. Obviously, he’s discussed throughout, but we never see his face. Is there a reason that you chose to focus so heavily on the reactions to his actions rather than the actions, or the character himself?
TRACY: Well, to be honest, that actually was not my choice. I would have preferred to have Beau throughout the whole film, but that was how the script was written when I came in on the project. So, it was already pretty far along, and to change it at that point would have meant a total rewrite and a rethink of everything. As Jennifer will tell you, they were in love with the Hitchcock film Rebecca, in which Rebecca is talked about and heard about, but we never seen.
My interpretation was that the most important part of the film was the relationship between the two women. Whatever challenges they faced, the question was, could they stay together and really continue to work as a team? In the end, they grew as individuals and as a couple. I always did try to make sure that Beau was accounted for, that we knew where he was, that he didn’t just disappear off stage. We made some tweaks to the script and even in shooting. We always knew where Beau was and what he was doing. So I think that helped a little bit, just to keep his presence alive, even though he wasn’t onscreen.
JENNIFER: Yeah, that was very early on. Right when I was hired to write the script, I had just rewatched Rebecca, which is one of my favorite movies, and it hit me that would be a really interesting way to approach Beau. We could really focus in on the relationship between the two women, and his effect on their relationship.
I was wondering if there were any people in particular that you drew on to evoke these characters, or personal experiences you might’ve drawn from when writing the script.
JENNIFER: For me, I’m always using me and my wife as references for different parts of characters. We were just getting into a spiritual journey at that point in our lives, and that really inspired the character of Jules. A lot ended up cut from the final film, but her spiritual background, as opposed to Hannah’s cutthroat capitalism way of being—that was a huge influence on the character. There are differences at their essence.
TRACY: I think the actresses also really embodied that difference, in their manner and in the way that they built those roles. Hannah was played by Janelle Snow, and Amanda Powell was Jules, and they really got into that point of view. Hannah was very businesslike and edgy, and she wears little spiky high-heeled shoes. Amanda was a little slower, more laid back, softer and fuzzier. They were just absolutely fabulous to work with. They’re in almost every scene, so they worked very hard.
I thought this was refreshing because obviously this is an LGBT film, but you never really have the characters grapple with their sexualities. Was it important to you that the lesbian aspect was a backdrop to the Beau character’s issues, rather than the primary focus?
JENNIFER: It was very important to me, right from the beginning. Part of why I started my production company HalfJack Generation was to usher in the next generation of lesbian films. To me, this is just showing lesbians living life, as opposed to coming out or struggling with the family’s disapproval being the foreground or the main story. I just really wanted to show two lesbians being in a committed relationship and what they’re going through, with whatever happens to be in front of them. That was a major inspiration throughout the entire project.
TRACY: Jennifer was on set the whole time and doing many jobs, and producing. Every now and then she would say, ‘Oh, hold on a minute. My straight meter’s going off.’ We would re-adjust something because I was one of the only people on set involved in the film who actually has children. So to me, some of what was going on was just what any parent goes through. I felt in that way, we made a good team, because we filled what the other didn’t have experience in. I learned a lot, in making the film, about the ordinary lesbian world. It was great being a part of that.
Any type of gay story that isn’t just a coming out draws my attention. It’s just, it’s been done to death. You want something different, something unique.
TRACY: It was like, let’s get beyond that. Let’s get over that hurdle now. What’s this landscape like now that they’re just another married couple, in a way. It just got rid of some of the stereotypes I think people have. That’s all people ever think about, is the coming out part. It was great to get past that.
JENNIFER: We need to remember how much film is getting a message out there to people who aren’t part of the community, and it’s demonstrating what we’re going through as a community. So if the movies are constantly about being ashamed of who you are, or having disapproval thrown at you, then that continues that set of beliefs. When you have just people of that community living their lives, and not being obsessed or ashamed with the fact that they’re gay, it communicates to the larger population that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, or hiding about. It normalizes the entire lifestyle.
What was it like working with the legendary Ed Asner, and how many days did you have him on set? I thought his scenes were really great.
TRACY: I actually had made another movie with Ed (a short called Autism and Cake) promoting the group Autism Speaks. So that was how Ed got on the film. I basically wrote to him, and he liked the script, and he liked the part that we offered. He was on set for only one day. He flew in from LA to Chicago. We had a production meeting the day before, and I put his call time a couple hours later so that we had everything ready to go when he walked in, and we did.
It was just wonderful. He’s so professional. He’s very funny. He ate the prop food, and we had to make more prop food. He had a time change, so he was hungry and the food was fresh and lovely. Ed added a lot of great tension and spice to that dinner scene. He was such a good contrast to all that had been said before about Beau, because he really defends him. Ed just represented that other side, another point of view, naturally and believably. He has such an innate sense of timing.
TRACY: His timing was spot on. That is for sure. Being at monitor and listening to him deliver those lines was a completely surreal experience. He was just unbelievable. He added energy and depth to that character in a way that only he could have done, it was beautiful.
Any closing thoughts, or takeaways for the audience?
TRACY: Certainly, I had several conversations with people who knew about XYY, and what it involves. We tried to portray it in an honest and accurate way. The accuracy is that there are still a lot of unknowns. There are no hard and fast rules. Many men have it and spend their whole lives having it and never know, because it doesn’t manifest itself in any particular way. They say that one in a thousand boys is born with it. That’s a lot of guys out there who are never aware. It’s an anomaly, and it’s not passed on, but totally individual and random.
JENNIFER: : The research has evolved so drastically over the last 20 years. That’s why we decided to start the film in 1999, because back then, it was called the murder gene. When they started researching it, they actually homed in on prison communities, and found that there was a larger percentage of men there with XYY. It was completely skewed. Even six years ago, when I got the job to write the script, every website said it causes aggression in a small percentage of the boys that have it. You look at the research websites now, and almost none of them say that. It went from being the murder gene, to now hardly anyone experiences aggression, if anyone at all. I think our film really captures that and also the potential downfall of giving children negative labels at such a young age.
TRACY: Beau’s experience definitely highlights a good reason why not to label kids with one thing or another, whether it’s a syndrome or condition or chromosomal anomaly. This is just how it affected this couple with their child. Hannah and Jules were told inaccuracies at the beginning by their therapist. She puts the question marks in there, and I hope that it comes off in an honest and sympathetic way. That was our intention. Hannah is more tempted to go with whatever medication is suggested, and Jules is like, no way. I’m not giving my kids any medication. So I think that’s something that is hard, to give medication to little children, especially when there are so many unknowns out there.
JENNIFER: To me, it tied in so perfectly with the conformity that Hannah struggled with her whole life, like needing to be a certain way in order to feel loved by her father. Through what she’s going through with Rain Beau and Jules, she is able to relate to herself, and stop conforming. That’s what actually saves the day in the end. Beau and Hannah are the perfect foils to each other. That’s what I hope comes across the most in this film. To be yourself is what we’re truly here to do, and that’s what’s always going to save the day in the end.
Thanks again to Tracy Wren and Jennifer Cooney for taking the time to chat with me about their new film!
Be sure to check out Rain Beau’s End when the drama comes to Lesflicks on March 8th.