Nadine [Hailee Steinfeld] and Krista [Haley Lu Richardson] are inseparable BFFs attempting to navigate high school together... until Nadine’s older brother Darian [Blake Jenner] and Krista begin dating. With her view of the world rocked, Nadine is forced to see the people in her life – including her well-meaning but distracted mother [Kyra Sedgwick], and unlikely mentor and History teacher Mr. Bruner [Woody Harrelson] – with fresh eyes and new appreciation that people—and life—are more complicated than she thought. -- STX
From five-time Oscar® nominated and three-time Oscar® winning producer James L. Brooks and writer/first-time director Kelly Fremon Craig, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN is a coming-of-age comedy with a refreshingly authentic voice.
Equally humorous and achingly poignant, the teen perspective is exceedingly on point, with occasional actual insights poking through the blinding angst and overreactions, and adults trying to cope as well!
Craig reveals, “I started this project in an effort to try to capture this particular age and generation as truthfully as I could and with a respect for the complexity and messiness of it all. Passing from youth to adulthood is intense and terrifying and beautiful, and in many ways the experience of anyone, any age, shedding their old self and becoming new.”
SET DECOR talks with the writer/director about this truly fresh, fun and at times heartbreakingly real coming of age film and the importance of the sets in telling this very watchable story.
SET DECOR: You were quoted at point as saying that you and Producer James L. Brooks were very much into details, “We both go nuts over getting the details right.” That’s obvious to anyone who sees the film, but it also speaks to every set decorator’s heart because that’s what it’s all about.
Writer/Director Kelly Fremon Craig: Yes! Yes and yes! I’m definitely obsessive about details that create a reality. I love the sort of gritty, dusty messiness of reality. I love when things are a little sloppy and have smudges, a layer of grime. That is delicious.
SET DECOR: That’s what helps establish the credibility of the film.
Craig: Exactly. I think that’s so true. I feel that life feels messy and disorganized and old and new all mixed up together. And so for me, it always helps me feel like I’m seeing something real.
SET DECOR: The other part of that, of course, is creating the sets to also help the actors know and express their characters more, or the situation...giving the depth to help both the actors and the director to immerse themselves more into the character and story.
Craig: Yes! Absolutely, because I think every little thing in that person’s world says something about them. How they keep their bed, and where their messes happen and where things pile up. All of that I feel is indicative of a person’s mind. I mean, at least I know for me, my physical world always reflects my mental state. You know?
SET DECOR: Please don’t look in our closets!
You wrote the script as well, so you had envisioned it completely. Did sets end up being how you envisioned? Or what was different?
Craig: I have to say that one of the most fun parts of working with a great production designer and set decorator, is that you could talk about things emotionally or intellectually about how the room feels, but not have any idea what that room is actually going to be, what that room is actually going to look like. And then show up on the day of the shoot and suddenly you’re in a space that makes you feel a certain way that you’ve described. And the exciting part to me is to see how somebody’s translated that.
One of my favorite sets that I walked into after it was all put together was Woody’s/Mr. Bruner’s house. If you saw the way that house started, you’d be so shocked that it was the same place. But when I walked in, I felt hugged by it. The temperature of the lighting and just the colors and everything...the details coming together...it felt just so warm and it felt like a little womb.
SET DECOR: Yes, definitely embracing...a natural world, many natural elements and a comfortable ambiance.
Craig: Yes, it just felt earthy. That was one where we talked about how important it was to show how he has this warm, loving home life, and to have it feel like a stark difference from his classroom.
SET DECOR: Yes, there was an element of surprise for both Nadine and the audience, bringing the perspective of what she had thought of him came from only knowing him from the classroom.
Craig: Exactly, yes! So it was so neat to see how that was brought to life.
SET DECOR: And the classroom was classic, but with unique, quirky touches, as one would expect from his character...
Craig: Yes, that was the thing. And I love seeing wear and tear. I love seeing places where the paint’s chipping off, stuff like that. So I liked seeing all of that in his room and things like all of these electrical cords being like a big spaghetti of old cords...I love that type of stuff.
SET DECOR: And then the choices like having the red chairs. Just that pop of color against these two personalities. Wonderful stuff.
Craig: Oh I’m so glad you noticed it. That was a thing that I just knew, that I wanted these primary colors in every frame. I knew I wanted red, yellow, blue. And it’s in her jacket, and it’s sort of in everything. But I liked the idea of being these primary colors that are just worn down by life, you know?
SET DECOR: Exactly. It also reflects her growing, because we associate the primary colors with children and then the teens go to the extreme, but life is all of this combined...
Craig: Yes! That’s such a great description, that’s exactly right.
SET DECOR: Also, when we look at their home—Nadine’s with her mother Mona and slightly older brother Daryn—we see the great room with the classic plaid couch that’s slightly faded. The more muted colors and blues that are almost green, and autumnal oranges and yellows give that feel of family, even though it’s dysfunctional family.
Craig: Yes. I thought Mona had made these choices...the mom made these choices, so it was important to me that the home felt like her but still had evidence of the father leftover, which I felt was the plaid, that kind of warm homey stuff. But then there are other pieces that are a little trying too hard to be elegant. Sort of mixed in there, which I think is very much Mona where she’s trying hard to look like she has it all together, but she’s like shattered on the inside.
SET DECOR: Another wonderful, true character. Extreme but true.
Craig: Oh man. Kyra is just...she so nailed it.
SET DECOR: Yes, all kinds of layers. The entire film has that. It’s hard not to use those hackneyed words like multi-faceted or many-layered, just because it’s so true all the way throughout, whether it’s the characters, to sets, the story. It’s wonderfully complex and complicated and simple at the same time.
Craig: Oh, thank you so much. Thank you so much for saying that. What a great compliment.
SET DECOR: Jim Brooks, your great mentor and friend says,
“You’re paying righteous dues when you do research… it creates something in you that wants to serve their truth.”
Craig: Yes. Essential stuff.
SET DECOR: Could we talk a little about this, because of course, it’s every writer’s heart and it’s every set decorator’s heart...
Craig: Absolutely. So I did a period of research that lasted 6 months and I personally talked to all of these teenagers, and one of the things that I asked every single one of them was, “Okay, when we walk out of this interview, please go straight to your bedroom, open the door and take a picture. Do not touch a thing, do not clean up a thing. And send it to me.” And so I got dozens of those pictures that I then gave to the set decorator, and pointed out the things that I loved about their rooms. I think what was so wonderful about that research is you could tell by looking at a person’s room was important to them and what wasn’t important. What things they sort of have a shrine to...and in a lot of these rooms, you have a sense of what matters to them.
SET DECOR: That’s at the core of good set decoration.
Craig: Oh yeah. Also, I think in terms of how you make a mess look real is a big deal, because it can’t just be scattered, there’s a method to the mess, in a way.
SET DECOR: It’s true. There’s purposeful layering and you don’t want it too contrived.
Craig: Right, yes, exactly. There’s a story to the mess.
SET DECOR: And the there were locations that weren’t personal but somehow became so, like PETLAND...
Craig: You know, I loved the idea, for PETLAND and that section of fish tanks, it was important for me to have this dreamy, bubbly blue-purple lit, sexy...
SET DECOR: Tunnel of Love...
Craig: Exactly! Yes! And you could really be just in the fantasy of it...to just embrace it. So I asked our production designer and set decorator play up the fantasy romance aspect...
SET DECOR: It was heightened perfectly, and it sure played exactly as you’ve described.
Craig: That was a fun scene to shoot!
SET DECOR: And is there anything we should know about the flashbacks to when the girls were young?
Craig: It was just about trying to capture the way in which her dad was such a support system and having that be a feeling in the room. You know, when they’re in that little fort in her bedroom, there’s a safety to it, a warmth to it. And he pokes his head in and there’s a sort of pink, warm light. And then Christmas and that moment with the dad where it feels like this was a split second where everything was right in the world.
SET DECOR: It’s sounds as if you had a great collaboration with Production Designer Bill (William) Arnold and Set Decorator Ide Foyle...
Craig: You know, I have to say that was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole experience. You know, you go location hunting and you talk about what you want it to be, and then you walk in on the morning of, and it’s astounding. You’re like, “Oh my god!” So many times, I would turn to them and be like, “Ahhhh, uh! How did you do this?!!” I just felt so grateful for the attention to detail and for making it feel so true.