'Come Down Molly' Takes a Quiet Approach to a Mushroom Trip
We've all been there -- get away for the weekend and take some drugs with your friends -- but can the experience be translated to film? Gregory Kohn attempts to find out with his sophomore effort Come Down Molly.
NFS: I like that this film is not trying to be anything, to play to your expectations. It just beats to its own drum.
Greg: That's what I love in movies, when they are just telling the small little story. There doesn't have to be a third act where there's an action. I mean, there's truth to how a story is structured, but it also doesn't have to just be more than what it is, you know? There's a way to tell these simply and intimately I guess.
NFS: The more that people say that there's a formula, the more that what we do completely suffers.
Greg: We sort of know what we're doing, but we're also just trying to find it as we go. It's important for people to know that that's an option. You don't have to know every answer before you start making something. You will collaboratively figure it out together.
NFS: What is it about the mushroom experience that lends itself to film, specifically?
Greg: I was inspired by how unrealistic it has always been portrayed. It's always like some sort of CGI thing that happens where a tree becomes a snake or something really bizarre like that. Or some really scary, dark moment. If you look at the movies from the 60's and 70's like The Trip, there's always this message like "drugs will destroy your life" -- like that's what psychedelics are. I think we all agree it's an emotional experience and I wanted to capture it. It's such an interesting experience and people have pitched it to feel or be something different.
There was a lot of just being as quiet as possible, it was really freeing.
Eléonore: Every time I'm on something that's psychedelic or visual in that way I always want to pick up my camera and film the beauty of things. You know? Like the world becomes so beautiful that you just see things that you want to capture. That was just one little thought. When you're on mushrooms all these things are possible and you have this contained insular world of your own mind and your environment, and the people in it. It's kind of like a trip. It's kind of like creating a movie. I mean, there's also this journey that you're on and it's akin to a film story. It's like a make-believe world or another world.
NFS: How experimental did you get with the filmmaking?
Greg: We thought it's experimental in the sense that it might just be very esoteric and it might only appeal to people who have ever done mushrooms. And that was kind of like a "should we still do it?" moment. And it was like, "Well, you know, I don't know, so let's just see what happens." So it's interesting to gauge responses from people who have never experienced this drug.
You have to have faith that if you've cast it correctly and you let them enjoy their experience these moments will manifest themselves.
NFS: So, you're throwing your real friends into this situation with an actor who is really experienced. How do you control that?
Greg: They are all actors too, and I knew if I got the right group of guys then they would work together. There was never any question that Eléonore, whoever I picked, would be able to mesh with them. She probably met most of them on that experience.
Eléonore: I became friends with all these guys. They were great. They were so welcoming. I became friends with each of them individually. You know, it wasn't like there was a group that I was friends with; I was individually friends with everyone.
NFS: That's what I like about the film too. It's not like you prioritized the relationships in any kind of hierarchy.
Greg: We're not tracking relationships. We're not waiting for something to happen. I don't think as an audience or as a person you need to know everything about everyone, and what their job is, or what they're doing, or why they're on this trip together, anything like that. You just sort of go along for the ride. You know, you're thrown into something and you just sort of keep going, and that's how I think she felt.
Eléonore: And also it was a dynamic where I was just friends with everyone. You know, where I was meant to just be friends with everyone. Where there was not going to be any burgeoning sexual thing that happens. You don't have to do that or anticipate that or anything in that way. We had the history of being friends as well and there had been sexual whatever experiences with certain friends. It's just nice it never leads to that and it doesn't need to, and that's just a relief.
You have to have this kind of faith that if you've cast it correctly and you let them enjoy their experience these moments will manifest themselves.
NFS: What is it like as a filmmaker when you're recreating an experience that you had in real life?
Greg: You have to let it be its own thing. There are moments that you have to walk a fine line of losing some things that initially inspired you. You know, like when I was tripping, certain things happened that I just couldn't film or there was no way I could write it to make it make sense. So you do have to lose a lot of your inspiration. There's so many leaps of faith when you make a movie, especially when you're doing something improvisational, but there will be magic moments that are just as good as ones that you experienced.
There's a line in the movie where John points at a tree and says, "I wish this was a blanket tree." Jason laughs at him and he goes, "You mean made out of blankets?" To me is probably my favorite little moment in the movie because I couldn't write that. You have to have faith that if you've cast it correctly, and you let them enjoy their experience, these moments will manifest themselves.
I didn't love it on paper but I loved it once I started seeing these people performing it and giving themselves to it.
NFS: Did you have a policy to not interact with the actors, to be a fly on the wall?
Greg: Specifically for these two days when we were shooting them when they were allowed to completely improvise without director intervention. I was able to tell them, "Hey guys, the light is getting better over there, if you guys want to move. Just start walking that way." That was pretty much it. It was really hard for our audio and camera crew, but they were mic'd and we had three cameras and we would just follow them around. There was a lot of just being as quiet as possible, it was really freeing. Then I would go back to my little room and write based on what I had just seen.
NFS: How long was the whole process?
Greg: We shot the first stuff, which is all the tripping stuff with all the guys and Eléonore. That was probably 10 days of shooting because we lost three days to weather and some other stuff. Then we took about nine months off where I edited the tripping stuff, because we didn't know if it would work. And then I realized there was a movie here. Then nine months later we shot with Lindsey and Kentucker and Eléonore. For me, if your cast is right you can get great stuff and you might fall in love with the movie. I had to fall in love with this movie, because I didn't love it on paper but I loved it once I started seeing these people performing it and giving themselves to it.
NFS: What do you think is the biggest lesson that you learned on this project that you think you will do differently next time?
Greg: Honestly, this movie, because it was so far out of my comfort zone and I was taking such a leap of faith -- I'm like, "Just trust in the process." It felt like I was less in control, and because I felt so out of control on this film, I don't know if I would ever do it the same way again anyway. I didn't mean to make this movie this way, it just sort of happened. Because I was like, "If I don't make this now, I'm never going to make it." So I guess the lesson learned was like just fucking do it. Yeah, we could've fallen flat on our faces and this could've failed and that would've sucked. But at least you're going out and just trying.
A big thanks to Gregory and Eléonore for sitting down and talking with us!