The San Francisco Irish Film Festival hits the city September 19-21. Bringing the best films the Gaelic country has to over, the festival opens with the debut feature-length film from Mill Valley native Steph Green, entitled Run & Jump. The film will also be hitting the Mill Valley Film Festival which runs October 3-13.
We spoke with Steph Green about her first film, working with funnyman Will Forte, and on returning to the Bay Area after living in Ireland for so long.
Tell us about your film Run & Jump
Run & Jump is an Irish/German co-production and it stars Will Forte, Maxine Peak, and Ed MacLiam. It’s about a family coping with somewhat of a crisis when the young father figure has a stroke, which changes his personality. What you’re watching is the family respond and deal with this change and then to complicate matters you have this American neuropsychologist, Dr. Fielding who’s played by Will Forte, who is there to observe and document the husband, Conor’s [Ed MacLiam] recovery. It’s a really observational film about a kind of moment, a certain few months, in a family’s life.
What was it like working with Will Forte who’s mostly known for things like Saturday Night Live and MacGruber?
He has a wonderful personality, first of all, but this is his first dramatic role. He has never done anything like this before so I think when I sent him the script he was more “can I do this? Are you sure you want me?” He was very modest but I just knew that he could do it and he does a wonderful job in the film. It’s a really good performance and it shows how he does have this range where he can be very comedic and then very sort of straight. He’s gone on to do that now with Alexander Payne in Nebraska and he’s doing another movie The Switch [ed. note that film has been retitled Life of Crime]. I don’t think he’s strictly going to be doing more serious roles but he is transitioning where he’s showing he can do that range. He’s a very funny guy, so on set he’s a lot of fun and entertaining to have around. He’s just a very capable, strong actor so it’s good to start to see him in these other roles.
So you’re bringing this to The San Francisco Irish Film Festival?
Yes, and Mill Valley Film Festival, so it’s sort of our NorCal festival moment for a couple weeks which is fun because I’m from here originally.
Since you left here, what do you miss about the Bay Area?
Well, I don’t think you can ask for a better place to grow up. Most of my mom’s side of the family is here and my immediate family are all here, so I miss my family. My experience of the Bay Area, I left when I was about 17 or 18, is just that the quality of life here is pretty incredible. You just have so many options in terms of what you do with your time. You can hit the mountains, the beach, it’s an ideal location. And I see myself coming back here, to be honest. I ended up staying in Ireland much longer than I thought I would originally. Now I’ve been there for twelve years, but I’ve been going back and forth the whole time between LA.
Bringing your film back to the SF Irish Film Festival, and Mill Valley, does it feel like a homecoming?
It’s exciting. I think that the movie is very much about modern Ireland. I think Americans have a sense of Ireland, and a somewhat nostalgic sense of Ireland, but it’s great to share modern film with Americans because this is how current Ireland is and some of the personalities and dynamics there. So it’s kind of like sharing my travels, in a way. It’s like a really long, complicated postcard. And I think people do have a soft spot for Ireland in the States and so it’s fun to show something from a country people are already enthusiastic about. Any country’s film festival does this, but you learn about that country in that moment and not about your notions of that place. It’s important, I think. You have the Indian Film Festival and Iran Film Festival and I just think these are important things for people to try to get to. And instead of the three minute news snippet, you’re actually seeing an entire film about a culture. And it’s not going to be in your local movie theater, most likely.
Coming back to visit, do you have any favorite activities you like to do or any places you like to go?
Both my sister and brother-in-law are in really fun cover bands so I find myself at the Red Devil Lounge going to gigs. I like going to music gigs with them because they kind of know the scene. They just started a new band called That’s Not Her, so they’re performing at the Monarch. I like the Mission area. I love 826 Valencia because I know Dave Eggers and that publishing house that does all these great activities.
That’s a great place, I actually volunteer there.
I have a whole backstory with Dave because I worked with Spike Jonze and then I met Dave and then I optioned New Boy which is my short film that’s also showing at the festival, that was [originally] in McSweeny’s. So San Francisco has stayed connected to my film trajectory.
I also appreciate BART because LA is so sprawling and there really isn’t the same kind of public transportation. And I’m starting to discover Oakland a little bit because so many friends, so many artists, are starting to move out there and I think it’s exciting. What’s happening in Oakland is so exciting.
What comes next?
I’m working on some new features, both in the US and Ireland. I’m probably going to be in the US for a while now to just try and push some projects ahead here because I think if I can stay relevant in both markets and make an American movie next, that would be good. One of the things I’m working on is a sort of post-apocalyptic, sci-fi film, so a totally different genre, leaving the charming children behind. And then I’m also pursuing some TV projects.
Head over to Steph Green’s website for a Run & Jump trailer and more information on the director. Check out The San Francisco Irish Film Festival’s website for tickets and more information on this year’s lineup. Also keep an eye on screenings of Run & Jump at Mill Valley Film Festival’s website.