Sundance interview: Never Goin’ Back writer/director Augustine Frizzell

Augustine Frizzell’s Sundance photo. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Atheena Frizzell.

Comedies can be hard to come by at Sundance. There’s always a Clerks or two but most filmmakers come to Sundance with their serious dramas. Not Augustine Frizzell.

Her comedy, Never Goin’ Back, premiered in the Midnight section of Sundance, usually reserved for ultra-violent horror movies. It was good for a late night laugh.

Jessie (Camila Morrone) and Angela (Maia Mitchell) are planning a weekend getaway, but a robbery foils their plans and gets them busted for drugs themselves. Frizzell said Never Goin’ Back is based on her life.

Frizzell sat down with Monsters and Critics in Park City, at the Grey Goose space on Main Street. After the Sundance buzz, look for Never Goin’ Back later this year.

Maia Mitchell and Cami Morrone play fictional versions of Augustine Frizzell and her best friend. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Clay Grier.

Monsters and Critics: What were the true elements of Never Goin’ Back?

Augustine Frizzell: We did rob a store. We got robbed. The robbery scene with Tony, that actually happened.

That was actually the first thing I ever wrote. It was just so ridiculous when it happened. I told the story so many times that I was like, “I should make that into a scene in a movie.”

Yeah, we did a bunch of cocaine. We had coke races. We had a big window pane that had fallen out of one of our windows in the house. We would listen to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack and snort coke.

M&C: So Pulp Fiction gives me a date.

AF: Yeah, I was 15.

M&C: Was the store you robbed owned by someone who deserved it as much as the guy in the movie?

AF: No. Actually, we were desperate. It was the first time I had been on my own. A friend of mine worked at a beach shop. It actually happened in Pebble City Beach, FL, the real thing.

We had just gotten to town and I just went to her and was like, “Hey, can we do this? Would you just give us the money and we could just split it?” She was like, “Yeah, totally, I’ll call the cops.”

She was so shaken up by the whole thing, how crazy it was that we did this, that when she called the cops and she was like, “He was like this beach dude. He’s like a surfer looking guy came in with a little silver gun and took the money.”

But she was so shaken up for having done it that her story sounded really believable. That money supported us, helped us live. I don’t know who owned the store.

M&C: Were you Jessie or Angela?

AF: A mixture of both. They have a lot of my characteristics and same with my best friend at the time.

Selfie with Maia Mitchell and Cami Morrone Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Clay Grier.

M&C: Were you living with someone’s brother and his roommate?

AF: So the brother is based on my best friend’s brother at the time. We did have a roommate and his name was Brandon, but he was nothing like that character. He was totally different.

M&C: Did you work as a waitress at a diner

AF: IHOP. IHOP and Denny’s, yes.

M&C: Were you close with your manager like in the movie?

AF: No, no. We actually disliked our manager quite a bit, yeah. We had a couple managers. It’s funny, we had a couple managers at one point and we were young, 15.

We had huge crushes on the characters from Reservoir Dogs. So I was in love with Steve Buscemi and she had a crush on Michael Madsen.

At one point, there were these two managers because managers came and went at this IHOP. There were two managers who really favored these guys.

So we both developed crushes on them and once they started showing interest in us, we were like, “Ew, it’s too gross. They’re too old.” That was the extent of our good relationship with managers.

M&C: Were you always a passionate cinephile to reference Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs?

AF: I loved movies as long as I can remember and I was thinking about it last night after the premiere.

My editor, co-editor Courtney [Ware] and I were sitting and everyone was like, “Oh, we love this part and love that part.” They started quoting it and we realized that we too could say the movie from start to finish.

I used to do that with my best friend. We used to put on a movie and say the whole thing with the movie. Point Break is one of those so that’s why it’s in the film. It was a really big deal back then. Yeah, I’ve always loved films.

M&C: When did it occur to you that you could make films?

AF: Not until maybe 2011, when I made my short. I was a single mom for many years. A very supported single mom, my daughter’s father is a huge part of her life.

I had a lot of family but at the same time I was broke, even with the financial support, broke, broke, broke. So the thought of spending money on something as frivolous as making a film never even seemed remotely feasible.

But, my daughter and I, she’s 19 now, we did make a lot of camcorder films and edit on iMovie. I never even considered that oh,that’s the same thing, just on a much smaller scale. That’s making movies. I’d been doing it for so long, I never put it together.

M&C: How did you choose the soundtrack for Never Goin’ Back?

AF: That started with a playlist that I made. Before we ever started shooting, I made two playlists. I made one for the guys, one for the girls’ characters, sent them out to everyone on the crew and the cast.

When we did the first assembly, almost all of the music was from those playlists. When we went to work with Sarah Jaffe, our composer and musician on the film, we have a couple other songwriters, they had that as a really strong guideline.

This is what it should sound like. This is the feel of this scene. They just took it from there. With the other songs, one of them my daughter wrote and she’s performing. It’s almost all originals except for “Mandy” and Michael Bolton.

Then there were some Sarah Jaffe pre-existing songs. I’d just gone through her body of work and I knew a few select songs that I just loved and wanted.

M&C: Are you going to put out a soundtrack?

AF: I want to. I want to because I love the music so much. Everyone who’s seen it is just raving about the music. That’s a big part of my process.

During the writing process I listen to songs on repeat while I’m writing scenes. So I knew I wanted every scene to have a certain feel.

M&C: How did you find Maia and Camila?

AF: We just had a casting call through agents. I Skyped with them, took video auditions and then we did chemistry reads and those two just nailed it.

M&C: Did they know each other at all before?

AF: No, no. They tell this story, they left the chemistry read, met in the parking lot and exchanged numbers, like, “I hope you book it!” “I hope you book it!” Because they read with several other girls, they could just feel that was the right choice.

M&C: What kind of movie do you want to do next?

AF: I have a script that I’ve written. It’s a drama. It’s a teen drama. It’s a love story about two females. That, I’m in the rewrite process but I’m not married to the idea yet.

It depends on what comes my way. Obviously, since this has gotten to Sundance, I’ve had a lot more publicity for my stuff, so it just depends on what appeals to me.

M&C: Is love stories between women a theme for you?

AF: My best friend and I were really close and we definitely had a sexual component to our friendship. We loved each other deeply and still do. But, we were never exclusively girlfriends. So it’s not an easy thing to define I guess.

M&C: Jessie and Angela are though.

AF: Jessie and Angela definitely are in love but they’re also not exclusive. They’re not territorial or possessive with one another. They can see other people but they definitely sleep together, obviously.

So yeah, there’s a big sexual component to it. I think that’s something that’s important to show in films, the fluidity of sexuality especially these two.

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