DOC NYC 2015 Women Directors: Meet Nicole Groton – ‘The Melting Family’

nullNicole Groton started her career as Creative Executive at Intuition Productions, where she developed and produced new projects and served as field producer. Groton has worked for the president at Bryan Singer’s company ("House," "X-Men" franchise) and at the acclaimed production company Pariah ("Ghost Town," "Zombieland"). Groton has written and directed two short films, one of which made its premiere at the LA Femme Film Festival. Groton is currently working on her first narrative feature film "Marrying Kinds," which is set to enter production early next year. (Press materials)

"The Melting Family" will premiere on the 2015 DOC NYC Film Festival on November 15.

W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.

NG: This documentary is an extremely personal look at my family of divorce that has led to my growing family of seven parents and 16 siblings.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

NG: I was actually in the middle of prepping a completely different documentary when my subject decided against doing a documentary. I had already secured some savings and equipment, but was left with no idea. I started brainstorming about what things naturally interest me and my friends when I realized that the stories that I always tell are about my family.

My parents first divorced when I was six, and both remarried within the year. Both marriages brought in sisters that were of a similar age, immediately morphing my "normal" family into something completely unique to me. This quick turnaround continued throughout my life as my dad remarried three times and my mom twice with nearly all of my siblings being women within five years of my age.

I maintain such a unique and important relationship with my step-families, [and] I felt like this aspect of a successful — although tainted — divorced family is often untold.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

NG: Since this film is so entirely personal, the biggest challenge was creating narration that felt honest and real.

While shaping the film, I felt it was important to have my voice be shared throughout, but I didn’t feel comfortable having myself interviewed. It felt too staged.

When I finally decided that narration would be best for the film, I used "51 Birch Street" and "Sherman’s March" as inspiration in what I hoped to achieve. When it finally came down to the recording process, I had such a hard time articulating exactly what I wanted to say without sounding like I was reading lines — this is why I am not an actress. At that point, I brought on my co-producer, Simone Lapidus, who really helped shape the narration, which is so important to the final film.

We ended up recording a very relaxed conversation between the two of us where she would spend hours asking me both specific questions about events in the documentary as well as more general questions about family and relationships. That went on for a few weeks before we edited those sound bites together to create what felt like a really natural progression of thoughts. We then re-recorded those lines in a space more conducive to sound, which led to our final product. In the end, I feel like we achieved the best narration for the film, but it certainly took quite a process to get there.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

NG: There are two things that I really hope people take away from my film.

The first is that all families are unique. They all have different personalities, relationships and histories. At the same time, even with such unique perspectives, we all experience very similar feelings and themes while growing up, no matter the background. Often children brought up in a difficult environment are forced to face these issues earlier in their lives than others, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. No matter how unique we all are, our stories have similar themes that relate to us all.

The second is that divorce truly isn’t a horrible thing. It’s natural for people to change and for a spouse to feel the need to grow outside the relationship. In my opinion, admitting this and choosing to leave before things get bad is oftentimes better than staying in an unhappy situation. Is this true for everyone? Absolutely not. After seeing my documentary, viewers will learn that none of the divorces in my family were as clean of a split as I would hope, but I don’t think anyone in my family regrets their divorces. In this day and age, we should accept that not every story looks the same, but it doesn’t mean that the story is wrong.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

NG: Go out and do it. I’ve read this from so many female filmmakers, and it’s truly the case. No one is going to give you the opportunity. If anything, people will strive to take opportunity away from you. The only way you can truly do what you want is to create it for yourself.

And make projects that emphasize and showcase women! The recent light on the inadequate representation of women in film and television has created an amazing community of female filmmakers. These women — including myself — want nothing more than to harness and support fellow female filmmakers. Take advantage of it! Working with women is one of the most rewarding things you can ever do.

W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?

NG: The biggest misconception is that my work is strictly female. "The Melting Family" is centered around a family of primarily women, and my next narrative feature, "Marrying Kinds," is an off-beat romantic comedy that follows a female lead. I hope we as viewers are able to realize that a female-centric story is not strictly for women.

Jill Soloway has said some amazing things about female filmmakers, and one that really stuck out was that female movie-goers have become accustomed to relating to a male point of view. They’ve had no choice. I think people are still adjusting to watching a film with a female lead and thinking of it beyond a movie for women. Of course I view things with a female perspective, but it’s still a movie for anyone who can relate to my experience.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

NG: This film is a true labor of love. We spent about a year in production, then about three years in post-production. The funds were entirely from my pocket, and the budget was less than $15,000, which is absolutely insane.

Luckily, I met my boyfriend, Logan Rees, in film school, so he was wonderful enough to offer his services as cinematographer entirely for free. He met my entire family through filming the documentary, which is an entire movie on its own. Anything he couldn’t film, I picked up on my DSLR with minimal lighting set-ups.

When it came to post-production, I edited the majority of the film myself to save on budget while juggling my nine-to-seven day job, hence the lost post-production schedule. When it got to a point that I could no longer discern what was good and what was bad, I handed it off to the incredibly talented editor Michael Felker, who really put the final touches on it.

Basically, I got by with doing a lot of the work myself and leaving the rest in the hands of incredible friends who went above and beyond what I was able to pay them.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

NG: So many amazing films to choose from. I will probably have to go with "Me and You and Everyone We Know" by Miranda July. The writing in that film is so smart that she makes each scene feel like a situation so far from myself, but somehow so relatable. Plus, the chemistry between Miranda July and John Hawkes is so honest. I could watch that film over and over and never get sick of it.