If you’re like us, you remember the day that the news of Jenny Gage directing AFTER leaked on the web. She’s a new director – best known for her documentary, All This Panic.
Gage is also known for photography work including editorial work has included stories for W magazine, Vogue Nippon, Self Service, Vanity Fair and Italian Vogue.
But for us, part of what made After so special was that there were so many strong women behind the scenes. Gage was one of those women.
Based on Anna Todd’s best-selling novel which became a worldwide phenomenon on social story telling platform Wattpad, AFTER follows Tessa (Langford), a dedicated student, dutiful daughter and loyal girlfriend to her high school sweetheart, as she enters her first semester in college. Armed with grand ambitions for her future, her guarded world opens up when she meets the dark and mysterious Hardin Scott (Tiffin), a magnetic, brooding rebel who makes her question all she thought she knew about herself and what she wants out of life.
Can you talk to me a little bit about what attracted you to After?
As a filmmaker one of the things that attracts me to a project is the authentic voice, and an authentic story. That’s what compelled me to make my documentary. And that is what drew me to After. I loved the coming-of-age sexual awakening being told from a young woman’s point of view. All of those things were something I really felt like I could get behind.
What makes the story of Hardin and Tessa so important to tell?
I think the story of Hardin and Tessa is universal and important. It’s about young love, and how complicated that can be. There’s never an easy path with young love. It can be messy. It can be complicated. At the end of the day, it’s worth opening your heart up to explore that love.
This book has such a huge passionate fanbase. What was the biggest challenge in adopting a book that has that already?
I’ve never seen a book with such a loyal and passionate fan base. It was incredible. There’s a lot of responsibility as a director, to make sure that your fan base is happy and also bring new fans in on this story. I wanted to make sure that we kept all the key scenes, and that those really came to be part of the movie. And I also wanted to create some new scenes that would be fun for everybody to see and get behind.
Speaking of those changes, how did you choose which scenes stayed and which scenes went and how did you decide on those that you created for the movie?
There were scenes in the book that were so iconic it felt that there was no way not to put them in the movie. Such as the lake scene, and when Tessa first meets Hardin in her dorm room. And then we wanted to build up the love story even more, so scenes like the library and the montage scenes really go to exploring their relationship.
Consent was something that was laden throughout all of Hardin and Tessa‘s relationship. How important was that for you to show?
Consent was very important for me to show as a director. This is a story about a young couple. It’s about sexual awakening. Consent seemed essential to this movie. I think we did it in a very authentic and real way. I feel responsible to the young audience coming to see this movie that we are addressing consent.
You had Anna on set. What was that like to have her available to bounce ideas off?
That was great. She was there all the time. There is nobody who knows the characters better than she does. There were things that we change from the book to the movie, and it was always great to have her there to bounce ideas off of and explore new ways to tell the story.
What do you hope the fans take away from this film?
I hope that the fans see it as a coming of age story and a sexual awakening and first love story. I hope they see some of themselves in it. Whether it’s in Hardin or Tessa or Steph or Molly or Tristan or Landon, or any of the characters. It’s a wonderful cast, and it feels very authentic and true to the time.
And speaking of the cast, what was it like working with all them?
The casting in this movie was so important to me. We were lucky to have an incredible casting director. I was also lucky enough to have a week with Hero and Josephine before we started filming. We got to really explore the characters, and get to know each other.
My sons loved playing Fortnite with Hero when he would come over on Sunday to do laundry. We became like a family.
I cast Khadijha Red Thunder from a photo shoot that I had been doing right around the time I had been sent the script. I felt lucky enough to be the first director that she worked with.
Is there one scene in particular that you are most excited for fans to see?
I think my favorite scene is a favorite scene of Josephine and Hero’s. It’s the lake. To me the performances, the cinematography, the tone of that scene is very dear to my heart, and I loved it in the book as well.
After is playing in theaters now.