Megan Griffiths

Megan Griffiths

Eden is a film to watch out for this week as Megan Griffiths returns to the director’s chair to bring this hard-hitting story to the big screen.

The movie tackles the issue of human trafficking and sees actress Jamie Chung give a very powerful performance.

We caught up wit director Griffiths to chat about the film, the casting process and the movie has been received so far.

- Eden is set to hit the big screen in the UK later this month so can you tell me a little bit about the film?

It is based on a true story of Chong Kim. The film is about Jung Jae, a Korean/American teenage that is abducted and held inside a storage facility turned brothel outside of Las Vegas for over two years.

She is forced to adapt to her surrounding and ingratiate herself to her captors, in order to escape.

- So where did the project start for you? And what made you want to tackle this story?

I worked with Colin Plank, Eden's producer, on my previous film The Off Hours; we took that film and premiered it at Sundance in 2011. Right after that Colin approached me about directing Eden - he had been developing for a couple of years.

It was written Colin's good friend Rich Phillips, who collaborated with Chong on the screenplay. When I read the script I couldn't believe the story and that Chong was involved in the writing of it.

I came on board and did and did a pass of the script before signing on as director.

I didn't seek it out and I wasn't looking for a film about trafficking but the story spoke to me and the character felt like someone I would be able to do justice to on screen.

- You also had a hand in penning the screenplay so what sort of changes and alterations did you make to the original script? And what sort of research did you do into human trafficking in America?

The screenplay was originally written in a way that would have entailed a much larger budget. So one of the things that I did was streamline it and make it something that we could accomplish with the money that we had.

One of my strengths is character development and I really dug into the Eden character and the relationship between Eden and her captor Vaughan.

Chong had written a then unpublished memoir which was a long word document that had a lot more detail about her experiences. So I read that and talked to Chong to get some clarity on the physical and emotional realities of being in that situation.

I then read as many articles as I could find on domestic trafficking and watched a lot of documentaries and survivor's stories. I also watched every trafficking movie that had been made just to get an idea of what had been done.

The interesting thing about that was that there was a very strong through line of law enforcement where they would sweep in and save everyone. I am really glad that we didn't have that and it was a film that was more about what the girls had to do to save themselves.

- Jamie Chung, Beau Bridges and Matt O'Leary are just some of the names on the cast list so can you talk a bit about the casting process and what you were looking for in these central characters?

When we started the casting process I knew that getting someone to play Eden was going to be the toughest and most important thing; she really carries the movie and the character doesn't speak all that much for a lead cha

Chong Kim is Korean/American and wanted to reflect that in the movie. We auditioned a lot of different ethnicities Asian/American actresses because we didn't want to limit our search.

Jamie Chung's name came up pretty early because she is one of the more high profile Korean/American actresses working in Hollywood. She wasn't going to be in LA when we were auditioning people and so she flew herself to Seattle where we were doing out prep and auditioned for us on a day off from another movie.

She really chased the role because she felt that it was the right fit for her - she came and really proved that to us as her audition was incredible.

We went to LA and auditioned a lot of other people but no one could quite measure up to what she had done. Once we had seen everyone that decision was pretty easy to make.

Matt O'Leary actually replaced someone who had dropped out only a few weeks before the movie started shooting. I was so grateful to sign him as we had auditioned a lot of people that I didn't think quite captured the volatility and unpredictability of that character.

But then Matt came in and owned that. He was a last minute find but he really did flesh that character out so beautifully.

We thought of Beau Bridges because we thought that his amiability and his natural ability would be really effective for the character of Bob Gault.

You are set up to think that he might be that law enforcement saviour but that is totally undermined in the movie. He really embraced that and like the opportunity to play different things.

- This role is unlike anything that Jamie Chung has done before so did you realise that you were getting a very special performance from her while you were filming - it is a great performance?

Thank you, I agree. I really did. We shot the last scene of the film in the phone booth on the third or fourth day of the shoot and I think that that was when I realised... I knew that she would be able to handle it from her audition as she really understood the role and had done her research.

When we had a conversation on the phone with Chong, Jamie had prepared this long list of questions that were from the emotional to the very practical; such as 'what does it feel like when you get injected with morphine?' Her questions were just so smart and incisive, that was really impressive to me.

When we started working on set she really did put herself out there and was so vulnerable. She really trusted that we would do right by her and she delivered something that I thought was really great.

When we were shooting that scene in the phone booth that was when I was certain that were going to have something great. I talked to her beforehand and I said 'I am not going to say cut.

I am just going to keep going and going until you feel you are done'. So we rolled on that for several minutes before she called it. We were all just riveted to the monitor just watching her performance.

- How did you find working with your central cast? And how collaborative a process was it as you all developed the characters?

They were all great. Matt and Jamie had worked together before; they had worked together on Sorority Row, so that really helped.

Matt just wears his heart on his sleeve and he left this great cushion for Jamie to fall on to. He was so encouraging to her to try things; he is such an experimenter as an actor that it opened her up. She was bringing such an emotional weight to her role that it really grounded him.

So they really worked well together and I tried to be as much a part of that as possible and guide it.

They both came into this knowing who their characters were. Jamie had really arched out her character in her script because she does go through such a change from first page to last page; it is like she ages ten years through the course of this movie. They were both just an incredible pleasure to work with.

Jamie was impressive to me because she had a lot of these dark and hard scenes to do and she wouldn't ever let her weight her down. She was always a pleasure to have on set and she would just come in and out of it.

Beau was like a total professional. We only had him for three days at the beginning of the shoot and three days at the end so we didn't spend as much tome together. He is just such a pro and he really had a great attitude.

- Eden has been doing well on the festival circuit but how have you found the response to the movie so far?

It has been really gratifying. It is a movie that is tough subject matter and when it premiered at South By Southwest last year I was really not sure how it was going to go.

It can be a dark film at time, but I think that is has a redemptive ending and strong performances people have just embraced it. And the fact that it has been winning audience awards is really amazing because I didn't know if people would be able to wrap their heads around it.

We tried to walk a fine line between creating something that shows the realities of these situations but didn't make such a bleak world that no one could stand it.

We wanted to expose people to the horrors of this world but without them just covering their eyes the whole time or walk out. It does seem like we have struck a good balance because we just seem to be resonating with audiences. It has just been great.

- I was reading that you felt The Off Hours really gave you confidence going in to Eden so I was wondering what boost the 2011 movie gave you as a director?

That film was many many years in the making and I was working in different areas of the crew such as DOP. The Off Hours was my second feature but I hadn't been on set directing for eight years when I made it.

So I was really able to get the feel for it. The fact that that film did well and played at a lot of film festivals and that I had got something that so closely resembled what was in my head for so many years really made me feel like I could tackle Eden.

Eden is such a different movie to The Off Hours - you probably can draw some connections between the two - but really Eden is just a different animal. But I was interested in trying to challenge myself and push myself in news directions.

I had the basis of feeling like I could accomplish that and then I had that drive to do something new. Just getting out there and making something, completing it and have it accomplish what you want it to accomplish is a boost.

- Finally what is next for you?

I am just completing a new film called Lucky Them which is a comedy; so that is another new direction.

It is about a music journalist, played by Toni Collette, who gets an assignment from her editor (Oliver Platt) to track down this musician who has been missing for ten years. But that musician was her ex-boyfriend.

So when she goes out looking for him she has to resolve a lot of issues that she has about being abandoned by this person.

She teams up with an eccentric millionaire friend of hers - played by Thomas Hayden Church - and he really funds the expedition. They have this odd couple energy as they go out on the road together.

Eden is released 19th July.

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