17 year old Maddie wishes someone would pay attention to her, when J.J. appears, she gets what she thought she wanted.

‘Maddie’ is a film that walks a thin line between teenage desire and discomforting abusive behaviour. Brilliantly directed by Zane Rubin (Inland Empire), the story takes on a subtle angle from an innocent teenager’s perspective longing for attention. Maddie (Addison Riecke) incidentally gets that attention when she meets J.J. (Larson Rainier), while her curiosity wins over despite their age difference, things become increasingly uncomfortable for the young girl. We caught up with Zane who told us more on her process and film.

How did you go about casting ‘Maddie’?

Casting is one of my favorite parts of the process and it’s so important. In this film it was particularly important though because Maddie isn’t just a character in the film; she IS the film. I have a huge pet peeve about older actors playing teenagers, so it was extremely necessary for me to find a girl between 16-19 to play this role. A friend of mine had directed Addison Riecke in a short a few years before and said she was wonderful, so I immediately reached out and offered her the role. Unfortunately, she was not comfortable with the material (she was only 16). So I began looking everywhere for someone else but I really couldn’t find anyone who was right. Then a year into COVID when the project had basically been shelved, I got an email from Addison saying that she had changed her mind and she would love to play Maddie. That’s what brought it back to life.

Can you tell me a little bit about ‘Maddie’, how did this film come about?

In all honesty, my partner and I, Chris Levitus, wrote a feature called Nurture about sexual assault and I really want to make this film. But with my comedy background, people are bound to question whether I can handle more dramatic material. Both Nurture and Maddie are my attempts to tell an honest story about what it’s like to be female.

As a writer/director are you open to changes or suggestions when you start shooting or do you like to stick to what has been written?

OF COURSE. I am weary of anyone who isn’t. For me, during every step of the process it is necessary to throw out everything you cared about the step before. Director me no longer gives a shit about writer me’s precious lines and post production me couldn’t care less about all the time director me put into whatever shot or idea. I wasn’t always like this, but the more I make things, the more I realize how important it is to respect the process as something that is constantly evolving. All I want is to make the film as good as it could be; if that means changing things then fine.

What was the most challenging scene for you to film?

I think the expected answer is the bedroom scene but in all honesty the park scene was. It was just sort of a production nightmare. There was a party going on at the park 5 feet behind the location we had permitted. So when we got there we had to re-scout and move to the other end of the park. We ended up having to cut 5 shots from the shotlist and we ran so behind, they kicked us out before we finished the next scene. (Luckily we were able to steal it the next day).

In the last frames before the credits, the camera seems to just topple over – what was the intention there – if kept in purposely?

It was kept on purpose! Chris Levitus, who also edits all my stuff, put it in and we started to really like it. It made the whole thing feel more real and intimate, almost like saying what you just watched could have been a documentary.

What do you hope people will take away from ‘Maddie’?

There was a guy who commented on the short about how he used to be these guys and now he feared them because he had a daughter. If this short can get men to the realization that this behavior is bad sooner rather than later, than I think it’s an accomplishment.

What are your favorite short films?

Graham Parkes shorts are absolutely wonderful, both The Voice in Your Head and Where You Are. Squirrel is a fun short, so is A Reasonable Request (on FS), and Rachel by Andrew Deyoung.

Which films can you say directly inspired this film?

I probably took the most from Eighth Grade. That movie is just so honest and Elsie Fischer completely embodies that character. The other one was It Felt Like Love, which very much inspired the directorial approach– handheld, back of the head shots. The feeling of really being with your protagonist and experiencing what they do. I wanted this film to put you in the shoes of a teenage girl as much as possible so you can feel her vulnerability and her fear. Being a teenage girl is a very scary thing.