The film is based on Stephen Elliott’s memoir of the same name. It is the opening-night film of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14.
“These stories are so important to understanding ourselves,” she says. “I find that fascinating. I studied psych in college and as a filmmaker, one of my interests is how memory affects us.”
The film follows Elliott, played by James Franco, who is a writer stymied by past success, writer’s block, substance abuse, relationship problems and a serious set of father issues.
Elliott chronicles a bizarre 2007 murder trial of programmer Hans Reiser, accused of murdering his wife. The defendant’s friend Sean Sturgeon obliquely confessed to several murders (though not the murder of Reiser’s wife). Elliott, caught up in the film-ready twist and his tenuous connection to Sturgeon, makes a gonzo record of the proceedings.
The film also stars Amber Heard, Wilmer Valderrama, Christian Slater, Cynthia Nixon and Ed Harris.
Romanowsky met Franco while she was in a master’s degree film program in New York. The pair hit it off and Franco had already optioned the book for film.
“He asked me if I was interested in adapting it,” she says. “I thought it was something up my alley and was so flattered that he thought of me to do this film. We worked together in a short film that I directed in grad school.”
As the adaptation came to fruition, Romanowsky began to think of casting the film. One member of the cast who stuck out in her head was Harris, playing Elliott’s father, Neil.
“I wrote the part with him in mind being cast,” she says. “Then I met him at the Sundance Director’s Lab and was floored to see him in person. He was the mentor for the lab. He eventually was cast in the film and then everything began falling into place.”
Also starring in the film is Jim Parrack, who is one of Franco’s oldest friends. Romanowsky says seeing the pair work together was amazing because they have a great bond.
“When they came on set, it was magic,” she says. “The magic continued the entire time with the entire cast.”
In adapting the book, Romanowsky says it was clear it couldn’t be super literal.
“The book is written in an inter-monologue diary kind of way,” she says. “That doesn’t translate to the screen very well.”
The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and it has been traveling the film festival circuit.
Romanowsky is pleased the film will be opening the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival.
“The festival is one of those that filmmakers need to watch,” she says. “It’s grown into a great avenue for independent film.”