Earlier this week, up-and-coming filmmaker Augustine Frizzell celebrated the world premiere of her debut feature, Never Goin’ Back, which played as part of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival’s Midnighter programming slate. The rebellious stoner comedy follows two teenage dropouts (played by Camila Morrone and Maia Mitchell), who just want to take a vacation to the beach where they can eat donuts and relax, but their chaotic lifestyles keep getting in the way of their plans, resulting in hijinks and hilarity.
While in Park City, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with Frizzell about how her own life growing up in Texas helped inspire Never Goin’ Back, finding both Morrone and Mitchell to portray the film’s charismatic leads, exploring the not-often-seen aspects of female characters throughout her narrative, and how Saturday Night Live’s Kyle Mooney came aboard the project as well.
Congratulations on the film, Augustine. It’s a lot of fun. I'd love to hear what the process was for Never Goin’ Back, in terms of telling this story through these two girls who just want to go to the beach and eat donuts, and life just will not cut them a break at all.
Augustine Frizzell: Well, it's based on my real life, so these girls are directly taken from myself and my best friend, although neither girl directly represents either of us. It's a mixture of our personalities. I had a rough childhood, a rough teen life, but my friendship with the girl at the time was a saving grace in my life, and when things are tough and you lack family support, having a best friend like that gets you through.
Then I started with just some of these crazy things that happened to us, and so I was like, "That would be an interesting movie." The more I started delving into it, it was so therapeutic to look back on it, and see that that friendship was what got me through that. That's why I'm here and I'm not on drugs, on the street somewhere, because it easily could've ended up that way. I was starting to write it and work on these characters, and it just became about that I've never seen a friendship like this between two females represented on screen where there is no big falling out. They don't get mad at each other, and then separate and then come back, because we never did that. We have each other's back every time, and things were tough but we were there for each other. So, that was it.
Also, I wanted it to be fun. I wanted to focus on the good times, and I wanted the characters to be imperfect, and that it was okay and it didn't mean that we were going to have high drama, or this parent-child conflict, or preaching about how bad drugs are and they ruin your life, either. These movies generally exist for kids in the suburbs with money, who are on their path to college. They don't exist for kids who come from no money and bad parents. You never see a comedy about that. And I thought we needed it. We deserve that.
No, we do. I grew up in a trailer park, and very rarely did I see stories similar to mine being told in movies. Plus, I feel like you can only see so many stories about affluent kids getting into trouble.
Augustine Frizzell: Yes, exactly. Exactly. And I love those regular movies, because that's what we watched, but I wanted to see us. You’re absolutely right.
Let’s talk about Maia and Camila, who become the anchors to this story. If they didn't work as well as they did in this, the movie wouldn't have worked as well as it does. Can you talk about finding them and having them build that camaraderie? They’re excellent together.
Augustine Frizzell: Yeah, I think so, too. It was the number-one goal. We were not even going to make the movie if we didn't find the right girls. We would just postpone. We were lucky that none of our financing was dependent on cast, so we already had a very low budget, financing in place, and that gave me the freedom to cast anybody that I wanted, from a no-name to someone who's well-known. We just did a casting search through agents, and I met with a ton of actresses via Skype. Then I took video auditions. Most of them I had audition for both roles, including Maia Mitchell, who just nailed both roles. She was so good. I still remember where I was when I got her videos and was like, "Holy crap, she's so good. I could just cast her in both roles if we're out of luck [laughs]."
So, I saw hers and then slowly, we started getting some more, and then we ended up picking some favorites. I went to LA, because I live in Dallas, and did chemistry reads. So, she read with a few girls, and then Cami came in and the two of them read together, and it was just like sparks in the room. We could just feel it. It was like you could touch it. It was so clear that they were just amazing together. So, that was it.
We did rehearse, though. They came to town early, and they did pretty extensive rehearsals together. Every scene, we talked over the dynamic, and went through specific things to make sure that they felt as close as they could be as best friends.
One thing I also really enjoyed about this movie is nothing was off-limits. Usually, when you're seeing stories about women, there are certain things that people just don't do, but you go there. There are always these certain expectations of female characters, and you just throw that right out of the window. I loved that.
Augustine Frizzell: Thank you. I just basically made the movie and used things that I wanted to see. I love movies. I watch movies constantly. And I wanted to see the types of girls that I knew, the kind of girl that I was, too. We cussed, we were embarrassed to use the bathroom, we would sneak off to the nearby Whataburger if too many people were at our house to use the bathroom because we didn't want to go. It was too embarrassing. Yeah, we did drugs, we were dirty, it was hot in Texas. You're always sweaty, your makeup's always runny. You always feel nasty and greasy. So, that was just something I wanted to see. I just wanted to be represented, and I wanted other people who've had that experience to be represented and see themselves.
Before we go, I’d love to hear how you ended up pitching this to Kyle Mooney. I really liked him in this.
Augustine Frizzell: You know, we searched so long and hard for Brandon, and it was a really tough character to cast. I'd seen tons of guys, and wasn't finding the perfect person. Casting, to me, is such a big deal. 90% of my job is finding the right cast, and then I don't have to do much. Once they're there, you still have to direct them and lead them, but for the most part that's the majority of the job, so if a person's not right it's just not going to work. I'm really anal about that. We'd seen so many guys—great actors, but no one who was fitting the role the way I wanted them to.
My daughter, she plays Crystal in the movie, was like, "Oh, you know who would be really good, is Kyle Mooney." And I was just like, "You're right. He'd be so good. He's perfect for the role. I wouldn't even need to see him audition. I would just offer him the role." I got on IMDb and I was like, "Who's his manager?" And found that he shared a manager with a good friend of mine. I wrote my friend, asked him to introduce me to the manager and he said "yes." I wrote an email, and I just sent the script and the next week he wrote back, and he was like, "Okay, I'm sending it to Kyle. I'll let you know." I just tried to move it to the back of my head, because the chances of Kyle saying "yes" were so slim.
But then his manager wrote me back, and he's like, "Kyle does want to do it." I was like, "Ahh!" I literally cried. I sat there and cried, I was so happy. I feel very lucky to have had him in this.
In case you missed it, check here to catch up on our other live coverage of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival!