The cinematic equivalent of the popular improv exercise “Yes, and…,” Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe’s feature directorial debut, Greener Grass, opens on an extreme instance of absurdity and gobsmackingly builds from there. In picturesque suburbia, competition runs thick amongst cutthroat nuclear families, neighborhood pool parties are all the rage and mom and dad travel to and from soccer practice via the tacky family golf cart.
Co-starring the film’s directors as housewives who develop a grating rivalry, the film opens with Jill (DeBoer) giving up custody of her baby daughter to Lisa (Luebbe). Why does Jill do this? Because Lisa expresses interest in the child, and who is Jill to get in the way? After all, Jill has another kid, a son named Julian, who’s perfectly normal before he falls in a pool and comes out a fully-formed golden retriever. Jill’s husband (SNL cast member Beck Bennett) is obsessed with drinking pool water, there’s a local serial killer on the loose and, midway through the film, Lisa gives birth to a baby soccer ball: Greener Grass continuously strips away logic, but due to the filmmakers’ skill behind, and in front of, the camera, you simultaneously nod your head in agreement while shaking it in bewilderment.
I recently spoke with DeBoer and Luebbe about the project’s multi-platform origins, finding the right location for an exacting slice of Americana and how they jumped into production with a specific deadline in mind…
Filmmaker: Were you working on a closed set? The film feels like a slice of suburbia that looks equally authentic and superficial. I imagine it was a marriage of expert location scouting and production design?
Luebbe: The production company that Natalie works with, Vanishing Angle, was planning to shoot another feature at the same time in Georgia, so she floated the idea of our film shooting there as well (we could bundle the projects and qualify for the tax credit from the Georgia Film Office). It was important to us that our movie look like “Anywhere U.S.A” and we didn’t want to shoot in LA and have palm trees sticking out everywhere. But while looking at different cities and towns in Georgia (Savannah and Augusta specifically), none felt right. They felt so Southern! It got to the point where we didn’t think we would be able to shoot in Georgia, but before giving up, we asked Natalie where specifically her other feature was shooting. As it turns out, that project was shooting in an area called Peachtree City.
We went to the official Peachtree City website, where it describes the city as the “golf cart capital of the world” and features photos of people on golf carts driving past beautiful trees and around lush lakes and gardens, and knew then that it would be the perfect location for our film. [laughs]
DeBoer: That’s the authentic Peachtree City! You get the aligned pastel houses and everything. When we shot the scenes on the soccer field, for example, even our extras were wearing the perfect clothes. It wasn’t a closed set, no, but the city and its homes were perfect.
Luebbe: We also have to credit our production designer, Leigh Poindexter, who made a number of choices I’m unsure you’d notice on a first viewing. She placed artificial flowers throughout the bushes and trees, further emphasizing the artificial element of this perfectly structured outdoor world. We wanted that aura of artificiality placed atop the “perfect look” of Peachtree City.
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