Director Mimi Cave on Fresh: "It scared the sh*t out of me!" - SciFiNow

Director Mimi Cave on Fresh: “It scared the sh*t out of me!”

We can’t really tell you much about new horror movie Fresh because we don’t want to give anything away, but we did speak to its director Mimi Cave about taking on an incredible script…

Dating can be a pretty precarious business at times but in Fresh, Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is starting to get really frustrated with the dating apps she’s using. So when she meets Steve (Sebastian Stan) the old-fashioned way (well… at a grocery store), she decides to take the chance and give him her number. She’s smitten after the first date and soon decides to accept his invitation on a romantic weekend away, which doesn’t quite turn out the way she expected.

To say any more about new movie Fresh would be doing it a disservice (seriously, this is one that has to be seen to be believed) so we decided to speak to the movie’s director, Mimi Cave (pictured above with stars Daisy Edgar-Jone and Sebastian Stan), about its bold script and directing the movie during Covid…

How would you describe Fresh?

Gosh, isn’t it funny how the easiest questions are the hardest to answer? This film is so many things. We are not trying to give things away and we do want people to go in a bit blind. That is why we’ve described it as a story about the perils of modern dating.

But it’s so much more than that. I think that there’s a lot to get out of the story for a lot of different types of people. This is the craziest film. It’s bold, it’s wonderful and it goes in so many directions. Honestly, it’s just a wild ride.

When did you first hear about the script for Fresh?

The script found its way to me and I felt like it was too bold of a script to not at least try to pitch on. So I pitched on it as a director at the end of 2019. I felt connected immediately to Lauryn [Kahn – executive producer], Kevin Messick [producer] and Maeve Cullinane [co-producer]. We really vibed, if you will. I think whatever I had presented in that room (which I’m sure I probably just blacked out), spoke to them and I think it was what they were looking for. It was a very serendipitous thing.

What was it about the script that really spoke to you?

It scared the shit out of me! I sat there and was like ‘okay, I’m going to give my version of this in the room, but in the off chance that I actually get hired to do this film…can I do it? Can I stand up to the plate? Can I strike the right tone?’

I knew what I wanted the film to be and I knew what I didn’t want it to be. I knew that that was going to be a difficult line to toe. So that’s where it stood for me. I felt like it just wouldn’t like let me go. I just kept thinking about it and it kept churning in my head.

What stood out to you about the characters of Steve and Noa?

Steve is a really complex character and villain to try to tackle and I knew that we needed the right person to do it. I knew that we needed to hone in on who he was. I was excited and challenged by his character.

Then Noa… I just felt like she was me, to be honest! There were so many relatable factors. I felt like I related to Noa’s character so much and a lot of the truths in her life were the truths in mine. So I felt like I had a good handle on who she was.

Mimi Cave (far right) saw herself in Noa (centre, played by Daisy Edgar-Jones) and felt challenged by Steve (left, played by Sebastian Stan).

What was the casting process like?

We were in a pandemic, so everything was Zoom, and everything was on the edge of not happening all the time! It was a miracle that we were able to make the movie! So it’s hard to imagine what I would have been thinking about in a normal sense. I think all of us had a different lens on, with the pandemic happening.

But that said, I knew that whoever was signing on to the project needed to be really committed, and have no fear of jumping into the wildness of the story. And that’s exactly who we found. I think Daisy [Edgar-Jones], Sebastian [Stan] and Jojo [T. Gibbs who plays Mollie], and honestly, all of the characters, they all read it, wanted it and had a take. They were really passionate about making this movie.

In a lot of ways, if there were any other people who were like, ‘yeah, maybe I want to do this’ I was like, ‘that’s not the right fit’. You got to really want to dive in with me, otherwise, I don’t think it would have come across as genuine.

How challenging was Fresh to film during Covid?

It was a huge challenge because I’m a very expressive, animated, gestural person and director. Which I don’t even know if I realised until not having the ability to show my face. So I was like, gosh, I guess I really better work on my communication skills because I’m going to have to articulate what I want!

I really had to articulate with my words and stay safe and allow [the actors] to have the freedom to get into the roles. That’s tough when you’re taking masks on and off and putting on shields. It really does take you out of the moment a bit. So we were doing everything in our power to stay in the moment but to be safe at the same time.

Did much change from your initial vision of the movie while you were shooting?

What’s so beautiful about filmmaking is it’s constantly changing up to and through shooting, and then even in editing. It’s almost like a snowball of sparkles! You’re just getting to add all of these amazing, talented people into the mix of your vision and the hope is that they only make it better and better. I just really lucked out in terms of the people that came aboard.

Shooting Fresh was like a ‘snowball of sparkles’ to director Mimi Cave.

Fresh is a mixture of comedy and extreme horror, how did you go about balancing the tone of the movie?

It was a constant. Every moment of every day of prep and shoot and post, I was asking myself that same question. I was always asking myself, whichever choice I’m making or decision I’m making, does it serve the script? Does it serve the story? Does it serve the characters? Is the tone correct?

In this tone, we have this range that we’re playing with where we’re pushing into the ridiculous. It has a sort of over-the-top nature of certain scenes. But then we’re having to scale it back, and then we’re having to bring in a laugh and then we’re having to have a gasp. So it was in a lot of ways it’s very theatrical in pacing and in intonation. I was constantly trying to balance those things.

This is your first feature film. Were there any elements to the filmmaking process that surprised you when directing Fresh?

There were! The whole way through when you’re doing something you’re just like ‘are we going to be shut down tomorrow?’ There are no guarantees. So when we made this movie, we all were in that mindset of like ‘fuck it!’ [laughs]. Let’s just do this and let’s all dive into this world.

For me, it was a dream come true. I’ve been wanting to do a feature for a long time and so to be able to do one that has this much style and this many conversation pieces, it’s such a dream. And to be able to work with all the people that I got to work with… I just had so much fun making it and that’s the thing that I’ll always take away.

Noa is getting frustrated with dating apps when she meets Steve in a grocery store.

Music and dance also feature in the movie, was that always your intention given your background in music videos?

I’ll always be seeking out movement and music as an inspiration piece or something that can communicate a lot without dialogue. I’m always looking for moments in scripts that I can bring that in. I think it’s just the way my brain works!

There was some music written into the script and that gave me a sense of freedom in terms of really having fun with this. The same with the dance. There were a couple of little movements in the script too and I added in more. I think as director reading someone else’s script, you’re taking on the things that interest you in a lot of ways and so for me, those things are huge interests for me, and I felt like it could help the visual storytelling of the film.

What do you want for audiences to take away from the movie?

Honestly, the joy that I get from making this stuff, the reason I make things is just to try to get people to feel anything. Because I just think we’re so complacent. We’re behind our phones and screens, and I’m the same way. Myself and I’m sure many other people are always craving a feeling and that’s what’s so cool about cinema. It’s a healthy way to feel things. It can be so cathartic and you can have fun and you can cry and you can laugh and really experience a range of things and even maybe feel something that gets you thinking about things in your life.

So I think, ultimately, I just want people to feel things in their gut. I want people to remember what they saw and think about it for a couple of days after…

Fresh will stream exclusively on Disney+ under the Star banner in the UK & Ireland on 18 March