Rachel Winter Talks “The Space Between,” a Coming-of-Age Dramedy and Love Letter to Music

Rachel Winter is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker and producer who is making her feature directorial debut with “The Space Between.” She received an Oscar nomination for producing “Dallas Buyers Club.” Her previous film credits include the films “Brooklyn Rules,” “Wayward Son,” “Bury Me in Kern County,” and “The Lather Effect.” Winter has several projects in development including an untitled LeBron James biopic for Universal, which she will produce with James and Maverick Carter, and a feature based on the life of daredevil motorcycle icon Evel Knievel at Paramount.

“The Space Between” is now available on VOD.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

RW: “The Space Between” is a coming-of-age dramedy about a young man and an old boy who change each other’s lives right when both need it most. It is a love letter to music, the ’90s, and the end of life without technology as we knew it.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

RW: As is true with everything written by Will Aldis — oh, and Terrence Winter — I was drawn to the writing. I was drawn to the celebration of music, love, and even loss. I came into my own in the ’90s and I find it to be a decade that gets short shrift, fairly or not.

I think people gravitate to eras wherein they made big moves in life. The ’90s music biz and world was hugely transitional with all genres and styles crashing together and learning to live side by side for the first time in popular music history.

These convergent crossroads felt like life — not being a kid anymore, but still young enough to make big strides and/or fuck ups.

W&H: What do you want people to think about after they watch the film?

RW: I kind of just want people to feel. I know that sounds corny. I want people to feel good — to smile, maybe with a sense of nostalgia, maybe with a sense of sweetness about a favorite song, kiss, or some movie moments in their own lives. We are all the stars in the movie versions of our lives!

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

RW: Oh, I bet this answer is no surprise! Money! However, the cycles of the movie business are changing and depending on where we are when, money isn’t always the biggest issue, even in indie films. Sometimes we the people in the biz itself are our own worst enemy. We make big declarations that we are “only looking for this” or we “need a movie star in a one million dollar movie” or “if you can get David Fincher we will make it.” Nowadays of course it’s more like, “Hire that actor. They have three billion followers.”

It took 17 years to get this movie made, so I’m pretty sure we hit every part of the cycle!

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

RW: We made the film with good, old-fashioned private financing from folks who just loved the script. Steve Samuels and Milan Popelka get all the credit for pulling together the money/wonderful financing syndicate.

I’m so grateful that we were able to make the movie with equity — film finance is always complicated no matter what, but it’s always a bit easier when there isn’t a complex banking deal or foreign sales agreements up front with smaller films.

W&H: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

RW: Originally I didn’t think of myself as a filmmaker — I thought of myself as each of the different jobs I had in the business: PA, 2nd AD, producer’s assistant, development exec, VP Production, producer, writer, director. I definitely wrangled cable in there somewhere too.

Over time I have come to realize that we are all filmmakers, no matter the job we do. We are helping to make film, shoot footage — movie magic doesn’t happen without the whole crazy lot of us.

I do think I always wanted to be a storyteller, even when I was a young Valley Girl and my actual stories probably had a million of the word “like” in them! My poetry, drawn pictures, photography, and all of my design choices were and are little stories I wanted and want to convey.

W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?

RW: The best advice came from my first mentor and phenomenal line producer Steve Nicolaides. He said, “A producer should be the first to get there and the last to leave — you are the cheerleader of the film.” I took that and ran with that for everything else, especially directing. If you are cranky, difficult leader, why should all these other talented people show up and give their all?

The worst advice I got? “Have a back up plan.”

W&H: What advice do you have for other women directors?

RW: I say to everyone, as lame as it sounds, “Follow your dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Chances are you might be the only one standing in your way.”

It’s true what William Goldman said: “No one knows anything.” But that isn’t the same thing as “You can’t do that.”

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

RW: Amy Heckerling’s “Clueless.” For any director, it’s a feat when a film is beloved like that and instantly becomes part of the culture, takes its place in movie history, and gets shared from generation to generation. It’s timeless entertainment.

W&H: How are you adjusting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic? Are you keeping creative, and if so, how?

RW: COVID has been a blessing and a curse for me and my family, like so many others. We stayed healthy, we spent time together — maybe too much time — and stayed busy with work.

It’s been a great time to develop, and just figuring out how to change up my answers to “How are you?” required wild creativity!

W&H: The film industry has a long history of underrepresenting people of color onscreen and behind the scenes and reinforcing — and creating — negative stereotypes. What actions do you think need to be taken to make Hollywood and/or the doc world more inclusive?

RW: This is such a great question. We are at an exciting and critical point with progress being made! I’m thrilled for those finally getting their long overdue [shots]! However, I worry about the younger generation of female filmmakers and filmmakers of color and how our actions now will affect them.

When I was getting ready to shoot “The Space Between” I had lunch with a DP pal who was telling me about the film he was shooting. A first-time female director was given a pretty big budget and it sounded like the producers did not have her back. It sounded like her gender was maybe filling a quota or checking off on someone’s list so they could say, “Hey, I hired a woman, and it was a disaster!”

I’m in meetings about television projects and I hear execs say, “We really need a female showrunner of color.” Um, okay. Great! And exactly how many are there that have been groomed and trained for that almost impossible-to-do-well job?!

How about we start developing programs and more opportunities for women and women of color to learn, create, and grow into those jobs so they aren’t set up to fail?

Our business is notorious for waving its cowboy hat as it flies off on a rocket/pendulum swing. Hopefully the strides being made now will create some systemic change because pendulums always swings back before finding a center. What then? What happens to these amazing folks who were given shots they weren’t ready for? I’m a big advocate of mentorships and promoting from within.

I believe there are a lot of incredible people and businesses in the industry who are working to have diverse pools of young people in positions to learn earlier in their careers, so that the natural progression can occur — so that women and people of color can build the foundations needed to get the jobs they want and deserve and have been trained to succeed in those jobs!

I’m sure this is all pretty obvious stuff, but that’s what I’m hoping and that it will continue to become a permanent part of the landscape of our business.

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