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Trust – David Schwimmer interview

David Schwimmer directs Trust

Interview by Rob Carnevale

DAVID Schwimmer talks about the making of Trust, which he directed and co-wrote, and how he built a bond of trust between himself and his cast, especially Liana Liberato, the 14-year-old girl at the centre of the story.

He also talks about his own involvement with The Rape Treatment Centre and why films like this create a forum to air parents’ concerns about the issues of parenting in the age of technology and the threats posed by the Internet.

Q. The origins of this movie stem from your involvement with The Rape Foundation in Santa Monica. How did you first become involved with that?
David Schwimmer: This amazing woman, the director of The Rape Treatment Centre, Gail Abarbanel, came to the set of Friends one day early on and asked if I’d participate in these public service announcements for television for NBC, called The More You Know. These were short commercials, or educational spots, and she asked me to act in a few of them on rape drugs – GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) and Rohypnol. So, I said “sure”. And that began a friendship with her and I was so inspired by the work this organisation was doing that I thought when she asked me then to join the advisory board I said ‘yeah’. That’s a cause I’d like to learn more about and that I could probably help educate other people.

Q. And how easy subsequently was a film like Trust – which deals with the threat posed by Internet predators and the aftermath of a teenage daughter being groomed and raped – to get made?
David Schwimmer: Not easy at all! [Laughs] It was really, really tough to get made. And that’s why I really have to give all credit to Clive Owen, who… knowing the subject matter, knowing how difficult a film it is to make and release, still signed on. No one was really paid their regular salary. But he signed on because he believed in the subject matter and the relevance of it.

Q. And obviously finding the right girl to play Annie must have been tough? Liana Liberato gives an amazing performance as the 14-year-old at the centre of the story…
David Schwimmer: Liana is a special person and actor and was a real find. She had just turned 14 when we started filming and blew all of us away. Even in her audition, Clive, Catherine [Keener] and I were just: “How are you doing this?” We were filled with jealousy [laughs]. This 14-year-old kid was just blowing us all away. She’s remarkable.

Q. So, how did you go about developing that bond of trust between you, which I imagine is more important than ever when dealing with such sensitive subject matter and some of the content she is asked to be a part of?
David Schwimmer: Well, I think it helped that all of them knew that it was coming from a very personal place. I had developed the script over seven years, I had immersed myself in this material and this world, and they knew it meant a lot to me and that I wanted to get it right. So, that helped.

But then I’m also a very collaborative director, I really listen to my actors and trust them, so we would do a lot of table work, hearing their notes and changing dialogue depending on what the actors were thinking and feeling and I would spend a lot of time before we started shooting off-set, just kind of getting to know Liana and her parents and really trying to befriend them. I wanted her and her parents to know that this was a special project, that it wasn’t just a job but something I needed all of them to really be invested in. We’re still all very good friends.

Q. This is an issue that probably doesn’t get the media attention it deserves. So, is making a film like this part of the way in which it can be combated? By raising awareness?
David Schwimmer: I think sometimes entertainment – a good film, an emotional drama – can be the best way into someone’s heart. Rather than another news piece or a documentary, I think entertainment… in a film you really get to know someone. Especially with a 14-year-old girl who is going through this, you really enter her world and get to know her and really empathise with who she is and what she’s going through. I sometimes think that that’s the best way to educate but also illuminate people about a certain idea or issue – to move them and get them to care about the people going through it.

Q. So, what’s the response to this film that you’ve found the most gratifying so far?
David Schwimmer: It’s been an amazing response, especially the Q&As that I’ve been doing after screenings with people. The last a long time and there are a lot of questions that come out of the Q&As. Something that I really suspected but had confirmed by all these Q&As was that people are dying to talk about this issue and also just in general about parenting in the age of technology. People are hungry for a forum and this film provides a great forum I think.

Read our review of Trust