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Waitress - Michael Roiff interview


Compiled by Jack Foley

WAITRESS producer Michael Roiff talks about Adrienne Shelly, the film’s writer, director and co-star, and what it means to have lost her talent in the wake of her murder last year.

Q: Waitress has become Adrienne Shelly’s legacy, what can you say about her as a filmmaker?
A: Adrienne was exceptional in a lot of different ways and she had a very strong and specific vision at all times. She knew exactly what she wanted in this film, every single frame has her stamp of approval on it. But what she was able to do, which was striking to me and all of us, was also be delightful as a person.

Often you find that when people have a really strong vision, they’re not easy to get along with. Adrienne was so loving and caring and nice, she made everyone feel welcome. She was collaborative and yet was still able to do exactly what she wanted. That was great. Obviously, everything that has happened is so hard on a lot of different levels. Personally, I miss her as a friend. We met when I read her script and fell in love with it and then it was a two-year journey making the film. We finished it over the summer and had a few months before it was showing at the Sundance Film Festival, so we had months and months talking on the phone. We’d say: “I wonder what they think at Sundance?”

Q: How much was this Adrienne’s project?
A: The script was her baby. She felt very strongly about it. I went back and read the script and it’s mind boggling that everything on that script is on the screen – there is no deviation, which is really amazing. But she also did welcome the opinions of everyone else. When she took the role of Dawn, she was very open to working with me about developing that role. She had a wonderful collaborative process with our cinematographer and production designer. Every step of the way she wanted to get the best out of everybody.

Q: Did she have any idea that it was going to be such an extraordinary film?
A: By the time we finished the film, we knew it was what we wanted and we were very proud of it and we hoped it would be what audiences wanted to see too. But there was no way to really know, we had no idea really. We had heard that people liked it at Sundance; we certainly had no idea that it would get the response that it has received. I do think that she would be thrilled and that somewhere she has got her hand in the mix right now and knows what is happening.

Q: As producer, how involved were you?
A: It was a small team so I was very involved. Adrienne and I worked hand in hand the whole time. She was acting for a portion of the film so I had a big role.

Q: When you attended the premiere it must have been so sad not to have her with you all?
A: That was a strange day, not to have her standing outside in the snow with me at Sundance. We premiered for 1,300 people, which was awesome – there’s no other way to describe it. It was actually awe inspiring. People were laughing at things that I don’t think we even realized would be funny and I found myself looking up a lot saying: “Alright Adrienne you got that one!” She would have been absolutely ecstatic at the response that we got. It was so much fun.

When you make a film like this, you sit on it for a little while and you do not want anyone to see it. You want it to premiere in the right setting. So it was strange for us to show it to the world without her. That was the part that she was waiting for and that she never got a chance to participate in at all. We had most of the cast there, there was a great support team and I think we were all going through a similar process of grieving and being excited for the film, but not having her to share that excitement was definitely difficult.

Q: Can you say anything about the Foundation that has been set up in her name?
A: It has been set up by Adrienne’s husband, Andrew Ostroy, and many friends. I think he’s fairly amazing considering what has happened. He has been a real rock for all of us and, of course, his daughter and the rest of the family. It’s wonderful that he has set up this foundation because it’s exactly the kind of thing that Adrienne would want to see. It supports women in film and that was something that was really important to her. She would love more women to have the opportunity to work in films.

b>Read our review of Waitress