[Interview] Mimi Cave for FRESH
Courtesy Searchlight Pictures and Hulu
With her first directorial feature film, FRESH, director Mimi Cave dives into the horrors of modern dating. In FRESH, Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) meets the alluring Steve (Sebastian Stan) at a grocery store and – given her frustration with dating apps – takes a chance and gives him her number. After their first date, Noa is smitten and accepts Steve’s invitation to a romantic weekend getaway. Only to find that her new paramour has been hiding some unusual appetites.

Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew chatted with Mimi Cave where they discussed everything from how the story pulled her in to conceptualizing the memorable house we see in the film and wrapping with what the hardest scene to shoot was.

Hi Mimi! Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. This is one hell of a movie, so what made you decide this was the movie you wanted as your directorial feature debut?

Mimi Cave: It was something that I couldn’t stop thinking about. I think that when you are exposed to different materials, you’re always looking for that thing that grabs you even if it scares you. That’s the basic answer to that. It just really was something I couldn’t get out of my head.

When it came to the script, were there a lot of changes that were made to the story once you were brought on?

Mimi Cave: The structure stayed very similar. We worked for many months doing revisions and revisions and refining and we were working on things up until and through shooting. It was always like, how can we make it better? That sort of level of commitment speaks to the producers and everyone involved.

Courtesy Searchlight Pictures and Hulu

When it came to our two main characters, Steve and Noa, played by Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones, respectively, how did you know they were the right ones for the roles?

Mimi Cave: I’m not sure what your experience of Sebastian had been before [FRESH], but for me, I had never seen any of the things he did in Marvel. I was drawn to him through his smaller films and through I, Tonya. I didn’t have a sense that he wasn’t right for the role or anything like that. Him and Daisy came down to a level of commitment and a level of passion for making this certain type of movie. They both saw what I saw in terms of that opportunity. We all met eye to eye and we were able to sort of work and hone in on the characters in the story together in a way that we felt was really exciting to us.

My background is in interior design so I’m always very tuned in to set design. I loved how Steve’s house was designed with both a warmth and coolness to it. What type of hand did you have in creating that?

Mimi Cave: Steve’s house is all full set. We built a full house. So everything you see after Noa is captured is all set, except for the exteriors. My production designer, Jennifer Morden, and I worked for a long time to design it. We had full-on house blueprints for the whole thing and it was so much fun. I love building sets and I love getting to pick every little texture and element and color that builds the world. It gives you so much control. Also, when you’re shooting on a set, you don’t have ceilings so you’re getting to light it in a way that you want and it gives you so much freedom and you get to remove walls and put a camera there, so it’s just great. That house is really special and it’s pretty incredible what they were able to pull off.

For your directorial debut, you also had to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. How was that experience for you and what sort of limitations did you run into?

Mimi Cave: It’s my only experience so there’s two things like one, doing a movie after could feel a lot easier. It did add a layer of stress; however, it’s also like, for me as a director, kind of a dream, because you kind of have everyone exactly where you want them, you know? We’re all stuck together, we’re in quarantine and we’re not allowed to really go outside of our pod. So everyone’s focus was very much on the movie and not anywhere else. In a lot of ways, I think it served the film in the end.

Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures and Hulu

How much room was there for improv, particularly in regards to Sebastian’s performance in the kitchen?

Mimi Cave: So, it’s a good blend for everyone, not just him. It’s kind of hard to even sometimes remember which was scripted in and which was improvised because it was truly such a blend of like throwing in words from the script and grabbing words from the moment, you know? We all work in a way that’s very collaborative. Everything’s on the page, the way that we want it, we get those takes, and then we allow the actors to kind of play within their characters and play within the scene. And I’m there to be a gauge of like no, that’s too far in this direction, or I really liked that bring more of that. It’s a lot of shaping at the moment.

What was the hardest scene to execute?

Mimi Cave: I don’t know if it was the hardest but the action scene that takes place in the kitchen, I’m really proud of it actually. It required a lot of effort and a lot of choreography and Sebastian’s one of the only actors that had action experience. It was learning a lot in a short amount of time, but I also really, really loved doing it. I had so much fun with it and got to really put my own spin on it. It was challenging in terms of the blocking and the shooting, but also the most rewarding.

If you feel comfortable sharing, have you ever had an awful date that reminded you of Steve?

Mimi Cave: I think every woman’s experienced a certain range of things, whether it’s a bad date or something worse than that. Obviously, that allows me to draw from certain inspirations. I’ve experienced some horrible things, never a Steve but certain people that aren’t too far from that. It was something I was able to really relate to Noa’s character and I could really channel my own experiences through hers. There’s bad dates and then there’s really bad dates.

Mimi Cave’s FRESH is now available to watch on Hulu. To learn more about the film, check out our review from this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

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