You can tell right away whether or not someone is a “people person” and Marcos Siega, director of Pretty Persuasion is definitely one of those. It was obvious from the moment he walked into the room and asked the nine or ten journalists/critics present to introduce themselves, “so I’ll know who I’m talking with.”
Siega, who is making his feature film directorial debut with Pretty Persuasion had previously directed a number of music videos, including Anthrax’s “Inside Out”, “Nothing” and “Fueled”, Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again” and “All the Small Things” and Toad the Wet Sprocket’s “Come Down”. He had also done some work in television and just to demonstrate how busy he has been, his second feature film Underclassman will be released this coming Labor Day weekend.
Siega’s producing partner brought him the script for Pretty Persuasion, written by Skander Halim, who said, “It took five years to get this film made with one of the hottest young, up-and-coming directors in Hollywood attached to it.” Siega explained that one of the challenges he faced after reading the script was convincing Halim not to direct it himself. About that Halim said, “Which was surprisingly easy because he was the first one, I could tell, who understood what I was trying to do.”
“Nobody wanted to touch this script,” Siega said, and given how it pushes the edge of the PC envelope that isn’t surprising. But he also pointed out that every actor he sent it to that he wanted to cast said yes immediately. That was an indication of just how compelling the material was and how much he wanted to make it.
Evan Rachel Wood was only 16 when the film was shot and there were several provocative scenes that she would be involved in shooting. How did director Siega handle this? Simple. He gave her, and every other actor in the film a card they could play at any time. If there was anything in the film at all that any of them felt uncomfortable about doing, all they had to do was speak up and the crew would have to do that thing first. Wood used that card, as did co-star Jane Krakowski. She felt uncomfortable doing a scene in bra and panties, so the entire crew shot that scene without shirts on.
Regarding Pretty Persuasion’s “unrated” status, Siega said, “It was just a matter of making decisions. At Sundance we were offered… I’m also a producer on the movie, I had a responsibility to my investors who included family and friends… studios wanted to buy the movie if we made those same changes that they wanted while we were making the movie. Samuel Goldwyn came in, said I love it, I want the movie to come out as you want it. My first question was what about rating, what if it they come back and say NC-17, is that going to effect how you try to sell the movie, will that effect if the movie comes out theatrically, and they said no. We’re not a signatory to the MPAA so if it comes back NC-17, we’ll put it out unrated. We ended up not getting a NC-17, we ended up getting a R rating.”
When asked how he and Marcos approached doing accurate portrayals of teen females, since they are both men, he said, “I didn’t really do any research. In fact I’d have probably been arrested if I’d tried to do that kind of research.” After the laughter in the room died down, Marcos added, “The other litmus test for me was I sat down with Evan, after she’d read the material. She and the other actresses, they were young teen girls and they gave me the information and so my research was coming out of my actors. Teenagers today don’t really think of oral sex as sex. Our world’s changed a bit, me being in my 30s, I remember playing spin the bottle and it was a big deal. Nowadays spin the bottle is not a big deal at all. Whether Skander did research or not doesn’t really matter, he hit something on the head that sort of exposed those private morals that are relevant today.”
“Ya gotta go there,” Siega said, when asked about pushing limits to the edge, and if ever there was a film and director who went there, he and Pretty Persuasion fit the description.