I haven't yet seen Generation Wrecks, but I've already become a huge fan of the film's stars (who also wrote the script), Victoria Leigh and Bridget McGarry, for their ingenuity and creativity. The pair wrote and filmed Generation Wrecks while still in high school, enlisting the help of Victoria's father, Kevin T. Morales, to direct. I've always felt that teen movies feel too disconnected from what it's like to actually be a teenager, so I applaud Victoria and Bridget for weaving their own coming-of-age experiences into the film.
But Generation Wrecks, as the name suggests, is not a Gen Z flick. Set in 1994, the film follows ex best friends Stacy Snyder and Liz Castillo-Campbell, both in their junior year of high school. Stacy invites Liz to her family's cabin for a weekend getaway to make amends, but Liz (who was publicly outed) has revenge on the mind and insists on bringing her own misfit friends too. The time period is crucial to the story, but the theme is one that many generations can relate to: you'll never get anywhere by trying to fit in. Based on the trailer, it looks as honest and heartfelt as it is funny.
What made you want to set Generation Wrecks in the 90s?
Victoria: My dad had the idea of writing a movie set in the 90s, but he didn't want to write a movie about himself and he didn't want to write the movie from a male perspective. The 90s element became a way for Bridget and me to separate ourselves from the characters. We were also very interested in how generational cycles tend to repeat, and how that affects who you are as an adult.
Bridget: What I really loved about writing a film set in 1994 is that in that year, cell phones really weren't a thing yet. So our characters in this movie can't escape the cabin through their phone. They have to be there with each other and interact. They learn to be cordial to each other even though they're all different.
What advice would you give to other young screenwriters/filmmakers?
Bridget: Honestly, just go out and do it! You have an iPhone, you have your friends. See if you like it. See what you can create. Every iPhone has iMovie where you can edit it. I think just going out there and trying things out is the best advice. And then if you want to keep doing it and you're still in high school, try to apply to film school. If you can't apply to film school, then look for jobs on set and work your way up. You don't need to be Steven Spielberg as a teenager or when you're just starting out. You go to school to learn. And learning by yourself is a great way to figure out if you're passionate about filmmaking.
Victoria: I second everything that Bridget said. There are ways to make a film for cheap and at home. In terms of writing, you just got to get something down on the page. I've realized that half the process is editing. I think getting started is the biggest barrier for young writers. Don't be afraid to try things out.
What do you hope people take away from Generation Wrecks?
Victoria: In the movie we talk about this thing called the generational theory. It explains that there are four generations, like there are four seasons, and every eighty years, the same history kind of repeats itself. I want audiences to look into who they are and where they are in history, but also what has happened in the past and how it will inform our future. Also, our movie takes place in the 90s, and one of the cornerstones of 90s teens is apathy. At the end of the day, the characters in this film start to care about each other and about their future because that's how things change and get better, which is also what I hope audiences take away from the film. I also want to see more positive queer representation, so I hope that young queer girls will see my character as someone they feel represented by, who isn't full of harmful stereotypes and negative tropes.
Bridget: My character Stacy is trying to be somebody else so that she can fit in. When you're a teenager, fitting in is your number one priority, and you have this pressure to be accepted. I hope everyone, but especially young teen girls, will see that you can be yourself and be accepted. If everyone was the same, the world would be a very boring place. That's what I realized as a teenager. I went to this very preppy school where everyone wore Lilly Pulitzer, which I hated. But I wore preppy clothes anyway because I didn't want to be made fun of. But who cares? You will find your people, and that's what this movie is about. Once you accept who you are, others will too.
What was the funniest thing that happened on set?
Bridget: The first day of shooting there was a giant thunderstorm. Almost hurricane-like. It was coming down like cats and dogs. It was insane. A power line was knocked out. Suddenly Oak, who plays my brother, goes out on the trampoline in my backyard. And then Alice, who plays his girlfriend, goes out on the trampoline too. Eventually, half the cast is out on the trampoline in this crazy thunderstorm.
Victoria: Here's another one. We had to film at a convenience store, and there was a bunch of us that had to go. Bridget was driving us in her character's car, which is a 1994 Volvo. As we're driving, we're blasting Bohemian Rhapsody. But Bridget didn't realize that the emergency brake was on. I think a wrong turn was also taken-- a lot went wrong. I was sitting next to Jibreel, who plays Freddy, and he was screaming the song, but he changed the lyrics to be about how this car was going to crash and we were all going to die. I brought this story up to so many people, but nobody heard him singing this except for me.
What was the biggest challenge you encountered in writing this film?
Bridget: I think the biggest challenge for us was finding time to write it, since we were both still in high school at the time. Another challenge was not getting distracted. There were a few times where we would sit down to write and ended up baking scones or talking about the next Marvel movie. But it was still valuable time, because we got to hang out together.
Victoria: I think another challenge we ran in to is that we really cared about every character having a complete story arc. But when you have so many characters, you can't really do that. As we got closer to filming, we realized we would have to cut a lot out of the script. For me, it was really hard to kill those darlings.
What were your inspirations for this film?
Victoria: The two films that we pulled from the most, in terms of structure and plot, were The Breakfast Club and The Big Chill. But we also pulled from a ton of other 90s movies.
Bridget: Yeah, each of the characters is based on 90s movie stereotypes, like the skater kid, the loner artist, the bitchy cheerleader. As the film progresses, we really chip away at these stereotypes, which is so much fun. You think you know who these characters are, but then you discover you really don't. Also, I based Rebecca's mom after my own mom, because I was like, the nerdy girl will have a helicopter mom, and my mom's a helicopter mom. Some of the conversations between Rebecca and her mom are almost word-for-word conversations I've had with my mom. At the table read, my mom would ask, 'Is this based on me?' and I would be like 'No!'
Generation Wrecks will premiere on September 12th at TCL Chinese Theater. Tickets available here.