Celebrate the 150th Anniversary of 'Little Women,' this weekend with an updated, modern take
As of this Sunday, the book “Little Woman,” written by Louisa May Alcott, was first released. And to celebrate this occasion a new and updated film version of “Little Women,” hits theaters nationwide this weekend. I was given an exclusive opportunity to interview the filmmakers - all of them women at the head of this independent film production. In this interview director/co-writer Clare Niederpruem, producer, co-writer and editor Kristi Shimek and Cinematographer Anka Malalynskaspeak to long-lasting bonds of girls and the story of the four March girls as they grew into womanhood. (Production designer Lauren Spaulding was scheduled to also be included in this interview but was unable to at the last minute.)
Question: How did you meet each other?
Clare: Kristi and I met ten years ago on a film called “The Maze,” And in different capacities have worked on several films together since then. Then I met Lauren Spaulding about five years ago on the “Mythica,” set, which was a five-part miniseries. And Anka and I met four days before we started to film “Little Women.”
Question: How important was it to you to have an all-women team making this film?
Clare: It was very important, this story has always been told through a woman's eyes. Kristi and I co-wrote the script together and we talked in the early stages how we wanted a lot of female eyes behind the camera and we lucked out with an incredible crew which included many talented women and men. And obviously, Anka and Lauren were an integral part of our vision.
Kristi: Early on we determined that in casting we wanted to have as many female players as well. It was important to set that vision and tone to the film.
Anka: The creative core was all four of us, but we had a lot of men in the crew and in the producing side that were supporting us. We weren’t aiming for an all-female crew. That really contributed to the film.
Question: What do you think Louisa May Alcott would think of your modern day take on “Little Women?
Kristi: I’m a huge fan of the book. I read it every Christmas when I was young and when Clare came to me I was excited and also super nervous about the idea - probably because it is such an important story. I think she would love to know that we adapted her story for the modern woman. She was pushing the boundaries and we are trying to do the same thing. I think that she would be really happy about it.
Clare: Kristi and came to this with a lot of love and admiration for the book for Louisa May Alcott as a person. This is our love letter to her. She wrote a story that is still relevant to our lives 150 years later. I feel that she would give us her blessing.
Anka: I think she would be happy to know that her work lives on in a way that it is going to speak to younger generation much more strongly, but speaks to the same values and principles as the original story. I think she would be excited to see her art to live on and flourish and thrive.
Question: Did you watch all of the other “Little Women,” films before making this film?
Clare: Kristi and I have have seen all adaptations of the novel. In order to find our own voice, we didn’t want to watch the other films.
Kristi: We delved really deeply into the book. We went chapter by chapter and wrote scenes from each chapter. What was interesting to me is that the structure of film still contained those key scenes.
Question: What do you think Louisa May Alcott would think of women today? How far we have gone? How far we still need to go to find equality?
Clare: I just recently got to visit the Orchard house. It was such a beautiful place and I was able to step into her life and sit at the desk where she wrote, “Little Women.” I learned about all that the family had been doing for the women’s movement. Unfortunately, Louisa May Alcott never had the chance to see women have the right to vote. I think she would be so proud of us and yet she would also say, “We have to keep going.” She was never willing to settle.
Kristi: She was writing from the heart. I’ve done a quite a bit of research on her and felt that. I think it was important to show an empowered woman and to see her get all that she wants - education and pursue her dreams even against convention. I think this is why the story translates so well for the modern time. This is still what women are about today.
Clare: Obviously not everything in the book was able to translate into things we could use today, but the themes but the major themes are all still there, one of those being the pursuit of their dreams. They all had their castles in the clouds and how their expectations meet reality - all this was important to Louisa May and important to us today. We have a lot more freedom to explore all of that. That feeling of being a teenager and wanting so much out of your life - and it was that theme of dreams we wanted to be explored in our film.
Question: How did Lea Thompson cast for the role of Marmee?
Clare: We had cast Lucas Grabeel as Laurie. We searching for the actress to play Marmee and someone in the right age range. Lucas had worked with Lea in a TV show and suggested Lea Thompson. She is the mother of two daughters and he thought she would like the script. We sent her the script and we met her at a coffee shop really early one morning in Los Angeles. She was just as wonderful as can be and she signed on to do the project. Her casting really grounded the entire film. She was wonderful to work with and really responded to the material. It was a little blessing to our film that it got in the hands of someone that was right for it.
Think of how different our world is than that of Louisa’s world in 1868. For her, the civil war was still in her memory and there were no conveniences that we take for granted, like electricity or the motor vehicle. The life of a woman was strikingly different in 1868. But with all the changes since "Little Women," was first published, it remains and endearing classic and has inspired many adaptations to the screen. This weekend's release is no different and should be at the top of your list of films to see this weekend.