Robbie Pickering's remarkable film, Natural Selection is an off-beat dramedy like no other. The story centers on Linda (The Hangover's Rachel Harris), a barren Christen women who is has been forced to repress her ungodly desire for sexual intimacy. Yet when her husband has a heart attack, she begins to question the rules that have so staunchly governed her life.This deepens when she meets his illegitimate son. The two develop an enlightening friendship that forces Linda to discover the person she's neglected her whole life...herself. IBtimes had the chance to ask Pickering about his inspiration and the lack of complex female roles in modern cinema.
Natural Selection deals with sexual repression, marital struggles, and the pitfalls of religion. Why did you set out to tell a story with these particular themes?
It wasn't really a conscious decision on my part. I wrote the script when my stepfather was dying of cancer and I knew that soon my Mom would soon be alone. I tried to take those feelings -- that fear of death and of loneliness -- and put it into a story that had very little to do with my Mom's actual situation on a practical level. Of course, in the process, a great number of other issues came out -- including the patriarchal role of the church in Texas where I grew up and its effect on marriages... but I never set out to make the movie about those things. It's merely a backdrop I knew well and hadn't seen done realistically in many films before. My only thematic duty was to the struggle that my mother was going through at the time and is still going through, six years after her husband passed away. That struggle -- against impending loneliness -- is universal.
What do you hope people will take with them after watching the film?
First and foremost, I hope that people walk out saying 'Damn, that was a funny movie.' Because in all this talk about my Mom and death and everything else, that fact can sometimes get lost. This is an incredibly funny movie and an incredibly tragic and brilliant performance by Rachael Harris. But beyond that, I just hope that the film has a life of its own in the viewer's heads even after they've left the theater. My favorite thing is when late at night, after I've watched a movie and I'm going to bed, an image, or a scene, or a line of dialogue keeps popping up in my mind and I think 'God, I've gotta see that movie again.' A good film should have a life in the viewer's mind long after the credits have rolled.
Films with such a strong female protagonist are quite rare. Was it you're goal to create a female role that was dynamic and complex or did such characteristics develop naturally?
When I first wrote the film seven years ago, I was incredibly frustrated with the lack of dynamic female characters in American film -- particularly females in their 40's. Additionally, I had never seen a character like my mother or the other women in Texas I grew up with portrayed onscreen before, besides in a purely satirical context -- which is quite boring to me -- so that definitely went into the decision to tell this specific story. Because I did have such a close relationship with my mom growing up, and I was essentially just putting her into extreme situations in the script, it did flow rather naturally. I've written female characters since then to varying degrees of success, and it has never come quite so easy. Women are generally harder to write than men because, at least in my mind, they are so much more complex emotionally.
Did you undertake any research before writing/filming began? If so what struck you the most?
Research wasn't really all that necessary because I knew the world and the characters I was writing so well. Before production, there was a great deal that had to be done logistically because we had an extremely limited amount of money and were on an 18-day shooting schedule, but all that stuff is fun -- location scouting, scrambling for equipment, arguing with the producers, trying to cut the script down another five or ten pages so you can make your days -- it's what indie film is all about.
Rachel Harris and Matt O'Leary star in Natural Selection.