Interview: Michael Goldbach, writer-director of Daydream Nation

Michael Goldbach pictureFirst-time director Michael Goldbach made a splash with his independent film Daydream Nation, which he also wrote. The comedy drama movie stars Kat Dennings (Thor), Josh Lucas (Life As We Know It) and Ceremony‘s Reece Thompson in a story of a disaffected high school student (Dennings) and her striking but disturbed teacher (Lucas).

Disc Dish caught up with Goldbach as his film was being released on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay. (Read our review.) An amiable, talkative fellow, Mr. Goldbach chatted with us about the origins of Daydream Nation and his experiences working with rising star Kat Dennings and seasoned leading man Josh Lucas.

DD: How did the idea for Daydream Nation come about?

MG: I wrote it about eight years ago. At the time, I was in a funny middle stage — sort of outgrowing the chip on my shoulder from high school and entering the uneasy world of young adulthood. When I was writing it, I was reading a lot of Southern Gothic writers and watching films that definitely played a part. Terrence Malick’s Badlands and Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter were also a big influence. But I wanted to take it out of the South and keep it geographically vague. It really shouldn’t matter where it takes place. I’m hoping people from small towns can relate to it.

Daydream Nation

Kat Dennings takes the disaffected teen route in Daydream Nation.

DD: I’m assuming that Sonic Youth album of the same name also provided some inspiration?

MG: Daydream Nation was a really important album for me and, yes, I wanted to write a movie that could be beautiful but then could become scary. I wanted to capture that teenage bi-polar feeling.

DD: It’s a really handsome-looking movie. Independent films are looking nicer and nicer as the years go by.

MG: Thanks! We shot the whole movie in 22 days with no pick ups or extra days — all on HD. Even though it looks beautiful, we couldn’t even get a SteadiCam, which was frustrating. I wanted it to be visually stunning and have a sense of style and really reflect the dark world that they’re in — the anxiety-ridden teenage world where everything is beautiful one minute and then a minute later, you’re in danger.

Daydream Nation DVD boxDD: I really enjoyed the performance by the principals, particularly Kat Dennings and Josh Lucas.

MG: Kat is a fantastic actress, and I’m thrilled she could finally show the world a more complicated part of herself. She carries the picture. As the filming progressed, Kat began to know the movie better than I did. At some point towards the end, though, like a proud father, you have to let the film go off on its own. But in this case, Kat made it a joy to do so.

DD: The film also provided Josh Lucas with one of his darkest roles.

MG: He was like, “mess me up and make me look my worst,” which is hard to do because he’s so naturally handsome. For a long time, Josh has been an underrated actor, which I can’t understand. He loves doing indie films — he’s done a lot of them, and he’s sympathetic to the constraints independent filmmakers face. And he’s usually the one helping you to get it done.


About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.