Walking a Tightrope: Quinn Shephard on Not Okay | Interviews

How long did the writing process take to fully develop the script?

It is quite a long development. I wrote the first draft in 2018. And we shot the movie in 2021. So it was a bit of a process in that we wrote the first draft, it kind of came out of me pretty quickly, I think some movies are really hard to write the very first draft up and some are very difficult to develop. I think it was more that I knew what I wanted to say with the film early on and then it was a lot of tweaking. In large part, I think it’s because the end of Danni’s story is quite difficult because of what she does in the film, and also how to find the tonal balance of criticizing her character while still being human enough for the audience to relate to her. And like not crossing a line where you’re putting the audience off the film, but making sure you put them off Danni enough that they understand the film wasn’t on her side. Walking the tightrope was always the game, evolving. It was something we drilled into, and when Zoey came on board we refined even more. It was a bit of a process. But I’m really happy with how it turned out.

What kind of research did you do to make sure you found the authentic, fine line of portraying real trauma with survivors while balancing the satire?

So I worked with a trauma consultant on the final drafts of the script. I wanted to make sure we were accurate and respectful of real trauma survivors. It has always been so important to me that even though the film has a lot of humor. It never makes fun of or drives humor from real trauma because it’s meant to shift the tone of the movie when Rowan’s character comes in and we’re faced with the realities of the trauma that Danny co-opts into the movie. I’ve always been fascinated by movies that can do this. I think one of the best examples is “Do the right thing,” where it’s really fun, you’re just with a cast of characters and you’re having a great time. And then as the film delves into much darker and deeper subjects at the end. You go on a journey tonally. I was inspired by projects that were able to do that. You always knew when to laugh and when not to laugh. And when you talk about gun violence and real trauma, that’s something I’m very passionate about politically. I I’m extremely anti-gun and it’s something I was very angry about when I was writing the script and just seeing our country being brutalized by school shootings every day. It was crucial for me to be able to portray that with empathy. Honestly, a big part of my research was just reading up on trauma and watching interviews with and speaking from school shooting survivors, talking to people who could really understand and speak to that experience.

Why did you think NYC was the perfect playground for this particular story?

At the time when I wrote it, I felt like New York directly reflected the exact cultural things that were going on online that I don’t want to talk about. The fact that the internet constantly showed real ingredient headlines next to the most blatant, ridiculous clickbait was something that I felt you could see just like walking down the street in New York. You’d walk through a neighborhood that was in the middle of being gentrified and you’d just see authentic, old school, New York next to, like, a selfie cafe or whatever. And you just go, “ah,” that was really weird. You see New York changing before your eyes. It felt like the perfect place for this because it reflected the world that Danni glamorized. I always imagined it was like she grew up watchingThe Devil Wears Prada“and thinking, this is the New York she wants to live in, where she’s like this cool magazine girl, and she wants a makeover, and her life is going to be amazing. But I also wanted to show that when we get to the support group with Rowan and her activism, it’s a real side of New York. A side of New York that’s not designed to be seen on Instagram, but it’s real and real people. And it’s the cultural mashup that I think is very interesting about New York, isn’t it. now.

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