Director reveals the reasons why “A Quiet Little Marriage” came to be

In her first feature film, “A Quiet Little Marriage,” writer and director Mo Perkins drew from personal experience when penning a script that examined the lives of newlyweds long after the optimistic exchange of “I dos.”

“We wanted to tell a story that we weren’t seeing,” Perkins said during the audience question-and-answer session at the 2009 Slamdance Film Festival. Inspiration for the movie came from the unconventional marital and family issues in her own life, which began with being raised on a Tennessee commune in a multi-family household to being advised by her grandmother, who suffered through a rocky marriage, to “never get married.”

But Perkins did get married, swept away by a sudden romance. As she stumbled through being a newlywed, she began wondering what happens to two individuals – who are divided by different upbringings and family dynamics yet united through marriage – when they commit to being deeply intimate with each other.

It turned out her newly married friends were wondering about the same thing. “Nowadays, marriage is what you make it,” Perkins, who was five months pregnant at the time, told the Slamdance audience. “It’s up to the two people how far they want to take the vows.”

She credits the movie’s strong feeling of authenticity – even during the characters’ unbelievably crazy moments of desperation – to the cast, many of whom were friends who were newly married themselves. Perkins experimented with a writing process during which she scripted the scenes and then revised them based upon improvisations that Cy Carter and Mary Elizabeth Ellis, the actors who played Dax and Olive, came up with during weekly rehearsals.

Those relentless rehearsals and rewrites, as it turned out, took place in their Echo Park apartments for an entire year. “We knew we had no money and no time to shoot,” Perkins explained. The rest of the cast, which included Jimmi Simpson, Michael O’Neill, Rita Taggart, Lucy DeVito, Charlie Day, Melanie Lynskey, Ian McConnel and Charlotte Chanler, also rehearsed unscripted scenarios in order to develop their characters’ relationships and interactions while keeping their acting fresh for the actual filming. The film was then shot in 15 consecutive days in Carter’s apartment.

In the end, that simplicity and commitment seemed to be what made the movie – and Dax and Olive’s marriage – succeed so strongly.

“A Quiet Little Marriage” can be viewed through IFC Films On Demand.