Q&A: Writer/Director Monique Sorgen on short film SORRY, NOT SORRY

By Josh Muchly

SORRY, NOT SORRY is inspired by William Carlos William’s 1934 poem This is Just to Say and tells a humorous tale about being in a challenging relationship. This entertaining short film has been selected for numerous high profile film festivals including Cleveland International Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, the American Pavilion of Emerging Filmmakers Showcase at Cannes and the 10th Annual Women in Comedy Film Festival. Writer and Director Monique Sorgen was kind enough to discuss her film with Informer Media Group.
Informer Media Group: Hi, Monique – thank you so much for you time! I thought SORRY, NOT SORRY was absolutely hilarious.

Monique Sorgen: Thank you so much. I am glad you liked it.

Informer Media Group: To say you were inspired by William Carlos William’s poem This is Just to Say doesn’t quite capture it, does it? I mean, you didn’t just film the poem, you crafted a new narrative around it! What does the poem mean to you? And in what ways do you feel your narrative compliments the poem?

Monique Sorgen: I love the poem. It’s always been my favorite poem because it’s so short and simple and unpretentious, and yet it has so much subtext and so much deeper meaning. The narrative I created with the film is my interpretation of what the poem is about, followed by how I always pictured things would go after the poem was received by the person it is directed toward. For some reason, I’ve always though it was a note from a husband to his wife. Obviously there are some elements in the film that I added that are not present in the poem at all, like Harry’s father, and his whole storyline, but I’ve always felt in my heart of hearts that this is the chain of events the poem would inspire in the person the poem is directed toward.

Informer Media Group: Is poetry something you have previously explored cinematically?

Monique Sorgen: Not really. I wouldn’t call myself a big poetry aficionado or anything. It’s just this poem in particular that has always inspired me. Another poem I really like is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. I would probably make a film about that one, too. But beyond that I have to admit that most poetry bores me a little— save, of course, the poems that I wrote when I was in college– which are obviously all brilliant! (For some reason, I feel like I have to explain that that was a joke, and I was being facetious.)

Informer Media Group: Are there any biographical elements in SORRY, NOT SORRY?

Monique Sorgen: Yes, actually. Funny you should ask. But it’s not what you think. The one biographical element in the film is the old man, who is based on my deceased grandmother. I thought she was very funny, but I realize it doesn’t always come off that way in the film. It was meant to be an homage to an old Jewish lady with a bad hip, but people are generally pretty annoyed with that character. I suppose I was too when I had to deal with her, but in our family we usually dealt with it by laughing. If you’re asking about the couple stuff though, that’s not really auto-biographical, but I do feel that I have been taken for granted in relationships and I’ve definitely had relationships where the communication consisted of not really saying how you felt out loud. Then again, on some level the couple in the movie is communicating very honestly and completely with each other through their notes. So while their behavior is pretty passive aggressive, their notes tell the other one exactly how they’re feeling.

Informer Media Group: Was there anything about this shoot that was more challenging than others you’ve worked on?

Monique Sorgen: The shoot itself was actually one of the best I’ve ever had. Everyone on set was super nice and super professional, and had a great attitude. Plus we only shot for one day, so how much could go wrong in that time? I suppose on a film set a lot can go wrong in one day, but in our case we were prepared and it went fairly smoothly. That said, there was one sort of major snafu at the beginning of the day where we forgot to place a key element of the set in the background and then we had to cut around the shots where it would have been visible. Ultimately though, in the final cut I have everything I need and wanted, so it didn’t turn out to be a big problem— even though it felt like it at the time.

Informer Media Group: The sound and voiceover(s) play an important role in the film; why was this the way you wanted to craft the narrative? And did it present any challenges?

Monique Sorgen: Using sound instead of showing something is a great way to save money when you don’t have a lot of it. I knew I couldn’t afford to crash a car and I didn’t really want to show sex for this type of a comedy, so it was always part of the overall style I had imagined. It was all written into the script it wasn’t something I had to change later due to a lack of money. In the end, people have liked that they hear things and they imagine things rather than seeing them because it’s kind of like when you read a book and you can’t see things. Sometimes, you end up imagining them much more intensely than if it had been shown to you.

Informer Media Group: I sensed a somewhat subversive element within SORRY, NOT SORRY; a sort of celebration of eating the forbidden fruit. “Plums” as liberation. Is this something you had in mind?

Monique Sorgen: Yes. I basically gave Wally [Wallace Langham] the direction that eating these plums represented letting go of all his pent-up anger and that it was building to an orgasmic feeling for him, so I’m always glad when people notice that there’s an orgasmic feeling about eating the plums. Another thing that has been fun is that at festivals when you’re programmed in the same block with other filmmakers and the block shows more than one time at the festival, those filmmakers end up seeing my film a second time, and many of them have pointed out how much richer the eating of the plums feels once they know how the movie ends. I’ve had a lot of people comment that the first time they watched it they loved it and the second time they watched it they loved it even more, because they caught all the nuances.

Informer Media Group: What’s next for you?

Monique Sorgen: I have a slate of projects that I’m going to start setting up at the Festival de Cannes. One of them is with Jessica Oyelowo, who stars in SORRY, NOT SORRY. It’s called bad BFF and it’s about a girl who pretends she’s getting married in order to get her best friend to spend more time with her. Her best friend, meanwhile, has become all-consumed with being a wife and a mother and having a full-time job, so she struggles to be there for her friend. The movie is another dark comedy commentary on marriage and how it’s often an unfair situation for the woman– who ends up doing more, even though women go to work now. Women usually end up having to let go of their friendships with their former single friends because they just don’t have the time anymore, and their single friends get left in the dust, and it really hurts. From the single person’s point of view, it feels like you’re getting dumped by somebody you loved, and suddenly you can’t count on them to be there for you anymore. It’s destabilizing and offensive, like any major rejection you have to face in life. It feels personal. I think this is an important story about the female experience that hasn’t really been explored in this way. Other than that I have some TV projects that look like they might go soon, and some other feature film scripts for which I have been garnering interest from producers and actors. I’m even starting to get offers to direct other people’s material which is a nice change of pace.

Informer Media Group: That’s exciting! Good luck to you! Where can folks go to learn more about you / your projects?

Monique Sorgen: The best place to learn more about me is on my website, but if you want to keep up with the day-to-day you can follow me on social media. I’m @MoniqueSorgen everywhere.

Contact: Josh Muchly on Twitter @muchlymedia or email josh.muchly@gmail.com


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