The Rural We: Maria Nation
Photo: Andre Baranowski of MDN.
Maria Nation is a prolific screenwriter who lives in Ashley Falls, Mass. Born and raised in California, she moved to New York in 1984, where she first started selling scripts. She moved to the Berkshires in 1997, and has been able to sustain her career without living in LA. “It’s very weird that I’ve done my entire career in the wrong city,” she says. This week and next, the Berkshire International Film Festival’s Reel Friends Film Society is holding special screening events of “A Street Cat Named Bob,” for which Nation was the screenwriter. The events (last night and next Thursday, Feb. 16) are co-sponsored by Mountainside Treatment Center in Canaan, Conn. and Berkshire Humane Purradise.
I don’t think anybody really knows what I do. In LA I’m a dime a dozen, but unusual here. I love that “the industry” isn’t out here.
I mainly write TV movies, but that business has shrunk to almost nothing over the years. I’m often called upon to be a script doctor for European films, which is how I initially got involved with “A Street Cat Named Bob.” The director, Roger Spottiswood, who is well-known in the business, is someone I’ve worked with on various projects for 15 years. He called me out of the blue on this one. The original script suffered from a problem; it was a mix of genres. Is it a silly cat movie? Or a dark movie about a heroin addict? It’s actually both, and trying to establish the tone of these two disparate elements was a challenge.
I had three weeks to rewrite the whole script. The roles were not well written for the women characters (one of whom is played by Joanne Froggatt of “Downton Abbley” fame). I was actually writing while Roger was shooting.
Maria Nation with producer Adam Rolston at the NYC premiere of the film.
Mountainside Treatment Center has come in as a partner to show the film. They realized the element of connection is so important in dealing with heroin addiction, which is the theme of this story. If addiction is stigmatized, that just makes the road to success worse. This is trying to turn that around. I wanted to have that aspect in the film so it’s socially relevant and experientially accurate.
Sony Pictures released the film in Europe at a royal opening in London. Theatrical releases are so expensive, and the distributor in the U.S. is very small, so there was a small opening in New York.
I just delivered a movie that Andie MacDowell will star in called “The Beach House,” and I’ve got a couple of projects planned again with Roger. So many of the projects come in in the summer. In the last three years I haven’t had a summer because I’ve been working, which is a shame in the Berkshires. I hope to get a summer back!
My partner Robert Flores and I have touched or gardened every one of the eight acres of our property. We cleared invasives along the river, so now we have a river walk. Our garden has been on the Lenox Garden Club and on the Open Days garden tour many times. The garden used to be an extreme riot of color and very exuberant. Then two things happened: I realized it was killing me to do all of it, and that it owned me. Over the years I changed from the perennials and bulbs to boxwoods. It’s very calming, very serene — the antithesis of exuberance.