Franny Director Andrew Renzi on Making Narratives vs. Documentaries

Andrew Renzi's Franny casts Richard Gere in a majestic, gut-wrenching performance as the titular philanthropist, nursing a broken heart and morphine addiction following the death of his two best friends. In a bid for closure, Gere pursues a friendship with his friends' adult daughter (Dakota Fanning) and her husband (Theo James) that is both sweet-natured and accidentally meddling. We talked to Renzi about developing and casting the film and the differences between narrative and documentary filmmaking.

NFF: Much of the film deals with the desire to recreate the past, or at least the uphill battle toward righting one's wrongs. How did you devise the story and the character of Franny?

Andrew Renzi: My father passed away in my early 20s and I was very much caught in this weird cycle of trying to have everything go back to the way it was, even though I knew that was not going to happen. The story itself is fictional, but it was very much devised out of this personal experience. I guess it's kind of sensationalized version of my own response to grief. Very sensationalized.

NFF: You previously directed the great documentary Fishtail. Obvious differences aside, how did your experience working on the two films diverge? Do you have a preference to working in narrative or documentary?

Renzi: It's funny because these two films could not be on more opposite ends of the spectrum, one is a stark meditative doc and the other is a big flamboyant and colorful narrative, but in terms of my own experience making them, they really kind of achieved similar things for me. At the end of the day, both of these films provided me with vastly different environments to grow and learn as a filmmaker. On Fishtail, we had five people executing a very singular vision and on Franny, we had about 100 people executing a very collaborative vision, so I guess I feel like now, thanks to both of these experiences, I have the tools to make films under any sort of infrastructure and pretense. I'm definitely more motivated by narrative films, so I probably prefer them, but I'll definitely keep making docs as long my friends have their weekends free. Either way, I'm excited to do it again, because of how much I learned on both of these films.

NFF: As a first time narrative filmmaker, how were you able to attract such a cast to the project?

Renzi: I'm still not really sure. I got lucky. I think people responded to the script, and I also had a great team of producers that helped bring the cast together.