STATE LIKE SLEEP: A Conversation with Writer/Director Meredith Danluck

(L-R) Katherine Waterston as Katherine and Michael Shannon as Edward in the thriller “STATE LIKE SLEEP” a film by The Orchard. Photo courtesy of The Orchard.

by Angela Bourassa (@angelabourassa1)

Can we ever truly know the people that we love? This is one of the questions that Meredith Danluck explores in her new film State Like Sleep. Her new film, which she wrote and directed, is preceded by an impressive body of artwork, including a four-screen installation of four different feature length films shown at the same time which was shown at Sundance in 2013. Danluck’s work has been exhibited around the world. She has also created screen visuals for the concert tours of John Legend and Jay Z & Beyonce.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to Meredith about the idea behind her new film and why this was the story she needed to tell.

Angela Bourassa: You worked on this script at the 2013 Sundance Writers Lab and the Sundance Directors Lab. Can you tell me a bit about getting selected for those labs and what the experience was like?

Meredith Danluck: Getting into the Sundance Writers Lab was like getting into college. It was incredibly challenging and extremely selective. I submitted through open admissions, meaning I didn’t have anyone within the inner circle lobbying for me, so it took many rounds and stages of application. When I got the call that I had been selected I knew that my life had changed.

The Labs bestowed upon me a new level of confidence and commitment to the script. Writing is a solitary process, one that demands faith and persistence, but Jesus, every once in a while you do need someone on the outside telling you, yes, this is good and worthwhile. The Labs did that for me. It opened up a new way of looking at creativity and process. 

Luke Evans as Emile in the thriller “STATE LIKE SLEEP” a film by The Orchard. Photo courtesy of The Orchard.

Angela Bourassa: Can you tell me a bit about the journey of bringing this film to the screen? Did everything come together easily, or was it a difficult journey?

Meredith Danluck: Getting this film made was very difficult. It came together and fell apart and came together again. This roller coaster is not necessarily anything special in the world of indie filmmaking. Everyone seems to have a horror story of financiers dropping out at the last minute. But I never lost faith. I never once questioned the fact that this film would get made. I questioned my sanity, but not the film. 

Angela Bourassa: What were the aspects of this story that were most important to you as a writer and director? Why is this the story that you wanted to tell?

Meredith Danluck: It’s hard to say why this was the story I wanted to tell because at the time, it was the story. It was the right time to unearth some ideas that had been gestating for years. I think writers write about things they don’t understand. We write until we can make sense of the nonsense. Like burnishing a stone, the raw material starts out messy, dirty, and rough but after all the work becomes something of value.

I lost someone close to me and buried a lot of feelings of complicity, guilt, and betrayal. I reordered the facts to suit a better narrative. This process was so intriguing to me that I felt it deserved to be written about. 

Angela Bourassa: The casting of this film is wonderful. Was there any one actor in particular that you particularly enjoyed working with?

Meredith Danluck: All of them! I have deep respect and love for all the actors in this film, but Katherine Waterston is the heart and soul of this movie. She gave so much of herself to this film. Her performance is jaw dropping. She is a force. Her deep emotional intelligence is completely legible in her performance. It’s incredible to see her process moment to moment. She absolutely carries us with her. I loved working with her. We had a wonderful, collaborative, creative dialogue from day one. She’s one of my favorite people. 

Angela Bourassa: Looking back, is there anything that you wish you knew when you first started this project?

Meredith Danluck: I wish I knew how hot it got in the summer time in Toronto! The humidity and heat made for less than ideal shooting conditions. That sounds lightweight but let me tell you, shooting day for night in an un-airconditioned attic on one of the hottest days of the year drove us all to madness. 

Angela Bourassa: What’s next for you?

Meredith Danluck: I’m developing two new projects, a feature and a television series. I’m head over heels in love with both. I can feel the insanity starting all over again and can’t wait.

State Like Sleep is currently showing in select theaters and available On Demand.


Angela Bourassa is the founder of LA Screenwriter and the co-founder of Write/LA, a screenwriting competition created by writers, for writers. A mom, UCLA grad, and alternating repeat binger of The Office and Parks and Recreation, Angela posts articles through @LA_Screenwriter and unique daily writing prompts through @Write_LA.

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