Filmmakers Spotlight: Interview with Director Rachel Goldberg of “Neighbors”

As part of this month’s NewFilmmaker Los Angeles screenings, held at Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood, CA, we’re showcasing directors, writers and actors whose films were chosen. We’re shedding light on filmmaker goals, lessons learned and current projects. Learn about today’s featured Director Rachel Goldberg:

Name: Rachel Goldberg/Director/Co-writer

Tell us a little bit about your project and how long you’ve been working on it. 

NEIGHBORS is about a quirky shut-in who is unable to leave her house. When she gets a feisty new neighbor – a transgendered woman in an abusive relationship – the two begin a strange friendship that allows them both to break free.

All told, I worked on the film for about a year. Jonathan Pope Evans wrote the original screenplay based on a good friend of ours who had suddenly become reclusive and shut off from the world. We wanted to help her, but her phobia was debilitating. At the same time, we both had close people in our lives who were struggling with their gender identity. We were shocked to learn that the global life expectancy for transgendered men and women is 23 due to the high rate of murder and suicide. Wanting to tell a story about healing and compassion, Jonathan wrote the first draft of the script. Around that time, I was applying to AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women – a prestigious film program designed to promote women in film. I was fortunate enough to be one of 8 women selected and I needed a short film that could be told in the time frame I had. I thought Jonathan’s story was beautiful and am always inspired by stories that celebrate unlikely friendships. I have found, and this is true in my own life, that it is often the people who seem the most different from who we are, that have the most profound effects on our lives. Jonathan was kind enough to let me use his story and we collaborated on the subsequent drafts.

We were restricted to a 5 day shoot, and had to lock picture within a month (I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful editor, Reggie Spangler). Then we had a number of months to complete our score (Greg Nicolett composed a beautiful score for us). So all in all, it took about a year.

Is there anyone you’d like to thank for helping out with this film?

There are so many people I would like to thank for helping with this film (as our credits show, we never could have made this film without the support of an amazingly talented cast, crew, friends, family, donors and sponsors). But I definitely want to thank Kelli Garner (Maggie) and Edi Gathegi (Lamay) who play the two leads it the film. They were absolutely brilliant and amazing to work with as was the rest of my talented cast. And I want to thank Robin Lippin, our casting director, for helping us find them. I would like to thank AFI and the Directing Workshop for Women for making this film possible. And I want to thank my producers, especially Sara Scott who stood by me every single step of the way – hunting down trailer parks, recruiting crew, helping to cast, running the set, keeping me calm, and the endless work she did to help make this film possible. I also want to thank Polly Morgan, our brilliant DP, who worked incredibly hard to make this film beautiful and Reggie Spangler (our brilliant Editor), Greg Nicolett (our amazing Composer), Jonathan Pope Evans for trusting me with his story, and Jaime Becker, our Executive Producer, who threw the most wonderful fantastic fundraiser featuring the amazing Stars of Epic Glam (Thank you!!!) to raise awareness and money for our film. I also want to thank Bela Goldberg, who at the time, was our 5 year old Executive Producer.

And last but not least, I want to thank New FilmmakersLA for showcasing our work and Disarray Magazine for giving me the opportunity to have this interview.

How does it feel to have your film part of the NewFilmmakers Screening at Sunset Gower Studios?

It’s amazing! New FilmmakersLA is such a fabulous organization and works tirelessly to feature new filmmakers in the heart of LA. We shot this film in Los Angeles so it is a great honor to screen at this wonderful festival that is in our hometown and to be able to celebrate with other filmmakers and industry professionals. New FilmmakersLA is an incredible opportunity to receive publicity and attention for our film and it is an honor to be a part of it!

What inspires you?

Everything. I am inspired by images, books, phrases, music, people, family, friends, dreams. I am inspired by snippets of conversation I overhear or images that make me pause throughout my day. I am inspired by stories of people on the outskirts of society, trying desperately to fit in and I am inspired by stories of hope, triumph and change.

Who are your influences and who do you admire?

Some of my favorite filmmakers who are definitely a huge influence on me are David Lynch, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, Emir Kusturica, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Pedro Almodovar, Lynne Ramsay, Jane Campion and Jan Svankmajer. Some of my favorite films which are also an influence are “Harold and Maude,” “The Princess and the Warrior,” and “Ma Vie en Rose.” I am also inspired by a number of playwrights like Sam Shepard, Fernando Arrabal and Maria Irene Fornes, and writers like Toni Morrison and Haruki Murakami. I admire my family, like my mother, who left Iran to create a new life in America, and who would sacrifice the world for us, and my father, who has taught us to always fight for what we believe in. They both move through the world with compassion and understanding.

What lessons have you learned from the industry so far?

It is full of surprises.

If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?

I love Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell and would love to collaborate with them. I would also love to collaborate with Alan Ball, Steven Spielberg or artists Mark Ryden and Camille Rose Garcia.

What is the toughest experience you’ve ever had to overcome?

In the world of filmmaking, I would say staying positive when it seems like everything is going wrong.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?

In terms of filmmaking, that performance is the most important thing.

What advice would you give to new filmmakers starting out in the industry?

Tell a story you’re really passionate about because you might be telling that story for a long, long time between writing, fundraising, pre-production, shooting, post-production, marketing, publicity and so on! Also, to remember that filmmaking is a collaboration. It takes so many people to tell a story and it’s important to appreciate and recognize how hard everyone works to bring that story to life.

Where can we expect to see you next?

We are currently working on the feature version of Neighbors.

Let our readers know where they can find more information about you and your projects.
twitter: @neighborstheflm

Anything else you’d like to add?

Just that it’s an honor to be screening at New FilmmakersLA!

For more information, visit:

About the Author
Formerly an editor at Demand Media, writer at Citysearch, The Examiner, LA Youth Newspaper and proofreader at The Los Angeles Daily News, Christy Buena decided to start Disarray Magazine because she missed writing what she wanted. From hiring writers, to contacting publicists and making assignments, Christy is responsible for the editorial strategy of Disarray Magazine. Get to know the team of talented contributors.
Questions, comments or suggestions?


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Categories: Interview, news

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