Tribeca 2016: Deb Shoval and Breeda Wool talk ‘AWOL’



WSN discussed “AWOL,” which premieres this week at Tribeca Film Festival, with actress Breeda Wool (pictured) and director Deb Shoval.

Sidney Butler, Staff Writer

“AWOL” is the story of Joey (Lola Kirke), a Pennsylvania teen faced with the dilemma of joining the Army or running away with the love of her life, Raina (Breeda Wool). The film premieres this week at the Tribeca Film Festival. WSN sat down with director Deb Shoval and actress Breeda Wool to discuss how “AWOL” transformed from a Sundance-winning short to a feature film and what message each woman individually took away from the film.

WSN: How did the idea for the film come to you?

Deb Shoval: I was fascinated by this young woman Skylar James who joined the army very impetuously and left very impetuously and she soon became the poster child for Americans who were seeking asylum in Canada for leaving the army. Even though I wanted it to be this very militaristic type of thing, I found it was very personal for her of why she left, and she began to inform the character of Joey.

WSN: How did the film go from being just a short film to the feature it is today?

DS: After the short film premiered at Sundance and had a lot of buzz around it, it became clear to me what we had was this condensed Act 2 and Act 3. It wasn’t clear in the short film how Joey and Raina met, or why Joey joined the army, if she and Raina were in love, so I wanted to expand the story and answer those questions and also just expand Joey’s world. So her mom and sister became developed characters. That was the beginning of the feature.

WSN: Where did the character of Raina come from? How did you end up casting Breeda Wool to play the part?

DS: Breeda and I really created that character together. I had two people in mind that I kept drawing from but she also had someone from her childhood that she kept drawing from, so we really created the character together. Breeda was in the short and then again in the feature. I knew her about six to eight months before the short film. A friend of mine took me to this very experimental dance show at Performance Space 122 because she was so into this performer, who was Breeda. It was totally one of those things where I could not keep my eyes off of her. She was so in her body.

WSN: Breeda, did you have a lot of autonomy when discovering your character Raina?

Breeda Wool: As an actor I always have a lot to say. I do feel like part of the game is having a lot to say within these words that the writer sets in front of me.

WSN: How was the dynamic between you and Lola Kirke?

BW: I think Lola and I just looked at each other and we knew. I think she’s an incredible talent and extraordinarily intelligent. [laughs]

WSN: For the role of Raina did you pull from anyone particular in your life or were there aspects of you that came out through her?

BW: Well as a human being, there are things where I’m like, “Oh I understand that and that,” but I don’t usually replace things in my own life. Also my personal background is very different from Raina’s so I didn’t personalize it but her story was very personal to me. I can relate to being a woman and therefore, you are only valued for your sexuality. I think any woman can relate to that, where you’re only as good as long as you are desired.  

AWOL is currently showing at the Tribeca Film Festival from April 16 to  April 28.

Email Sidney Butler at [email protected]