Examiner: Interview with Francesca Gregorini and Tatiana von Furstenberg (Tanner Hall)

Francesca Gregorini acknowledges that making a movie is a “huge responsibility” and an “enormous, gargantuan undertaking.

“We did not know if we could pull it off,” says Gregorini, who wrote and directed“Tanner Hall” with her best friend Tatiana von Furstenberg. “It was a tall bar that we set for ourselves but we cleared it to the best of our ability and, in the end, it made our friendship stronger because we tackled something so big together and managed to come out the other end.”

In “Tanner Hall,” Rooney Mara plays Fernanda, a teenager whose manipulative childhood acquaintance (Georgia King) worms her way into her circle of friends at an all-girls boarding school. Many of the events that take place over the course of the film are in fact based on Furstenberg’s own experiences – albeit exaggerated to make them “movie worthy.”

The two filmmakers have been friends since attending Brown University with one another. Gregorini thought that harnessing Furstenberg’s stories into a cinematic format would prove to be the perfect platform with which they could express their friendship and extend their shared experiences with an audience, so to speak.

Tatiana and I have such trust in each other and have so many similar points of reference because we have grown up together,” says Furstenberg, noting that it was great to have her best friend to lean on or turn to when the “shit hit the fan” – especially seeing as it was their first time making a movie. “I cannot imagine having done it with anyone other than Tatiana.”

Furstenberg adds that while the experience certainly tested their friendship, she appreciated the opportunity to simply spend time with the person with which she most enjoys spending time. After all, she notes that have have invested an awful lot in one another. Moreover, both filmmakers believe that said investment spilled over onto the set – especially in Mara’sperformance.

“Honestly, we can’t say enough good things about Rooney,” Gregorini says. “She definitely carries the film. The camera loves her and she has got so much going on behind her eyes. She was extremely professional. She gives you everything she has got and then some. When we say the ‘it’ factor, she has got that in spades.”

Mara also stars as Lisbeth in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” which opens Dec. 21 in theaters throughout the Valley. The actress looks drastically different than she does in “Tanner Hall,” which is a testament to her versatility, according toGregorini. The filmmaker notes than Rooney completely transforms, becoming the character that she is playing.

“It was like the style that Fernanda took on became [Rooney’s] style in life,” Gregorini explains. “Then ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ happened and now it is like Fernanda’s style has gone out the window. For better or for worse, Lisbeth’s style is how she dresses and how her house looks. Rooney really takes that on via very internal, psychic and physical levels.”

Furstenberg agrees, adding that the actress not overt in any way but rather acts as an “internal conduit” of whatever message or feeling that is attempting to be relayed in a movie. Moreover, she notes that, unlike other actresses, Rooney does not seek attention with her performance. Instead, she simply seeks inspiration.

“It is very still and it is very quiet and it is very subtle but it is very authentic because she is really absorbing whatever it is that she is inspired by,” Furstenberg says. “Luckily, at that moment, she was inspired by the world that we were creating. She really sheds and transforms as a person and through the things that inspire her.”

Tanner Hall” (R – 95 minutes) is now available on Blu-ray and DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley.