Tiger Eyes, written by Judy Blume, is the story of a teenage girl, Davey, who moves to New Mexico with her mother and younger brother after her father is killed at the family’s convenience store in New Jersey. While there she meets a Native American boy named Wolf whose father is suffering from cancer. Ultimately, Davey learns to cope with the death of her own father.
The plot of the story is fictional but Ms. Blume’s son Larry felt so connected to it he eventually decided to make a movie based on his mother’s book. Mr. Blume said in an interview with the Gazette that the story closely mirrored the events of his own life. After his parents’ divorce, he lived in New Mexico and had trouble making sense of his own situation. He said he could relate not only to the location of the story, but also to Davey’s emotional struggles.
“It’s not a depressing, indulgent story of a lonely girl,” Mr. Blume said. “It’s about coming of age, a discovery story.”
The movie premiered on the Vineyard last September at the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival. Since that time the film has toured around the country and opened officially in New York city a few weeks ago. On Thursday, June 20, Tiger Eyes returns to the Island for a full engagement at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. Mr. Blume is a summer resident of the Island and will attend the screening.
“Martha’s Vineyard is like my home,” he said. “It’s really exciting to be able to come show [Tiger Eyes] to friends and family. In a way, it means more to me opening here than it did when it opened in Times Square.”
This is not the first time that Mr. Blume and his mother have worked on a set together. In 1991, the pair worked on a television adaptation of Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great for ABC. This is, however, the Blumes’ first adaptation for film. The opportunity arose when a producer in Europe offered to fund the movie and give the pair complete creative control, Mr. Blume said.
Although he and his mother had the benefit of creative control, Mr. Blume said he faced a number of challenges along the way. The first was money. Mr. Blume said that with a budget as low as theirs — just over $2 million — there was very little room for error.
“Shooting a movie in the mountains of New Mexico with a union crew isn’t a simple thing to do, especially with a story as expansive as this one. We had to make do with what we had because there wasn’t any more [money] than that.”
He also described the challenge of trying to interpret what he called an “intimate, first person, inner dialogue novel” as external, dramatic action without losing the integrity of the book — an issue with which Ms. Blume’s fans are notoriously vocal. Part of the challenge, Mr. Blume said, was casting actors who appropriately embody the characters as they’re described in the book. Another part was trying to condense the novel to fit the length and breadth of a movie.
“I had to create a story arc that maintains the story of the book but with the tighter focus that movies require,” he said. “I had to have a very clear sense of what the movie was about so that I didn’t waver from the thematic material.”
The challenges did not detract from the joy of working with his mother, Mr. Blume said.
“We sat next to each other on the set every day. It was a real family affair.”