What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?
The story was a collaboration between Jonathan Pappas, Kristin Slaysman, and myself. We were drawn to the idea of sibling dynamics and we wanted to create tension and comedy from playing with the idea of opposites. The titular parents who were saints abroad and monsters at home. The two families, one WASPy and spoiled, one hard-working and blue collar. And the main characters, a brother and a sister who’ve had completely opposite reactions to their awful upbringing, one who’s settled at home on the West Coast, and the other rootless, but both pretty messed up. We used all these contradictions as a springboard and built it out from there.
Why did you want to tell this story?
The story comes from a very personal place for all three of us. We wanted to translate some of our more serious experiences — in matters of love, death, sex, marriage — into this comedy about siblings who are wrong for everybody but each other. Our goal was to mix the poignant with the absurd, creating bursts of strange and surprising and joyful human behavior.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
Other than the premise, which is entirely fictional, a lot of plot details were anecdotes stolen from our own lives.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
We knew where the four main characters started, and through the writing process we discovered where they end up. With the character of Michelle, Kristin was involved from the beginning, but I don’t think we found out who the rest of these characters really were until all the actors came on board.
Story-wise, the final cut of the film isn’t much different that the first draft of the script. But the little details and behaviors changed constantly throughout the process — We wrote multiple drafts, and ran table reads and rehearsals that inspired more tweaks.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during production?
We did a lot of single take scenes and scenes with very minimal coverage. For one thing I like that style, but also you can shoot more pages per day when you use less coverage and we had about a 115 page script and 18 days to shoot it. The risk is that you have less control in the edit to reshape things. So we really had to commit to the scene work and trust ourselves that what we were getting on set was going to work in the edit room.
Were there any risks that you faced during production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
The biggest risk we faced was probably going into production in the first place. We had very little money, about half as much as first estimated budget called for, but we really liked the screenplay and we wanted to change it as little as possible. So instead of major rewrites, to cut pages and combine locations or any other tricks you might do to save money, we just dove in and shot the movie as written. The upside is that it can be a fun challenge to try and make a complicated scene work with limited resources.
What influenced the visual style of the film?
Jon and I wrote the script as an homage to 70’s California cinema like Five Easy Pieces, Shampoo, Minnie & Moskowitz. So when I was working with the DP, Daryl Pittman, we talked about those influences a lot. Daryl actually owned a vintage Cooke zoom lens from that era, which really added to the feel. I had just shot my previous short film on a similar vintage Cooke, so that style was already in my head.
What risks did you take to tell your story?
I’ve made short films in the past that have hidden behind the safe distance of irony or arch meta humor. But Dr Brinks wears its heart on its sleeve, it’s often funny, but never tongue-in-cheek. And that’s a vulnerable thing. You put yourself out there and you can only hope the movie resonates with its audience.
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?
Prioritize the script no matter what. I primarily work as an editor and I can tell you that almost every problem that you’ll have in the edit started in the script. Write smart if you’re making it yourself. Write for actors, locations, write to highlight your filmmaking strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
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