Why did you want to tell this story?
People say “You can do anything you put your mind to.” What if those people are wrong? What if we have limits? It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t test ourselves, find our ceilings, put ourselves out there, but it also means that figuring out who you aren’t is part of finding who you are. It kind of goes against typical Hollywood values… the idea that we have limitations. But it’s something I find to be very true. Sometimes you have to adjust your goals to who you really are. And that’s okay.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
As we developed the film, Jason quickly became an extension of me. Or what I would be if my wife didn’t put up with my bullshit.
I used a lot of my wife in developing Mona, as well… her drive, her determination, and her lack of ease making new connections.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
During pre-production, I spent pushing the jokes bigger and bigger without compromising our budget. In the earliest drafts, Mona’s quitting scene was pretty mild, we didn’t see Jason’s DMT trip and most of the sex happened off camera. I also played A LOT with the final scene… Does Jason land on his feet? Or does he fall flat on his face? We made a couple changes in production and in the edit room, but they’re much too boring and mechanical to recount.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during production?
Someone gave me advice about a year before we went into production: once you announce that your gonna make the movie, doors will open. Set a date, and people will respond.
Once Sasheer read the script and signed on, we set our date: August 1st, come hell or high water. This was in April. And the advice was dead on… With the help of Sasheer’s agent Danielle and our casting director Scott David, we assembled an incredible cast of comedic actors.
But there was one major problem with our gambit. We didn’t have a Jason. It was a difficult search made more complicated both by (a) me being a first time filmmaker and (b) me being extremely picky. It can take two weeks to get an answer from an actor, and since we’d set our
By June, I was getting nervous. By July, I was freaking out. And by the last week in July, I was dry-heaving about four times a day. Crew had already been working for weeks in pre-pro. Tens of thousands of dollars had been been deposited for gear and locations. We couldn’t push a week because it would mess with Sasheer’s schedule. If we didn’t get a lead, we were fucked.
It all came down to the last week. Ryan Abboushi at CAA read our script and highly recommended Brent. I watched his stuff and he was perfect. Brent’s presence is charming and cool but also pure, kind of naive. A perfect Jason. This was four days before our start date. We made the offer at 4PM. I went home and fell asleep on the couch at 8PM, woke up to some emails at 11PM… Brent was in.
Where there any risks that you faced during production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
Production-wise… virtually none. Safety was paramount.
Creatively, apart for the above… There are several scenes in the film that are covered from one side… no reverse shots. You get what you get and you don’t get upset.
I find these shots to be crazy risky because they’re difficult to edit. But sometimes they’re the right call creatively. And other times, you simply don’t have enough time to turn the camera around and re-light.
Thanks to an incredibly prepared and professional cast, we got great stuff on these shots.
What influenced the visual style of the film?
It’s an indie rom-com, so I wanted the visual style to be mostly transparent. I did want to make sure the camera backed off for some of the more personal, quiet moments. For the more comedic moments, I wanted to feel up close.
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?
Acknowledge that there’s no one right way. Throw logic and theme and subtext out the window on your first pass. You know an idea is funny if it makes you laugh, or sad if it makes you want to cry. Make yourself receptive to these emotional states. Then try to fuck with yourself. Write things that make you want to laugh or cry or feel. Thinking is overrated.