BOP Interview: Valerie Faris & Jonathan Dayton
By Ryan Mazie
July 24, 2012
JD: We don’t take a film when those things happen. That will ruin our relationship. When one of us doesn’t like a project, we don’t do it.
VF: People ask why did it take six years to make a second film and sometimes it takes that long to find something and then wait for it to be ready to the point where we both feeling 100% behind the movie. It’s harder with two. We’ve been saying it’s really been three years with each of us (both laugh).
How different was this being your second film after Little Miss Sunshine? Was it a very big difference or a similar process?
VF: They are all different; every project has its own set of challenges and rewards.
JD: That’s part of what makes it fun.
VF: I’m sure that there were more similarities, we were more focused on what’s new about it. Probably the biggest difference is that Little Miss Sunshine was an ensemble cast so the preparation and rehearsals were a little different…
JD: For that, we had to create a family, so our rehearsals were on how do we make these people feel –
VF: (overlapping) like they had real relationships.
JD: But that wasn’t a need with Paul and Zoe [a real life couple] (laughs).
VF: In fact with them, the challenge was “you have a relationship, but how is yours different from your characters?” and it was pretty easy for them to distinguish between Calvin and Ruby, and Paul and Zoe. But in rehearsal we decided that one part of Zoe we didn’t want in Ruby and so on. It was a different process of preparation and even in shooting; there is something different about not being in an ensemble where they get to a point where it is a well-oiled machine. With this film we had more day players coming in so it’s just a different kind of challenge.
Besides the plot, the tone of the film really sets it apart from other romantic movies. I wanted to know at what point does that mood get shaped – in the script writing process or as directors when you put it to film?
VF: People have said that this film could have gone in many different directions and I think that’s really true. We feel a tone in the script, but it’s still a big challenge to get that on screen and preserve it.
JD: It’s hard to know though where it is. I feel the tone when I read it, but that might be my projection immediately of the material.
VF: That’s what happened with Little Miss Sunshine. A lot of people read that and saw it as a much broader comedy – kind of like European Vacation or something (laughs).
JD: It was so nice to have Little Miss Sunshine out so people knew, “Oh that’s what you mean!” So when we approached this, Fox Searchlight knew how we approached material.
VF: I think a big part of the tone comes from casting. If you cast the right people in the roles who can play their parts as real people, what real people would do more or less, that already ropes the tone in so you are not chasing after comedy or make things too dramatic.
JD: We looked at a lot of comedians for the role of the brother that Chris Messina played, and they were really interesting…
VF: They might have made the funny parts maybe funnier?
JD: But what we needed was an actor who had the skills of someone like Chris, who could really deliver the credible questioning. He’s our advocate in the story, saying all of the things that we want to say, so when he accepts the premise, hopefully the audience does as well.
You shot this movie digitally and you’ve done other work with film, so what’s your preference as directors?
JD: We love film.
VF: So much.
JD: But we can’t ignore that digital media is here to stay. We worked very hard to get the most, let’s call it, “appropriate” look. We had to undo certain things that digital tends to give you, and yet in certain situations, digital was really incredible. We chose digital; we could have shot film. We figured since a lot of scenes were at night to capture Los Angeles in a certain way; say for example when we shot out the bedroom window and you can see the city lights twinkling, that was exciting. There were certain night scenes where we want to show Paul illuminated by the clock radio and we used an iPad as the sole illumination in the room.