With his new romantic comedy Supporting Characters, writer/director Dan Schechter takes the roller-coaster ride of his own experiences in the film industry and in a manner that has been compared to such luminous auteur's as Woody Allen, creates a sophisticated comedy that views of the lives of minor players working in a major industry.
Nick (Alex Karpovsky from HBO's Girls) wryly tries to juggle his personal life and his career as a successful film editor in New York City. First he must convince his employers that he needs his aggressive co-editor Darryl (Tarrik Lowe) hired with him. Events become more complicated when he feels tempted by lead actress Jamie (Arielle Kebbel) while maintaining his relationship with the very compatible Amy (Sophia Takel).
Recently I had an opportunity to speak with Schechter about his new work, which will show at the Hells Half Mile Film Festival on Friday, October 5th at 6 PM at the Masonic Temple in Bay City; and Sunday, October 7th at2 PM at the Delta Planetarium.
Review: Can you please tell me a bit about the genesis of this film? How did you get the idea for it and what were some of the creative objectives that you were striving to achieve with this work?
Schechter: I wanted to make a micro-budget feature badly, because I was so jealous of how cheaply and honestly a lot of other filmmakers my age were making their films. That was a huge part of it: just go make a little movie. But I was also really inspired by a recent friendship I had started with my co-writer Tarik Lowe. He and I are so different from one another yet have such a unique chemistry. I didn't want to make a movie about "me," that seemed self-indulgent, but he and I seemed worthy of a feature somehow. And we happened to have some amusing and tragic current events going on in our private lives that hopefully made for good/dramatic/funny material. Either way, it was therapeutic to write about.
Review: How did you get started as a filmmaker and how many films have you directed or written. Also, how has your experience as a filmmaker informed this latest outing?
Schechter: This is my second film as director, third as writer. After my last feature, Goodbye Baby, got me repped I kept trying to make larger and larger films with bigger and bigger "names." But that process took so long and involved so much heart-ache, patience and occasionally extreme disappointment that it seemed like a gift to myself to just go make a movie in two weeks without anyone's permission.
Review: What was the most challenging component involved with pulling this film together?
Schechter: Money, which is usually the case, but that came pretty easily actually. This entire film, from writing, casting, financing, shooting and eventually editing was a fairly non-dramatic experience, which is unlike any story you'll usually hear from indie filmmakers. Aside from having remarkably good producers (Tim Duff and Adam Der Aris), I always feel this film had a little angel watching over it. We were too lucky.
Review: Romantic comedies can be a tricky genre to effectively pull off. Who are some of the influences that have inspired you and what do you feel distinguishes this new work from what people traditionally associate with this genre of filmmaking?
Schechter: Definitely Modern Romance by Albert Brooks, which is about a film editor having a meltdown in his personal life. I think what makes this film different is that it's more of a buddy movie, between both of these two guys, and we're tracking the inevitable breakups of both the long and short-term relationships they're in.
Review: Please tell me a bit about the actors and how you went about casting the film. Additionally, did your perspective about the characters evolve as you went along, necessitating revising or re-shooting any scenes; or did you pretty much stick with your final draft of the script?
Review: I cast exactly whom I wanted in every role. That was a major benefit of having such a low budget. As we were writing we always knew Tarik would play himself, but at some point I realized I wanted Alex Karpovsky (HBO's "Girls") to play me, essentially, and I don't think that could have worked out better.
I think the only thing I didn't anticipate is how much stronger the connection between the men would be than the connection they have with their significant others, so the movie eventually became more of a buddy picture than I originally thought. Alex and Tarik were just so damn good together, it was a pleasure to watch them work as a team. Another bit of really good luck really.