"This time tomorrow" is one gem of a mumblecore film and we contacted its director Shane Bissett to talk about filming such a film, self-distribution, actors, "Before sunrise" and a lot of other things. [Ceci est la version originale de l'interview. Pour lire l'interview en français, cliquez ici.]
FilmsdeLover.com : Who are you Shane Bissett ?
Shane Bissett : I am a 26 year old filmmaker/producer living in Brooklyn, New York. I think I'm going through some sort of identity/life crisis at the moment, so I might be able to give a better answer to that question in a year or so. Hopefully sooner than later :)
FdL.com : What made you want to tell that story of this relationship ?
S.B. : I'm a bit of a nihilist and was always interested in the shadow cast over December 21st 2012 and the Mayan calendar. I can't quite remember when the idea came to me, but I know it was in 2009 when I was going through the aftermath of a hard breakup, and I'd think about how bummed I'd be in the off-chance that the end of the world really were coming and I couldn't be with this person. I knew I wanted to make a movie about a failed relationship and trying to make it work again. Fortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to make the film until a couple years later, when I was a bit more mature and could really evaluate what that relationship meant to me, what other relationships had meant to me, and how these things are very difficult events to go through that ultimately make us better people.
FdL.com : This story feels really close to "Before sunrise" and other films that happen over the course of one or two days. What was your inspiration for it ?
S.B : Well I'm a massive fan of the "Before Sunrise" trilogy and unabashedly admit that those films were a huge inspiration for my own. One of my fondest film experiences was watching the first "Before Sunrise" on a sort-of first date, and it's had a special place in my heart since then. I think I wanted to make a film similar to that, but since I'm a giant pessimist, wanted to make a similar film, in modern times, set around a relationship that is always doomed to fail because these two characters just aren't right for each other, as much as they may like each other. In terms of the way the film is shot, a lot of the walk and talk scenes are reminiscent of the Before trilogy, though our movie is completely improvised and theirs is strictly scripted with 0 improvisation.
FdL.com : I read on your website that it only took 5 days to shoot the film ? How did you manage that ?
S. B. : The production phase of our film was a bit of a nightmare. I knew that I wanted to release the film before 12/21/2012, and the only break I had from work was the holiday break in between Christmas and New Years. I originally wanted to make the film over the holiday break of 2009 but didn't properly write the script, so I decided to spend the year writing and shoot in 2010. Of course, I never wrote something I liked by 2010, and as Christmas rolled around, I had been inspired by a lot of mumble core films, a film my friend Adele Romanski produced called "The Freebie", and decided to attempt an improvised film. Sadly in 2010, the film couldn't come together and I thought there was no chance the movie would be made, ever. Then in 2011, I was chatting with my producer, Brendan McHugh, and we agreed that we had just enough time to prep a week-long shoot over the holiday break of 2011, and that's what we did.
The crew was small, about 15, and Brendan/Myself/Frank Coralluzzo our 1st AD planned a very tight schedule where we'd hop from location to location and film scenes in a 2,3, or 4 hour span. I don't think we ever had more than 4 hours really to film an entire scene. The result, I think, are very honest performances based strictly off the actors instinct. There was a lot of rehearsal, years of discussion between myself and Dave on the character of Stacey, but on the day we'd have a few hours of permission to shoot at a location and then it was on to the next place.
I should be clear, after we made a first cut of the film and it was clear that a few scenes were missing for logic reasons, we had to go back and do about 2 days of additional shooting just to fill in the plot gaps. Since everything was so character based on the days of shooting, we had to make sure to go back and add some scenes just to make sure the audience understood what was going on.
Logistically, we operated in two vans, 3 cameras would film at all times, and when we'd shoot a scene we had so much coverage that it only really required a couple hours to knock out a scene. Usually the goal of a scene was so very specific, "Parker gets mad at Stacey for lying", that it didn't take long to hit the key moments and move out. Sometimes we'd film in 9 or 10 locations in a day. It was tough, but the actually experience of making the film was so much fun that I'd be willing to do something similar in the future.
FdL.com : Tell us a bit about your two main actors. Did you know them before, did you cast them together, or separately ? I read that you told them about the background of their characters but that they basically improvised everything. Is that true ? Was it something they embraced as actors ? Did they prepare a lot for that, prior to the shooting ?
S. B. : I'm Dave Coleman's biggest fan. I think he can do anything and am impatiently waiting for him to become a massive success. I had just done a comedy web series with Dave called "The Channel X News Team and the Battle for the Future", and though it was a comedy, you could just sense the kind of great actor Dave was. We had discussed the film for three years, continually talking about making it, talking about the character, films we'd watch that would inspire the tone/cinematography/performances in our film, etc. Dave was always Stacey.
We had a lot of hiccups in finding the right Parker. There were a few false starts with other actresses, and after I became determined to have an interracial couple, Dave recommended Jade Elysan. We brought her in for an audition when we were in a great moment of need and she did a phenomenal job improvising with Dave. She made him uncomfortable, and that was needed for the film.
For character, there were just lots and lots of conversations. I'd write out long biographies, discuss how these characters would dress, their opinions, philosophical and sociological beliefs, political beliefs, religious views, etc etc. I gave them each a mix that defined their character to me, recommended films that they should watch, character traits in other films that were indicative of their character, things like that.
Dave really loved getting in to it. He couldn't be more different than Stacey, and he really loved become a "weaker" person than he is in real life. Jade is also the complete opposite of Parker, and though Im happy with her performance, I think the Parker we see on screen is a hybrid of Parker/Jade that is quite satisfying to watch. There were a lot of views that Parker was supposed to have that were so opposite Jade's own, that it was very difficult to have Jade improvise scenes and debate on topics she was unfamiliar with or had contradictory feelings to at a moments notice. I think I learned a lot about acting from this and made a lot of mistakes in these regards, but again, am extremely satisfied with the performances we cut together.
FdL.com : I may be wrong but it felt like the song heard in the film, in the club for example, were made specifically for it. Am I right ? Because it was a great song.
S. B. : Wow, I'm so impressed that you caught on to this. You are absolutely correct. This was actually a big challenge for us in the editorial process, because the ONLY scene that we LOVED in the first cut was the party scene, which was cut in a similar fashion to how it is in the final film, but cut to a Bon Iver song. We just new we'd never be able to get the rights/afford the song, and it basically stayed in the film for months and months after it was finished. Finally, a brilliant musician friend of mine, Thom O Connor, offered to make a track in the similar tone of the Bon Iver track.
I remember the day he and Brendan McHugh made the song, I was editing in one room and was asked to come in and watch the scene with their new song. We had tried dozens of other songs in place of the Bon Iver track and nothing came close to working. When they played the scene with their new song, I'll never forget it. I just cried. Before listening to their track, I KNEW nothing they made would ever come close to that bon iver song. As I listened to it, I couldn't believe how much better it was than our original temp track. That's my favorite scene of the film, and I owe a lot to that song and my friends who made it.
The rest of the score was of course scored by our brilliant composer, dominic mekky. He's a young composer, this was his first film, but he was amazing. A lot of the temp score we made we liked, and he came in and just blew us away with amazing score for the film. I knew I always wanted piano to fit with the quietness of the film, and he did an amazing job, especially in our bike scene.
FdL.com : You decided to release the film on Vimeo on Demand and on your website as well on Pay-what-you-want. Why did you chose that way of distributing your film ? Is it a good move financially, in terms of revenues ?
S. B. : The market for independent films is so small these days, especially in a self-described romantic drama with two unknown actors. We received a couple offers for distribution, but these days, such offers give no advanced compensation and require the filmmakers to spend money to satisfy the delivery requirements of the distributor. I had been through delivery on 3 small films with Jonathan [Demme] and just knew that was out of the question. We released the film as pay-what-you-want because Brendan and I hadn't seen the concept applied to film yet. With self-distribution, its nice because you receive all of the profit. We always knew it wouldn't be a big profit on this one, but because our budget was so incredibly small, we hoped that it'd be the best way at breaking even.
I think self-distribution is a good way to go these days for a film of this size, but I a good publicist and marketable film are the key to making it a financially viable venture. We were missing a lot of the key components required for a runaway hit, but ultimately I don't think there was a better way we could have done it. I really love what Vimeo On Demand has done with their system, though we haven't had many sales through their service.
FdL.com : Last question, kind of a tradition on our website : what is your all-time favorite romance/love film and why ?
S. B. : Hmmm... I'm kind of a sucker for Tony Scott's "True romance", but "Before sunrise" is absolutely my favorite film of the genre. As I mentioned before, it holds a very special place in my heart. I actually think "Before sunset" is the best film of the series, but as a romantic, "Before sunrise" is the perfect movie about falling in love.
"This time tomorrow" is available on Vimeo on Demand for $1 and for "Pay as you want" direct download (or DVD) on the official website. You should watch it.
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