Director Daniel Schechter is currently working on "Switch," a prequel to Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown" that has Jennifer Aniston, Dennis Quaid, John Hawkes and Mos Def on board to star. He is also set to premiere "Supporting Characters" at Tribeca Film Festival this Friday (April 20th).
"Supporting Characters," which quickly sold out its first three screenings, has a cast comprised of Alex Karpovsky and Lena Dunham, the stars of HBO's "Girls," plus Tarik Lowe, Arielle Kebbel, Melonie Diaz and Kevin Corrigan. The story revolves around two New York film editors balancing their personal relationships while reworking a movie in crisis.
We had the chance to catch up with Schechter, who not only sent us an exclusive clip from "Supporting Characters" and answered a few questions about "Switch," but also gave some advice regarding developing independent films. Check everything out below.
Daniel Schechter Interview:
Q. How did the idea for "Supporting Characters" come about? A. An actor/writer friend of mine, Tarik Lowe, and I really wanted to make a micro-budget film (essentially a movie that costs practically nothing, shot on digital video with minimal expenses.) At first we had an idea for what probably would have been a more cheezy, mainstream, romantic comedy, but since we had so much creative freedom we decided to focus on every scene we wrote that had nothing to do with our forced plot. Scenes that just felt organic and honest, many taken straight from our lives. Eventually, we just threw away the rom-com premise entirely and ended up with what I hope feels like a 'Swingers'-ish, 'Sideways'-like, really personal comedy.
Q. When putting together the movie, which elements (outside of money) did you feel were the most important to have in place in order to move forward? A. Definitely cast and locations. When you're making a movie for that price, you need to first figure out what you have available to you, for free. For a lot of indie filmmakers, that might be a family country home, or something. For me, it was my apartment, the streets of New York, an insanely talented crew of friends and a murderer's row of known and unknown acting talent that I suspected would work for me, for practically nothing. Actors like Kevin Corrigan (Pineapple Express, The Departed), Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture, Girls), Arielle Kebbel (90210, Vampire Diaries), Melonie Diaz (Be Kind Rewind, Hamlet 2), Sophia Takal (Green, Gabi on the Roof in July) and Alex Karpovsky (Tiny Furniture, Girls).
Q. You're now premiering your second film at Tribeca. What advice would you give to struggling filmmakers to give them a better chance at getting accepted into a major film festival? A. It was a cliche I avoided for years, but "write what you know." I didn't intend to make a movie about making movies. I wanted to make a romantic comedy, and needed a place for these guys to work for them to essentially complain about their girlfriends. I came from an editing background, and felt that was a fun job for them to do that I didn't have to research much. I think the film has so much specific detail about relationships, and working in "the business" that audiences can smell its authenticity. I think I learned on my first few films that people can also smell when its inauthentic.
Q. "Supporting Characters" is a bit about independent filmmaking. Is there anything specific that you wanted to say about independent filmmaking in the movie? A. I think I wanted to say the same thing about indie filmmaking that I wanted to say about relationships. Especially when you're young, you f*ck up. You hurt people, you hurt your career, you burn bridges, you lose someone you love... It's up to you if you want to learn from those experiences, beat yourself up, or ignore them. I want to be a better person and a better filmmaker, so this film has been an interesting form of therapy for me to step back and examine myself from a more objective place.
Q. When working with a smaller budget, which parts of the budget would you say are the most important to not skimp on? A. Sound and a Cinematographer. I believe our DP, Richard Ulivella, literally added hundreds of thousands of dollars in production value with just his talent and hard work. I can't say enough about him... but unfortunately, no matter how good your picture looks, if the movie sounds like sh*t, the movie feels cheap. We did really well in both those departments, fortunately.
Q. Did you run into any major problems during production that may have derailed the project? A. No, this was a shockingly blessed project considering our limited budget. Big shout out to my producers Tim Duff and Adam Der Aris. We squeezed a quarter out of every nickel on this film, and every penny ended up on screen. I'd also like to think we had working hours just as reasonable as any other low budget indie, while treating our cast and crew with a lot of kindness and respect. No easy feat and I owe them a lot. I owe everyone a lot.
Q. You're working on "The Switch" right now. What's the status of the film? When you do plan to begin filming? A. That film will likely shoot later this year, maybe late Summer. The cast is phenomenal so far (Jen Aniston, Dennis Quaid, John, Hawkes, Yasiin Bey, Ty Burrell), with two juicy roles yet to be cast. It's a dream project and every day I'm pinching myself that I'm going to direct it. It's going to be a great adaptation of [Elmore] Leonard's work.
Q. Is Jennifer Aniston officially on board? A. Yup. She'll play Margaret "Mickey" Dawson, our female lead. I just realized the other day it'll be her first period film (it takes place in 1977), which is cool. Although she did have some sweet 80's flashbacks in "Friends." I'm really excited to see her in this role.
Q. Do you know what Quentin Tarantino, Samuel L Jackson and Robert De Niro think of the movie? A. Nope. Would love to run into De Niro at Tribeca though and pick his brain. Tribeca is an incredible festival, it sounds lame, but I'm just so happy "Supporting Characters" is playing there. It's perfect. Like I said, "blessed."