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SXSW '06 Interview: 'The Last Romantic' Directors Aaron & Adam Nee

by Scott Weinberg

The 'Last Romantic' Pitch: Fancying himself a poet, Calvin Wizzig moves to New York, with aspirations of making his mark on the world. Unfortunately, the world is not particularly keen on having marks made on it.

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
AARON: Layered.
ADAM: Objects. I don't know, it's your run-of-the-mill pirate movie.

Is this your first trip to SXSW? Got any other film festival experience? If you’re a festival veteran, let us know your favorite and least-favorite parts of the ride.
AARON: I've been South, but have not yet been by South West. I'm looking forward to the combination.
ADAM: I've been to Hollywood. I've been to Redwood. I crossed the ocean. But I was just looking for a heart of gold. Wait. What was the question?

Back when you were a little kid, and you were asked that inevitable question, your answer would always be “When I grow up I want to be a …” what?
ADAM: I think I really just wanted to be a cowboy/spaceman who played proffesional basketball, baseball, and soccer while acting in movies while I wasn't on the road with my famous rock band.
AARON: Adam.

Not including your backyard and your Dad’s Handycam, how did you get your real “start” in filmmaking?
AARON: When I was 17 and Adam 14, we learned that our neighbor used to shoot footage for the local news. She was gracious enough to loan us her camera, providing the missing link to our first serious excursion into rehearsals, set design, blocking, lighting, sound mixing, editing, etc.
ADAM: I on the other hand was in a popular series of movies in the early nineties where I played a kid who was accidentally left behind by his family over Christmas vacation, only to be harrassed by a couple of dim-witted theives played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.
AARON: I don't think that was you in those movies.
ADAM: Maybe.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it’s on “the festival circuit?”
ADAM: I guess I like it more now. Before it was like my child who was getting bad grades. Now that it's doing well, or at least being "accepted" I've grown more fond of it. I might take it to a baseball game or something now, maybe say some affirming words... I hope I make a good father someday.
AARON: It's legs look a little fatter and I've been more critical of the way it drives.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?
ADAM: Tough question. I grew up loving Gonzo, but I'm not sure if we are terribly relatable. We have the same furry blue skin and hook shaped nose, but I'd probably have to say... yeah, Gonzo.
AARON: As for me I got more of the Irish genes. So I don't relate to the muppets as well as Adam.

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
AARON: We did project ahead. In fact we sent nasty letters in advance to critics, asserting that if they knew the first thing about movies they wouldn't have been so hard on The Last Romantic. We like to think that kind of forward thinking is what sets us apart from successful people.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.
ADAM: Aaron and I had been trying to get financing for a couple different things through a few channels. Nothing was really working out so one day I called Aaron up, (I live in New York, he lives in Florida) and I said, "Hey." Then he said, "Hello." It was a great conversation. I went on to pitch the idea of doing something for very little money using the resources we have; for instance the pool of talented actors I had been lucky to meet through various acting jobs and Aarons camera's and equipment he had through his production company. He liked the idea, and in about three weeks we had the script finished.

AARON: Shalom Harlow, much to our delight, agreed early on to be in The Last Romantic, but her schedule necessitated that we move into production very quickly. So, within a few weeks of finalizing the script we had to start the cameras rolling. We had an intense 18 day shoot made possible by an exceptionally talented cast and crew. It was in post that things slowed way down as we invested an unusual amount of care in primary and secondary color correction, as the other aspects of post production.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?
AARON: Make sure that wherever you are staying has been thoroughly sprayed for bed bugs.
ADAM: I didn't really learn anything. Sort of my scholastic mantra as well.

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition? Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell “This! I want something JUST like this …only different.”?
ADAM: We talked about Wong Kar Wai a lot. We were big fans of his guerilla style filmmaking with movies like Fallen Angels and Chungking Express. But in the end I'd say most of my big influences came somewhere between the French New Wave films of Godard and Truffaut and the 70's style of storytelling.
AARON: I would hasten to add Woody Allen to that list. While there are a lot of differences between Woody Allen's films and ours, during the development and production of The Last Romantic, we cited Allen's work as an example of what we were setting out, in principle, to do. Woody Allen has shown time and again that a movie can have a thoughtful, sobering subtext and still be very funny at the same time. Not
to mention the fact that he too has successfully written, directed and stared in his productions.

What actor would you cast as a live-action Homer Simpson?
ADAM: I have a couple friends who I think could do it, but seeing as how they're not actors I'd have to go with Tiger Woods. I was an extra on an American Express commercial several years ago, and got to see him in action. I think he has range.
AARON: I would have to agree. I often think of Tiger Woods when I am watching The Simpsons and vice versa.

Say you landed a big studio contract tomorrow, and they offered you a semi-huge budget to remake, adapt, or sequelize something. What projects would you tackle?
ADAM: Wow. Thanks. Oh, it's hypothetical. Right... well, I might be the asshole who tries to do Salinger. I think "Raise High The Roof Beam Carpenters" would make a good film. I would have said "Ask The Dust" if Robert Towne hadn't beat me to the punch. And I am currently writing a modern, New York City version of "The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn." Wouldn't mind trying to tackle "The Sun Also Rises" either, but Henry King already did that. A lot of the good ones have been done. I would have also said "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter." But alas, it's been done.
AARON: I feel like it would have to be The Simpsons. It wouldn't be fair to continue stringing Tiger Woods along like we have been.

Name an actor in your film that’s absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.
ADAM: I like this Adam Nee kid. I think the whole cast is strong. Shalom Harlow, Jane Bradbury, Daniella Alonso and Sarah Grace Wilson are all promising female talents. For the boys I think Nate Michaux will do things and Benjamin Brock who plays "Francis" is an amazing young actor. I saw him in this video art peice where he played Kurdt Cobain, Michael Jackson, and Ian Curtis. You couldn't tell it wasn't the actual person in any of the videos. He's very good. And of course James Urbaniak has a huge future in front of him. The guy's a force to be reckoned with.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t a filmmaker, I’d almost definitely be...
AARON: In a nicer house.
ADAM: A crime lord.

Who’s an actor you’d kill a small dog to work with? (Don’t worry; nobody would know.)
ADAM: I'm so obvious, but I'd have to say DeNiro. In fact, funny story... I did actually kill a small dog once at a shot to work with Bob, but it turned out to be Aaron who put me up to it to get back at me for stealing one of his Playmobile sets several years earlier.
AARON: It actually had more to do with a secret vendetta against the dog than anything else.

Have you “made it” yet? If not, what would have to happen for you to be able to say “Yes, wow. I have totally made it!”
AARON: I guess that depends on what 'it' is. For example, if 'it' is a clay pot or bowl of some sort, then I would say after the lacquering. If it is something I made of wood though (like a chair maybe), I might never paint or varnish it. In most cases though, I would say after the lacquer, I've totally made it.
ADAM: Well I guess this interview here kind of solidifies the whole thing for me. Yes, wow. I have totally made it!

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
AARON: It is hard to tell just from their writing, but I would imagine a lot of film critics are impotent. I'm not any kind of expert on impotence, but I think it actually has more to do with health habits than career choice. Although, with recent pharmaceutical developments, most film critics can live like others despite their impotence.
ADAM: I hear there will be alot of impotent people at the festival.

You’re told that your next movie must have one “product placement” on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?
AARON: For the sake of those particular film critics we just discussed, I would say Viagra.
ADAM: I'm very against mentioning product names for money at the cost of great art. It makes me so mad I could kick a CHEVY. Then have a nice COKE to wash my anger away.

You’re contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated film to your producers. The MPAA says you have to delete a sex scene that’s absolutely integral to the film or you’re getting an NC-17. How do you handle it?
AARON: Well, seeing as how I must have already sold out by making this hypothetical movie. I would have sex with the MPAA, or whomever I'm under contract with, or both...and then cut the scene.

What’s your take on the whole “a film by DIRECTOR” issue? Do you feel it’s tacky, because hundreds (or at least dozens) of people collaborate to make a film – or do you think it’s cool, because ultimately the director is the final word on pretty much everything?
AARON: If said 'director' is also the writer and the the driving force behind the concepts that the look, sound, etc. are based on, then it is appropriate to credit that one person as being the creative source that made the whole thing possible. Michelangelo did not actually paint his most famous works, but if it were not for him, the finished art would not have been what we recognize as the art of Michelangelo.
ADAM: Yeah, and Michelangelo proved about how Jesus had a baby or whatever in that book.
AARON: That's Da Vinci.
ADAM: Oh. I knew it was one of the ninja turtles.

In closing, we ask you to convince the average movie-watcher to choose your film instead of the trillion other options they have. How do you do it?
AARON: We find another dog to kill.


The Last Romantic, starring Adam Nee, James Urbaniak, Shalom Harlow, and Jane Bradbury, will premiere at the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival. Click here for festival information, and be sure to check out the official The Last Romantic website.

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originally posted: 02/10/06 18:57:44
last updated: 02/10/06 19:22:37
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