Whistler Film Festival 2014 Interview: PRETEND WE'RE KISSING creators Matt Sadowski & Pete Harvey
By Jason Whyte
Posted 12/06/14 12:15:57
'If you like cinematic, romantic, dramatic, neurotic, (or any other kind of tic) kinda film, that has wit, whimsy, pathos, and a bi-sexual nudist played by Zoe Kravitz, you might dig our flick. If you have ever felt like you overthink romantic situations for fear of embarrassing yourself, you will definitely like our film.' Director Matt Sadowski on PRETEND WE'RE KISSING
Adds producer Peter Harvey:
The film is a quirky comedy and as much fun to watch as it was for us to make! The film follows Benny and Jordan, two normal people who have a whirlwind weekend romance. Dov Tiefenbach (Harold and Kumar, Sympathy for Delicious) plays Benny, a nebbish character who struggles to make a real romantic connection; Tommie-Amber Pirie (Michael: Tuesday and Thursdays) is Jordan, a girl hell-bent on proving magical love can exist and Autumn, brought to life by Zoe Kravitz (Divergent, Mad Max: Fury Road) is an unemployed, bi-sexual hippy who is also a self-diagnosed agoraphobic.
Now Peter, I know for a FACT this is not your first Whistler Film Festival experience....
Peter Harvey: This is not my first time and I am a seasoned pro now! My first feature that I produced was PICTURE DAY by Kate Melville, which I produced with Lauren Grant. We were lucky enough to win the Borso Competition in Whistler in 2012. Our very talented lead actress, Tatiana Maslany, also won Best Actress that year. Yes, I will be in Whistler!
Peter may be a seasoned pro about Whistler, but I believe it is your first time in Whistler, Matt?
Matt Sadowski: Yep. It is my first festival experience and I am really looking forward to attending my screenings and throwing up on stage or in my seat.
Peter, what do you love the most about showing movies in Whistler and Whistler in general?
Peter:The vibe is like no other film festival. People in Whistler love art and cultural, so they really embrace the festival. The best part about showcasing the film in Whistler, is that it is my hometown! I get to bring my films back and show them to my peers, the people I grew up with and the people who helped me get to where I am today. I am very grateful for that. I am also grateful for all the support the Whistler Film Festival has shown me. And yes, I can not wait to get up the hill.
Both of you, please tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker. Also what have you worked on in the past?
Peter: I became a filmmaker by shooting films with my Whistler friends at a very young age. It was more by accident, then on purpose. Just kind of fell in love with it! I picked up after high school again and then made a career of it. Best decision of my life and I would not change a thing.
Matt: This is my first narrative feature. A few years ago I directed a feature documentary about John Hughes called DON'T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. I started out as an actor, but quickly found my heart more drawn to telling stories instead of being a character in them. From a young age, I would convince my teachers to allow me to hand in short films rather than essays.
How did this movie come together from both of your perspectives?
Matt: I started to write this film shortly after starting to date the woman who became my wife. I realized that the other girls I thought I was in love with were all there for a reason. Sometimes you meet the person you are supposed to meet just so you can meet the person you are supposed to be with. I wrote it between set-ups while I was filming a series I was acting in, in New Zealand. That was 10 years ago. It took a lot of conviction, sacrifice and maturity to go through all the rewrites, develop my filmography, have the Telefilm Microbudget Program fall into my lap at the perfect time, and get connect with Pete.
Peter: Matt approached me with the project. The first time I read it, I could not put it down. I really dug the material and the writing from Matt, so I knew I wanted to jump onto the film. It was one of the films that I could see the film come to life in my head, so I agreed to produce it. After that, Telefilm came on board in the spring of 2013 and we started shooting in the fall of 2013.
Both of you must have had your own unique challenges for director and producer, respectively. What was the biggest challenge for each of you?
Peter: Definitely the budget. We were apart of Telefilm Microbudget program, so we shot the film on a shoestring budget. We had to ask for a lot of favours and a ton of support from film companies. Luckily, companies like William F. Whites, Clairmont Cameras, Technicolor and Sitka Surfboards were able to help us out. With their support, I was still able to pay my crew and keep everyone happy.
Matt: The main character is based on my neuroses, so I sometimes found it difficult to direct Dov, as I intuitively knew how the scene should feel; usually also because more than half the movie are based on situations and dialogue I had or said. I think whenever you are working on a low-budget movie, you are a slave to your crew, and if they are not behind it, it will make the process akin to crawling on your belly over broken glass. Pete and I were able to find people that loved the film as much as we did, and were really dedicated in making it happen the way we visualized it. I am very grateful. The hardest thing was actually balancing my personal/family life, during production. I had a two month old new baby at home, and was essentially abandoning my wife and him for my art, and would return from shooting to be up with them during the night and morning. But again, my actors and crew and my producer enabled me to do my best work, with little sleep.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you both? How much coffee?
Peter: All the coffee in the world drives me. I do love coffee, but it is the film itself that drives me. I never take on a project I do not love. I really need to fall in love with the material before I shoot the film, or what is the point? I am going to be working on this film for years, so I need to be passionate about it.
Matt: This is a very personal film for me, and I felt I needed to make it to move on from a person that I used to be. People who know me know that I do what I say I am going to do, and ten years development or not, I was going to somehow get this film made and released. I was driven by the feeling that a future in directing is so uncertain, and if I had moved onto something else, another film or a different career path, not making this film would always be a huge question mark. What if? I had to make it just to see what the answer is/will be.
If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?
Matt: The scene that gives the film its title really happened to me. Filming it was completely surreal and definitely an out-of-body favourite moment.
Peter: I think my single favorite moment was shooting the island scenes. We had two options, to shoot two nights on the island, which included ferries and a lot of logistic or we could just do one long day and get it all then. I polled the cast & crew and everyone voted for the one long day because they knew we could get it, plus it would give us a three day weekend. So everyone pulled up their socks and we shot some of the greatest and most stunning scenes in the film. For the sunrise shot in the film with them on the ferry, that is after a full night of shooting and is actually the sun coming up. It looks amazing and is probably one of my favourite shots of the film.
Tell me about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on/format and why it was decided to be filmed this way.
Peter:I come from a very technical side of film, so I understand cameras and the way to shoot films on different formats. I have shot on everything but a cell phone. The first feature film I ever shot was a film from Rob Grant that I camera operated on Super 16mm. It was a blast to shoot on film and I would love to shoot all my movies on film. Nowadays, it is pretty tough to shoot on film logistically and also cost wise, so we tried to do the next best thing. Our cinematographer, Joshua Allen, tested as many camera bodies and lenses as he could, but the look that him and Matt were going for was something very cinematic and beautiful. Something specific. What we decided to go with, was the Arri Alexa and Anamorphic prime lenses. Matt wanted long steady takes to really showcase the scenes. I think that with those tools, Josh was able to achieve the dream look for the film. It is a very stunning movie, so I applaud Josh for pulling it off.
Matt: Almost all of my work has been shot by Joshua. Everytime we worked together, whether on my shorts or my TMN/MC tv series, we discussed the look of the film when the reality of making it seemed impossible. When I was selected for the Telefilm Microbudget Program, all of the sudden we had to bring the style from our conversations to life. We both wanted the film to be reminiscent of the film we had grown up with, things that had long takes and locked frames in anamorphic screen size, rather this this handheld, quick-cut, verite style that indie film has become to be known for over the last decade. On a lark, I wrote to legendary DP Gordon Willis, and he agreed to answers any questions we had while we were making decisions about camera, lighting etc. It really challenged both my actors and the crew, but it results in beautiful frames and an opportunity to see the actors work, rather than the editing.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie in Whistler?
Peter: It is our World Premiere! I am just excited to show the film for the first time ever to the public. It will be exciting to hear how they react to it.
Matt: I am very excited to see this film in front of people who are not friends or family, and against such amazing scenery.
After the film screens in Whistler, where is the film going to show next? Anywhere you guys would like it to show?
Peter: Film festivals, film festivals and more film festivals. We can not announce anything yet, but we will be able to soon. The film will have its theatrical release in June 2015 and be going to VOD shortly after that.
Matt: We are still waiting to hear back from other festivals, but I am crossing my fingers, toes and eyes that it gets into SXSW.
If you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?
Peter: I think this movie would be a perfect film to watch on a beach somewhere in Europe or a rooftop in New York. It is not your traditional romantic film, but it is more of an every-persons real life romance story. I think a lot of people will really enjoy how it feels like a real romance that they have had in their 20s.
Matt: I would have loved to show this film at the old Famous Players Uptown Theatre in Toronto. My hometown, and one of the last historic 'old-school' cinemas. Unfortunately, it was torn down in 2003.
What would you say or do to someone who is talking or texting during a screening of your film?
Peter: I would eat their phone. I think they would be speechless after that, plus it takes care of them texting.
Matt: It depends if they are talking or texting about how much they love my film!
There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers reading our site. What would you want to tell them if they are aspiring to become a filmmaker?
Peter: It is definitely not for everyone, but if you love it, then keep at it. Story is everything. You can have the best camera in the world, but if you have a weak story, the audience will see right through it.
Matt: Never stop watching, thinking and making movies. Always listen to advice. It does not mean you have to take it.
And finally what is your all time favorite movie? Or film festival movie?
Peter: I have too many to name. True Romance, City of God, The Good the Bad and the Weird, just to name a few off the top of my head. I could go on for days. Every country has amazing films and styles. For film festival movies, I have been fortunate to travel all over the world for film festivals this year and had the pleasure of watching two incredible films in Spain at the Sitges International Film Festival, Goodnight Mommy & Cold in July. I recommend both of those films!
Matt: I do not have ONE favourite movie. But I do have a top 5: ET, Back to the Future, Sixteen Candles, Annie Hall, Falling Down.
Be sure to see PRETEND WE'RE KISSING at Whistler Film Festival:
Friday, December 5th, 8:30pm at Village 8 Cinemas
Saturday, December 6th, 5:30pm at Village 8 Cinemas
This is one of the many films playing at the 2014 Whistler Film Festival. For show information, tickets and for other general information on films and events, point your browser to the official website HERE
Be sure to follow instant happenings of Whistler Film Festival on my Twitter account @jasonwhyte, including mini-reviews of films, comments on festival action and even a photo or two. You can also follow the festival on my Instagram at jason.whyte!
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com