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INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL SCHECHTER (Director/Co-Writer, Supporting Characters at Tribeca 2012 Festival)
Fest 21 (Suzanne Lynch) sat down with Daniel Schechter, the director and co-writer of SUPPORTING CHARACTERS, a low-budget indie that's set to become a darling of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. The film, which pleases due to its skillful, often unexpected writing and the deft comic timing of its cast, tells the story of two best friends, both film editors, who must repair a film that's not playing well in test screenings. In the process of working on the post-production of the film, both men find themselves trying also to repair romantic relationships that have gone astray.
Schechter, who co-wrote the screenplay with one of the film's stars, Tarik Lowe, shot Supporting Characters in 12 days for only $60,000. However, the film's production value, from sound to editing to pitch-perfect costumes by Liz Vastola, doesn't betray its meager budget.
Both Alex Karpovsky, the likeable lead actor who essentially plays Schechter in this largely autobiographical movie, and Lena Dunham, who nails a small role as a sullen staffer in the post-production house, recently premiered a highly anticipated new TV series on HBO on April 15th called "Girls." Schechter will next be heading to direct Jennifer Aniston, Denis Quaid, and Mos Def in a screen adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel, "The Switch."
ON USING ONE'S IPHONE AS A TAPE RECORDER
I wrote this film with Tarik Lowe...the guy who plays Daryl in the film...and for a lot of the scenes -- because Alex Karpovsky is essentially playing me -- we would record our improvisations and then whittle it down to the best of the best of them. For like two of three of the major scenes in the film, we used this exact software.
WHY THE TITLE SUPPORTING CHARACTERS?
The title was originally "This is my Girlfriend" and then I kept getting a bunch of people who weren't in love with it and then somebody suggested "Supporting Characters" and I liked it a lot because I wanted to make a connection between editing people out of the film and editing people out of your life. Usually those are not the main characters. You yourself are the main character.
ON A LINE IN THE MOVIE ABOUT DOING IT BETTER NEXT TIME
That's like the most important line in the movie, and I hesitate to put a firm answer on it. I think I am particularly hard on myself when I make mistakes and I make a lot of them. I like somebody telling him... we'll do better in the future, don't beat yourself forever, you screw up in relationships, hopefully you learn from your mistakes and you'll do better in the future. Same thing with career. It didn't seem like they had the best experience editing that film. Hopefully they'd take what they learned from it and use it on the next film.
ON DISCUSSIONS ABOUT RACE IN THE FILM
Tarik and I are fascinated with race and we discuss it all the time. I think we are at a comfort level with each other that we each know the other is not coming from any kind of bad place. We are wildly curious about race... it's a hot button subject that always intrigues us. I like that stuff in the film. People get edgy when they see it...they laugh harder but they also get quieter. It's weird. Even in this day and age, it's still taboo to talk about (race). To me that is some of the most exciting stuff in the film.
ON HIS TRAJECTORY FROM FILM EDITOR TO FILM DIRECTOR
My trajectory has more been as a writer to director than editor to director. My first film, called The Big Bad Swim, also premiered at Tribeca in 2006 and a buddy of mine directed that. I thought that will be fun, I'll write and he'll direct. But the second I stepped on set, I was incredibly envious and I felt that I'd given away something that I had worked very hard on. From that point on, I knew I only wanted to direct. Directing for me is the reward you get for finishing a screenplay, which is brutal, hard and lonely work.
ON WHAT HE MIGHT WRITE OTHER THAN A SCREENPLAY
A blog, like a blog or something like that. But I love to write dialogue. That's my favorite part of writing a script, writing dialogue, so maybe a play.
ON WHETHER LOW BUDGET FILM MAKING IS HIS FAVORITE
You mean NO BUDGET filmmaking? I'd never done it before. I was really lucky to get mid six figures to make my first two films which isn't high budget but it's not micro-budget either. But I was so envious of people who were making these small, personal South-by-Southwest mumble-core-y kind of films. And I was losing a fortune on my films and they were making money or not losing a fortune to make their calling cards. So when I made this I specifically said, I want to make my mumble core movie, but I want to do what Lena Dunham did in "Tiny Furniture" which is to make something polished and well written that could potentially break out of that film festival world. Hopefully, something you could also recommend to someone who isn't a 20-something filmmaker and still have them enjoy it.
ON THE BUDGET FOR HIS NEXT FILM -- "THE SWITCH"--STARRING JENNIFER ANISTON AND DENNIS QUAID.
I think I did the math and I realized that the budget was 200 times larger than on Supporting Characters. It's a huge film with huge actors... It's well into probably a low seven-figure movie, I think.. It's night and day...I've never done anything like it before... It's been an embarrassment of riches. It's great material. I love Elmore Leonard. I've read every single Elmore Leonard book. It's a great book and it's easily adaptable to film.
ON THE MOST IMPORTANT QUALITY FOR A DIRECTOR
Good Taste. You can be a really great communicator but if what you are communicating doesn't translate into a good film then what's the point? I like to think that I am a good communicator and I have good taste. But I also think it's very important to be opinionated. You can't not have opinions. You might not always know what you want ...but you have to always know what you like.
ON HOW HE LEARNED FILMMAKING
If there was a pie chart that showed you how much you learn in film school versus how much you learn on your first firm in the real world it would be like 20/80. I was lucky enough to be making movies right out of film school. It's real life experience. And every year I realize how naïve I was the year before.
ON WHY ARE FESTIVALS LIKE TRIBECA ARE IMPORTANT
Without festivals like Tribeca, there would be no life for a film like mine. There would be no jumping off point. It's the best way for a movie like mine to get respectability and promotion. They are the middlemen between us and America, between us and the world, theoretically. I love the festival. TriBeCa gives filmmakers something to hope for...
--- Suzanne Lynch
About Suzanne Lynch
The Bulletin Board
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