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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Director Daniel Schechter On How The Indie Helped Him Score The Jackie Brown Prequel

Discerning filmgoers aghast at the prospect of paying good money to see new releases “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” or “Movie 43” have better option right at their fingertips: “Supporting Characters,” Daniel Schechter’s winning indie comedy about two 20-something film editors (played by “Girls” star Alex Karpovsky and Tarik Lowe) navigating life and love in New York.

With “Supporting Characters” out on VOD now, Schechter spoke to HuffPost Entertainment about the inspirations for his film, the pros and cons of the current indie film landscape, and what fans can expect from his adaptation of “The Switch,” Elmore Leonard’s novel about Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara, the characters Leonard later featured in “Rum Punch,” which turned into the 1997 film “Jackie Brown.”

On Twitter you wrote that the reviews of “Supporting Characters” have been “reluctantly positive.” I like that.
It’s the perfect way to describe the response to the movie. I don’t necessarily disagree with their criticisms either, because the movie is, I would say, unambitious in scale. But I think these movies go in with a bit of a target on their back, especially when they’re in that mumblecore world of young, white, 20-somethings in New York. I think we tried to do a movie that felt a little bit more polished and scripted. I wanted it to be about two working people.

I like that you made them film editors, because you don’t see that profession portrayed on screen very often.
If you’re a movie buff, you should check out “Modern Romance” by Albert Brooks. He’s a film editor in that and it’s really the only other movie about a film editor I could even think of. We wanted to do something in the vein of that, where it was sort of a romantic comedy. I needed to give my two main characters a job where they could work together and essentially bitch about their significant others. I thought, “Why not make them film editors? That’s something I kind of know about and can speak about with authority. I could use some personal anecdotes.” It was just a fun world to be in, frankly.

What was it about Alex Karpovsky that made you think it could play a variation of you onscreen?
I didn’t know Alex before but I knew some of his work. I had see “Beeswax,” where he plays a very nice, lovable guy. Then I saw “Tiny Furniture,” where he plays a bit of a prick. I figured, “I’m kind of somewhere in between those types.” Also, he looks a little bit like me: We’re both six-foot-three, lean-ish, Jewish-looking guys. He doesn’t have a big following the way someone like Tom Hanks or John Cusack might have. I just thought he’d be great in this. Now, we’re lost in a sea of all this Alex Karpovsky stuff, with “Girls” and his two other movies, but at the time he really didn’t have much and it felt really cool to give him his first leading-man part that he didn’t direct.

You mentioned “Modern Romance” as an inspiration. What other films were you thinking of for this?
I guess I’d have to say “Tiny Furniture,” because Lena Dunham did what I would have done, which is make a mumblecore movie that stands on the shoulders of a more polished film—with cinematography and casting—so it’s palatable to people who aren’t just filmmakers or at a film festival. That was really what I wanted to do. I started off making movies for $400,000 or $800,000, and I was really jealous of these mumblecore filmmakers who are making movies for nothing, but they felt really personal and honest and entertaining.

Do you think the rise of mumblecore and even lower-budgeted films is good for indie filmmakers?
It’s tough to wrap my head around it. I’m by no means an expert. The plus side is that anyone can make a feature film now; that’s really exciting. The downside is that everyone else is making a feature film. But, I think that the cream rises to the top. Right now, I’m making a much bigger movie [“The Switch” adaptation]. It’s got Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes and people like that, and I feel very fortunate that I was able to make a calling card of a feature film that I was proud of. My intentions are to try to parlay “Supporting Characters” and go to bigger and bigger projects. I really want to be part of the national or global conversation when it comes to films. I want my films to be seen and not just in a niche market.

Do you think “Supporting Characters” helped you get “The Switch” adaptation?
It’s too long and complicated of a story, but I think it helped me get certain actors who saw it and responded to it. I think it alleviated a lot of people’s concerns. Here was something that, while it might not have been “Citizen Kane,” had good performances, was well-reviewed and got into a good film festival. I was proud to show it—it’s the first time I made a film I was 100 percent proud of.

Your film is not a prequel to “Jackie Brown,” but obviously “Jackie Brown” is a very beloved movie and it has the same characters. Any concerns about trying to live up to that?
“Jackie Brown” is one of my favorite movies of all time; certainly one of my favorite Quentin Tarantino films. I also think it’s the film that most accurately captures the voice of Elmore Leonard, when I read his books, and he’s one of my favorite writers. It’s not really going to be a prequel, because it’s not going to be visually similar. We’re not using the same actors and there’s even a different interpretation of the Bridget Fonda character, Melanie, who Isla Fisher is playing in our film. It’s a film I admire because Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson really nailed Louis Gara and Ordell Robbie. It could feel slightly similar for those reasons. but will stand on its own. It has a completely different title and a completely different feel. As a film nerd, however, it makes me excited that some people might go in there knowing “Jackie Brown.”

Plus, those characters are so great. It’ll be nice to seem them again, especially with John Hawkes and Mos Def in those roles.
I’m enormously proud. John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey [Mos Def’s real name] are incredibly deep thinkers. They read the book. They have their own personal life perspective. I don’t think they’re going to study what De Niro and Jackson did; they don’t want to be doing any kind of imitation of those characters. But I cannot wait to see them together. I think it will be worthy of the amazing performances that De Niro and Jackson gave, for sure.

“Supporting Characters” is out now on VOD; New York residents can see the film at Cinema Village, located in Greenwich Village.

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