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Commentary - Going the Distance w/ Director Nanette Burstein Q & A

Thursday, August 12, 2010

 Personally, I’ve never been in a truly long distance relationship, but I once dated a guy that lived in DE (less than 2hrs away) and he broke up with me citing -logistics. Dated another guy in Allentown, (again, less than 2 hrs away in the other direction) sent him a text once with a very steamy promise if he agreed to drive to me after work. His reply, “Not during the week, cause I’d have to leave your place super early in the morning to get to work on time”.

So this rom/com starring Drew Barrymore and real life love interest Justin Long is very relate-able. The movie deals with the pitfalls of long distance relationships. Garrett (Long) meets Erin (Barrymore) when he blocks the screen while she's playing the vintage arcade game, centipede  – “Who does that?” What starts out as a casual hook up, turns into the real thing.  Problem, Erin is in NY for a summer internship at the Sentinel Newspaper and plans to go back to San Francisco to finish her degree. Garrett doesn't want to relocate as he's just establishing himself as an A&R Rep at a small record label.

 The chemistry between the two is good. Their initial “sleep over” involving Top Gun soundtrack is laugh out loud funny. The standard falling in love montage works. Things like trust issues, phone sex, and surprise visits are all covered with good humor and realism. Side issues like both characters working in industries that are in states of major change and severe cutbacks add to the dilemma. Christina Applegate and Jim Gaffigan (only funny when doing stand-up) play Erin’s dry humping sister and brother-in-law. Garrett’s two side kicks, mustachioed, Box (Jason Sudeikis) and bathroom open door policy Dan (Charlie Day, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) keep him busy during Erin’s absence. Still, somehow, the movie is flat, good kindling, no spark.

Director, Nanette Burstein was in attendance at the screening, below are excerpts from the Q & A :

Q: What attracted you to the film?

NB: The story was such an honest premise and I’d been in a long distance relationship before, so I really related to the subject matter. And it was very funny.

Q: The dialogue seems really realistic, was there a lot of improv involved?

NB: Yes, we would shoot the script, but then we would improvise all the scenes as well, so we had both options in the edit room. Everyone brought their improv chops to the set, so we got some really funny moments.

Q: Your real life long distance relationship was how far?

NB: LA  – NY.  In fact, he was in the music industry. Bi-Coastal’s tough.

Q: How did you get the supporting cast, do you know them?

 NB: No. We just asked them to do it. Jason actually auditioned. Although I already knew I wanted to cast him. This was Charlie’s first movie, so he was excited. I got all my first choices, I was really lucky.

Q: How about the leads?

NB: In the very first draft of the script the characters were younger, they were in their mid twenties, so I was thinking of different leads at the time given their age, then we decided to make them older. 1) because it made the stakes feel higher. As you get older, issues of love and career seem to grow in intensity and 2) Drew expressed interest in the script and I was excited about that. 

I had met her in person – you’re so used to her playing America’s sweetheart, but in real life she has a different personality. She has that same charm you always see on screen, but she’s also tough and vulnerable and speaks her mind and is quite funny, so I thought she’d be perfect to play the role. So that’s how it happened.
Q: The very first scene in the bar tells you this is not your usual romantic comedy.

NB: Yeah. I think the model, at least tone wise for me, was the movie Knocked Up. Realistic premise had a lot of humor, was raunchy but never inappropriately so, and it was really equal between the man and woman’s point of view, which we tried to do in this movie too.

Q: Do you feel Drew and Justin’s off-screen relationship added to the chemistry?

NB: I would say so. Not only chemistry, but intimacy, some of the more comedic love scenes like the phone sex or having sex on the dining room table, can be awkward with actors that don’t know each other; but because Drew & Justin know each other so well and are so comfortable with each other, it made those scenes easy.

 Q: Since this was your first feature length movie, while you were preparing, what made you most nervous?

NB: Everything! Across the board! It was like, “what have I got myself into?” You have to seem incredibly confident eventhough you’re figuring it out as you go. I didn’t even know what most to be nervous about until I got in the situation and then I quickly figured it out. I guess the biggest challenge was with shooting the script and shooting the improv and trying to make it look good as well; you only have so much time in the day and we were not exactly scheduled properly given all I wanted to do, so you’re always under the gun time wise and that’s always a little stressful.

Q: How did you get involved with the script?

NB: I had made documentaries (American Teen 2008 , The Kid Stays in the Picture 2002, Say It Loud: A Celebration of Black Music in America 2001) so I was being sent scripts from Hollywood to be considered as a feature length director. I really responded to this script and met with the producers; I don’t know what I said, but they decided to hire me. 

I then brought in new writers that are not credited because of WGA rules, but we rewrote the script quite a bit. It’s hard to say what someone else would have done; I just tried to take a very realistic approach to it and also find very talented funny, actors so we could do a lot of improv. It was important to make the sets feel honest. Most movies for example, people live in these fabulous apartments in New York and it’s totally unrealistic, that’s a pet peeve of mine.  I just tried to make it feel really honest and have a lot of heart and humor.

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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?
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