Thursday, August 6, 2020

I Used To Go Here Chicago Film Festival Interview Summary

On Wednesday, August 5, 2020, The Chicago International Film Festival held a virtual Q&A with Kris Rey, the director and writer of the new film I Used To Go Here (review) starring Gillian Jacobs and Jermaine Clement.  Kris shares insight into making the film, the writing process, and trying to keep her films local and stay in Chicago.  The full video is below but we have provided a summary of the main points from the interview for those that would rather read them.  The interview and the highlights have some spoilers so if you haven't seen the film, definitely watch it before reading the transcript.
Kris Rey Interview Highlights
  • I Used To Go Here was inspired by her own experiences touring for a previous film, Unexpected.  It is about the dynamic of going back to college and still trying to identify with the students that viewed her through this lens of success and validity.
  • Casting Gillian Jacobs didn't change the script much, but after casting Jermaine Clement, she redid the script in his voice.  Some scenes changed due to having Jermaine on it, for example the tea scene.
  • Translating her vision to the script can be tough because everyone involved has a part in how the movie gets made.  If you want a scene to have someone drinking from a red coffee cup, you need to write "red coffee cup."  You have to be sure when you are writing a script, that if you are imagining a scene, you note how you want it to be shot.
    • For example, for transitional scenes, you might have in your head a beautifully framed telephone wire with birds.  If you don't write it into the script, no one is blocking the time to get the shots, and in the end you're so overwhelmed with making the movie that no one then has time to do those little touches.
    • Learning that is something that just comes with experience.  Kris said that she is still trying to get better as a filmmaker to ensure her vision translates to the screen.
  • How does she make her characters feel alive?  
    • She gave the example of just finding the people that were perfect for the roles.  For example, she cast Cindy Gold as Ms. Beeter (the B&B owner) because she did a table reading for SAG last February and cast local actors for all the roles.  Cindy Gold was cast for it as well as Rommel Chan who plays Elliot.  They brought so much of themselves for the table read that they were eventually cast.  Then those actors, bringing their own personalities helped to make the characters feel alive.  For Ms. Beeter lady, in the last scene, she wrote a prompt for the actor but didn't write the actual line.  It was something like "she drops her shoulders and says that is all that she has wanted."  The actor made this scene come alive.  
  • Any information about the hi-jinks that occur later in the film?
    • To explain the hi-jinks later in the movie, she sent a draft of the script to a friend.  The feedback her friend said to add in baby steps to the film to have them progress up to the hi-jinks.  Rather than have the idea be to go break into the house, the friend suggested to have them go "check out the house," then lead them on in baby steps from there.
  • Origin of Hannah Mark's poem?
    • Hannah Mark's poem, didn't have anything in the script.  Up until shooting it, the script said "and then she reads something that is vulnerable, bold, sexual, and really really good."   Kris had no idea how to write that poem, but enlisted some writer friends to help.  
  • Was there a reason that she didn't make it about a filmmaker?  
    • Kris thought it would be lame if she made Kate a filmmaker. Also didn't want to make the movie completely about her.  Also, a novelist has less influences from others making the work.  For a novel, it is really you writing it.  The reaction to the book is a reaction to your work.
  • Process for writing and rewriting a film?  
    • Drafts drafts drafts.  She probably had about 15 drafts of the movie.  Where it started versus where it ended up was a very different place.  
    • Typically do a basic outline on a word document, then take those scenes and notecard, put them in the order she thinks and then rearranges them.  Then goes and really tries to fill out some of the scenes to make sure that the film is in a good place, then really fills it out.
    • Later in the draft process, had friends in the industry read her film.
    • Then once you get to shooting, there are budget and time constraints for the film.
  • Filming in Carbondale?
    • Did not film in Carbondale.  It was cost prohibitive and logistically difficult so couldn't' film there.  Really explored filming there, but went on scouting trip and it didn't make much sense to actually do it.  And to be honest, Carbondale is a different town from what it was when she went to school there, so filming would require a lot of changes to make it the quaint, college town that she remembered.
  • Why she named a character Bradley Cooper?  
    • When she is writing a script, she gets stuck on names.  Knew that she wanted the character to be called by first and last name no matter what.  But couldn't think of any other name that people would always call by first and last name.
  • On featuring Chicago and Illinois-based musicians.  
    • She wanted to represent.  She loves Chicago and is always trying to make work here and get people to stay there.
  • What inspired her to be a director?
    • She likes telling stories about awkward situations she's been in and likes hearing stories.  And she likes exploring what she is grappling with.  This movie is tackling subjects she is grappling with personally, and as a filmmaker writing and making a movie helps her work through what is going on in her life.
  • What tips do you have for creating good characters?
    • She doesn't really know.  Often she thinks about people that she has encountered or know.  Tall Brandon is based on someone in her social circle named Brandon Daley.  Thought he was funny and wrote a character based on him called Tall Brandon.  He found out about this, and asked if he could play the character.  She made him audition and he stole the show.
    • Other examples, Ms. Beeter (B&B owner) and Elliot are all made up, but they are all based on characters or people that she has come across.  

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