INDEPENDENT VISIONS COMPETITION SPOTLIGHT: Exclusive interview with the Filmmakers and Cast of RICHARD'S WEDDING!
Watching Richard's Wedding is like going to a party and meeting a tight group of friends who instantly welcome you into their fold and make you feel like you've known them all your life. It is a film that delivers its themes through sparkling conversation and terrific acting. What follows, much like the film, is a fun whirlwind roundtable discussion with actor/writer/director Onur Tukel and actors Jennifer Prediger, Lawrence Michael Levine, Heddy Lahmann, and Adam Schartoff. Richard's Wedding plays Friday, April 20 @ 8:15 PM, Saturday, April 21 @ 5:00 PM, and Sunday, April 22 @ 5:45 PM. CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS NOW!
Before we get started, here is a complete list of the movies in our Independent Visions Competition. See them all!
Independent Visions Competition
Empire Builder by Kris Swanberg
Leave Me Like You Found Me by Adele Romanski
Gayby by Jonathan Lisecki
In Our Nature by Brian Savelson
Richard’s Wedding by Onur Turkel
See Girl Run by Nate Meyer
Sun Don’t Shine by Amy Seimetz
The Unspeakable Act by Dan Sallit
Welcome To Pine Hill by Keith Miller
THE INSIDER: What inspired you to make this movie?
Onur Tukel (Writer/Director/"Tuna"): I love the dialogue-driven movies of Woody Allen, Richard Linklater, Noah Baumbach and Whit Stillman. I always wanted to make a New York ensemble movie. I moved to New York in October of 2010 to get inspired. I had been cast in a really great indie film called Septien by Michael Tully and was really inspired by Tully's process. He made that movie without any real fear of how it would be received. I remember him saying specifically, "I don't care if this movie gets distributed. I don't care if it gets into film festivals." And then he went and made a brilliant movie! It was incredibly inspiring. So Tully was hugely influential.
There are three specific MOVIES that have inspired/informed RW. One specific influence was the movie TAPE by Richard Linklater which takes place in a hotel room in real time. The two male leads spend the first half of the movie talking about a character that doesn't show up until the second act.
I was also influenced by one short specific scene in THE PUFFY CHAIR by the Duplass brothers. The male lead stages this kind of improvisational drunk wedding ceremony for his brother and a girl that he just met. It's an amazing scene. I remember watching it thinking, "Man, it would be fun just to be in that backyard right now with those brilliant idiots, celebrating the magic of love and alcohol." Duplass is so charming in that scene. And I always tucked that scene away, thinking I'd make an entire movie based on this really low-key, no-frills wedding.
Then I saw Todd Rohal's THE CATACYSM CATACLYSM and I saw the potential in shooting a dialogue-driven movie with 2 Canon 7ds or 5ds. That movie has such a great, crazy energy and is mostly dialogue (until the insane third act). Robert Longstreet and Steve Little are so good in that movie and I think having two cameras helped because it was able to capture the energy between them. So, when I think of the inspiration of RW, there are four names, Michael Tully, Duplass, Linklater and Rohal.
THE INSIDER: Who came up with the initial story and how was it developed into the movie you're screening at SFF?
Onur Tukel (Writer/Director/"Tuna"): I wrote a standard script...about 120 pages. I invited a bunch of people for a reading (SFF's youthFEST Director Allison Koehler was there). Everyone responded really well and gave a lot of notes. The character of Alex was initially a guy (written for Alex Karpovsky) and Alison Koehler suggested that I make it a female. Great idea. I love Allison's spirit and attitude and I wanted her to play one of the smaller roles. Unfortunately, there were scheduling conflicts so it'll have to be the next one (if she's available).
The script changed quite a bit after the first reading. There was also an earlier draft of the script that was much darker. Terribly dark. For example, it was revealed before the wedding that the bride was having an incestuous affair with her step-father. Horrible stuff. When I moved to New York, I was in a depressed, dark place. After six months here, my mood had changed and I rewrote the script with a more positive, fun one. I think being in SEPTIEN had a lot to do with that. It showed at the BAM Cinemafest in New York. It had a one-week run at IFC. It premiered at Sundance 2011. That's where I met Jennifer Prediger and Josephine Decker. I had a ten-day Soho art-show for the paintings I had made for SEPTIEN. I made a ton of friends and contacts. Going into production, I had a lot of confidence for once. It was buoyed by everyone's positive attitude.
THE INSIDER: Was the movie largely improvised?
Lawrence Michael Levine ("Richard"): No. It's just decent acting.
Onur Tukel (Writer/Director/"Tuna"): I'd say no. We stuck pretty close to the script but we were constantly throwing out lines and adding lines. From the beginning I mentioned that I didn't want the dialogue spoken as written. As long as the actors got the context right, I wanted them to say the dialogue in their own words. But we rehearsed several days before hand and we tweaked the text quite a bit. People would throw in jokes. We'd cut stuff that didn't seem to work. Some of the funniest dialogue in the script though was conceived by the actors (The best joke in the movie, "Lindsay, not Ling Ze" was written by Theresa Lu). We did have the luxury of shooting on two cameras which allowed us to shoot 5-6 minute takes. This allowed for spontaneity from time to time.
But I'd say that 85% of the script/dialogue was performed as written. Still, this movie was shot very quickly and impulsively. There wasn't a specific vision. There were no storyboards. And though we did rehearse, they were more read-throughs and discussions. Having a specific script was great to keep things organized and things at times were a gonzo and chaotic. I love working that way. I've been on film sets before where you'd have to wait hours between shots/scenes. That wears me out. Shooting is exhilarating.
THE INSIDER: What obstacles did you face making RICHARD'S WEDDING?
Jennifer Prediger ("Alex"): The unhinged brain of Onur Tukel. He's a genius and a mad man. Have you ever seen a photo of Captain Caveman? Onur is the hungover version of that.
Onur Tukel (Writer/Director/"Tuna"): It was really hard getting everyone together at the same time to rehearse. The script was 120 pages, all dialogue, and I was scared of the movie sounding like a "written movie." I wanted it to feel improvised but I also love writing silly jokes. Rehearsals/readings were important so that I could hear how the dialogue sounded. If something sounded false, we changed it to sound more natural. If this didn't work, we just cut the line. But getting 13 people in one room in New York, with everyone's crazy schedule, was really hard. I think we only had one day when the entire cast was in a room together prior to the shoot.
The production itself was tight and terrifying and when we were shooting in Central Park, there was always something threatening to shut us down. We had to stop shooting early the first day in Central Park, because of a Black Eyed Peas concert. We had to keep shuffling the schedule around to avoid rain.
Days before we started shooting, we had to replace one of the actors. The character had been written specifically for the actor and so now the script had to be rewritten. So I split this character into two characters and found two new actors.
Adam Schartoff ("Andrew"): Lack of experience as an actor. But everyone was so good and I think with indie films, having some non-professionals around is par the course. So I felt very at ease very quickly.
THE INSIDER: What were some of your most satisfying moments from the shoot?
Onur Tukel (Writer/Director/"Tuna"): We had to stop shooting for about an hour because of the rain. As the entire crew huddled under a gazebo in Central Park, we worked out how to work rain into the storyline. It worked out brilliantly.
Heddy Lahmann ("Amy"): Most satisfying moment hands down: the rained away wedding. We ran up to Belvedere Castle in Central Park to find shelter from the unanticipated downpour and the cameras kept rolling. Jason and Jorge (Directors of Photography) chased us up the stairs, cameras in one hand, and umbrellas in the other to protect the equipment and the ceremony continued with all of us soaking wet, mascara streaming, hair stuck to our faces, making our own individual puddles while the storm raged on. It was spontaneous, emotional... serendipitous perhaps? One of those magic moments.
THE INSIDER: Who are some of your favorite filmmakers?
Onur Tukel (Writer/Director/"Tuna"): Michael Tully, David Gordon Green, Todd Rohal, Craig Zobel, Lynn Shelton, Nicole Holofcener, Azazel Jacobs, Jarred Alterman, Alison Bagnall, Woody Allen, Richard Linklater, Whit Stillman, Noah Baumbach.
THE INSIDER: Who do you feel is the audience for RICHARD'S WEDDING?
Lawrence Levine ("Richard"): The four hundred people in the cast.
THE INSIDER: What do you hope audiences will take from the experience of watching your movie?
Lawrence Levine ("Richard"): Laughter.
Adam Schartoff ("Andrew"): That there are different ways to tell stories about friendship. This movie is not warm & fuzzy, yet it is all about friendship and it has a lot of heart. It's unconventional on the surface but very corny one or two layers deep. I mean that in only the best way possible.
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