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TribecaFilm.com: Tell us a little about TiMER.
Jac Schaeffer: TiMER is a romantic comedy with a sci-fi twist. It's about a device that counts down to the moment that you meet your soulmate.
TribecaFilm.com: What inspired you to tell this story?
JS: My brother was getting married, and my mom had one of those "count down to the big day" clocks, and you program the date of the wedding and it scrolls backwards and it's like, "You have 72 days left before the wedding." I would go over [to my mom's house] and my brother—I love my brother and his now-wife, and they're soulmates and that's great—but I was really single at the time and not excited about it and I was like, you know, I don't need my soulmate to be here right this second, but if I just knew he was on his way... if I had one of these devices that told me how long I had to wait, I could relax and I could be like a good sister to my brother who's getting married and be cheerful as a bridesmaid.
So I started writing [TiMER], and then once I started writing it, I realized that that would actually be kind of a terrible thing, like knowing when you're going to die.
TribecaFilm.com: What's the craziest thing that happened while making the film?
JS: We were almost arrested. Our very first day of shooting, there was a screw-up—our location manager screwed up and they had put the wrong month on the permits—and so we were rolling and the cops showed up. My producer came in and we finished a take, and she pulled me off set and she said, "Okay, get what you can get. We might walk out and be arrested." And I was like, "Okay... This is one of those challenges they tell you about in filmmaking!" And we finished almost everything that we needed and the cop took pity on us and we were not arrested, but we were very much kicked out and it was resolved the next day.
TribecaFilm.com: What's your advice for aspiring filmmakers?
JS: The best advice that I have for aspiring storytellers of any kind is to write your own voice. I think that my first attempts at writing scripts were failures because I was trying to write something like this or something like that, and it was really only when I started writing the way I speak and the way I am and what was in my heart that it really popped off the page and got attention and got me financing and got me [a] cast and it came together.
And I think that's what people are hungry for, that's what Hollywood is hungry for: fresh voices. It's the only way to really have something transcend, if it's truthful [to] who you really are. And the flip side of that is if you write from your soul and it's not that good, that's maybe your answer as well. [laughs]
JS: I don't have specific targeted goals; it's not really like that at all. It's more just that it's cast such a wide net of people who will be able to see it, and that's just really exciting, that people all over the place will see it. I'm used to going to festivals and actually interacting with people who see the movie, [but now] strangers all over the place will be watching in their living rooms! That's really exciting.
And also I'm just very excited to be associated with the Tribeca brand. We were so fortunate to premiere at the Festival, and I believe in their vision. Their films are so good. Just the general vibe and what their mission is is something that I'm thrilled to have my film aligned with.
TribecaFilm.com: If you could have dinner with any filmmaker, alive or dead, who would it be?
JS: That is so hard... Billy Wilder. Kathryn Bigelow. Hitchcock, obviously... I can keep going, because this would be awesome.
TribecaFilm.com: What would you want to learn from them?
JS: Billy Wilder, I wouldn't actually have anything to ask him; I'd just want to be around him. He's such a master of timing and has such a ridiculous sense of structure, and I think that that's in someone's bones, and so I would just want to listen to him. Actually, what I would like to be is a guest at his dinner party and hear him talk with his people, because I'd just learn so much.
With Kathryn Bigelow, I'm interested in her process so much. She chooses films that are hard to do. I've never done an action [movie], I've never done a real sci-fi or anything like that, and she does these testosterone-fueled movies that just make my heart race thinking about actually putting them together. So I want to know why she does that, how she sets about shooting... in Jordan—I mean, what do you do? How do you do that? [laughs]
TribecaFilm.com: What piece of art—a book, a film, a TV show, anything—do you find yourself recommending to friends?
JS: One TV show is Battlestar Galactica [laughs] and that's a geek-out entirely. I watched it all at once over the course of two months. It's such a thoroughly realized world, it's what sci-fi should be, where it's a truly imaginative process, a truly imaginative concept, but then all of the characters are real people. You can actually access them emotionally, and so it just feels so tangible...
Kindred is a book by Octavia Butler that I read a year or so ago, and it blows my mind apart. This is the kind of sci-fi that interests me, where it's not computers and monsters or anything like that. It's just weird with very little explanation. And it's also thematically incredibly heavy and interesting.
TribecaFilm.com: What makes TiMER a Tribeca Film must-see?
JS: You know, this is, I mean this, I think that TiMER is a quintessential Tribeca film and a must-see because I think Tribeca skirts that line beautifully between the indie and the commercial. I think that the films they choose have enough weirdness and are thought-provoking enough and have sort of that edge and interest, but the ones that really stand out that are really great are still accessible and have a universal appeal and a sort of crowd-pleasing element.
TiMER is definitely a crowd-pleaser in that way, but it has enough quirk where you still feel like you're getting the indie spirit.
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Read an interview with star Emma Caulfield from 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.
Meet more of the 2010 Faces of the Festival!