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For a New York native like Dan Schechter, a world-premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival is extra special. Supporting Characters provides a unique look at the struggle that most New Yorkers go through to attain a balance between their professional and personal lives. Inspired by real-life events, this heartful and comedic indie follows an editing team comprised of Nick (Alex Karpovsky) and Darryl (co-writer Tarik Lowe) as the two take on a particularly difficult project which jeopardizes their relationships with their girlfriends.
Co-starring Arielle Kebbel and featuring established New York talent like Melonie Diaz, Kevin Corrigan, Lena Dunham, and Sophia Takal, Supporting Characters is a must see. Revisit our interview with Schechter to gain insight into his perspective as director/co-writer and, as a bonus, get the inside scoop on some juicy behind the scenes activities. Schechter is currently directing the Untitled Elmore Leonard Project, which he also adapted, starring Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes, Tim Robbins, and Mos Def.
Note: This interview originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.
Dan Schechter: The film is a comedy about two best friends who work together as film editors in New York City on a movie in crisis, but we also see both of their relationships with women falling apart at the same time. I guess comedy, by and large, doesn’t come from having an awesome job and a perfect relationship, unfortunately. The film’s based largely on the experiences and personalities of me and my co-writer Tarik Lowe, who plays one of the film’s leads, and I’d say its semi-autobiographical.
Tribeca: What inspired you to tell this story? I see some varied credits on your IMDB including some editing work...
Dan Schechter: When I started, I just wanted to make a film, a really good film, for under $50,000, and that was the main goal (and we ended up incredibly close to that number). The editing thing was an arbitrary choice at first. This film was about two best buds and their respective relationships, and we just needed to give them some career to do together so they could bitch at work to one another. So I chose editing because I had some good experiences I could draw from, and perhaps we could get away with not being a “film about making films” because, really, that storyline is about specifically being an editor and what that day job is like.
It reminded me of Modern Romance, which is a classic Albert Brooks film, to which we make one or two “homages.” That film is also a straight up comedy about relationships, but it has some great bits of Brooks and Bruno Kirby working together as editors that I always loved.
Tribeca: A lot of your cast has serious indie cred (Lena Dunham, Sophia Takal, Kevin Corrigan, Melonie Diaz). Can you tell us about the casting process?
Dan Schechter: I hate auditioning. It’s the worst, it takes up all your prep time and it’s really discouraging after a while. So I basically just cast everyone I knew in roles they were appropriate for, or that I wrote specifically for them. Many were friends kind enough to do me the favor of lending their name and talent to the film (like Lena Dunham, Arielle Kebbel and Kevin Corrigan), others were just starting out and happy to be cast in a feature. The only people who were new to me were Alex Karpovsky, Sophia Takal and Melonie Diaz. Poor Sophia was the only one who had to audition because her role was tricky to cast and I wasn’t familiar with her work, but her tape was incredible and I was like, “Done.” It saved a LOT of time and energy to just offer roles to people.
Tribeca: Did you always have Alex Karpovsky in mind? (is he playing your alter ego?) He’s hot these days—he even has two films at TFF 2012!
Dan Schechter: Yes, Alex is essentially playing me. We always knew Tarik would play his own alter ego in the film, but I can’t act whatsoever... Somehow about halfway through writing the script Alex popped into my mind and never got out. I had seen him in both Beeswax and Tiny Furniture , and he stole both of those films for me. He plays a great prick, but a lovable one you can’t help but like, because his acting is just so endearing and his comic timing is impeccable. He can get away with anything, I think.
Also, just on a basic level, he looks somewhat like me. Tall, slim, Jewish... but he has a confidence I lack that’s really magnetic. I don’t believe we could have cast a better actor in the part. The joke I always make is that if this had a higher budget and I had meddling producers, I might have had to consider a “name” for the lead. I always imagine myself making an offer and waiting to hear what Jason Biggs thought of the script.
Tribeca: What’s the craziest thing (or “lightning strikes” moment) that happened during production?
Dan Schechter: Probably nothing bigger or better happened to this film than when Audio Engine (a top-of-the-line audio post house in NYC) allowed us to shoot in their facility for the editing scenes. I can’t tell you how much production value and authenticity that added to the film. We had no money, and so many post houses laughed at us when we asked. But not only did Audio Engine allow us to shoot for a week there (offering us their stunning rooms for editing suites, ADR booths, mixing studios), they welcomed us as family and treated our cast and crew with so much warmth and generosity. There are so many things that went our way on this film, so much good luck we had, but I don’t know what kind of film we would’ve had without these guys and it terrifies me to think about it.
Tribeca: How was directing Supporting Characters different from your previous work? Was there a particular lesson you took from the experience? Any advice those wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Dan Schechter: It goes back to the last question and getting Audio Engine to help (which was largely the result of the hard work, positivity and charm of one of our co-producers, Felipe Dieppa). I learned on this film there are “yes people” and there are “no people.” It doesn’t matter if it’s your D.P., your Producer or a P.A. Some people want to tell you that you can get things done, and others want to tell you why you can’t before you even try. What I learned on this movie is that “yes people” save you a LOT of money and “no people” cost you a fortune. If you find someone who just wants to be difficult or negative when you’re trying to be ambitious, get rid of them.
Tribeca: What are you most looking forward to at Tribeca?
Dan Schechter: I tell people all the time, it doesn’t matter what festival you get into... If you’re not from there or didn’t shoot there, it’s basically going to be you and six other people tops who will be at the screenings that really care about the film. But playing in New York, where I’m from, where my family is from, where the cast and crew live, and many of their friends and family are from... you can’t ask for a better premiere than that. I’m most looking forward to sharing the film with everyone who worked so hard to make it a reality.
Tribeca: If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (alive or dead), who would it be?
Dan Schechter: Woody Allen.
Tribeca: What’s your favorite New York movie?
Dan Schechter: The Godfather.
Tribeca: What would your biopic be called?
Dan Schechter: I’m tempted to make a joke, but I really have no idea. I wanted to write a book once about indie filmmaking called No One Wants To See Your Short Film. Tribeca probably plays shorts, though... (Some are good.)
Tribeca: We love shorts! What makes Supporting Characters a Tribeca must see?
Dan Schechter: I cannot overstate the comic chemistry between Alex Karpovsky and Tarik Lowe. I feel like we captured lightning in a bottle, and I’d be happy making buddy vehicles for them for the rest of my career. These guys are well worth the price of admission.
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