TCFF 2014 Interview with Rik Swartzwelder, Writer/Director/Star of ‘Old Fashioned’

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It’s just four more fun days to go before Twin Cities Film Fest wraps, so the fun is far from over! For the past week, I was fortunate enough to be able to meet some truly inspiring and gracious filmmakers/talents. One of my favorite moments covering the film fest is the wonderful chat I had with Rik Swartzwelder, writer/director/star of Old Fashioned, a classic romantic drama that rarely get made anymore in Hollywood. I really think Old Fashioned should inspire both teens and adults as the two characters in the film, Clay & Amber, attempt the impossible: an “old-fashioned” courtship in contemporary America.

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FCInterviewBannerI met Rik straight after work at a coffee shop near the Showplace ICON Theatres. I knew right away we’d get along great as soon as I met him. Despite being such a talented filmmaker, a triple threat no less being able to write/act/direct, Rik is so gracious and humble and chatting with him is such a joy!

Unfortunately I hit yet another snafu with my iPhone recorder, wouldn’t you believe it? It turns out that I did find my taped convo with Haley Lu Richardson after all, but I somehow lost my conversation with Rik 😦 Yet he was kind enough to answer my questions again via email (bless his heart!). I’ve gotten a new voice recording app that hopefully works better that this won’t happen again. So check out the insights into the story idea of Old Fashioned and making the film:

Q: What inspired you to come up with story of ‘old-fashioned’ courtship?

A: I was looking to craft a story that reflected the lives of a lot of single people I knew at the time —just a bunch of normal guys and girls, most in their 20s and 30s, looking to fall in love and find a life partner and all that good stuff.  They also all very much believed in God and wanted to honor God in their dating lives. None of these people were perfect, but they truly were looking for something beyond the hook-up culture and wanted to date in ways that didn’t add to the romantic damage and brokenness overwhelming many singles.

It got me thinking that there might be an opportunity here to explore some pretty counter-cultural ideas in an entertaining way.  And that’s when I remembered a story I’d heard years before about a married man that made a promise to never be alone with any woman that wasn’t his wife.  He did this to safeguard his marriage from potential infidelity and also to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.I thought that was such a unique and strong choice that it could open up a lot of possibilities for a character in a contemporary love story.  And what if some guy made a promise like that and wasn’t even married yet? What would that look like? Definitely not the norm. It seemed like a good launching pad for a lot of interesting conflict and debate.  And that was the beginning of the rather odd and curious character that eventually became Clay Walsh in Old Fashioned.

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2. Please tell us the casting process and how you ended up choosing Elizabeth as your co-lead.

We spent a lot of time casting the film… looked at well over 1,000 actors. And, since we were shooting the film in Ohio, it was important for us to cast as many local actors as possible. We wanted the film to feel authentically mid-western.

Plus, there is so much amazing talent out there that simply never gets the chance to shine.  We really took our time and were able to discover some remarkable local actors. And to me, one of the best parts of indie films is that discovery of new talent.

This is especially true of Elizabeth Ann Roberts. She gives a star-making performance in Old Fashioned and I’m so excited for the world to see it. She’s based in Los Angeles, actually, and I saw her on tape very early in the casting process. She blew me away, made me literally cry… on tape.  She was Amber.

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But, as often happens, we kept looking at other actors for many months. At the end of the day, no one came close to Elizabeth’s audition. After meeting in person, I was sold. And she was an absolute joy to work with. There’s no doubt, casting her was one of the very best decisions I’ve ever made.
 
3. You said this film was not a religious per se, but it’s a story with faith in it. Could you elaborate on that a bit?
 
It’s a love story about broken people struggling to figure out a different way to look at romance in a very hedonistic, confusing era. These are real people; they aren’t perfect, they make serious mistakes… and one of these people also happens to take his faith in God rather seriously, to a fault almost. The faith elements in the film are very organic to the character’s journeys and are set in a very real-world and relatable environment.
 
It’s not a Pollyanna approach to complicated issues or propaganda offering a point-by-point “how to” when it comes to dating.  It’s an old school, deeply heart-felt romance that asks some hard, honest, and refreshing questions about love in modern America.
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4. This film is going to go against Fifty Shades of Grey, was that a deliberate decision on your part?
 
To be clear, when I first got the idea for Old Fashioned I had never even heard of Fifty Shades… in fact, it was years before the author had probably even thought of the idea herself. I wasn’t creating Old Fashioned in reaction or response to any other book or movie; I was seeking to tell a different kind of love story that reflected the lives of singles I knew at the time.

That said, by the time we actually raised the money and actually got Old Fashioned made, Fifty Shades had become a cultural juggernaut. When they announced they were going to open their film on Valentine’s Day 2015 as a date-night romance… that’s when we got the idea. It seemed like a unique, possibly once in a lifetime kind of opportunity to offer alternating views of love and romance on the same day. We know it’s David v. Goliath here, we’re not naïve. But, we also very much believe it’s a cultural discussion worth having and are very grateful for the conversations that have already begun since we announced our release date.

And look, let’s be honest, finding your audience remains one of the biggest challenges for truly independent cinema. Our release date against Fifty Shades has already raised our profile to the point that folks interested in an alternative love story like ours are now having a much easier time finding us. And they are letting us know, in growing numbers, that we are definitely not alone in believing that there is indeed a more beautiful way to approach love and romance. And that is very, very encouraging.


Old Fashioned has two screenings at TCFF. One was last Saturday 10/18 at 2pm and the other one is later today at 4:30pm. It’ll be released in theaters on Valentine’s Day, 2015.


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, Rik.
I wish you & your project all the best!

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Hope you enjoyed the interview. Stay tuned for more TCFF reviews tomorrow!

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19 thoughts on “TCFF 2014 Interview with Rik Swartzwelder, Writer/Director/Star of ‘Old Fashioned’

  1. Ted S.

    Great interview Ruth, can’t say I’m that interested in seeing this movie though.

    I hope to stop by the festival sometime this week, I’ve been working late so much ever since I switched to full time that I just don’t have the strength or desire to go see any movies afterwards. Thanks to you and your reviewers, I’m able to know what’s good or not to see there.

    1. Awww too bad, as it’s really an inspiring drama. I know you’re not much into this genre but this one is worth making an exception to 🙂

    1. Yep indeed Cindy! Having just seen ‘Old Fashioned’ last night, it’s definitely one I’d readily see again. I wouldn’t go near Fifty Shades, not the book nor the movie.

  2. Very cool, Ruth! Great interview. I’m really looking forward to this. It’s nice to see another view of love/romance get offered over 50 Shades of Grey. What’s interesting is that it looks like instead of trying to stuff a faith-based agenda down viewers’ throats, it appears that they’re offering two sides, and I like that. Don’t get me wrong, I like movies that talk of faith, but not ones that are super pushy or in your face.

    1. Hello Kris! It’s really awesome that there are still filmmakers willing to go against the grain as it were, creating romantic stories that are unheard of these days. Rik mentioned to me during our chat that he wasn’t interested in creating a propaganda film so the faith element is, as he said, organic to the characters’ journey. Having seen it last night, it’s definitely not too ‘on the nose’ and in fact the character even joked about it. It’s really a heartwarming story that I hope more people would go see.

      1. That’s great news to hear, regarding the faith aspect of the film. Aww, that is cool – I will definitely plan to see this when it comes out next year! Sounds like he is a great guy.

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  4. What an interesting premise, I guess it is weird for me to say “interesting” considering it is basically an old fashioned love story. Now a days, everything is so hyper-sexualized and out of control like 50 Shades of Grey that a movie like this seems very unique. What a cool concept, I definitely like love stories, I would watch this.

    1. Hi Mel, I’m glad films like this still get made. It certainly goes against the grain of the typical *romance* seen in today’s cinema. It’s so refreshing to see people fall in love without all the sexual stuff involved. I hope it inspires a lot of young people, especially teens.

        1. I love the setting too, and how the two characters from opposite spectrum meet. Both of them are flawed individuals which make it relatable, I love stories about broken people who somehow find their way unexpectedly.

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