Night Owls is one of the wonderful indie films screened at Twin Cities Film Fest back in October. Though I didn’t get a chance to see it then, I did meet its writer/director Charles Hood at one of the After Party Mixers. Well, we reconnected via email recently to chat about his film.
I really enjoyed this one, it’s a witty indie comedy/drama that takes place over a single night. The dialog is sometimes raunchy, but there’s a genuine chemistry between the two leads and the script is refreshingly honest and has a natural flow to it. Rosa Salazar won TCFF’s 2015 Indie Vision Breakthrough Performance Award and I think it’s well-deserved.
Now, before I get to the interview, I want to mention that TCFF is showing this at its December Encore Screening at Showplace ICON Theatre today (Wednesday), so if you’re in the area, be sure to grab your tickets! Who says date movies have to be on a Friday night, right?
You worked on your first feature in 2007 and then you did two short films. Do you prefer making shorts or features?
Charles: I prefer making features. I think it’s more difficult to make a good short. It’s harder to show a character grow or change in that short period of time. I like being able to spend some time with the characters and get to know them.
How did you get into the film industry?
Charles: My aunt and uncle work in the film business and they made a home movie with me and my cousins when I was ten years old. It was a pirate movie we made at my grandparents’ little cottage on a lake in Wisconsin. From that point I was totally hooked. I hijacked my parents’ video camera when I got home and started making movies with my friends. I’ve been working at it non-stop ever since then. I went to film school at USC in Los Angeles and met a lot of my collaborators there, in addition to my friends with whom I grew up.
I’m always intrigued by movies that take place over a single day. How did you and your co-writer Seth Goldsmith come up with this story? Was there something that inspired either of you to write this?
Charles: I LOVE movies that take place over a single day. Die Hard, The Ref, The Breakfast Club, the Before Sunrise trilogy, Clue, Rope, The Poseidon Adventure, and the list goes on and on. Those are some of my favorite movies. Seth and I were trying to come up with something that could be done in a single location. We were just trying to be practical for what we knew would be a small budget. We wanted a story that could be done in a contained way like this.
The idea of a character overdosing on sleeping pills and the other character keeping him or her awake all night came up. Then we recalled that scene in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment where Jack Lemmon has to keep Shirley MacLaine awake all night. We figured why can’t that be an entire movie? And from there we had to figure out the reasons why he couldn’t take her to a hospital and that’s where the other side of the story came about. I always like to keep that a surprise for viewers because we did our best to let the mystery unravel as people watch it.
This is the kind of movie that rest on the chemistry of the two actors. Could you share a bit about the casting process for both Adam Pally & Rosa Salazar, and also Peter Krause?
Charles: When we finished the script, our agent asked us to make a list of ten actors we’d want for this. My co-writer Seth had the idea to put Adam Pally on the list. Adam read it and liked it so I met with him and we were on our way. Once Adam got on board, it felt like we had a movie. In addition to being hilarious, he’s a really dedicated actor and just an overall great guy. It was such a pleasure to work with him.
As for Rosa Salazar, Adam was the one who recommended her. They had done a couple of scenes together in another movie and he thought she was fantastic. I was not familiar with her work, but I met with her and immediately was struck by how amazing she is. She’s going to be a star very, very soon. The two of them together have such great chemistry. We were so fortunate to have these two in our movie. They’re just perfect.
Peter Krause is amazing! Seth and I wanted him very badly for the role. We wrote him a letter and sent him the script. It helped that Rosa had a recurring role on his show Parenthood. He is a big fan of Rosa’s so he was excited for her. Plus he liked the script enough that he came on board.
What’s been some of the biggest challenges in making this movie? Please share one of the most memorable moments on the set.
Charles: I think the biggest challenge was finding a way to keep the audience entertained in a movie where it’s mostly just two people in a house talking. On the script level, my co-writer and I made sure to move the plot along and keep revealing new things about the characters throughout the film. We also did our best to explore every inch of the house from scene to scene. When it came time to shoot the movie, my cinematographer Adrian Correia and I worked really hard to move the camera as much as possible. We wanted a more elegant look than handheld so we pushed ourselves to do a lot of dolly moves and I think it really paid off. We also tried to do a bunch of interesting long takes, which I think is fun for the actors and it’s a great way to showcase their chemistry. We have one shot in the middle of the movie that’s over 3 minutes long. The camera slowly pushes in on the two of them and it’s really just their performances holding your attention.
The whole movie basically takes place in this one house and we actually found the place on Air BnB. It was in Topanga Canyon, which is just outside of LA. Most of the crew would commute to set but there were seven of us that actually lived in the house throughout production. It was me, Adam, Rosa, and few of our department heads. It was kind of insane. Our production designer Ayse called it Real World Topanga. It was kind of a logistical nightmare with us living on our set, but it was so much fun. We were shooting mostly nights so at dawn we’d all drink a glass of whiskey, talk about the next day’s shoot, and then go to bed. Those are some very memorable moments for me.
What’s next for you? You’ve done mostly comedies, is there another genre you’re interested in doing?
Charles: I think I’ll mostly stick in the comedy realm. It’s usually somewhere in the comedy-drama spectrum for me. That being said, Seth and I just finished writing a comedy-drama that leans pretty hard on a science fiction premise so that’s pretty fun. But I’d also like to try other genres. At some point it’d be fun to do an action movie or a kung fu movie or a horror movie. It’s just about finding the right story and characters.
Check out the trailer:
Here’s a list of theaters Night Owls is playing at…
- NYC — Cinema Village
- Los Angeles — Los Feliz 3
- Chicago — Facets Cinematheque
- Detroit — Cinema Detroit
- Atlanta — Plaza Theatre
- Denver — Kress Cinema
- Cleveland — Tower City Cinemas
- Dallas — Texas Theatre
- Tampa — The Cinema 6
- Seattle — Far Away Entertainment
…and VOD outlets:
- Amazon Instant Video
- Google Play
- Time Warner Cable Movies on Demand
- Comcast Xfinity Movies on Demand
- Shaw (CA)
- Rogers (CA)
- Bell (CA)
- …and many other MVPDs
THANKS for taking the time to chat, Charles!