TCFF 2018 Indie Film Spotlight: THE BEST PEOPLE &Interview w/ writer Selina Ringel

We’re on a roll! Today we’ve got yet another insights into an indie film screening at TCFF. This time we’re featuring the writer of The Best People, Selina Ringel, a solid dramedy our reviewer calls ‘a must-see at TCFF.’ An emotional roller-coaster in the best possible way, it’s a story by and about women.

Just as she is recovering from a breakdown, Anna’s world is rocked when her younger sister gets engaged. She teams up with the alcoholic best man to break up the engagement; convinced they are trying to save her sister, his best friend, and themselves from a lifetime of misery.

Review by Holly Peterson

Make sure that The Best People is on your list of films to see at this year’s festival. Actors Anna Evelyn and Claire Donald play sisters – who weirdly both have the same first name as their characters – who wind up living together after their mother dies and Anna has a mental breakdown. The two could not be more different. Claire, the younger sister is an organized, accomplished woman in her early twenties. Anna, the older sister, can’t hold down a job, struggles to find the desire to get her life on track, and is probably an alcoholic. When Claire falls in love, Anna can’t handle it and the hijinks ensue.

Dramedies are not easy to pull off, but The Best People does it well. Characters struggle with substance abuse, death, jealousy, broken relationships, mental illness, and more; but the story arc is light enough that the comedic scenes (vagina yoga!) work as pallet cleansers.

Claire Donald as Claire
Anna Evelyn as Anna

Most of the performances in The Best People are solid, but Evelyn especially is a force throughout. From moments like the first scene, in which she gives a long expositional monologue that literally sets up the entire movie, to the tiny choices that she makes as a background character, Evelyn owns this movie. Her interpretation of a broken character with a thick shell and a tendency to lash out somehow still brings in the audience and effectively asks them to empathize with an unlikable character.

There are a lot of things to love in this movie. It is peppered with exactly the kind of manipulative sound design that we all expect in the genre. The incorporation of modern technology is perfect. And it’s a story by and about women.

If you are looking for something that can make you laugh, cry, and want to call your sister the moment you get out of the theater (or maybe you should just bring her with you!) this is the film for you. Jump on the emotional rollercoaster that is The Best People. You won’t regret it.


Q&A with writer Selina Ringel

Interview questions courtesy of Holly Peterson

What was the inspiration for this story? 

I got married very young for LA ( actually to the director of this movie!) and had a few people in my life react in an interesting way. I wanted to delve into the point of view of a character who felt like they were loosing everything when their best friend (sister) gets married. I wanted to explore what it means to feel behind, how hard it is to watch someone you love become closer to someone else and how we come to accept ourselves where we are without judgement. 

Why do all of the actors have the same name as their characters? How was the casting process since you also did casting for this film? 

We actually cast people we had already worked with before. I wrote the script with these actors in mind so I was writing from their voice, not as the characters but as the voices of the actors who we cast. 

What do you hope people take away from their viewing of The Best People

I hope people laugh and cry, but also realize that we spend most of our lives pointing the finger at others for things that don’t go right in our lives, but most of the time we aren’t looking at the real issue which is usually us. We can only control how we react to things and ultimately, growth is realizing we have the capacity to be better versions of ourselves but it takes looking inward instead of pointing outward. 

How has reception been so far? 

Honestly it’s been amazing, we’ve had an incredible festival run, multiple full theatres, we won Best Comedy Feature at WorldFest Houston and was selected as the Closing Night movie for Dances with Films with a full 500 person seating at the famous Chinese theatre in Hollywood. We are excited to have Shoreline Entertainment as our sales agent for the film. I feel incredibly lucky and in awe of what can happen when you just decide to go for it, we are obviously also surrounded by incredibly talented people which made the film possible and a huge support system from our families and friends but it really takes a lot of work, time, determination and passion to get a movie made and the truth is you never know where its going to land. You wonder if it will be seen, well received, etc so this has a been a dream come true for us. 

What are some highlights of creating this film, particularly for you as a writer?

One of the highlights for me was working side by side with my husband Dan Levy Dagerman who directed the film. He is such a smart, authentic director who really listens and gives the actors space to breathe and perform their best work. I think sitting by his side every day next to the monitor was a dream come true. He also would read all my pages and give me notes, we would talk through things, get obsessed together.

Another huge blessing was having such talented actors who helped the words come alive and on many occasions improv’d lines and made them better than what I wrote. I also think every crew member added so much to the production value and energy of the set. I really do joke with my husband that I’m not sure it gets better than this, although I hope it can always feel this beautiful and serendipitous!

TCFF Screening Dates:

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018 8:15 PM

Thanks so much Selina for chatting with FlixChatter!

TCFF 2018 Film Spotlight: SAVING FLORA & interview with writer/director Mark Taylor

Since we’ve past the halfway mark of the Twin Cities Film Fest, I think I have seen enough movies to indicate which ones have been my favorites. Well, Saving Flora is definitely one of those that I thoroughly enjoyed and I can see myself watching again! Thank you Mark Taylor (and Synkronized Films) for taking the time to chat with me!

Flora is a circus elephant who can no longer perform her tricks. The night before she’s scheduled to be euthanized, the circus owner’s 14-year old daughter, Dawn, sneaks Flora from the circus. All that stands between them and the safety of the elephant preserve is two hundred kilometers of woods, one raging river, two elephant hunters and the fear of not making it.

How did this project come about for you and what’s the inspiration for the story?

I was a creative director at the advertising agency Saatchi in Los Angeles and was getting frustrated creatively and wanted to writes a story that I felt had some sort of meaning, something that had soul. I’d always loved family films and knew how influential my favorites ones growing up had been to me. I knew that I was going to want to direct this story also as just handing it over to an already established film director was going to short change my creative journey. I stories that depict the relationship between a child and an animal and having trained as an advertising Art Director I do tend to see things very visually. What better visual than a small child and an elephant. It was important for me that the young child was a girl, I have many strong females in my life one of which was my seven year old daughter Maya. It was easy to see her making such a journey with an elephant if she had the desire. I started writing Saving Flora with my writing partner David (at the time also a fellow creatively frustrated ad guy), we both love animals  and although against animals in circuses we also knew we had to have compassion and an understanding of circus life .

David Arquette as the ringmaster

2. There’s always something so mystical and maybe dark about the world of circus, but yet Saving Flora has a lightness and sweetness to it given it’s a family film, was that tough to achieve that balance?

Yes, as I mentioned before, David and I are very much animal lovers but we did spend time with former circus owners and performers and Flora (Thai) herself. Everyone we met was extremely loving and caring and there was very much a family vibe amongst them all. We never intended this story to be a statement about elephants in circuses but a story about the bond between a girl and an animal.

3. I would like to ask you about casting, but firstly I’m curious how it was working with elephants as your directorial debut. Were there a few elephants cast as Flora?

There was only ever one elephant cast and that choice was a no brainer. We visited Thai and her owners a number of times before the shoot. She’s amazing. Not only had she been in a number of films before but she is an older elephant also and her story in some ways related to Floras. Elephants cost a lot of money to feed and keep every year and she is not funded by a charity Thai has to work for her keep. Indians weddings mostly. She is very much loved by her owners and you can feel their concern for the years to come.

Thai (playing Flora) with Jenna Ortega

4. I adore Jenna Ortega as Dawn, she is completely charming and believable in her relationship with Flora. How did you find her, did you do a big casting process? The boy who played Sebastian is also pretty great.

We had looked at lots of girls to play Dawn but when Jenna was put forward she not only helped us define Dawn’s character but also define some of the tone of the film. Jenna’s latino heritage inspired our choices for casting the other characters also. It made us shake things up a bit and create a world that was a bit more representative of America.

Jenna Ortega as Dawn

5. How’s the process in getting the appropriate bond between Dawn and Flora for the film? 

That was easy. An amazing elephant and a fearless lead actress. The first scene they had to shoot together was Dawn lying down asleep on Flora. Thai lay down on her side and Jenna instantly crawled into her neck and snuggled up. It really was magical. 

6. Visually the film looks stunning. Where did you film this and how long was the entire shoot?

It was a 21 day shoot so we knew we had our work cut out for us, especially as we were essentially filming a road movie. We also needed to shoot with the 50 mile LA film zone. Luckily our location guy Frank was amazing. We settled on a private area of land called Newhall ranch, a little town with a train station called Piru, a few days at Piru lake and a day at Angeles Crest. Newhall ranch is 126,000 acres and within reason we could move around quickly and efficiently within it creating different textures and environments depending which way we pointed the camera. I always knew a circus, a girl and an elephant in the desert would look amazing but I was lucky  enough to have my friend and DP Michael Pessah on the film. I had directed a number of commercials that Michael had DP’d and we had developed a great working relationship based on trust and respect. We worked our asses off.

7. Lastly, what’s the most challenging part of the shoot, but on the flip side, what’s the most surprisingly delightful part of filming?

The most challenging part of the shoot was definitely the 21 days to shoot it in combined with the 4 to six hours of shooting time with the elephant for only ten days and the limited amount of hours you can shoot with a 15 year old. The surprising and very delightful part was the magic that happened in the filming. I was told that things would go wrong in the making of the film but I felt so blessed to be doing the film in the first place that I felt that if things did go wrong then they would go wrong for a reason and that reason was to make the film better. And I was right. Magic happens on set if you allow it to.

Thank you Mark Taylor for chatting with me!

Check out this TCFF red carpet interview with our host Doug Sidney:

Stay tuned for FlixChatter video interview w/ actors David Arquette and Tom Arnold at TCFF red carpet!