Indie Film Spotlight: ‘Not Another Happy Ending’ + Q&A with screenwriter David Solomons

I have mentioned this delightful Scottish rom-com Not Another Happy Ending on my blog a few times. I first saw it a little over a year ago on Netflix, April 2015 to be exact, and have watched it a half dozen times since. I’ve posted a Deleted Scene from the movie, as well as dedicated a Music Break post, and I still listen to the awesome soundtrack regularly.

Well, it so happen that today is Stanley Weber‘s birthday, the French actor whom I discovered from this movie. Last year I posted a Birthday Tribute in his honor, and this year I’m delighted to have a Q&A with the movie’s screenwriter David Solomons!


NAHE_poster

When a struggling publisher discovers his only successful author is blocked he knows he has to unblock her or he’s finished. With her newfound success, she’s become too damn happy and she can’t write when she’s happy.The only trouble is, the worse he makes her feel, the more he realizes he’s in love with her.

I’m not always a huge fan of rom-coms, but many of my favorites are usually British rom-coms. Not Another Happy Ending is so darn charming with an effortlessly funny, likable cast. The Scottish aspect, the witty dialog, cast and Glasgow scenery, is really what makes this a fun movie to watch repeatedly.

 

NAHE_davidQuick bio on David per NosyCrow.com:

David Solomons has been writing screenplays for many years. His first feature film was an adaptation of Five Children and It (starring Kenneth Branagh and Eddie Izzard, with gala screenings at the Toronto and Tribeca Film Festivals). My Brother is a Superhero is his first novel for children. He was born in Glasgow and now lives in Dorset with his wife, the novelist Natasha Solomons, and their son, Luke.

I had the privilege to get a bit of insights from David about this film, how he came up with the idea, and how he handled the casting switch of the male lead. Check out the Q&A below:

1. ‘Not Another Happy Ending’ was your third feature film. What was your background before you got into screenwriting?

I was working as an advertising copywriter in my home-town of Glasgow. I’d say that working to a screaming deadline for highly demanding clients who want to squeeze every last drop from the budget is excellent preparation for entering the film business as a writer.

John with Karen on set
Director John McKay with Karen on set

2. What inspired you to write this story? In the behind-the-scenes video, I thought you said you came up with the idea during a blind date? Would you elaborate on that?

Ah yes, the blind date. Not only did I acquire an idea for a film from that evening, I also met my future wife, Natasha. At that time she was studying for a Masters in English Literature at Glasgow University and bounded into the restaurant and my life. She was doing some work that touched on the relationship between creativity and depression, and, as you would when hearing about the miserable lives of poets, I immediately thought what a great idea for a romantic comedy.

NAHE_script

3. You also wrote a novel version of this film, what’s been the biggest challenge of writing the same story in both formats?

The challenge is accepting that what works in one medium sometimes doesn’t in another. For instance, it had always been my intention to start the film with Jane and Tom getting together and splitting up within the first five minutes. I thought it would be funny to subvert the rom-com trope of keeping the boy and girl apart until the end, and I like stories in which characters have history together. And that’s how we shot it, but no matter how much we recut the sequence it didn’t play. So we ditched it and now there’s a more conventional beginning. However, in the novel it works a treat. I suspect it has something to do with the novelist’s ability to depict his characters’ thoughts. We get more of a sense of these two people than we can in the crash-bang first five of the film.

4. I’ve always been intrigued by stories about writers and I love the character Jane as the protagonist. Are you happy with how Jane is portrayed in the movie by Karen Gillan?

I love Karen in the film. I think she is a really special actress. She is whip-smart, endlessly enthusiastic, treats her craft with utter professionalism. She’s got terrific comedy timing and has that indefinable movie star glow.

NAHE_JaneLockhart

5. In the ‘We Are Colony’ bundle, there are a lot of deleted scenes that involve the male lead Tom Duval. I feel that his character is a bit under-developed and now I realize why because so many of his scenes were cut. How do you feel about that?

I put all the deleted scenes into the novel!

NAHE_deletedscene
Stanley & Karen in one of the Deleted Scenes

6. I read that Tom was going to be played by a Scottish actor, but as Stanley Weber is French, was it difficult to rewrite his role to accommodate the casting switch?

I seem to remember that when we cast Stanley we did a draft that explained how he had come to Scotland to run his own publishing company. I have a feeling that one of the deleted scenes you mention above was an expositional moment that was ultimately cut. In the end it was decided that the exposition wasn’t necessary or got in the way. As for changing dialogue to accommodate Stanley, I don’t recall making any substantial alterations, apart from that he lapses into French in moments of high anxiety.

7. As a screenwriter, how much did you collaborate with the director (and actors) during filming? 

Sometimes as a screenwriter you feel (or you’re made to feel!) as if you’re intruding on the business of filmmaking. However, making Not Another Happy Ending was a very happy experience. John (McKay), the director, was hugely welcoming, including me in everything from early rehearsals with the actors to costume fittings, etc. In fact I would have been on set throughout the entire production except that I had to leave because my blind date (remember her?) was due to give birth to our first child smack bang in the middle of the shoot.

NAHE_david_onset
David on set of NAHE

8. Lastly, what tips would you have for aspiring screenwriters?

Going back to your question about collaboration, I’d say that it can come as a bit of a shock. I’m not sure that as a debut writer you can be prepared for the process. What I mean is that the one thing you want above all, i.e. getting your screenplay into production, necessarily entails losing control over it. And that’s a good thing! Seeing a talented director and cast bring your characters to life is an amazing experience. Once pre-production begins your role changes. It’s now all about serving the good of the film. You have to be adaptable, fleet of foot (in the writing sense) and sometimes that means making compromises. That scene you love with the camels on the Orient Express? Can we make it one guinea-pig and a model train?

Of course, if reading that make you uncomfortable, then there is a solution: become a writer-director. But you’ll still have to lose the camels.

And one last piece of advice. Stay healthy. Not Another Happy Ending was picked to close the Edinburgh Film Festival that year. It was the highest accolade and promised to be a fabulous night – a chance for all of us to celebrate the culmination of what had been a long journey. I gather it was an amazing night, but I wouldn’t know. Instead of walking the red carpet I was lying in a hospital bed at the other end of the country. So, y’know, take long walks, breathe fresh air, eat five-a-day, and don’t miss out on your world premiere.

..


Hope you enjoy the interview! Have you seen ‘Not Another Happy Ending’? I’d love to hear what you think. 

Everybody’s Chattin + Question of the Week: What’s your favorite Canadian film(s)?

EverybodysChattinMontreal

Happy Friday everybody!! Well I’m psyched for my Montréal trip. Bags are packed, airport shuttle booked, etc. and looking at the forecast, it’s going to be in mid 70s F & mostly sunny for most of the days we’ll be in Montréal AND Québec City! We can’t believe our luck, as Canada & Minnesota pretty much share a similar climate in that it tends to still be cold even in May.

Well, I’ve been needing a break for some time so for sure I won’t be blogging whilst I’m on vacation, so if you don’t see a comment from moi in the next week or so, you’ll know why. But before time, there’s always time for community links, so here we go…

Cindy just did a wonderful tribute to one of my fave actors Edward Norton

Jordan reviewed a French film The Blue Room by Mathieu Amalric

Speaking of French cinema, Vinnie reviewed the classic 90s crime thriller Léon, which is my fave Luc Besson movie

Now THIS post of dapper guys in suits is a total feast for the eyes… thank you Zoë for not forgetting my dahling Sam Riley!

To commemorate this year’s Cannes, Steven‘s been doing Cannes review marathon. I really need to see this Russian film Leviathan (2014)

Dell‘s post on terrible movie summaries made me laugh, esp. the one for Batman V Superman

I’ve been curious to check out Yorgos Lanthimos’ previous films after seeing The Lobster, but after reading Vern‘s review of Dogtooth, I’m not sure it’s my cup of tea.

The Flick Chicks ladies Jenna & Allie have a differing views about Testament of Youth, but I’m still curious to rent it, alas it’s not available to stream anywhere :\

Mark & Tom’s Decades’ Blogathon is going on right now, check out Michael‘s review of The Outlaw Josey Wales starring Clint Eastwood.

Last but not least, always nice to see Andrew still blogging from time to time. Check out his 2015 Fisti Awards, yay on Phoenix!


MadeInCanada

As I have done previously on my blog when I take a trip, I like to commemorate it with a film-related post. Well, it so happens that I’ve been watching quite a few Canadian films during MSPIFF, in fact three of them I like quite a bit: Bollywood/Hollywood (set in Toronto), Beeba Boys (set in Vancouver) and My Internship in Canada (set in rural Quebec). The year before I also LOVE The Grand Seduction, which is set in Newfoundland, the most easterly province of Canada.


Now, I’m going to make the distinction of Canadian films and films set in Canada, as there are certainly a ton of American films set in our northern neighbor, such as the X-Men movies in British Columbia as well as many others that take a Canadian city like Toronto to sub for American ones like NYC. Wikipedia has a pretty comprehensive list of Canadian films, and apparently according to this site, April 29 is declared National Canadian Film Day!

WaterMovieA few notable Canadian films (made by Canadian filmmakers) I’ve seen over the years are Water (by Deepa Mehta), The Fly (by David Cronenberg) Enemy (by Denis Villeneuve), The Red Violin (by François Girard), just to name a few. I also have to mentioned Remember, which was a compelling WWII-themed drama by Atom Egoyan (an Egyptian-decent who was raised in British Columbia).

When I was making this post though, I realize there are so many essential Canadian films I still need to see… Away from Her (as well as Sarah Polley’s acclaimed documentary Stories We Tell), Incendies, Monsieur Lazhar,, and the one that’s been on my Netflix queue for ages Cairo Time, etc. I also remember reading Ryan’s review of Jesus of Montreal, which I should check out soon.

So I thought I’d take the time to broaden my Canadian cinema horizon.


In the spirit of recommendations, what’s YOUR favorite Canadian film(s)?

MSPIFF Weekend Roundup: Women In Film panels + ‘The Fencer’ mini review

It’s truly one of the best weekends weather-wise in the Twin Cities. It’s 70+ degrees and sunny for three days in a row which is unusual as we do still get snow in April occasionally. It’s also been a fun and insightful weekend for me at MSPIFF!

35thMSPIFF

FRIDAY

After work I went to see one of Deepa Mehta’s film Bollywood/Hollywood which was a fun Indo-Canadian rom-com. Out of all three of Mehta’s films I’ve seen so far, this is certainly the lightest in terms of tone. But even a frothy Deepa Mehta film is still an intriguing cultural with dramatic poignancy.

BollywoodHollywood1

SATURDAY

I’m so glad I had the chance to attend not one but TWO eye-opening Women In Film panels at a loft adjacent to St Anthony Main Theater.

The first one was called Behind the Journey… which featured two female directors who made their debut films in their 50s.

Panelists:
Laura Israel, Director Don’t Blink – Robert Frank
Trisha Ziff, Director The Man Who Saw Too Much

The extraordinary thing about being a director is that “IT” could happen. There is no right or wrong way to get a film made. This conversation with two directors whose work appears in the festival will focus on their stories, career paths, and how they got to where they are today.

It was so inspiring and insightful to simply absorb strong, talented and tenacious women who are currently working in film industry talk about their struggles making film and overcoming them. As an aspiring screenwriter, I felt encouraged to just be around them, talking to them and hear what they had to say. It was wonderful that I got to chat with Rachel Goldberg, a writer/director who’s on the board of Alliance of Women Directors in L.A. prior to the panel, I’d definitely be on the lookout for her narrative feature Transformation Awaits.

The second one is fittingly called An Eye Opener:

Panelists:
Effie Brown, Film and Television Producer
Melissa Butts, Director/Producer
Rachel Goldberg, Director

Rather than speculate on why women are still where they are or contemplate the Sisyphean nature of institutional change–or worse, stop talking all together–this panel will beg us to look directly into the eyes of the beast: ourselves and what we can do better with gender equality in the film industry.

The first panel talked about how it takes more than just talent and skills to succeed, but a strong drive and sheer passion to invest a good chunk of your life in making your film. Trisha Ziff, who was a photography curator prior to making her first film in her 50s, said that one of the key ingredient to surviving the business is solidarity amongst female filmmakers.

That theme kept coming up in the second panel, that it’s essential that women support each other if we want to change the still-grim statistics of the 4% Gender Disparity problem.

Effie Brown (one of the producers of Dear White People) focused on women mentorship, in that women who’ve found success in the industry must take it upon themselves to take newcomers under their wings so to speak, which may include giving them opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t be given a chance.

Thanks MSPIFF for the insightful and truly eye-opening women-in-film panels and for being such a strong champion for gender equality in filmmaking. It’s certainly inspired me to keep at it and never giving up on my dreams as a screenwriter!


Then on Saturday night I got to see Deepa Mehta‘s latest, Beeba Boys. Check out my interview with the acclaimed Indo-Canadian filmmaker who’s no stranger to tackling controversial issues in her films, as her Oscar-nominated 2005 film Water was shut down by Indian government as it’s accused of being anti-Hindu.

Beeba Boys received mixed reviews by the Indo-Canadian community in Vancouver, but I think it’s a bold, stylish and fascinating film that definitely be one of my most memorable films I’ll see this year. It’s fitting that Mehta has been chosen to be the first honoree of MSPIFF Annual Tribute. Here she was following the film’s screening holding her well-deserved award!

DeepaMehta_MSPIFFaward


SUNDAY

The film I missed last weekend was played again on Sunday afternoon and I’m so glad I was able to make it!

TheFencerbanner

It’s such a moving drama loosely based on an Estonian Fencer Endel Nelis who fled from the Russian secret police and became a physical education teacher at a small-town school. It’s a mix of mystery war drama and a sports underdog story that blends seamlessly. The scenes between the teacher and the kids reminds me a bit of films like Dead Poets Society and Rudy. Some of the kid actors are very memorable as well despite their lack of acting experience, especially the ones playing Marta and Jaan. The tentative romance is handled well in that it adds another layer to Endel’s journey without distracting it from the heart of the film.

TheFencer1TheFencer2

It’s beautifully-shot and wonderfully-acted all around, esp. Märt Avandi as the protagonist. This is the first film by acclaimed Finnish filmmaker Klaus Härö and I’m curious to check out more of his work now. The Fencer is a little film with a big heart, with genuine emotional resonance that made me tear up. It also manages to surprise you without being overly-sensational, in fact, the film is so understated yet with a tinge of suspense and a haunting atmosphere that keeps me engrossed from start to finish.

4Reels


So that’s my weekend recap, folks. What did you see this weekend? Anything good?

Indie Film Spotlight: BEEBA BOYS + Q&A with director Deepa Mehta

I’m thrilled that MSPIFF is launching its Tribute Program on its 35th anniversary this year. The program recognizes the achievements of an international filmmaker whose work is making waves on a global scale. And they certainly made the perfect choice for its first honoree.

Deepa Mehta is a pioneering female Canadian-Indian director, well known as the award-winning writer-director of the Elements trilogy of films (Fire, Earth and Water), exploring social issues in India. Mehta, who resides in New Delhi and Toronto, will make her first-ever visit to MSPIFF to screen three of her films.


Click here to get your tickets.

Two of her films I’ve seen so far are the Water (which was nominated for Oscar Best Foreign Language in 2007) and Bollywood/Hollywood. Both deal with social issues but the genres and tone of the the film are very different. The first is a serious drama set in North India and the latter is more of a rom-com set in Canada, and so I’m excited to see her exploration of  the violent gangster genre mixed in with dark humor.


BeebaBoys

A ferocious, adrenaline-charged Indo Canadian gang war, and a violent clash of culture and crime. Gang leader Jeet Johar and his young, loyal, and often-brutal crew dress like peacocks, love attention, and openly compete with an old style Indo crime syndicate to take over the Vancouver drug and arms scene. Blood is spilled, hearts are broken, and family bonds shattered as the Beeba Boys (“Good Boys”) do anything “to be seen and to be feared” in a white world.

This is one of my most-anticipated MSPIFF films this year. Just like The Dark Valley that I saw recently which is an Austrian Western set in the Austrian Alps (or schnitzel Western as the lead actor Sam Riley called it), I’ve never seen an Indo-Canadian gangster movie before. I don’t exactly associate Canadian cinema with violent gangsters, so naturally I’m intrigued by the premise of Sikh gangsters from the Punjabi community feuding in Vancouver.

I’ve always loved movies that intentionally challenge stereotypes and I’m on for the ride deep into Indo-Canadian underworld that virtually no crime movie gone before. Beeba Boys certainly injects the tried-and-true gangster genre with a fresh cultural context, and the fact that this genre is entirely new for Mehta adds an extra dose of intrigue for me.


Right off the bat the trailer gives me the vibe of a Tarantino or Guy Ritchie movies. It’s hyper-violent but done with style and humor. The trailer is set to dynamic, up-tempo music to go with its stylized action sequences and the *good* boys are impeccably dressed in tailored, vibrant suits. I LOVE the soundtrack, which you can take a listen at its official site. This is my favorite track that’s used in the trailer:


I had the privilege to get a bit of insights about this film from Deepa Mehta. Check out the Q&A below:

DeepaMehta

1.What’s the inspiration behind Beeba Boys? It seems like stories that’s ripped from the headlines, though people might not associate Canada with Sikh gangsters.

I’ve heard about sikh gangsters operating in the Vancouver area for the last 15 years. One young man in particular caught my attention. As opposed to what is perceived as the ‘ideal immigrant’ he just didn’t give a damn. In fact as I researched this further I realized that these gangs were not very different than the Mafia, the Triads the Yakuza the Irish gangs. Each wave of immigrants starting with the British, the Irish, the Scots, the Italians etc. brought with them a dissident group. The Sikhs were no different.

2. This is a genre usually associated with male directors, in fact, according to IMDb, Beeba Boys is the first gangster film directed by a woman in the last forty years. Did the idea of breaking the stereotype plays a part in you wanting to make the film?

No the idea of breaking a stereotype did not even occur to me. And if it had been the reason to make the film, it would have been a rather dumb one! It’s all about the story and the idea of brown folk (usually associated with doctors, lawyers, corner store owners, cabbies) navigating a shady terrain in a white mans’ world .

3. There are a lot of action in this film just looking at the trailer alone. What’s the most memorable moments for you making those shootouts & car chases?

I really loved doing the action scenes. New toys in a way. Each one of them was challenging and fun to do.

4. I love the style and fashion of the film, especially those beautiful suits. Did you have a certain style in mind that you want for your film? Are there are certain films/ filmmakers of this genre who inspired you?

The style comes from the philosophy of the gang leader Jeet Johar: ‘If you want to be seen you got to commit to being seen’. As brown folks in a dominant white culture one is usually overlooked or typecast. Jeet Johar demanded to be visible. The brilliant Japanese filmmaker Seijun Suzuki was a huge inspiration to me. See his Tokyo Drifter and be blown away.

BeebaBoys_RandeepHooda
Randeep Hooda

5. I read that your mother suggested [Bollywood star] Randeep Hooda for the lead role of Jeet Johar. How did the rest of the casting process come about, esp. Paul Gross who’s definitely playing against type?

I don’t like holding auditions. Usually if I like an actor (seen in a play, movie or recommended by someone ) I spend time with them. Have a cup of coffee and just shoot the breeze. Paul is a dear friend and we have always wanted to work together. And here he is – pretty great I think.

6. Your films usually contain a strong social message in them. If there’s one message you want people to take away from this film, what would it be?

Crime is pretty much universal and doesn’t know any color, class or national boundary .

7. You’ve been making films for over two decades. It seems that gender disparity is still a problem in the film industry, esp. Hollywood. From your perspective and experience as a filmmaker, what has changed in that regard, both positive and negative.

It’s an uphill battle but awareness of this disparity is just reaching the public consciousness. It’s important we don’t stop trekking.

(Thanks to MSPIFF’s Festival Director Eric Wilson for the interview opportunity!)


Beeba Boys’ Featurette:


Thoughts on Deepa Mehta and/or her latest film Beeba Boys? I’d love to hear it!

Weekend Roundup: counting down to MSPIFF 2016 + ‘Meet the Patels’ documentary (2014) review

How’s your weekend everyone? It’s kind of an uneventful one for me but April is going to be quite busy with the Minneapolis/St Paul Film Fest coming next weekend!!

MSPIFF2016

I can always rely on MSPIFF to bring an excellent selection of world and regional cinema and independent films, many of which I never would’ve been able to see on the big screen!

I wish I could see at least a couple of films a day but given that I have a 9-5 job, I can only see a handful of them (maybe more if they have online screeners, so we’ll see). If you’re in the area, be sure to take part in MSPIFF and support MN film society. You can see what films are playing here which you can search by genre/country/language, etc. and they have a handy daily schedule as well.

Here are some films I’m looking forward to:


Lots of female filmmakers represented, from MN-made Dragonfly to TWO films by Deepa Mehta (Beeba Boys & Bollywood/Hollywood). I wish I could see the Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Language film Mustang, but the screenings are both in Rochester which is almost 2 hours away from where I live. It’s tradition that I see one movie with Juliette Binoche at MSPIFF, and this year we’ve got L’atessa, a drama set in Sicily.

So stay tuned for my MSPIFF coverage later this month!


Well, I started my April movie viewing with a mixed bag of movies.

Daredevil2003

The first was Daredevil which I saw out of sheer curiosity. The fact that I just finished Netflix’s Daredevil season 2 last week and also saw Ben Affleck playing yet another superhero (this time from DC) that is Batman in Batman V Superman, made it all the more interesting that I finally saw the 2003 movie. Well, I mainly watched it for the laughs and with that kind of expectation, I wasn’t disappointed 😉

It’s as cheesy, silly and hilarious as people say, my gosh the first fight between Matt and Elektra (played by Affleck’s now ex-wife Jennifer Garner) was so cringe-inducing! Funny that when this movie was made they weren’t even married yet and now they’re already divorced, well that’s Hollywood for ya. As bad as Affleck was in the role though, I think the worst performer is Colin Farrell as Bullseye but really that’s the most idiotic character ever-written. That’s gotta be in the top 3 of Farrell’s most ridiculous roles, right up there with Oliver Stone’s Alexander and whatever his name was in the abominable Winter’s Tale.


The second movie I saw this weekend was a real winner however…

MeetThePatels

I saw the trailer of this doc a while ago but finally got around to seeing it. I tell you, it’s one of the most fun and poignant cultural documentaries I’ve ever seen. Directed by brother and sister Ravi and Geeta Patel, it centers on Ravi himself on a quest to find a wife, with the help of his parents and extended family. Ravi is an Indian-American man who grew up in the United States, and as he’s about to turn 30 with no prospect for a wife, naturally his parents are worried (you could even say panicking).

The journey follows him and his family in looking for a suitable wife in the traditional Indian way. I knew that arranged-marriage has been and still is common among many Indians, I have a few friends who got married in this way and they made no qualms about it. But Ravi, who resides in L.A., is very Americanized and it’s clear he’s got issues with this centuries-old tradition, especially since he’s still not quite over his ex-girlfriend Audrey. The film takes place mostly in the US, but the first act includes him (and his parents) traveling all the way to India, which was quite amusing. But the craziest part was the fact that he flew all over the country and met with various Indian women from coast to coast!
MeetThePatels_familyMeetThePatels_RaviAudrey

It’s really a hilarious documentary from start to finish. It’s decidedly NOT the most visually-arresting doc, as Ravi himself mocked his sister that she’s not really a cinematographer, so the film often looks like a family vacation video shot with a handy-cam. But the *imperfections* are really part of the charm and adds to the authenticity of the movie. What Ravi and Geeta are great at is in the storytelling, which includes fun cartoon segments to illustrate certain scenarios that Ravi go through. I was fully-invested in Ravi’s journey and got a glimpse of what goes on inside a traditional Indian parents when one of their children is in *Code Red*, that is ‘almost 30 and never married.’

All of the people in the docs are Patel’s own family and friends, none of them are played by actors. It also includes interviews with some of Ravi’s friends who are both single and married (either arranged or on their own) so we get interesting perspectives about the subject matter. It’s inevitable that you’ll fall in love with the Patel family and learn a thing or two about Indian culture in the most delightful way. I can’t recommend this one enough, it’s part documentary and part romantic-comedy that’s wonderfully entertaining.

4Reels


So that’s my weekend recap folks. What did you see this weekend, anything good?