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. 

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!