I’m awesome. I wrote a book. It’s got little to do with movies. Download and read “Thank You, Goodnight” right HERE for free.
This film is something you need to see before the year is out.
IN SEARCH OF A MIDNIGHT KISS is everything you wish you could have in a date movie but without all the annoying treacle that usually accompanies films of this variety. The picture has a warm gooey heart that sucks you in right away with its premise that a man who wants nothing more than to be alone on New Year’s Eve has a good buddy of a roommate who convinces him to post a personal ad on Craig’s List and has it answered by a woman who will provide the spark he needs to get out of his funk. The journey is sweet, funny and is simply one of the best films of this variety that I was able to see all year. When I had the chance to chat with the film’s star, Scoot McNairy, I absolutely jumped at the opportunity as this was a film that rekindled that sense that you can make a movie about two people coming together without it being overly contrived or false.
You can catch the movie on DVD December 23rd and could not be coming out at a better time.
SCOOT MCNAIRY: Hi Christopher. Where are you?
CHRISTOPHER STIPP: I’m in Scottsdale, Arizona.
MCNAIRY: Oh nice.
STIPP: The dust bowl of the West.
MCNAIRY: I’ve been to Phoenix and Tucson but never been to Scottsdale. Isn’t Scottsdale the prettiest of the three?
CS: Yeah, it’s got the most, I think “life” would be the word for it.
MCNAIRY: OK. Like most golf courses and what have you.
CS: Right…Now, I have to say that I loved the film. Roger Ebert made some hints, not even so much of a hit but flat out says, that it feels like a Linklater homage in a way – instead of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, we have you two.
MCNAIRY: I heard he wrote a great review. I haven’t read it yet but someone read it about a week ago and was like, two thumbs up from Ebert. And I was like, “No way.” I think you are the first person to tell me that so I need to go online and look at that.
CS: It’s very nice and I couldn’t agree more with everything he said about the film.
MCNAIRY: Thank you so much.
CS: Explain to me – this film has been playing in the UK before it ever came here. How did that work?
MCNAIRY: Yeah. We got it over here in February and they decided to push it and when they did as the UK as well, we were going to go ahead and go with it and they cleared it with America and they really got behind it and put a whole bunch of money into marketing and advertising. We were nervous about it but it went over to the UK and was just floored at the response. So we were really excited so coming back to America, the US, we were excited about the success it had in the UK and thought, “Well the Europeans liked it so…hope the Americans do to.”
CS: I think they see what I see which is a well made romantic sort of comedy, not so much comedy in the wackiness but it’s got heart behind it.
MCNAIRY: Yeah, my hat goes off to Alex Holdridge. I just cannot give him enough kudos. The guy is the director of the film and he’s so smart. The film was thought out for two years before a word was written. We’ve know each other for ten years and I don’t have that kind of trust with any other director. I know this guy so well and think that everyone else involved in the film was so close which gave a really rare organic chemistry to the whole film. Also we let Alex do whatever he wanted with us.
CS: And you were obviously helped…I read a little bit about Alex that he kind of got scooped in a way by SUPERBAD when it came out based on the content of this film.
MCNAIRY: Yeah. My first movie made, called Wrong Number, ten years ago, was made when I was 19. I don’t speak too freely about it but the similarities from the two films are ironically very similar. So he came out four years after that to make that movie. I’ve been working with him for so long rewriting the script and he said, “Hey guys, there’s another movie out there like this.” He was so frustrated and I watched him go though it and decided to make another movie and this is the movie he’s been talking about for 2 years. Really, I just called up a friend, Robert Murphy, we used to hang out 10 years ago, he was a DP and just got a new camera and knew Alex was really upset. So Alex said, “Do you want to shoot something?” So Alex wrote the script in two weeks and Robert got on a plane, flew out here, and we thought we were shooting a short film. At one point Robert looked over and said, “What’s that?” He said, “That’s the script.” To which he said, “Oh, I thought we were shooting a short.” Alex said, “No, Robert, we’re shooting a feature.”
So it was just a whole bunch of guys getting together who used to make films together on the streets of Boston for no money and we all got back together to make another film in our life and we had no idea it was going to get the legs that it got. Everyday has been a surprise for us the last two years.
CS: Now, obviously, based on the UK reaction it has some legs. When you go into a project, what do you hope comes out at the other end ? You obviously hope and you wish that it’s huge, but going into it are you realizing the odds going in?
MCNAIRY: Yes Obviously, you hope for the best with every script that you read. But not every script that you read turns out to be what you thought it was going to be and some of the ones you think aren’t going to be so great turn out to be great. Alex’s last two films got critics awards and gone to festivals and stuff so it was kinda like when he said he was making another movie, everyone just dropped what they were doing and hopped on-board this film.
That and making movies is just so much fun.
There’s just a freedom you don’t really get with other projects because the time constraints. We just sit around and work things out. It’s not like we gotta move, we gotta make our days, but we’re like, “If we don’t make our day, we’ll just come back here tomorrow.” So there’s so much freedom and everyone is so relaxed and there is no pressure to get this done because I’m wasting everyone’s time and what have you. Everyone is just there to sit down and hash it out and make it the best they can. So I think when Alex said he wanted to make this film, everyone said let’s do it. We know it’s going to turn out amazing with Alex. He will spend so much time with it and he does – he nurses it and nurses it in the editing room. Like I said, my hat is totally off for the quality and the intelligence of the project.
CS: Regarding the physicality of making it, I was reading that you would have to reshoot many times because you were on such a low budget, and you were filming out in the open in the city, people would be coming into the scene, you were bumping people, you didn’t even have a Steadicam…
MCNAIRY: Yes! That was the strangest part about it. It’s weird for any negative critic that said anything about it I want to turn to him and say, “Dude, we made a movie for $12,000. Lay off. Do you know how hard that is?” We were not perfect but it was such a huge feat. We had nothing so the fact that it got distribution – people were trying to size it up against Batman. Golly. Easy.
CS: That’s an excellent question about what you learned about the filmmaking process. You are credited as a producer on this film. Going into it and when you have the finished product did you eyes open to this whole new world of distributorship?
MCNAIRY: ABSOLUTELY. I learned so much. I produced other things like some trailers to music videos and some shorts but nothing that ever had to deal with the business aspect of it. This was a huge learning curve for me and through the entire journey anything that happened, like, “Let’s go to Tribeca…should we get a publicist?” I was like I want to get a publicist, I know we don’t have the money for it, let’s just find it and we’ll put the money up for it because at the end of it I want to know that this film failed, if it does fail, I want to know that we did everything right and the film failed because it wasn’t good.
So going down the road I made a whole bunch of mistakes and put money in some places that I shouldn’t have and it was a huge learning curve but at the same time it was a learning curve that was only $12,000 vs. a learning curve on a film that was half a million to a million. So I’m really glad I learned all this stuff on this particular project but it was hard. Distribution stuff – a lot of letdown stuff – that was really hard to go through but after talking to a lot of people they said your film got distributed, it got a theatrical release, you should be very excited about that because a lot of films right now aren’t even getting that. So, the other things I wished I would have changed on this last one was more advertising and more marketing because we did a lot of it, grassroots, ourselves but I felt like we should have put in another $35,000 for commercial spots, newspaper ads, but other than that it was fun. When you aren’t expecting anything any good news you get turns out to be great but sometimes there were letdowns but people say that’s normal in distribution but for me I worked so closely on this film for two years. I spent my entire life and all my money and all my time on this film.
CS: One of those things about the film, you just mentioned, black and white, any decision about why black and white vs. color?
MCNAIRY: It was supposed to be in black and white because it was a film that was a throwback to old actors and old movies. The reason we shot down in the old theatre district was it was a kickback to the Vaggo era and how LA was booming in the 20’s and 30’s and how it’s been completely abandoned and has this modern feel to it – we’re texting and IMing and internet dating but we never mention the year the film was made so we wanted to give it this beautiful old feel and old vibe of the film that is timeless. We never mention the date of the film. So you would know this movie had to happen between 1995 and 2010. It wasn’t New Year’s Eve, 2007. So the black and white just painted it so you get the feel of it’s romantic, you are feeling the buildings around you but hearing the characters talk and the connection to each other let down their walls and in color, it kind of takes away from some of those distractions.
CS: It does. It’s more intimate in a way because it doesn’t allow you to focus on anything else.
MCNAIRY: When we did some of the screenings it was so odd. Only 50% of the audience were like “Why black and white?” And then the other half didn’t even realize it was in black and white until after it was over. They just weren’t even paying attention to that. So we really fought for it. We shot it in color but when we watched the dailies, no one every saw one frame of footage in color. We always just turned the color and the tint off so we could see what it was going to look like.
CS: The film itself, is like you mentioned, the era’s in which you filmed, it’s kind of like a love letter to Los Angeles and for all its negativity that people throw upon it, was it hard? I know Alex was from Austin. Is there something really romantic about Los Angeles in general?
MCNAIRY: It’s a love/hate relationship, I think that really comes from Alex. He never wanted to move to Los Angeles. When he finally did, most of the script is sort of autobiographical to his life. He really did roll his car on the way out here and so much stuff that happened in the film, happened to him. But it was love letter. He did have a negative attitude towards Los Angeles and over the two years that he was living here, all these negative things happening, he was able to find all these beautiful things about it. The movie was going to be called, “If LA Fell Into the Ocean, I Wouldn’t Care”.
But I think it changed based on his views from being out here and it turned into, and I don’t know that he even realized, it turned into a love letter to Los Angeles. There is hope in this town and people are so cruel out here but that’s OK because there is hope out here and things aren’t that bad. You just have to adjust your thoughts. Look for the best and try to find good people you can actually connect with.
CS: And you certainly do with Sara Simmonds. I know you two knew each other before filming. Obviously, that must have helped with the filming – making this a believable love story.
MCNAIRY: Absolutely, everybody, actually, had worked together. The DP, the director, Me, Sara, Brian. Me and Brian are really close friends and that really did help. Sara, when I hadn’t even seen her or hung out with her in at least a year, when she came to work, I went and picked her up at her house that day she had just come in from Texas and then all these people thought we were really good together but it was just two friends not seeing each other for a long time and connecting again, on set, and talking together on set “Hey, what are you up to, how’s your boyfriend?”, “Oh, I broke up with him”, “What, no way.” While were shooting we’re catching up with each other. So I think you get to see the two of them get to know each other but also what’s going on behind the camera we are actually re-acquainting ourselves. It came off very, very organic and the chemistry was great.
CS: It did. It recalibrated my own expectations for what a film like this should be. It seems that this film, and why the movie is getting wonderful reviews, is that this film feels more genuine than anything Matthew McConaughey or any of his ilk put out.
MCNAIRY: Well, it’s definitely a more real take on it. I think everyone that was involved in the project has all gone through that. We all moved out to Los Angeles. My first year, I was the first one of the group to move here, that first year you have no friends, know nobody, I hung out with this homeless guy at the gas station just to get out of my apartment and we just didn’t know anybody. I always told people, if you are going to move to Los Angeles, your first year is hell. If you can just get past your first year, your second year is alright, the third year you are really starting to enjoy the city. So I think everyone had that common ground of what it’s like to be in LA the first year and I think cautiously we all wanted to tell that story. Some people asked me, “So, you moved out to LA, how is it? Yada yada yada.” And you don’t want to tell them it’s horrible as hell.
You want to be like, “Oh, it’s great. It’s really amazing. You guys should move out here. Really, please, move out here.” So I think that’s where that came from. Everyone really, really identified with that idea.
CS: I’ve also read that instead of finding your own work, you have become a producer so you can actually produce and work for your own. How did that evolve? I looked at your resume and you’ve done these things over numerous years, where did you come to the point where you said, “You know what, I have to make my own magic if I want this to happen?”
MCNAIRY: I’ve always been like that since I was a kid. I remember asking people, “Hey will you do this…or…help me build this fort?” I just learned at a very young age if you want something done, do it yourself. And I’ve been like that since I was a little kid and I think it came down to after four or five years went by out here it kind of hit me why did I change from doing it myself when I moved here? Let me go back to the way I was. I had a landscaping business when I was a kid. I’ll just do it myself. So I guess this is the product of that and since then my manager and my old agent we all decided to start a production company and make movies. So my manger shut down his office and my agent left his agencies and rented offices and started this company with a group of friends and just started plowing through movies. Making two more next year.
CS: I saw that. You are obviously keeping really busy.
MCNAIRY: Yes, busy producing and acting. Now that KISSING has opened up some new doors and…
CS: Speaking of which, you said the critical reception has been phenomenal and this is everyone dream to make a movie and have it as well received as this, have you noticed a flood of new material coming your way?
MCNAIRY: Yeah, but people who have projects that I’ve known for a while are just now thinking of me for their projects vs. thinking of me as an actor. It was before the movie was released but DVD’s were floating all around this town and so I get random calls. One day, Josh Radnor from How I Met Your Mother called me on my cell phone and said “Hey, I just want you to know I was just at a screen of MIDNIGHT KISS and you are amazing, I think it’s great, I just wrote a film and I’m interested in you to play the part” and I get another call from some other person at some other production company saying, “Hey, just saw the film, it’s hilarious, we love you, would you take a look at this project?” So, if anything, I gained a little bit of respect. Not really respect but some hats off from the peers out here in the town that weren’t’ thinking of me for projects that are now thinking of me. I’m on people’s radar I would say. But at the same time, I still go back to the way I was before Midnight Kiss.’ I’m still going to be making movies and not think about that kind of stuff.’ Keep doing my own thing and doing it myself.
CS: If I could I just want to ask you one more question.’ I read about your project that you are thinking about, how serious you are I’m not sure, but I think it was rather interesting, that you want to do a movie about the apocalypse?
MCNAIRY: Yes! Roland Emmerich – I just found out two nights ago he’s making a movie called 2012 and I was like “Oh, it’s not Revelations” but it’s pretty much like I think the film I want to make and he’s making it for $200 million which is around the budget that I would want to do too.’ We’ll see when the thing comes out. Maybe it’s the same. Maybe it’s different. I really want to focus on the second coming of Christ and what happens – planes crashing, two people that didn’t get taken in the resurrection and are here on this earth, what happens afterwards. We’ll see. I want to make a movie that begins with the new world after that happens.
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