Editing a movie is no easy feat, and the job becomes even tougher when personal, relationship troubles are thrown into the mix. In Daniel Schechter’s new comedy-drama Supporting Characters, this is the dilemma faced by best friends Nick (Alex Karpovsky of “Girls”) and Darryl (co-writer Tarik Lowe), a New York film editing duo struggling to salvage a botched comedy from an eccentric director (Kevin Corrigan, Big Fan) gone AWOL. Aside from the their stressful work situation, the two are also experiencing problems on the home front—Nick, who’s engaged, finds himself falling for the flirtatious actress (Arielle Kebbel) starring in the movie he’s working on, while Darryl struggles to say focused on his career as he deals with his tempestuous girlfriend (Melonie Diaz). With its naturalistic humor and relatable relationships, Supporting Characters is a sharp character study about dealing with life and love in the big city.
The movie is currently available on Video On Demand and opens in New York today. Just before the film’s release, MM caught up with director/co-writer Daniel Schechter to discuss Supporting Characters, as well as what the future holds for the up-and-coming moviemaker (hint: it’s a star-studded prequel to Jackie Brown).
Kyle Rupprecht (MM): Could you talk a little about the writing process for Supporting Characters? What was it like collaborating with Tarik Lowe on the script? How and when did you decide that he would star in the film?
Daniel Schechter (DS): It was remarkably fast for how I usually work, probably because so much of the film was auto-biographical, or based on how Tarik (my co-writer) and I interact. I’d say we wrote the film in a month and shot it a month later. We always knew we were writing a script for Tarik to star in and me to direct. Frankly, that’s why we made the film, to forward our acting and directing careers, but then it turned into something much more personal than we anticipated. He was amazing to collaborate with, and since the characters were based on ourselves we did a lot of improv that we recorded into our iPhones that turned into some of the best scenes in the movie.
MM: As far as depicting the world of film editing, Supporting Characters feels fairly realistic. Did you draw on any real-life experiences for the editing room scenes?
DS: I’ve done a few projects where I’ve come in as an editor late in the process to polish another director’s film. Towards the end of editing, spirits are not typically high. Everyone’s depressed and exhausted, and on occasion fighting. Sometimes the depression is warranted and sometimes it’s just fatigue and bringing in fresh eyes isn’t always the worst thing. But I think I also just drew on all aspects of my own personality and performance as a director and editor: where I’m depressed, cocky, inexperienced, incompetent, indifferent, lost, exhausted, proud, etc… depending on when you got me.
MM: The complicated friendship between Nick and Darryl seems very naturalistic and true to life. Are there any autobiographical elements to the film? As actors, what did Alex Karpovsky and Tarik Lowe bring to the table?
DS: Tarik and I are great friends, and the dynamic in the film is almost identical to the one we have in real life. Alex and Tarik had an incredibly chemistry right away, something about them just complimented the other, but I think Alex also saw how I busted Tarik’s balls and how Tarik responds to that. Something about Tarik, because he’s so handsome and basically happy most of the time, he’s a nice, harmless target for mockery. It’s hard to feel all that bad for him when he seems to bounce back so quickly. It’s sort of like the dynamic between Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington, who I think are incredibly funny together.
MM: Why did you choose the title, Supporting Characters? How does the title relate to the theme of the movie?
DS: We went through a few titles but SC stuck, thankfully. I really hate to blatantly explain a title, as I think it’s fairly obvious when you see the film…suffice to say, the film certainly parallels the struggles these guys have in their professional and personal lives and the title seemed to touch on both. Also, it just had a nice, warm feel to it, and I wanted the movie to feel comforting and personal in the same sense.
MM: What was it like shooting a low-budget movie amidst the hustle-and-bustle of NYC? Did you encounter any challenges while filming?
DS: The film was a shockingly smooth experience, and I’d feel ungrateful saying otherwise. It was a pretty challenging 12-day shoot, but it was like an angel was hanging over the production’s shoulder. When we needed good weather, we had it. A bad location fell through, a better one appeared. We lost one scene of footage, but great, it was bad, and rushed, and we shot a far superior version of it the next day because we had to. I’d say as far as indie film goes, we couldn’t have had more luck, but we also had remarkable producers which helps. (A lot.)
MM: With its mix of humor and heartbreak, the film recalls the insightful character studies of the 1970s. Was that what you were going for? Are there any particular films you see as influences on Supporting Characters?
DS: Well first, thanks. We love and constantly referenced the film Modern Romance by Albert Brooks (which I think is from the 80′s.) [Editor’s Note: He's right. It was released in 1981.] It’s a movie about a film editor going through a mental breakdown over a break up with his on-and-off again girlfriend. One of the most quotable movies of all time and well worth tracking down if you haven’t seen it. I also love Broadcast News (also with Albert Brooks, but directed by James L Brooks, who appears in… yup, Modern Romance.) Those films, to me, are just the perfect balance of comedy and drama, character and story. Hard to beat.
MM: Your next project is slated to be an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s The Switch. What can you tell us about it?
DS: Sure can, I’m about four weeks from shooting the film. It’s based on an Elmore Leonard novel (my favorite writer) and I guess I’d say it’s about the kidnapping of the wife of a corrupt real estate developer in 1970s Detroit. It’s starring Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes, Yasiin Bey, Tim Robbins, Isla Fisher, Kevin Corrigan and Will Forte. Dream project, dream cast and I’m in heaven. I feel really lucky nowadays.