Fueled by the need for love and intimacy, the evening takes them on a crash course through the turbulent world of sex and dating. But Cristofer, who in addition to directing, did rewrites on the script, places love and the longing for intimacy at the center of this unusual story. McKenna's writing stood out from the stacks of scripts on Keohane's desk.
David doesn't skip over the uncomfortable things, he puts a magnifying glass on them and I think people need to see the kind of films that David writes. It's fashionable to feel that way when you're in your twenties. I didn't want to do a picture like that. I began to have not just curiosity, but a kind of sympathy for these young people who were living this somewhat brutal lifestyle.
I found a way into these characters. I saw a sadness in the story, in their lives. I felt for them and I thought I could make an audience feel for them too. I wanted to make a film that explored how this generation approaches sex and dating. Cristofer decided to do some research and joined a group of young friends for a night out. But that was an illusion because individually it was apparent that there was great loneliness going on with each of these kids. When, in fact, the experience of sex often actually distances or alienates you from someone and from yourself.
There are positive depictions of sex as well as some problematic ones. For instance, we've tried to show that it's okay for women to be sexual. They're not "bad" because they want to have sex and that's what's really cool about this script -- the women get down and dirty and they talk frankly about sex. As an audience member, I am more forgiving of people who make mistakes at that age.
Some of the behavior in this film is such that I felt if the characters were in their thirties, they would have needed a good kick in the ass. I think you care for these kids because they're younger and you hope for them. You hope they'll find a way to escape this cycle they're trapped in. They need something and they need it more, or more intensely than the others do.
Consequently, they pay the price for it. I'd just come off of working with a young cast in SCREAM 2 and really wanted to work with a group of people my age again. Then, I got to the second half of the story and I realized it wasn't a comedy but it was actually quite dramatic.
That's when I knew I had to do it. Even though, as O'Connell explains, "Mike is living out every little boy's dream, " he's not doing it gracefully. I tried to play Sara so the audience would like her even though they may not want to. But there is just a little too much right below the surface of both these characters. What emerges is a distressing labyrinth in which the lives of these eight young people are caught up. With Sara crouched at Jane's door the next morning, half-naked, wet and dirty, the beginning of a painful reality begins to settle in.
Then you start putting a story together because it makes you feel better; it makes you feel safe. I think that's exactly what happens in the film. They're all telling stories because they don't quite remember. Maybe they're true and maybe they're not and that's what is great about this film? The audience becomes the ultimate judge of their behavior. It opens with two bodies passed out on a bed that we later discover belongs to Rick Donnelson and Jane Bannister.
Ironically, they are also the only two characters who don't have sex. They tend to reinforce their own opinions and it creates this illusion of knowledge. When you think you know something and you really don't, you set the stage for trouble.
But it's a side of herself she doesn't share with her friends. He's not really bound by any sense of public fashion or style. He's not afraid of pretty much any stripe or shape of sex. Sometimes he can be a pretty kinky guy. At the same time he and Whitney seem to have a kind of wisdom about them. But for some reason when we were casting the film, I kept thinking she'd be the one who'd change next.
She's a little sharper, a little more intelligent and sometimes seems strangely detached from the group as if she's taking it all in. You're not sure how to define life for yourself. I think Emma uses her drinking to anchor herself and eventually she'll see that that's not working. He's the moral compass for the guys? He always talks about courtship and romance and old fashioned values, but when it comes down to it, after a few drinks he's as much of a miscreant as the others," says Rowe.
Cristofer needed to show the audience the contradictions in the characters. These are eight young people trying to figure who they are and how they fit into the world.
They present one facade to each other, another to members of the opposite sex and even another to themselves. In order to capture the discrepancies, Cristofer chose to take down the fourth wall and have the characters talk directly to the camera. Watching them interact tended to feel shallow because I think they were trapped in a pretty shallow dynamic. I wanted to go deeper and I didn't see them sitting down and talking with each other about the deeper, darker parts of themselves.
I was trying to find a process that wouldn't make us feel like we weren't outside watching their behavior, some of which is pretty offensive. If you can't find some sympathy for these kids, if you don't care about them, their behavior can be very off-putting. The interviews play against what we see the characters say and do in the scenes.
It's a pretty unique way to tell a story. It was one of the things that originally attracted me to the project. In reality, Los Angeles is an all-too-unforgiving Mecca to the thousands of young people who journey looking for the brass ring.
There's no sense that you'll run into someone walking down the street like you might in New York. That lack of community is only exacerbated for the numbers of young people for whom home is hundreds and often thousands of miles away. It's a great symbol for contemporary isolation. No one seems to be able to find the heart of the city, or its soul for that matter. At the director's request, the production sought out spaces to film where the environment was larger than the people in it.
They landed in downtown Los Angeles for several scenes set against the vast buildings of concrete and glass and dizzying heights. In the time frame of the film, we've tried to capture both. The filmmakers chose to shoot in a wide format in order to accentuate the environment around the characters and to underscore their isolation. The wider format and the use of bold angles also helped them avoid making the interview sequences look too much like television.
They want to come together with another person and it simply backfires. We wanted to use the camera to illustrate the isolation that each of them feels, even within a group of people. The result is to make the bodies and objects that are moving in the frame appear very fast, causing them to blur around the character who is almost motionless.
Cristofer explains that, "the camera work is very different in different scenes, a little darker in the beginning, in the frantic scenes and as we move into the stillness the camera tends to calm down, the characters level out, and as we approach the end of the film, the bright light of day begins to take over and it becomes still and quiet.
And that's the way we end.