For those of you who don’t already know: The Maryland Film Festival is this weekend, kicking off on Thursday night (May 3) and running through Sunday, May 6. One film to check out in this year’s line up is “Save the Date,” starring Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr, Mark Webber, Alison Brie and Geoffrey Arend. Here is an interview with the films director and co-writer, Michael Mohan.
1) Your film “Save the Date” is considered a “romantic comedy,” a genre that seems to be highly criticized. What do you think makes for a good romantic comedy?
Okay, so let’s just be real: almost all films in the “romantic comedy” genre are awful. The characters are flimsy, forced to make decisions no human would ever make. Many of them are totally offensive to women, featuring female leads who act as if they’d never be complete without finding the perfect man.
So while “Save the Date” contains both romance and comedy, I struggle with calling it a romantic comedy because I really don’t want it to be lumped in with all these sorts of films I truly hate. If I were forced to compare it to other films, I would say that it’s a dash of “Reality Bites”, a pinch of “Annie Hall”, and a teaspoon of “Walking and Talking.” Three films that are all kinda sorta romantic comedies but also kinda not.
To me what makes a great movie – not just a romcom – are characters that feel like real people. People who talk like I talk. People who act like I act. It sounds so obvious and simple, and yet there are just so few movies I feel like I can personally relate to these days. And that was the goal with “Save the Date” – at the end of 90 minutes, it feels like you’ve hung out with five of your friends.
2) Who are the main characters in your film?
Sarah (Lizzy Caplan) is a stubbornly independent woman who breaks up with her boyfriend Kevin (Geoffrey Arend) after a botched proposal. Kevin’s only flaw is that he loves her unconditionally. Meanwhile, her sister Beth (Alison Brie) is planning her wedding to Andrew (Martin Starr), Kevin’s bandmate. When Sarah quickly enters an intense rebound relationship with Jonathan (Mark Webber), the social dynamic between these friends/siblings is changed and all of the characters beliefs on life and love are put into question.
3) The cast of the film is pretty impressive. How did you get everyone to come together? How important was it for you to have some familiar faces?
In early 2011, the script for “Save the Date” was completed – this happened in conjunction with a short film I directed called “EX-SEX” premiering at Sundance, as well as one of my producers’ films “THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT” getting nominated for oscars. We quickly made a list of our favorite actors and reached out to all of them.
I do want to say, I didn’t cast any of these actors because of their “star power” – I cast them all because they are, simply put, five of the best actors of our generation. In the case of Lizzy Caplan and Alison Brie – the press might focus on what they are wearing to a premiere or something silly like that, but you can just see from their work – they are incredibly hard working, and just so devoted to their craft. That’s what matters.
4) What do you think is important to capture about modern day relationships?
Something my generation is dealing with is that half of our parents’ marriages have crumbled.And as we are entering long-term relationships, we’re dealing with that – this grey cloud hovers over us. As great as our relationships seem right now, there’s really only a 50% chance it’ll work out.
The sisters in “Save the Date” represent two ways we could look at it. For Sarah, Lizzy Caplan’s character, she’s so stubbornly independent, that she doesn’t believe in marriage at all. And while she thinks she’s so open-minded, it actually causes her to be much more guarded and closed. And for Beth, Alison Brie’s character, she’s engaged to be married and overwhelmed in a way that causes her to lose sight of who she is and what’s important to her.
Through these characters, the film explores two things – the first is that love is absolutely terrifying because it forces you to be in your most vulnerable state, but as long as you don’t change who you are, you’ll be fine. And the second is that this notion of “the one” – as if there’s literally only one other person on this planet that’s meant for you – that notion is total bullshit, and we’ll all be happier in our relationships (and our breakups) if we understand this.
It’s a really interesting time right now because I feel like marriage is being redefined by our generation – but as this happens we cannot lose sight of love.
5) What was your experience like showing “Save the Date” at Sundance?
It was awesome. Thankfully I had been there before with my first film “One Too Many Mornings,” as well as “Ex-Sex,” so I knew a little bit of what to expect. But it was still overwhelming, nerve-wracking, and joyous.
6) Last year your short film “Ex-Sex” was part of the Maryland Film Festival shorts selections. What was your experience like at the festival? Did you get to see any good work from your fellow filmmakers?
I actually couldn’t afford to go to the festival last year, but I saw the pictures of all the directors in the zebra-striped bathrobes. I couldn’t be more excited to be able to go this year. This is actually our 6th film festival in 6 weeks, and it’s the one I am looking forward to the most.
7) You’ve directed several music videos. How important do you think music is to film? What about music to relationships?
What was really great about “Save the Date” was I was able to work with my friend Hrishikesh Hirway of The One AM Radio to do the music for the film. He composed both the score, as well as the songs that the band-within-the-film, Wolfbird, plays. Additionally, our music supervisor Laura Webb was instrumental with our soundtrack as well in helping create the perfect tunes to go along with the picture.
For this film in particular, we always knew going in that it would be a “soundtrack” movie. The characters and the scenes landed itself to having music playing in the background. So I wanted to embrace that fully, and basically make the most important mixtape of my life. The bands we got are really awesome – Wilco, Charles Bradley, Minus the Bear, Friends, Giorgio Moroder (!!!), Hanni El Khatib, DMX Krew, The Blue Hearts, Class Actress, Houses – all of these bands contributed to the soundtrack.
As for the importance of music to relationships – that’s a big question. All I know is that I’m really happy my wife doesn’t listen to the Dave Matthews Band. If she did, we would not be together. Does that answer the question?
8) Who do you think your film appeals to and why do you think people should see it next weekend?
I think this film is for anyone who is confused as to the role marriage plays in our lives. It’s for anyone who has run away from a relationship that was actually really good. It’s for anyone who has picked at the emotional scabs of a devastating breakup.
Also, if you’re a fan of the graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown – he co-wrote the movie and did all the artwork. The idea for “Save the Date” originated completely from him and this film is the cinematic equivalent of his novels.
Also, if you’re a fan of Lizzy Caplan, Alison Brie, Martin Starr, Geoffrey Arend, or Mark Webber – these are characters that are unlike any of the characters they’ve played before.
“Save the Date” will be showing:
May 4, Friday @ 8 p.m, in Charles Theater 2
May 6, Sunday @ 2 p.m, in Charles Theater 1.