As someone with a personal history tied to Slamdance, Rapid i Movement, and the Atlanta Film Festival I feel a special affinity for this film, and its journey from a short time-based project (RiM was a home-spun version of the 48 Hour Film Project), to a feature film making its debut on the international stage in Park City.
Though thanks to a brutal Postal handler, I didn't have the opportunity to screen the final product in advance of its festival premiere, I have seen the short. Based on the strength of the trailer, coupled with the Slamdance endorsement, it seems that director David Bonawits, and his collaborative team, have created a note-perfect off-beat indie comedy.
1. Tell us about the genesis of Pleasant People.
Pleasant People started when I very hastily signed up for Rapid i Movement. I hadn't directed anything in a few years, but I had the itch and figured it was a good opportunity to make something fast and painless. I just assumed that the people I hung out with would star in it, I didn't ask them beforehand.
Fortunately they agreed.
We kind of made everything up as we went along. The only idea I had was I wanted the lead actress, Jiyoung, to break into someone's car, because that seemed funny to me. And since Jiyoung is a songwriter in real life, I thought it would be cool if she was trying to get her recordings back from a guy she had the hots for.
When we screened the film with an audience, I was astounded that people actually laughed at the intended comedy. I also noticed Jiyoung getting some laughs when there was no intended comedy.
Afterwards, she got many compliments on her performance. That was exciting to know people responded to her onscreen persona.
2. Did you always have designs of expanding the short into a feature?
When we screened at Atlanta Film Festival, one of the Dance of the Dead producers said he thought we should turn it into a feature.
So I said, "OK, we will."
I loved Dance of the Dead and I figured if he thought it was a good idea, we should probably do it. It took more than a year to actually start working on it though.
3. How much of the film was scripted vs. improv?
I wrote a script but mostly for my own benefit. We had a table read and there was always a script on set, but I strongly encouraged improvisation. Some scenes have a lot more improv than others. I figured as long as we had a defined story arc and a clear understand of what was supposed to happen in each scene, there was room to be free with dialogue.
Of course, most of my favorite parts of the movie are things I couldn't come up with in a million years.
4. Tell us about the unique characteristics of your lead actress and how you began working together. And about casting in general.
Jiyoung Lee and I met while working for Cartoon Network. She was making really silly stop motion animations for Adult Swim's interstitial packaging and I was working in the office next to her as a video editor. We had some awkward conversations about t-shirts and banal things like that. I found her odd, yet incredibly endearing. We shared similar tastes in music and I think we really bonded over The Little Mermaid.
When it was time to make the Pleasant People short, I wasn't sure if she'd be a good actress. Her only acting experience was playing a ghost in a horror film. But I figured since I found her so unique and charming, we'd be able to channel some of that to the movie screen.
Needless to say, she nailed it and I found her instincts to usually coincide with my own.
Everyone else in the cast is a friend of mine. I secretly wrote them into the screenplay and hoped they'd agree to do it. And they did! I think if anything, I proved to myself that I am really good at casting. I genuinely love everyone's performance in the film.
5. What are your thoughts on the concept of "Atlanta filmmaking community?" Is there one? Is this a situation where you make of it what you will?
I have a bunch of friends that are making awesome movies.
Whenever asked I try to help them out with whatever they need. I've shot and edited my friend's films, media managed and even acted once or twice. And friends seem eager to help whenever I need something. I do feel like there are bubbles of Atlanta Film Communities and I'm very appreciative for the bubble I'm in.
I think that's how it is, like how Atlanta the city is a series of disconnected neighborhoods with their own unique personalities. There are also little neighborhoods of film communities.
There are tons of Hollywood movies shooting in Atlanta right now, but I literally only know one guy who worked on them. There has to be a bunch of locals working on these movies, I just don't know them because they're not in my bubble.
Also these bubbles surely aren't split up into genre, because I've worked with a bunch of horror based films recently, and I've seen like eight horror movies in my entire life.
Maybe the bubble thing isn't really the best metaphor. Because I know lots of people who seem to know everyone and can blend from bubble to bubble (without popping the bubble!)
6. Who are some of your influences?
A lot of the inspiration for Pleasant People came from movies like the Dardenne Brothers' Rosetta or Barbara Loden's Wanda and even Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love. I also love Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows and the rest of his Antoine Doinel series. I'd like to do something like that where we meet up with Jiyoung's character 10 years from now and see how she's doing. "Freaks and Geeks" was huge for me and it definitely inspired the overall mood. Also I kept thinking about You Can Count on Me, but I havent seen it since it came out so who knows?
7. Slamdance has announced it will donate 10% of its box office back to filmmakers. What are you going to do with all that money?
Its hard to say because I have no concept of how much money that is going to be. I would like to pay the actors for their time though. They all worked for peanut butter filled pretzels and Chipotle burritos.
8. What is next for you?
My next project is going to be a webseries I've been thinking about for a little while. I keep saying its about "goth girls" but that's not entirely accurate. It would basically be about women who do witchcraft and seances and things but they keep messing them up. Maybe they saw The Craft in high school and they are still pursuing that dream in their early 30s.
Jiyoung and Rebecca Cayce from Pleasant People are going to be leads along with our friend Taylor Proctor.
We plan to start shooting early next year.
For more information about the film: http://pleasantpeoplemovie.blogspot.com/
Be their Friend on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pleasantpeople
Follow them on the Twitter: http://twitter.com/pleasantpeople
"Lefties just hate sports..." ______________________ Since you seem to want to deal in generalizations Oy,…
@Dave Treat the disease not the symptom. Take a look at this chart via the…
Dep COO suspended for saying a few rude words about the Cobb Crackers? He should…
"They're not knick knacks for a billionaire's shelf." True, they're not knick knacks, they are…
Oy, Neither of these stadia will be a public amenity any more than the Cheetah…
How do you carry on an honest discussion without discussing Chicago? More children die in…