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TFCA: Interview with Phil Hanley – Movie Star Wanted, No Experience Necessary

TFCA: Interview with Phil Hanley – Movie Star Wanted, No Experience Necessary

MOVIE STAR WANTED, NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY: PHIL HANLEY ON SUNDOWNERS
Toronto Film Critics Association
Jim Slotek
August 25, 2017

Two and a half years ago, Canadian-comic-turned-New-Yorker Phil Hanley got a strange email from a total stranger.
“It was Pavan (Moondi), reaching out to my website saying, ‘Hey, I’m writing this movie and I want you to be the lead.’ Apparently, he’d seen one of my stand-up sets on Craig Ferguson.

“I was like, ‘Oh, okay,’” Hanley says of the dubious message. “I’d had a few improv lessons, but I’d never acted.” He’d also been in a couple of commercials with no lines.

“I mean, I get odd emails like that on my website every so often. I like to say yes, just in case. But then he turned out to be for real, and I was kind of taken aback.”

Turns out: Yes was the right answer. Moondi, whose comedy Sundowners opens this weekend at TIFF Bell Lightbox, likes the innocence of style he gets from non-actors who are otherwise performers (just look at July Talk singer Leah Fay Goldstein, who had never acted before starring in Moondi’s previous film Diamond Tongues, earning her a Canadian Screen Award nomination).

Non-professionals are again the leads in Sundowners, a film about a pair of aimless Toronto millennials who get hired to record a seemingly-jinxed wedding at a resort in Mexico. Hanley plays Alex, a wedding videographer going nowhere fast. Luke Lalonde (lead singer of yet another Toronto band, Born Ruffians) plays his feckless best friend Justin.

It all sounded good, but Hanley admits he still didn’t entirely consider it real. “Every so often we’d meet. Pavan would come to New York and say, ‘Let’s get a drink and talk about the film.’ And then one day it was, ‘Yeah, the movie’s happening. We’re flying out to Colombia.” (Colombia doubles for Mexico in the film.)

Sundowners was based on Moondi’s own experience in Toronto as an unpaid wedding videographer, and an actual Mexican resort wedding he worked for “exposure dollars.”

“I knew the story came from him, but I didn’t really ask him too many details,” Hanley says. “I wanted to get into the space myself. But we clicked immediately. We are huge fans of Seinfeld, and we kind of started to talk to each other in comedy references, particularly Seinfeld and Louis C.K.” (Hanley says Seinfeld’s Comedian, his documentary about creating a new act from scratch, inspired the former male model to go into stand-up himself).

The Oshawa-born Hanley and the Kitchener-native Moondi hit it off so well, in fact, that they’ve since collaborated on pilot scripts for TV series. One, based on Hanley’s life in New York, was shopped around in Los Angeles this year and the comedian has high hopes to star in it.

Shot in reverse chronological order, the meat of Sundowners was shot at the Colombian resort first. The opening act of the movie was then shot in the dead of winter in Toronto. Moondi says that part of the production felt like a bit of a letdown, especially after shooting for a month in one of the most beautiful coastal vistas imaginable.

Hanley had a different take on the Toronto shoot. “By the time we got back to Toronto, Pavan and I were really close and Luke and I were, like, buddies. So, for me it was a homecoming. I hadn’t hung out with a large group of Canadians in years. The crew were from in and around Toronto. And some of my buddies from Oshawa were living in the city now.”

Hanley took to the script immediately, and to the concept of having a dream and worrying that you’re spinning your wheels in pursuit of it. “As a comic, you live it,” he says. “You do a lot of gigs that are not great. They tell you it’ll be great exposure and you get there and the audience is, like, 12 lumberjacks in rural B.C.”

Of course, he’s happier than ever that he decided to answer that crank email. “You know what? I honestly didn’t think I’d enjoy anything as much as stand-up and I did.

“I missed the immediacy of the stage a little bit. I’m dying to see the screening and see what’s landing and what gets laughs. But I definitely want to do more film and acting.”

—Jim Slotek

Source: Toronto Film Critics Association

The Gate: Sundowners [Review]

The Gate: Sundowners [Review]

Review for The Gate
By Andrew Parker
August 24, 2017

The low-key comedy Sundowners, the latest directorial effort from Canadian filmmaker Pavan Moondi, could have easily been a tale of two not-particularly-likable people getting their comeuppance for recent karmic infractions, but instead it’s a jovial, unforced, and delicately paced look at best friends stuck together on the worst job of their professional lives.

Alex (Phil Hanley) is a struggling filmmaker eking out a meager, unfulfilling existence as a wedding videographer. Viewing every wedding he shoots as unexceptional, unexciting, and a waste of time, Alex has been mentally checked out of his job for quite some time, and his aloof boss (Tim Hiedecker, naturally acting as a scene stealer) giving him the run around about getting paid doesn’t help matters. There’s a blip of something to look forward to, however, when Alex is tapped to fly down to Mexico for an all expenses paid trip to film a destination wedding. Alex’s boss allows the filmmaker to pick whomever he wants to bring down as a still photographer, settling on Justin (Born Ruffians musician Luke Lalonde, in his first acting role), an equally unhappy customer service call centre worker with no actual photography experience. They think they’re on an easy assignment that equates to a free vacation, but thanks to a high strung groom (Nick Flanagan), a less than forthcoming boss back home, problems with hotel staff, run-ins with other tourists, and their own unknowing bits of self-sabotage, the trip quickly becomes the job from hell.

Writer-director Moondi (Everyday is Like Sunday, Diamond Tongues), who drew upon a lot of his own experiences as a videographer from early in his career, clearly has an affinity for his main characters, but stops short of forcing viewers to identify with them. Alex and Justin aren’t perfectly likable people. They’re kind of snobby, often pushy, definitely pretentious, and their method of flirting with women borders on icky, but they’re not bad enough to root against them. Alex comes across as the worse of the two, lost in his own head and the architect of his own loneliness, while Justin is leaving behind matters of greater consequence back home to go on the trip with his best bud. Sundowners works because it’s a great story of imperfect people put into opposition to situations and other human beings that are vastly more unlikable and uncomfortable. It’s a classic formula handled with great delicacy by Moondi.

Sundowners is a mannered comedy of errors, but never one that lapses into satire or slapstick. Moondi’s visual and narrative aims are a lot more observational than outwardly comedic. The screenplay stops just short of being overwritten despite a few convenient convolutions along the way, and Moondi allows Alex and Justin’s friendship to change organically and gradually amid the story’s occasional lapses of chaos. Moondi is aided immeasurably thanks to wonderful chemistry between Hanley and Lalonde, neither of whom have acting experience but come across as naturals. Lalonde particularly impresses in much the same way that Moondi led another musician, July Talk’s Leah Fay Goldstein, to a similarly memorable performance in Diamond Tongues. An early scene where a cameo-ing Goldstein appears as Justin’s ex proves that both of them should take on more acting gigs in the future.

Late summer is a perfect time for a comedy like Sundowners. It plays like a whip-smart, reflective, and uncompromised bit of observational comedy that’s akin to laughing off a hellacious hangover. It’s a nice addition to Moondi’s growing résumé, and a film that will hopefully lead to more work for its stars in the future.

Source: The Gate

Original Cin: The Chill Charm of Booze, Near-Sex Experiences and Minor Disasters [Review]

Original Cin: The Chill Charm of Booze, Near-Sex Experiences and Minor Disasters [Review]

SUNDOWNERS: THE CHILL CHARM OF BOOZE, NEAR-SEX EXPERIENCES AND MINOR DISASTERS
August 24, 2017
By Jim Slotek

What would The Hangover or a Hollywood spring break comedy be like if it were a Canadian indie production like Pavan Moondi’s Sundowners?

In the first, you get booze, drugs, near-death experiences and lots of sex. In the second, you get booze, near-sex experiences and minor disasters.

And ennui, lots of ennui.

The thing is, dialed back this way, and buoyed by sarcastic dialogue, Sundowners is something closer to the kind of experience you expect with waves pounding the shore and a world-class sunset. Some Americans who’ve seen have pronounced it a “mumblecore” comedy, which, if you ask me, is just a hipster term for the kind of films people from Austin make once they’ve discovered Canadian movies.

Moondi’s version of a full-out comedy, Sundowners stands in marked contrast to his acclaimed previous feature, the actress-on-the-edge-of-a-nervous-breakdown film Diamond Tongues. Like that movie (which starred July Talk lead singer Leah Fay Goldstein in her first acting job) the lead roles have been given to non-actors – comedian Phil Hanley and Luke Lalonde, the lead singer of yet another Toronto band, Born Ruffians (if nothing else, we know Moondi likes to club crawl).

Where Goldstein’s performance was a revelation (she was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award), the same innocence-of-style produces mere geniality in Sundowners. But that’s good enough for a comedy.

Kind of a bipolar beast, Sundowners has two distinctly different parts. In the first, we meet Alex (Hanley) and Justin (Lalonde). Alex is a wedding videographer, working for “exposure dollars,” and so depressed about his non-paying job that he doesn’t even take advantage of the free drinks. When he meekly complains to his poseur, BS artist boss Tom (a wonderfully skeevy Tim Heidecker of Tim & Eric fame), he is offered… no, not money, but a wedding shoot at a Mexico resort.

Comparatively, Justin seems in worse shape (though generally in better spirits). Whereas Alex is actually working on the same planet as his dream job of filmmaking, Justin works in a call-centre, lives with his dementia-stricken grandmother, and his ex-girlfriend (Goldstein) is demanding money for an abortion. He’s not even a photographer and will be faking it.

So far, so dark. Alex and Justin are pretty much poster-boys for an entire generation that has all but given up on dreams or even on getting paid enough to buy all things ads tell them they need.

Once they’re on the plane, however, Sundowners lets go of social commentary with both hands. Moondi populates the rest of the movie with broad character strokes – an anxiety-stricken, secretly bankrupt groom (Nick Flanagan), a bride-coveting best man (Nick Thorburn of the band Islands, who also scored the picture), a sexually-aggressive bride’s sister (Jackie Pirico), a sexually-aggressive bride’s gay dad (David John Phillips). There are lost rooms, lost wallets and passports, technical foul-ups, bullying Aussies.

In fact, there are so many real problems, Alex and Justin have relatively little time to fixate on how much their life sucks (though that remains an occasional go-to topic of conversation).
Just another hotel snafu en route to a Mexican wedding standoff
Just another hotel snafu en route to a Mexican wedding standoff

In almost every case of near-disaster, Moondi eventually pulls back. Sundowners doesn’t go for antic or madcap. Its crises mostly involve worrying.

And for all that, it grows on you. Surrounded by coastal tranquility (Colombia subbing for Mexico), Sundowners is a chill indie take on a genre that’s usually so desperate to make us laugh, it hyperventilates.

Source: Original Cin

Cinemablographer: Sundowners and the Tertiary Life Crisis [Review]

Cinemablographer: Sundowners and the Tertiary Life Crisis [Review]

Let’s introduce a new term for aging millennials: the Tertiary Life Crisis. Hitting 30 sucks—but in my case, the milestone coincided with Trump’s inauguration, so many people had a worse weekend than I did—and it’s a time for self-reflection. Particularly for those of us who threw our lives away for arts degrees, it’s hard to feel like an adult in a low-paying job going nowhere when other friends are signing mortgages, getting married, and popping out babies. But some people prefer creative passions, drinks with friends, and cats, so there’s no reason that one lifestyle should eclipse another on the roundabout road to adulthood.

Alex Hopper, for example, is in such a rut. As played by Phil Hanley in Pavan Moondi’s offbeat and relatable Sundowners, Alex is a true millennial caught in a desperate cycle of pursuing his passion and scraping by to make ends meet. He works as a videographer for weddings to fund his love for filmmaking, of which he does very little outside of nuptial gigs, but his d-bag boss (Tim Heidecker) strings him along on with dead-end assignments that exploit his wants and needs for little pay.

Cue a new gig that, naturally, sounds too good to be true. Alex is to go film a destination wedding in Mexico (all-inclusive and all expenses paid) and he may choose a photographer of his liking. He invites his buddy Justin (Luke Lalonde) just for fun. Justin, however, doesn’t know a thing about photography. Like Alex, exists on a perpetual cycle of dead-end jobs and failed relationships. At thirty, he lives with his grandma, hates his low-paying job, and doesn’t know how to climb out of his rut.

Sundowners gives Justin a big wake-up call when his ex, played Diamond Tongues star Leah Faye Goldstein in a notably revitalizing cameo, visits with news that she had an abortion. The big revelation, which Goldstein delivers with a perfectly awkward spurt of word vomit, eases one into the film’s dark humour. Goldstein’s strong cameo sets up the tone and mode of inquiry nicely as Sundowners gives a sense of Moondi’s open approach in terms of exploring how our messy lives overlap while trying to maintain relationships with equally flawed and imperfect people. The July Talk singer appears again only on the film’s eclectic soundtrack that pulses with independent spirit from artists who’ve probably endured similarly quixotic odysseys as Alex and Justin’s Mexican adventure to make a living in the art of getting by.

The friends’ trip to Mexico goes wrong on virtually every level—as it should for directionless thirtysomethings—as they try to fool the wedding party that they’re a duo of professionals. That’s how one finds oneself. Mexico’s a much better rock bottom than most of us get.

It helps that the wedding party is its own band of misfit toys. Jenny (Cara Gee), for one, seems pretty much perfect as a bride: beautiful, kind, patient, fun, and then some. But why she settles for a spastic dweeb like Mike (Nick Flanagan) remains a mystery. She might be a better fit for Mike’s best man Nick (Nick Thorburn), who, naturally, seems destined to pipe up and object when asked if there’s any reason the bride and groom shouldn’t marry. Jenny’s family is an entire new level of kooky with her nympho sister (Jackie Pirico) and flamboyantly gay father (David John Philips) showing what happens when one settles for a life of convention without going after what one really wants from life. Nobody in Sundowners has his or her shit together, and that realization is wonderfully refreshing.

Sundowners strangely resonates with its dark humour despite the fact that Alex isn’t a particularly charismatic or likable character. His flaws are uncomfortably real, as are Justin’s, and the film is akin to a mirror for thirtysomething audiences who are bound to recognize their own dissatisfactions, frustrations, and appetites for better lives in the misadventures of these two unlikely heroes. Buoyed by humorously convincing performances by non-professional actors Hanley and Lalonde (a comic and musician, respectively), Sundowners is an unconventional coming-of-sorta-middle-age comedy about the insecurities we all inevitably have to confront at some point in our lives.

Moondi delivers his third feature after Diamond Tongues and Every Day is Like Sunday and it’s easily his best. Gone is the hipster angst of Diamond Tongues and the Queen Street West self-consciousness. Here’s a film that emulates its director’s growing maturity and self-reflection. Maybe it’s the Mexican setting (well, Colombia offering a cheaper stand-in for Mexico) that invites distance and perspective, but this open, honest, candidly funny and disarmingly down to earth film really gets it right.

Source: Cinemablographer

Cinema Axis: Sundowners [Review]

Cinema Axis: Sundowners [Review]

CINEMA AXIS REVIEW
By Courtney Small
August 24, 2017

Pavan Moondi has a wonderful gift for showcasing people whose lives are in desperate need of change. In both Everyday is Like Sunday and Diamond Tongues he looked at individuals, post-grad students and a struggling actress respectively, whose career and relationship stagnations are often products of their own self-sabotage. Though they dream of more fulfilling pastures, the comfortable lure of their drab existence proves too hard to break.

This is the situation that Alex (Phil Hanley) and his best pal Justin (Luke Lalonde) find themselves in during Moondi’s latest comedy Sundowners. Working as a wedding videographer for a boss, Tom (Tim Heidecker), who finds creative ways to justify not paying him, Alex has dreams of becoming a fulltime filmmaker. When Tom books him to film a destination wedding, and allows him to pick his own photographer for the assignment, Alex sees it as the perfect opportunity for he and Justin to getaway from the banality of their current existence.

Planning to give Justin a crash course in photography, at least enough so that he can fake his way through the wedding, Alex hopes that the Mexico trip will offer the life-changing revelation he needs. Justin is not without his own problems though. Taking care of his ailing grandmother, and stuck in a dead-end office job, Justin recently learned that his ex-girlfriend aborted a child he never knew she was carrying. As the two men fumble their way through the wedding and drunken nights they are forced to face the facts that running away from ones problems does not erase them.

Anchored by Moondi’s trademark witty dialogue, Sundowners avoids many of the conventional tropes that one would expect from the premise. While the film has its share of odd peripheral characters, most of whom are associated with the wedding, there are no cheap men behaving badly laughs. There is a surprising and sufficient amount of pathos laced into the fiber of the film.

Tackling thirty-something disenfranchisement with the same intelligent humour that Whit Stillman employs to dissect social classism, Moondi once again shows why he is one of the Canadian directors to watch. He brings a brilliant mixture of wit, dejection and anxiety to his characters, while never losing faith that one day they will put on their grown-up pants and take that necessary step forward.

It is this earnest appreciation of his characters, and his desire to keep much of the comedy grounded in reality, that make Alex and Justin’s plight so interesting to watch. Whether it is the way Alex’s desperation often manifest in his awkward conversations with women, which is a direct contrast to the effortless way Justin attracts members of both sexes, or Justin’s reluctance to see possibility of something greater beyond the cloudy bubble his life is encased in, there is an earnest familiarity to these men that is relatable.

Growing in confidence with each film, both from a script and visual standpoint, it is only a matter of time before Moondi becomes the household name he deserves to be.

Source: Cinema Axis

TIFF.NET: Interview with Luke Lalonde and Pavan Moondi – A Lot Like Going on Tour

TIFF.NET: Interview with Luke Lalonde and Pavan Moondi – A Lot Like Going on Tour

A Lot Like Going on Tour

Luke Lalonde and Pavan Moondi discuss their anti-wedding movie Sundowners, and the destination shoot in Colombia that almost killed them

by Chandler Levack

Aug 24, 2017 @ 5:00am
 
In Pavan Moondi’s new comedy Sundowners (which plays at TIFF Bell Lightbox, starting August 25), it’s all about the journey, not the destination wedding. The third film in Moondi’s trilogy of sorts about confused Torontonians coping with their inability to make art or express their feelings (see: 2014’s Everyday Is Like Sunday and 2015’s Diamond Tongues, the latter of which netted July Talk’s Leah Fay Goldstein a Canadian Screen Award nomination for her first acting role), the film is a bittersweet ode to wedding videos and those who film and edit them. New York comedian Phil Hanley plays Alex, a videographer recruited by his boss (a physical and unhinged Tim Heidecker) to shoot a destination wedding in Mexico. Told he can pick the photographer, Alex invites his best friend, Justin — despite the fact that Justin has neither picked up a camera nor been on a plane before. The role of the sweet but clearly depressed Justin is a breakthrough performance for yet another indie musician–turned-actor, Luke Lalonde, best known as the yelping lead singer–songwriter for Toronto band Born Ruffians. He transforms Moondi’s wry, self-aware dialogue into something fully realized and deeply human — particularly in a painfully honest scene opposite Goldstein, who plays the character’s ex-girlfriend. Filmed in Colombia, with magic-hour sunsets and swimming-pool makeouts figuring prominently, Sundowners offers supporting turns by Jackie Pirico (of Laugh Sabbath), comedian Nick Flanagan, Cara Gee (a TIFF Rising Star in 2013, who will next appear in the TIFF ’17 short We Forgot to Break Up), and Moondi mainstay Nick Thorburn (the musician who founded the band Islands and also created music for the popular podcast Serial both appears in the film and provides the soundtrack).

Over drinks at the Loveless Cafe on Dundas West, I chatted with Lalonde and Moondi about Lalonde’s secret desire to act, what it’s like to direct Tim Heidecker, and the pair’s shared affection for the Adam Sandler movie Click.

Luke, you’re very good in this movie. What was it like to act for the first time?

Luke Lalonde: It was genuinely one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had. I wanted to try acting, but that was a secret. I wondered if I could do it in any capacity, but had never put myself out there to try to get auditions, so when Pavan asked me to be in his film out of the blue, it was an immediate “yes.”

Pavan Moondi: We had met in a bar, The Dock Ellis. I was with Pete [Dreimanis, member of July Talk and Moondi’s frequent cinematographer] and Leah [Fay Goldstein]. We talked about comedy, and that’s when you got into my brain, because we were actively casting for your part. That was a month before I asked you to do it.

What made you think Luke could act?

Pavan: On Diamond Tongues, I learned how casting a performer is a huge leg up. You know you’re getting someone who’s not going to be uncomfortable in front of the camera because their job to be in front of a lot of people. Leah proved that in Diamond Tongues, Nicholas Thorburn had acted in Everyday Is Like Sunday. So that’s always the idea: gravitating towards musicians and comedians for these roles. It also seemed like we had similar sensibilities.

Luke: It’s funny how similar. Where we really line up is in the weird, embarrassing stuff: body-switching and time-stopping films, bad Sandler movies…

Pavan: We both loved Click.

Luke: I had cried when I saw Click.

Pavan: When he’s dying and fast-forwarding through too much stuff?

So you bonded over Click and decided you could make this movie together.

Luke: That was the final hurdle: are you cool with Click?

Pavan: We shot the first part of the film in Colombia, and I think we were all aware what a once-in-a-lifetime experience it was. When we came home, it was a letdown. That’s why having Tim [Heidecker] at the beginning of the Toronto shoot was so valuable; it was a shot in the arm to get people excited again.

Luke: It’s a lot like going on tour [with another band]. By the end of the tour, you feel like you’re going to be best friends forever with the other group, but it’s such an isolated-bubble experience. You’ll maintain a few friendships, but a month afterward you’ll be like, “I haven’t talked to a lot of those guys.” I had a very intense and cool friendship with the other actors, too.

Sundowners, like your previous films, is a character study, but it’s also bigger in scope and it involved international travel. Considering all this, did you feel more pressure?

Pavan: Maybe leading up to the shoot, but I had too much to do to feel much pressure. So much of the crew are people I hang out with, trust, and am friends with. I directed a TV show before [the 2016 CBC series Four in the Morning], and that was pressure. I remember walking onto a set with a 100-person crew knowing they’re all thinking, “How the fuck did he get this job?” The first time I blocked a scene, it was so stressful I was shaking. This was just making a movie with friends.

What are the challenges of shooting a Canadian film in another country?

Pavan: There are funding rules that you can only shoot a certain number of days outside the country if you’re getting Telefilm money. Two-thirds of Sundowners was shot in Colombia, but more than half the movie had to be shot in Toronto. So when we were in Colombia, it was insane: shooting 15 pages of script a day. When we were shooting in Toronto, it was three and a half pages. They were two totally different films. On the first, there was another stupid scheduling thing where we had to shoot two days’ worth of pages. It was the most emotional stuff in the film, and some of our crew had just arrived the night before, and our cast were sick from travelling. We justified it because it’s when these guys are supposed to be drained, both physically and emotionally. I think that helped because you got to get your frustrations out by screaming at each other.

I heard someone on set fell through a roof.

Pavan: That was Abe [Sanjakdar], our camera operator. We were shooting at this old discotheque, and he had to go on the roof to clear something that was blocking a skylight. The roof was so badly constructed, he fell right through into the bathroom and onto the sink. He was really shaken up because it was marble. If he had hit his head, he’d be dead.

A wild cow also stormed the set at one point. When we shot the swimming-pool scene, the power kept going out. Everyone kept getting sick. The travel itself was insane: getting to Colombia with all our grip and lighting gear could’ve been a movie in itself. On the flight back, everyone took these Colombian sleeping pills, which were basically MDMA.

Luke: There were certain days when there was a competition to see who was the most fucked up. Pavan would say, “Look at my feet, I can barely walk! My ankles are swollen!” Phil would say, “Ow, my back!” And I’d be like, “Well, I’m shitting 80 times an hour.”

Why did you want to make this movie?

Pavan: Well, I’ve wanted to tell this story of two guys going to film a destination wedding for five or six years now. A lot of it had happened to me. Having seen films like The Hangover and Wedding Crashers, I wanted to make a movie about two guys who are typically behind the camera. This movie keeps trying to be about the people you’re used to seeing (the wedding party), but it’s not about them. We were deliberately trying to trick people into thinking they know where the film is going, then do the opposite. It’s a broad comedy that keeps getting interrupted by reality.

The anti-Sandler movie.

Pavan: Right, in that movie, the problems would have huge set pieces, but our problems are very small. Hopefully because these guys are dealing with real, human struggles, the audience will care more than them getting chased by a tiger.

There’s a very small and powerful scene between Luke and Leah early on — a discussion between two exes about an abortion. It’s interesting because it never gets brought up again. Do you relate to your character’s inability to express his feelings?

Luke: I don’t personally identify with that aspect of being a man, but I get it. Just today I went to a buy a card because a friend of mine’s father is really sick. I told the woman in the store, and she starts trying to find the card she thinks I want. The whole time, she’s identified me as a guy who doesn’t know how to talk to my male friends about my feelings, so she’s looking for the card that’s like, “I got your back, bro!” I ended up getting a blank card so I could write what I wanted in there.

I do think my character is the type of guy who clearly didn’t know how to handle that conversation about the abortion. He is pretty insensitive and thinks more about himself in that scene. It’s all about him letting her know he’s angry about it. I would’ve definitely sided more with her, because it’s not up to him — it’s her choice.

Pavan: I don’t know if it’s exclusively a male thing, because people cover up their emotions a lot of the time. Luke, you are a very emotionally developed human being because you have to write these songs. But I think a lot of people struggle to show their true selves.

How did Tim Heidecker get involved in the film, and what was he like to direct?

Pavan: We emailed his agent a couple of times, and it wasn’t going anywhere. I got his contact info and decided to email him directly because we were getting tired of waiting. I think it helped that he knew Nick [Thorburn], so he responded within an hour and I sent him the script. Three hours later he said, “Yeah, I’ll do it.”

I met with him once in LA before the shoot, and he asked if he had to memorize all of his lines. I told him there were eight important things to communicate in his scene and, as long as he hit those eight things, I didn’t really care if he did the material. As we were setting up and lighting his scene, people came in who weren’t even working that day. When he saw everyone crowded around the monitor, I saw him start to get a little nervous because he didn’t realize there was so many diehard Tim and Eric fans.

Tim told us, “Just so you know, I’m a slow starter. I need to warm up with a few takes.” The first take he gave us was 25 minutes long. He did the scripted line, then would do a joke, rewind the scene, then do another joke, and did that five times for every joke in the script. It was a master class in improv. The takes were long, and he was so funny that it was the shakiest stuff in the film because the camera guys were laughing so hard. It was also the hardest scene to edit. At a certain point, you’re bringing Tim Heidecker on to be Tim Heidecker, so you should just let that be what that is.

 
Luke, what was your experience like?

Luke: Tim Heidecker’s like Andy Kaufman to me: I find him so fascinating and so funny, so I had to make sure I wasn’t going to freak out. Right before Pavan called “action” on our first take, Tim turned to me, looked me in the eye, and said, “I’m gonna break you.” I was trying to be composed, but was on a razor’s edge of crying-laughing the whole time! I don’t know how people do it. I guess eventually you get over it, but I don’t know how you survive a scene with Tim Heidecker or Michael Cera.

The thing I observed is that Tim would do a scene, and if he knew he missed something midway through, he would pause, rewind, and start it over before the director called “cut.” That might be a technique a lot of people use but would never have occurred to me.

Pavan, what movie are you going to make next?

I’m trying to do my next film in the States, and I’m giving it a year. Sundowners was fully Telefilm-funded, and I want to see if I can do a film without Telefilm so I don’t have to keep going back to the well unnecessarily. The script’s been written, so now it’s a waiting game.

Luke, do you plan to act in more films?

Luke: I want to, but I don’t know how. It seems like you have to really slug it out and be very willing to put a lot of energy and time into it. If Pavan, or friends, were like, “Hey, I’m doing this thing, would you wanna do it?,” I would absolutely jump at the opportunity. But I have a lot of musical things going on and don’t know if I can spend that same kind of emotional and creative energy.

People manage to do both. I think Pavan’s right that there’s something musicians bring that’s authentic and compelling on screen.

Pavan: Well, I want Luke to bring something of himself to the film, but if there’s a part where we’re just looking for someone to come in and do a line, I don’t want them to get too deep into the character. Let’s just do the line and move on.

Luke: “These pretzels are making me thirsty!”

Source: TIFF.net’s The Review

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