Hitting theaters today is one of my favorite comedies of the year, For A Good Time, Call…, starring Ari Graynor and co-writer Lauren Anne Miller as two girls forced to live together in an apartment in New York that couldn’t be further apart in personality. As the story unfolds we begin to root for these two girls to set aside their differences and realize how much they can give to one another while they begin to operate a phone sex line out of the apartment.
Sweet, raunchy, and a whole lot of fun, director Jamie Travis makes an impressive feature debut and I was able to sit down with him a few weeks ago to discuss his feature debut. We talked about his favorite prop in the film, the odd meta-reality going on and how he dealt with having more than just himself and the editor in the editing room. You can find the full video interview below and past that is the transcription.
The Film Stage: You shot a lot of footage for the cameos. How did you decide what to keep?
Jamie Travis: There were many babies thrown out. Just because something was funny doesn’t mean it was in the film. We did a very delicate dance to get the tone of this film right.
Was that frustrating to have these moments where you have comedy gold…
Travis: No, you get used to it. You always lose things that you love. Often in the editorial process you get to a blockade where, ‘OK, the movie’s good but it’s just not quite great.’ Often that’s about losing things. I think we got this movie down with the help of our editor, who’s from Texas, Evan Henke, and talented. But I don’t feel precious about anything. And with a film like this, especially with the cameos, we shot so much that we had so many options. And the other thing is that comedy is so subjective. So once we started sharing it with people, maybe what we found funny in the edit room wasn’t translating in our screenings. It was a delicate balance.
With the actors sharing character names and more, did you enjoy the art imitating life aspect?
Travis: The whole process has been very meta. With Lauren playing herself and Ari playing Katie [Anne Naylon]. I don’t know that Justin [Long] played me. I don’t know how he’s going to respond when that gets around but there’s been a lot of talk of it. We had our first full conversation about the character of Jesse and I was very conscious of not… I didn’t want to be the gay director who puts out the gay male stereotype or anything that’s offensive. I didn’t say it. Maybe he read my mind. But I kind of just wanted him to be me. I remember on our first phone conversation he said to me that he liked my voice. And I was like, ‘OK, weird.’ Then he wanted to record me reading some lines from the script. Which, of course, made me feel very nervous because I didn’t want him to do a caricature of me. But I didn’t know Justin at the time and now I know Justin and I’ve worked with him. He is such an incredible talent and takes acting so seriously. I remember him following me around on set and kind of mimicking my behavior and my physicality. But I love it. Are you kidding me? I’m an egotist. It’s like, ‘Bring it on. Of course I want to be in this movie.’ He got to dress like me and his hair was styled like mine. It’s funny. I watch the movie now and I do see a lot of me in that character. But at the same time, Justin made it completely his own.
Did the co-writers help edit the film?
Travis: The edit started with just me and the editor, Evan Henke. So there were a number of weeks where it was just us. Then, once we had our first screening, when it was in a pretty rough state… I can’t remember. I think the girls started coming in once a week and gradually as we got closer to locking picture, Lauren and Katie were in there every day. The whole process has been very collaborative in the script stage, in the production stage, and very much so in the editing stage. But I definitely had my few weeks to get it together in my own way before everyone came in and became a part of it. Which is so essential as a director to have that privacy. Just for a little bit. But this is a very different process than what I’m used to with my short films. Which are very much driven by me and only me. My director voice is very strong in those. This was a very different beast. It was very much about the performance. I knew it was going to live or die based on the relationship between these girls and whether we wanted to be friends with them and whether we wanted them to be friends and have those real stakes. So it was a really different director muscle to exercise in that it wasn’t about ‘Me, me, me’ and my voice and my style. It was about insuring that the actors had what they needed and that the story was being told in a faithful way.
How does the process of feature filmaking change from your short films and commercials?
Travis: Whether I’m directing something of my own or whether I’m directing something that’s from someone else’s script, it’s all about the script. I mean, I’ve been working in commercials for the past five years, so I am well accustomed to multiple levels of power above me, beside me, under me… everywhere, and kind of navigating through that. I will always choose a project based on the script and based on the people involved. I got such a good vibe from them and I loved the script, so never once did I have hesitation about, ‘Oh, no. It’s not going to be all me.’ Calling the shots. It wasn’t like that. It really is all about the project.
Ari and Lauren have had a certain amount of press talking about their favorite props in the film. I haven’t heard…
Travis: No one asks me…
Do you have a favorite prop?
Travis: Well, obviously the pink phone.
Travis: What am I going to say? The dildos?
Travis: No, the pink phone to me is such an amazing kind of symbol of this whole movie. I feel like it’s like this emblem of what we stand for and I love that it’s got this kind of ’80s throwback quality. Which, to me, is inherent to this kind of female-driven friendship story. The movies of Bette Midler, Shelly Long, and Goldie Hawn… I was obsessed with them when I was a child or a teenager. And I still am. I saw Outrageous Fortune recently and I think it might be brilliant. So this pink phone evokes so much to me. It evokes another period. It evokes a real female spirit and it’s on all our promotional materials. It really is For A Good Time, Call… logo.
For a Good Time, Call… is now in limited release.
BAMCinématek A new series entitled “Black & White ’Scope: American Cinema” commences this weekend, and, as for the series itself, with a Wilder double-bill on Friday: The Apartment and One, Two, Three. Manhattan screens on Saturday, while The Hustler can be seen this Sunday. Museum of the Moving Image The Gordon Willis tribute concludes with […]
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