Dir. Kerem Sanga
Dir. Kerem Sanga

When college freshman Brian (Ryan Malgarini) meets Leslie (Haley Lu Richardson), a drunken talkative girl at a party, they both experience their first intimate encounter. Their special night forms an intense connection between them at least for that night. But when the news of an unexpected pregnancy comes knocking at their door, their follow-up plans are conflicting. Furthermore, it is not an ordinary ordeal. Leslie is expecting twins. She wants to keep them. He doesn’t, but he is too afraid to voice his wishes and plays a part he wasn’t prepared for at all. In Kerem Sanga’s debut feature the “The Young Kieslowski”, comedy is the vehicle for the characters to grapple with their new life-changing circumstances. Can they make it work? Will their parents approve? Or will they crumble at the face of just difficult premise?

Director Kerem Sanga, producer Danny Leiner ("Dude, Where's My Car?," "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle") and stars Ryan Malgarini and Haley Lu Richardson shared with us their thoughts on this amusing story about decisions, unpredictable fate, and the uncertainty of young love.

The film premiered at LAFF on Saturday June 14th and it screens again tonight at 6:30 PM at the Regal L.A. Live Theaters

Carlos Aguilar: What’s the origin of the film? Does it come from anything personal or simply your desire to explore this complex relationship? 

Ryan Malgarini in "The Young Kieslowski"
Ryan Malgarini in "The Young Kieslowski"

Karem Sanga: My dad and my mother got pregnant with my twin brother and me when they were in college. I though it would be pretty fun to write a movie about that and give it different characters and different situations.

Although this is fictional, my dad told me that the feeling after my mother told she was pregnant was a kind of daze. Like Brian in the film, he was just looking at everybody else and wanting to be one of them.

Aguilar: While writing the film and in the actors’ case while reading the script, did you put think of what you would have done in the characters’ situation?

My dad had a much more supportive reaction, obviously, here I am [Laughs], but then I thought, “Would I have felt that way?” When writing the film I gave in to my darkest impulses. I’d like to think that I’d be very supportive but then I also think that at his age I would have pretended to be supportive.

Haley Lu Richardson : You read something, you see a character, and you put yourself in that position and you find parts of yourself that are similar to that, parts that you can develop and will make this a different character. Especially with good writing, when I read it, it was really easy for me to do that. I started freaking out because I envisioning myself as the character in some of stressful, crazy stuff we had to go through. When a character makes me feel stressed, sad, and to feel like this guy is an idiot from Leslie Mallard’s’ perspective, it is easy to go there.

Ryan Malgarini : I’ve never been told that I was going to have twins [Laughs], as an actor you look at that and you just try to bring similar experiences of the same feeling. Like anxiety and stress, and bring that to the table for a good director like Karem who could really help guide you to how or what it feels like. Even if he hasn’t experience it, maybe some of his feelings of how should be portrayed get passed onto to me and something different is created.

Aguilar: Danny, you’ve worked in various capacities in the industry, particularly in broad comedies. What brought you this project?

Danny Leiner : Karem worked as a PA in a movie I did in Texas. I met him when he was been starting in the industry and we just became friends during the shoot. When he came to L.A. to go to the screenwriting program at USC we kept in touch. He sent me an early version of this film and I just thought there was some potential there but it needed a lot of work. I encouraged him to really have a go at it and make it something special and that separated itself from everything else. A while later he sent me another version and I thought, “WTF is this?” [Laughs] “This is amazing” I though it was a beautiful script. I’ve done broad comedy, but I’m just attracted to good material. He took a part of himself to create this, which was an incredible transformation.

Haley Lu Richardson in "The Young Kieslowski"
Mance Media Haley Lu Richardson in "The Young Kieslowski"

Aguilar: Another recent film “Obvious Child” deals with pregnancy but from a woman’s perspective. In that film abortion is the fest solution the character finds for the situation. Did you ever consider that option for your characters?

Karem: I haven’t seen “Obvious Child” but I plan to. The thing about this story that was relatively easy to write was that it had this natural story to it built in, which is the pregnancy.

Did I ever think she might have the abortion? I thought about for about two seconds. I thought I had to honor the source material. I just wanted to see a character that didn’t want to have kids, have kids. I felt like that was a bigger transformation or just a worst premise for someone to go through. I never really considered ending it in any other way. I always had an ending in mind where somebody who’d been fighting this the whole time finally has to accept “Well this is what my life is now”. They say a father doesn’t really feel like a father until he sees the child, while a woman feels like a mother right when she finds out she is pregnant. So I think that was the disconnection the entire movie, he ran away from her.

Ryan: Is a real reaction, is the first thing you want to do when something like that happens, run away! [Laughs]

Haley: And you had no other social skills to know that even though that’s what you want to do, it is not what you are supposed do! [Laughs]

Aguilar: The protagonists’ story goes from a one-night stand to being faced with parenthood in a short amount of time. They are thrown into a serious relationship without having had a chance to have diverse experiences. How do you think this affects their relationship and in turn your performances? 

The Young Kieslowski
The Young Kieslowski

Ryan: I think Karem hit it right on the button with hat comment about the father not feeling like a father until he sees the child for the first time. But you can see there is a change in her as soon as she gets pregnant. I think that the two wavelengths of him not wanting to have kids and her wanting to keep them, creates a nice little battle or subtext on screen. You see us do that fight back and forth which is really nice.

Haley: Because we did have that one night, that was really special to both of our characters, hopefully it is believable that we actually did connect and got attached to things in each other that we had never found in anyone else. We kind of did fall in love a little bit then. I think that night was special and it wasn’t like I was a drunk and he took me home and had sex with me, it was more than that. That’s what held things together, even though there was so much disconnection after that, and you kind of hated him and didn’t know what was going to happen since we didn’t even see each for months and months, hopefully you sill want us to be together at the end because of the special connection.

Ryan: At the end of the day, what held him close to her, even after the news of the pregnancy, was the fact that he really did like her. He truly wanted to see where things could go with her, because he really did care. That’s a nice touch.

Hailey : Before they met each other, neither Leslie nor Brian had probably experienced any connection with any other person. That was a really a special thing.

Karem : It occurred to me after shooting, that they only have three occasions where they spent any time together before they have the kids. They hook-up, a month later she tells him and they spend a little time together, and then months later they see each other.

Danny: The first day of shooting we shot the scene where Haley tells him she wants to keep the kids and he misunderstands her and is relieved. That scene is really cool, and that’s thanks to great writing, directing, and of course great acting. It is a very textured scene.

Ryan : We were able to pull that off because we rehearse a lot

Haley : We were forced! Karem made us [Laughs]

Karem : I think we rehearsed that scene more than anything

Hailey : We needed to figure out what Leslie and Brian’s relationship was going to be like, that was important.

Karem : It was also for me to figure out “Are these people going to listen to what I say?”

The Young Kieslowski

Danny : How much can I manipulate them? [Laughs]

Aguilar: The inner voice he struggles with adds an added depth to the character. Where did that voice and the other magical realist elements come from?

Karem : I’d written and I’d thrown in lots of stuff like that while working on the script with David Hunter. I didn’t think, “Is this the right thing to do?” I wondered “What is he thinking?” and stylistically it was about never doing the same thing twice. One time you have the reenactment of what he would have said had he had the guts, another time you have him talking with his voiceover voice, there is like 5 or 6 things like that. The point of view of the voice over is just constantly shifting. Sometimes he is in the future looking back; sometimes he is the devil on his shoulder.