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Interview: Drake Doremus Talks Improvised Slow Boil Of 'Breathe In' & What's Coming In 'Equals' With Kristen Stewart

The Playlist By Kristin McCracken | The Playlist March 26, 2014 at 12:06PM

At the ripe old age of (almost) 31, writer/director Drake Doremus already has an enviable filmography, including festival favorites “Douchebag” and “Like Crazy,” the latter of which introduced American audiences to the charms of one Felicity Jones. If that’s not enough to give aspiring filmmakers apoplexy, his latest film, “Breathe In”—which premiered at Sundance in 2013—opens this week, and his next feature, “Equals,” is already brewing, starring Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult in a futuristic setting (though Doremus is not quite ready to talk about it yet).
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Breathe In

I know that you and Ben York Jones worked together on the outline, or script, or whatever you call it. Did you share drafts back and forth, or how did that work?
A little bit. I started with the basic idea, started sketching ideas out, and then I basically gave it to him and he goes off and fleshes it out and works on it, and makes it what it is. He has the patience to do that—he adds the world and all that good stuff. Then we come back together and start working again. And then on set, I'd take it, and come up with lines and dialogue… So really, I start with it, and then it goes to him, and then it kind of comes back to me. It's a really good way of working.

So the dialogue doesn't come in until you're with the actors?
Exactly. There's some dialogue in the outline, but for the most part, it’s just subtext, plot points, emotional beats, back story, a lot of character—different things like that.

"I’d like to never write again...at the end of the day, it’s not something that I necessarily have the patience for."

What makes you want to work that way? Does it just seem the most natural?
Good question. I mean, now I want to try something totally different, because it’s been fun to experience it that way, but it’s fun to do something different—to let a story organically become what it wants to become, as opposed to force something.

Do the actors like it?
Yeah, because they really do get to become a part of the process, which I think makes them feel like they have such an ownership over the character.

Did Guy have any trouble with the American accent?
Guy had never improvised before in anything he'd ever done, let alone in a foreign dialect. So for him to immerse himself into this was pretty incredible to watch. Also, he left in the middle of the shoot to go promote “Mildred Pierce,” which was premiering at the Venice Film Festival. His first scene back was this really big important reservoir scene, but he’s such a pro—he just slid right back into it. He wasn’t jetlagged, and he was amazing.

When I talked to you at Sundance last year, you mentioned that “Like Crazy” was about the past, “Breathe In” was about the present, and your next project—which I assume you are way farther along on by now—would be about the future, a sci-fI piece.
It’s more futuristic; it’s not really sci-fi. Maybe it was at the time, but it’s sort of changed a little bit. As I said, it’s fun to try something totally different. And for me, this is an exciting and kind of scary departure. So I’m excited to be working from a script, written by Nathan Parker—I kind of had a loose idea for it, and I brought it to him, and we started collaborating on it, and he wrote the movie.

So you’re not a writer on this one?
No… I’d like to never write again. I mean, I think it’s a necessity of directing—you need to be involved in the process, I think, of shaping the story and making it, but at the end of the day, it’s not something that I necessarily have the patience for.

Breathe In

Did this film have to be scripted more because there are effects and things you need to work out technically?
A little bit, but it’s more that I wanted to work out something totally different. I did a web series for Toshiba last year, called “The Beauty Inside,” that was really fun to do. And it was from a script—it was more of a hybrid; I improvised a good amount, so it was a little bit of both—and I really kind of fell in love with that. So I want to change the process a little bit, and work from a script, work from a blueprint that actually works, and that I love, and then kind of organically find the scenes as we go. But it’s nice to have something on paper.

I’m working with a whole different crew, a whole different cast—it’s fun to explore and see what comes out of it.

Were you itching to make a bigger scale movie?
Absolutely.

So what will it be like? Can you tell us about the new movie?
Yeah, I mean, it’s just a bigger movie. It’s kind of hard to explain. It's still very intimate, and still very performance-based, but at the same time, it's a broader concept, and it's a much bigger idea.

Breathe In

Can you tell us what the story is?
I haven't really talked about it yet. I'm not really as articulate yet on it; I'm not there yet. Sorry!

Hey, that’s okay. What can you tell us about your cast?
It's Kristen Stewart and Nick Hoult, and they are fantastic. I think people are going to see a very different side of them than they've seen before. We're just going to get in and try to make something really unique and really special. We're shooting later this year.

“Breathe In” opens Friday, March 28. We also spoke to Felicity and Drake at a recent Apple store talk which you can listen below or here on Soundcloud.

This article is related to: Interviews, Interviews, Breathe In, Drake Doremus, Equals


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