Rialto Channel's Francesca Rudkin interviewed Director and Co-writer of KEEP IN TOUCH, Sam Kretchmar (pictured).
RC: Firstly, give us an idea of what Keep in Touch is about - your now well-rehearsed synopsis!
Keep in Touch is about a man who, after a life crisis, attempts to track down his long-lost childhood love, only to discover that she died in a car accident. In his search, he discovers that her younger sister, now an adult, is a singer. He tracks her down and starts a relationship with her without ever revealing who he is. At its core it’s a movie about hope and optimism that comes from making positive life changes.
RC: How and why did Keep in Touch go from being an idea for a short film to a feature film?
Mike Covino and I really wanted to make a film. This was the first idea we had that we both really responded to. We scraped together our friends to do a short film version of the movie one week during a freak snowstorm in the spring. That short film shoot became a “teaser-trailer” for the feature. We used that to raise money, recruit other actors… before we knew it we made the whole thing.
RC: There’s a great sense of authenticity, and honesty to this story and its characters. I love the way you don’t make obvious choices for your characters. For example, Jessie has suffered terrible loss but she gets on with life - it doesn’t define her on a day to day basis. How did you and your co-writer Michael Angelo Covino approach writing the script, and manage to keep it so genuine?
Thank you for the very nice words. Throughout the process one thing I always tried to do was keep everything as honest as possible. We talked about honesty and authenticity more than almost anything else. Throughout the film, there is a constant search for truth or meaning that usually is shown to be very different, or even opposite, for two or more characters in the story. A lot of the basis of the movie is found in how we all react differently to the same shared experiences. Mike and I are like that… and we always feed off of one another’s unique/contrarian viewpoints.
We sometimes called it cofighting instead of cowriting, but those fights always ended up with something great - and when we both loved it we knew it was honest and real.
RC: Performance wise too, the characters are restrained and not overplayed - tell us a little about how you found your two leads Ryan Patrick Bachand and Gabbi McPhee, and did you write specifically for them?
Ryan and Mike were roommates in Los Angeles many years prior. Mike always had him in mind for the role, and as soon as I met him I knew we wouldn’t cast anyone else.
The story of how we “found” Gabbi is kind of funny. We searched for a Jessie for a while. I thought it would be fun and easy to find a female singer/songwriter in New York, but it turned out to be quite difficult. I had almost given up hope after months and months when I was on facebook one night and I got one of those timeline messages that said: “Six of your friends liked GABBI MCPHEE”. I watched one video (a video that actually plays in the movie), and I knew I wanted to cast her. When I told Mike, he laughed at me and told me that he had suggested Gabbi Mcphee at the very beginning of the search. He had known well before I did that she was the best one to play Jessie.
We cast them both in the short film version of the movie we made the spring before the feature shoot. They were great together and it gave us an idea of what their chemistry would be like which we took into consideration when we wrote the feature.
RC: Sam, do you think your documentary work informed your direction on this feature film?
I do. I think my work on documentaries helped me in almost all aspects of narrative filmmaking. On my documentary projects, we usually didn’t have many lights, and finding the best angle for the camera to be based on the position of the sun was usually the best approach. I used that a lot in this movie.
The physicality of filmmaking is often under-appreciated. Working on wildlife documentaries and art films ended up being good training for working in New York during sub-zero temperature days.
RC: So, first feature film down - what were the biggest challenges?
Knowing which battles to fight and which to give up on. Knowing how to adjust to what opportunities you have.
RC: And what did you learn that you’ll keep in mind for your second feature?
At one point I realized that the best approach was to make the best movie with the tools and pieces in front of me rather than the movie in my head. I think that’s a key thing I’ll use if I ever direct again.
RC: What’s your best dinner party story from the making of this film?
Kyle Marvin… our amazing producer, partner and Production Designer had a cameo that was sadly cut out of the film. He played a smoothie shop cashier who hit on one of the women in the film. He was so funny the whole crew couldn’t help but lose it on set… The scene never had a shot in the edit… but it’s definitely going to be shown at one of Kyle’s birthdays down the road.
I also like the fact that the Tree Nursery that we shot in was Mike’s family tree nursery. The family really took in the film and the crew… we all lived up there like winter-camp. When we finished the movie we screened it outside for all of the real nursery staff. They laughed at our horrible techniques for cutting down trees… and at their makeshift boxing rings that we forced them to create… but they enjoyed the film. That meant a lot!
KEEP IN TOUCH premieres Friday 20 July at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel