*Thanks for tuning in. The 1-Day Only Screening Window has closed. Make sure to check out Wild Canaries now available on VOD. NoBudge is thrilled to present a Special Screening of Gabi on the Roof in July, one of our favorite American micro-budget films of the last decade. The screening coincides with the theatrical release of director Lawrence Levine's new film, Wild Canaries, opening today at the IFC Center in NYC. Here's an interview Levine did for NoBudge with his co-star and wife Sophia Takal, who asks a wide variety of questions about a certain no-budget alum...
How did you get Lena Dunham in your movie?
The casting process for GABI was kind of crazy. I'd been knocking around NY for a while doing a lot of off-off Broadway legit theater stuff, a lot of improv comedy. I'd had a play that got some good notices and then I went to film school. After film school, I was one of the producers of a feature that went to Sundance called Peter and Vandy. Jess Weixler was in that and we became friends. Sophia and I told her we were planning on doing a no budget feature. We were gonna rehearse for six months and develop the script in collaboration with the actors a la Mike Leigh. Secretly, we wanted Jess to be a part of it, but she was in LA and too famous to commit to that kind of process for no money, so we knew that wasn't going to happen. Jess was good enough to introduce us to Amy Seimetz though. Jess and Amy had done Swanberg's ALEXANDER THE LAST together and Sophia and I were fans, so we wanted to work with Amy. She didn't have as many credits as Jess yet, so she was still looking for experience. Now, Amy is destroying the world. She was a regular on THE KILLING and she's show-running THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE for Soderbergh, but at that point she was still getting her feet wet, so she was willing to work with us.
Amy also introduced us to a lot of great actors. Kate Sheil we met through Amy. Now Kate is doing HOUSE OF CARDS. Other actors I knew from acting classes, student shorts, things like that. Brooke Bloom, we had worked with on a student short my friend made. She recently did SHE'S LOST CONTROL, had a great guest spot on one of the best episodes of LOUIE, and became a regular on ALPHA HOUSE.
One of my closest friends is the documentarian Sam Cullman. His brother Trip is a big theater director and Trip was good enough to send a few people our way. Louis Cancelmi came to us through Trip and blew us away. When he came in Sophia and I looked at each other with bulging eyes, like holy shit, we're gonna get to work with this guy! He was the best actor we'd ever seen. He just did the last season of BOARDWALK EMPIRE, but more people need to know about him. I learned so much from watching him and all these people.
Do you still talk to Lena Dunham?
I got so lucky with this cast. Getting all these great actors at just the right time -- the split second before they started booking big jobs. If the movie works, it's because of them. I feel so much gratitude to them all for allowing me to work with them. Being with them all the time was one of the best experiences of my life and I count many of them among my dearest friends.
The lead of GABI is now my wife. We speak everyday. You are her.
Is this movie based on Tiny Furniture?
GABI was developed through an intensive rehearsal period that had a number of stages, listed below:
1. The actors brought in a list of characters taken from real life, people they had met and spoken to, that they thought they might like to play. I discussed these characters with the actors in-depth individually.
2. After I had discussed all the actors' character ideas with them, I considered the whole and selected the characters that worked best together.
3. I rehearsed these characters with the actors individually for a few weeks, creating backstories together and figuring out how the characters carried themselves, what kind of things they did, etc.
4. After the individual work was done, I started backstory rehearsals in which the characters enacted their shared histories.
5. Based on those histories, I created a present. I used this material for what I called "story rehearsal" because these were the scenes that might end up in the film. I videotaped these rehearsals so I could use them as a reference when I wrote the script.
6. I wrote a script based on the story rehearsals, with some scenes deleted and others added so the narrative would be somewhat cohesive.
How many days did Lena Dunham work on the movie?
The shoot was 19 days long.
Did you try to get Lena Dunham in your new movie?
My new movie stars Annie Parisse, Alia Shawkat, Kevin Corrigan, Jason Ritter and, best of all, you and me.
Has Lena Dunham seen your new movie?
WILD CANARIES premieres in NY on Feb. 25th at the IFC Center. At that time, it will also become available on demand. Other cities we'll be playing theatrically include: Seattle, San Diego, Denver, Columbus, LA. I can't remember the rest. There are others.
I have a script that I'd like Lena Dunham to read... Can you get it to her?