Save Yourselves! centers on Su (Sunita Mani) and Jack (John Reynolds), a Brooklyn couple who travel to an upstate cabin looking for some time off. Shutting off their phones for a week, they are unaware an alien attack is ravaging Earth! Directors (and real life couple) Alex H. Fischer and Eleanor Wilson talked to Deepest Dream about the challenges of collaboration (this is their first film together) and why Sunita and John were perfect in their respective roles.
If you love quick witted banter with your comedies, Save Yourselves! should be your cinematic fix, as Sunita Mani and John Reynolds actually feel like partners. It also helps that Eleanor Wilson and Alex H. Fischer seem to fit together like hand and glove on a creative basis.
Even with the alien element thrown in and surface quirkiness of the material, Save Yourselves! has a deceptively rich narrative, and the ending packs an unexpectedly resonant punch.
Their choice of Albert Brooks’ work during my favorite movies question was very welcome to hear, and down the road I’ll be adding Real Life to my watch list. Save Yourselves! is a high recommend for me, and hopefully this chat will give a bit of perspective regarding this engaging story.
Is there a key to collaborating when you are penning and directing the script together?
Eleanor Wilson: This is the first time we had written anything together. We were figuring it out as we went along. The process started with just throwing around ideas as we were driving somewhere or whatever and collecting notes on my phone.
When we actually sat down to write it, we gave ourselves a two week period to try and get the first draft out. There were definitely arguments in that time, as you can imagine, especially given that we are a couple. It’s very easy to devolve into an argument without caring for the other person’s feelings too much. (they both laugh)
Alex H. Fischer: We do really fight it out (laughs).
Eleanor Wilson: We are both coming from the same place of wanting to make the movie good. It is ultimately a good thing to talk through all of that.
Alex H. Fischer: I sort of see when Eleanor would poke at something (and say) “\Why the hell is this happening, why did you write it this way? It was seeing an opportunity to improve it in a way that I can’t conceive of at the moment. Many times we would talk through it and get to a point where it would be better.
So you had this confidence of if we kept talking through this, we will figure this out.
Eleanor Wilson: Sometimes you write something on the page that the other person doesn’t understand, but because they challenge it then you have to defend. If you realize you can’t defend it, then alright that was not a great idea.
Sometimes I get to the point where I will explain myself a bit better and then Alex would say “Oh right, I get it now, and that’s not what is coming across why don’t we do this?”
Alex H. Fischer: And then we add this add line of dialogue and then it’s “Oh yeah, that would be great.”
Eleanor Wilson: (laughs) Yeah.
There is a wonderful chemistry between Sunita Mani and John Reynolds. I was thinking Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant in His Girl Friday.
Eleanor Wilson: We just watched that.
Alex H. Fischer: Apt comparison. What a compliment!
Check out our latest episode of CinemAddicts, as we spotlight the first rate indie film Once Upon A River:
Did you guys know they would have that chemistry and do that kind of banter? It is deceptively hard to do that.
Eleanor Wilson: It is. It’s a very wordy script. Not as wordy as His Girl Friday (laughs). We knew we needed actors with great comedic timing and just really solid acting chops as well. It’s not easy pulling off being in every scene in the movie which they both are.
We loved Sunita and we found out about John from watching Search Party and we fell in love with him from that. They knew each other and they wanted to work with each other which is the fun bonus for us.
Alex H. Fischer: They both come from a really bizarre, completely out there comedy (group) in Brooklyn. They’re part of the same comedy scene and we knew that they would just jibe really well and make each other laugh.
Once they both agreed to be in the movie, we were really confident that the movie, if it succeeded it would be because of them.
The couples in the film turn off their phone for a week. Have both of you actually tried doing that in real life?
Eleanor Wilson: It’s not something we would do. To turn off your phones for a week, can you imagine?
Alex H. Fischer: Sometimes I go on a walk without (my phone).
Eleanor Wilson: I don’t even do that. We wanted to make it feel as real as possible and that was a big part of it.
Alex H. Fischer: Maybe if you’re watching the movie and afterwards you’re on your phone, you might have a mental image from the movie of someone looking at their phone.
Eleanor Wilson: And being disgusted by it.
Alex H. Fischer: And not having a romantic night (they both laugh).
Eleanor Wilson: Watching a movie, well we’re not watching a movie currently in Los Angeles, but when we used to go to the movies that was the only time I would fully turn off my phone. It’s not on siliet – it is off. It’s a sacred moment to watch a movie.
This is an indie film but there are special effects in your narrative. Can you talk about the challenge of adding that element to your film?
Alex H. Fischer: That was the most fun challenge.
Eleanor Wilson: For sure. I’ve never done anything like that. It was a really exciting thing to build into. With the aliens, we shot it mostly practically and sort of enhanced it the VFX later.
Without spoiling it, we used projected backgrounds instead of green screen which is hugely challenging because you have to prepare so much ahead of time and there is a lot of technical challenges with the screen brightness and figuring out the lighting.
It was very rewarding to pull something like that off on an indie scale and it excited a lot of the crew. It was something that sort of brought us all together because we were just like “How in the hell are we going to do this?”
Alex H. Fischer: It was a real head scratcher.
Eleanor Wilson: Yeah (laughs).
Eleanor Wilson: And when we did it, it was very satisfying. In terms of the actual scenes, the aliens were created by this guy (Calder Greenwood) and he was a one man band on set. Our visual effects team were just five people headed up by Jeff Desom.
We pulled together a team of generalists and they could do many different things. That was a nice way to work as well because we were always directly dealing with the artists which often you don’t get to do on a film on a bigger scale.
Alex H. Fischer: Some of the shots in the end sequence, if it was another movie it would be 5 to 30 people making the shot happen. In our case, it was Nick (Nicholas Ashe Bateman) – one person!
On Find Your Film, we spotlight the excellent indie 12 Hour Shift, Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill, and the Estonian film The Old Man: The Movie:
Can you both name one of your favorite films and what is it about these movies that still resonate with you.
Alex H. Fischer: Real Life by Albert Brooks.
Eleanor Wilson: That’s a good one.
Alex Huston Fischer: And maybe Broadcast News.
Eleanor Wilson: Broadcast News is a bit of an inspiration for the romcom side of (Save Yourselves!). (Directed by) James L. Brooks. In terms of watching a movie, it is a truly feminist movie. He was ahead of the curve on that. It was very cool.
Thank you guys so much and I appreciate your time.
Eleanor Wilson and Alex Huston Fischer: Thank you!
Save Yourselves! is now playing in theaters and will be available on Digital October 6.
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