It’s a common adage that you become a different person around different people. You would not act the same around your doctor, for example, as you would around your parents; and even being around people as similar as siblings can make you see the world in a whole new light.
In his new feature film Seven Lovers, writer and director Keith Boynton takes this concept quite literally. The film tells the story of Laura and seven of her lovers. Each narrative is filmed in a different cinematic style; distinctions can be as subtle as filming technique and as broad as genre. By the end of the film, these seven stories entwine to tell just one: Laura’s.
RIIFF had the chance to conduct an e-mail interview with Boynton. Read the transcript below:
RIIFF: Where did you get the inspiration for this story? Do you have any personal connection to the narrative?
Keith Boynton: I hate to admit it, but the first impulse was just to tell a story in all these different formats. It seemed like a really exciting stylistic challenge, and a chance to play in the sandbox of movies and genres that I love. The details of the story came later, as I started to flesh out the main character’s [played by Erin Darke] dilemma—how she gives herself so completely to each new relationship that she’s not sure who she is when she’s not with a guy.
As far as my personal connection to the material: that’s something that really grew as I kept writing. At first, I was focused on the technical stuff—how long do we spend in each style, and how does the story move forward? But as time went on, I really fell in love with Laura, and I started rooting for her to find what she was looking for. That’s when the movie turned into something special—at least for me.
RIIFF: Which style was your favorite to shoot? Which was the most challenging? Why?
KB: My favorite was also the most challenging: the long, unbroken wide shots that constitute the Brian [Fran Kranz] storyline. I can’t tell you how anxious it made me to know that we’d be shooting a six-minute scene with no opportunity for me to finesse things in the edit. It meant I had to rely tremendously on my actors—but luckily, I had great ones, and watching these scenes come alive was one of the highlights of the shoot.
RIIFF: Who are your cinematic inspirations?
KB: I love Billy Wilder, and Christopher Nolan, and Brad Bird. I’m inspired by anyone who doesn’t act like art and entertainment are two different things.
RIIFF: Did you develop the characters and story around the genres you wanted to explore, or did the styles grow from the story?
KB: The stories tended to grow out of the styles. A found-footage romance isn’t likely to be very sane and functional, because sane people aren’t constantly filming themselves. The 1930s-musical storyline feels like a fairy tale, to the characters as well as the audience—but of course, fairy tales often have dark underbellies. And I think the sweetness of the Brian story has a lot to do with two people sharing a space for extended periods of time – no cuts, no flashy action, just chat and awkwardness and chemistry.
RIIFF: Fran Kranz has a great monologue near the end of the film where he goes into a spiel about free associating. This scene felt very natural, as if he was ad-libbing. Did you stick to a script for most of the film, or was there room for improvisation?
KB: Truthfully, there was very little ad-libbing. I think I drove the actors a little crazy by asking them to stick to the exact words I’d written—but my background is in playwriting, and playwrights can be picky like that.
Of course, the reason it seems like improv is that Fran is such a wonderful actor. He made every word his own, and he made my writing seem unforced and natural. It was a treat to watch.
RIIFF: You have actors from many different backgrounds—Max von Essen (who plays Dan) is a Broadway star, and Fran Kranz is most famous for his TV work, as well as an impressive career in cinema. What did this diversity bring to the film?
KB: I think it brought a really clear distinction between the movie’s different styles. The way Max charms you is so totally different from the way Fran charms you—and they’re both totally different from Peter Mark Kendall [who plays Ian], a very exciting young actor who’s doing a lot of great stuff on TV right now.
The glue that holds it all together, of course, is Erin Darke as Laura. She’s the only thing that joins all these disparate styles, and even though her performance touches on a thousand different notes, she’s so marvelously quirky and grounded that you never once lose track of the person at the core of it all.
RIIFF: What are you working on next?
KB: I’ve written the script for a sci-fi comedy about a couple of slacker mechanics who work on an asteroid-based gas station in a kind of a Star Wars sci-fi world. (The working title is Gasteroid, of course.)
Right now I’m working with a great LA-based producer called Taylor Materne, and we’re hunting around for other producers, and also for financing. It’s going to be quite a bit more expensive than Seven Lovers—but it’s still a scrappy little indie, and I like it that way.