Plenty of movies feature a bevvy of characters with seperate plots whose stories converge over the course of a big event. So what makes Matthew Watts' New York-set comedy about seven intertwining stories stand out from the pack? Each story was written by a different writer.
"I came up with the idea about a year and a half ago," Watts told Indiewire on a lunch break from shooting the film. "I set up these parameters and sent them out to writer friends of mine and they pitched me these shorts. I took the ones that would go best with the film and I intertwined them. It's been more challenging than I thought it would be. I thought we'd smack them all together and shoot a movie. We could have done that, but it wouldn't of been as strong narratively."
The first draft featured a whopping 29 characters and ran a hefty 120 pages. It's since been whittled down by Watt's wife Amy Higgins and Craig DiFolco to 16 principals, with five main stories. "We wound up combining a lot of characters," Watts said, "which was a lot of fun."
The finished product, which Watts refers to as "an indie, New York centric, micro-budget 'Love Actually,'" takes place in one day to track a group of 30-somethings, all headed to a surprise party that's destined to fail.
For a micro-budget indie, Watts has assembled an impressive group of actors to bring this comedy to life. The ensemble includes Caitlin Fitzgerald ("Newlyweds"), Cheyenne Jackson ("30 Rock"), Michael Chernus ("Higher Ground") and Michael Stahl-David ("Cloverfield").
"The most difficult thing of all is just the scheduling," Watts said of managing his huge cast. "It's a tiny movie, so everybody's working on other things. It all revolves around a party. Ideally, we would have shot it chronologically, but due to people's schedules, we had to do the party first. We made it happen.
"In terms of directing my actors," Watts continued, "I've been very fortunate. There are a lot of intertwining stories out there and there are many that aren't that successful. The reason is that audiences don't really have enough time to spend with these characters to get to know them. Everyone in the cast understood from the beginning that they need to be clear about what they're problem is, what action they take to overcome their obstacles and what their arc is. Having that conversation with everyone beforehand helped a lot."
"Mutual Friends" is scheduled to wrap shooting on November 12 and will debut next year.
Director: Matthew Watts
Writers: Amy Higgins, Craig DiFolco, Francisco Angones, Jessica Burstein, Olivia Silver, Ross Partridge, Matthew Watts
Executive Producer: Mike Tannen
Producer: Jennifer Westin
Line Producer: Roweena Mackay
Costume Designer: Tracey Moulton
Production Designer: Simone Duff
DP: Ming Kai Leung
Casting Director: Paul Schnee, Kerry Barden, Allison Estrin
Cast: Caitlin Fitzgerald, Cheyenne Jackson, Michael Chernus, Michael Stahl-David, Ross Partridge, Peter Scanavino, Christina Cole, Annika Peterson