“Quitters” is a dark look at affluent families in the world of privileged San Francisco. Clark Rayman is a precocious high schooler whose world is crumbling around him. When his mother checks into rehab and he and his father clash, Clark goes in search of something better. Craving the affection of his new girlfriend Natalia’s much more stable family, he convinces her to let him move in. As his presence becomes more intrusive, and his father’s efforts to get him back become more violent, Natalia and her family grow increasingly uncomfortable with the arrangement. When Clark is finally asked to leave, he has nowhere left to go. [Synopsis Courtesy of SXSW]
What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?
My film is about a family falling apart. The mom goes to rehab, the dad doesn’t want to be a dad, so the son strikes out on his own.
Now what’s it REALLY about?
High school, privilege, subtle forms of emotional cruelty, trying to grow up too fast, fog, curiosity, humiliation.
Tell us briefly about yourself.
I grew up in San Francisco and was lucky to have the same group of best friends from grade school on. I moved to New York to go to college, and stayed there until last year, when my girlfriend and I moved to Los Angeles. In college I had the opportunity to intern at The Onion and “Saturday Night Live.” Around that time I started writing screenplays and studying film more seriously. The more I wrote the more I wanted to try and actually make something of it, and once I got the chance to I fell in love with the process. The first thing I made in grad school was a short called Little Dad and while writing and directing that I felt like I had started to find my voice. If not making movies I would have liked to become a psychiatrist but I don’t think I could have made it through medical school.
Biggest challenge in completing this film?
It was really hard to find the right score for the movie. For a long time I wanted to find music that made the movie funnier, but that kept working against us. With the help of my good friend Derek Strick I temped the whole movie with “Amy’s Theme” from Coppola’s “The Conversation.” That was a San Francisco movie I had always admired so much, and when we dropped that score in it brought out a whole new dynamic in “Quitters”: it made Clark look like a detective, which I think is appropriate for how it feels to be a lonely teenager looking for safety and comfort. Our producer Luca then got the movie with that temp score to David Shire (who wrote the original score for The Conversation”) and after watching it he agreed to write an original score for “Quitters.” Hearing that news was one of the best moments of my life. David is incredibly smart and kind and talented and I feel incredibly lucky that he is a part of the movie.
What do you want the SXSW audience to take away from your film?
I always liked movies that showed me a specific way of life among a specific group of people in a specific place. Richard Linklater’s movies set an impossibly high bar for that. I hope “Quitters” does something similar for contemporary San Francisco, which is a very unique and complicated place that I haven’t really seen explored in movies.
Any films inspire you?
Yes, lots. All of the usual American high school comedies I watched growing up and then in college a professor of mine, Richard Pena, turned me on to the Romanian New Wave filmmakers. “Police, Adjective” remains one of the most interesting and well written movies I’ve ever seen. Same with “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days,” and “Tuesday, After Christmas.” I wondered what would happen if you made a movie about San Francisco in that style. While Ben Tarnoff and I were writing “Quitters” I saw Joachim Trier’s “Oslo,” August 31 and loved how it looked. As we wrote forward on “Quitters,” Oslo was a big influence and its cinematographer Jakob Ihre ended up shooting “Quitters.” He brought a new world of influences to the movie. We talked a lot about “Martha” by Fassbinder, “The Ice Storm” by Ang Lee, “The Heartbreak Kid” by Elaine May, and “Crimes and Misdemeanors” by Woody Allen.
I have another script I’m really excited about. It’s set between New Jersey and Manhattan. I don’t think I can yet speak very coherently about it — I’m just now figuring out how to talk about “Quitters.”
What cameras did you shoot on?
Did you go to film school? If so, which one?
Indiewire invited SXSW Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.