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‘Apartment Troubles’ Directors/Stars Jennifer Prediger & Jess Weixler on Making a Film With a New BFF

'Apartment Troubles' Directors/Stars Jennifer Prediger & Jess Weixler on Making a Film With a New BFF

Jennifer Prediger and Jess Weixler’s directorial debut “Apartment Troubles” follows the trials and tribulations of co-dependent
roommates Olivia (Prediger) and Nicole (Weixler), who find themselves desperate
and directionless after being abruptly evicted from their East Village
apartment. In the wake of their eviction, the two decide to flee to Los Angeles
in an attempt to escape the uncertainty of their lives and start anew. The comedy navigates the complexities of female friendship and artistic ambition with precision and ease rarely found in a first film. 

With a strong script and an even stronger supporting cast featuring the likes of Megan Mullally, Jeffery Tambor, and Will Forte, “Apartment Troubles” is a darkly comedic delight. We managed to talk with Prediger and Weixler — its directors, writers, and stars — of the film about their cross-country collaborations, directing themselves in their filmmaking debut, and sometimes having to let practiced improvisers work their magic. 

“Apartment Troubles” is currently playing in select cities and available for streaming on VOD.

W&H: Tell us about your partnership. When did you start writing together and
what was the process of writing “Apartment Troubles” like?

JP & JW: We started writing the script while living together in a bohemian,
illegal sublet in the East Village. This apartment had a lot of character and
became the inspiration for the backdrop of our story. It was the kind of place that
hadn’t been updated much since the 1880s and then a little in the 1980s. The
bathroom was held together by duct tape, there was only one sink, and flaming
hot water came out of it (great for brushing your teeth). One day we got an
eviction notice on the door.

We only lived there together for about a month, but
after the first week, the writing commenced. Then Jess went to LA, and we both
wrote from our opposite coasts. We would usually Skype or call each other
and write separate scenes simultaneously while staying connected and hearing
each other breathe through the phone. We’d ask each other the occasional
question. Then we’d share what we wrote and Skype more and re-write. Then Jenny
went to LA for a couple of weeks, and we took a bunch of long walks together in
Santa Monica and hashed out more details and finished the script in California.
So our writing journey kind of mirrored the journey of our characters from NY
to LA.

W&H: Part of what I enjoyed so much about “Apartment Troubles” was that I
felt as though you managed to accurately depict the intricacies of close female
friendship. Does the dynamic between Olivia and Nicole mirror your own dynamic
in any way?

JP & JW: Thank you, Women and Hollywood. We wanted to
explore the ways close female friendships can be so intimate. We were also
interested in how codependent dynamics can feel so supportive, yet can become
unhealthy or destructive. We wanted to push our characters in opposite
directions to create an “Odd Couple”-esque dynamic, where one is really more the
narcissist and the other really needs to be needed.

Thankfully, our actual
relationship doesn’t mirror Nicole and Olivia’s. We actually only met two
months before we wrote the movie. We didn’t know what our relationship would be
like when we started, but, as luck would have it, we were like peas and carrots.
Nothing like making a lifelong buddy while making a buddy movie. 

W&H: What made you want to write, direct, and star in the film?

JP & JW: Jennifer had seen Jess in Joe Swanberg’s “Alexander the Last”
and always wanted to cast her in something. Jess had seen Jennifer in Alex
Karpovsky’s “Red Flag” and wanted to cast her in something too. And
since we were both directors of the film, we both had to defer to each other’s
casting preferences. 

W&H: Having never directed a feature film before, how was the experience of
directing yourselves? What advice can you give to aspiring writer/director/actors?

JP & JW: Directing yourself is an interesting challenge, especially when you only
have 14 days to shoot. There’s no time to watch playback, so you just have to
keep going. Luckily for us, there were two of us, so we kept an eye out for
each other. If we needed to give each other notes, we would whisper in each
other’s ears to keep things intimate. It also helps to surround yourself with
producers and a cinematographer whose taste you admire and who can give you honest
feedback.

Often before a scene, we would be in director mode to set up the shot and do
blocking, and then we’d descend into character and focus on the acting. It’s
hard to do both at the same time, as directing and acting seem to use different
hemispheres of the brain. Another trick we picked up was the ability to direct while acting. In
character, you can help push another actor in a different direction by the way
you are interacting with them in character. So that was a really useful hybrid
of acting and directing at the same time.

W&H: The film features such a strong supporting cast, including Jeffrey
Tambor, Megan Mullally, and Will Forte, all of whom are practiced improvisers.
Was there any room for improvisation on set or did you prefer to stick to your
original script?

JP & JW: The script acted as a strong scaffolding. Our best estimate is that
about 89% of the movie is from the script. The other 11% are wonderful
improvised flourishes from our out-of-this-world cast. It would be foolish to work with actors like Megan Mullally, Will Forte, and
Jeffrey Tambor and not use their incredible gifts as improvisors. They always
knew how to add the cherry on top. Those three virtuosos were full of
delightful surprises. 

Probably the most improv in the movie is the scene in the car with Will Forte.
We were driving around at 3 AM in a process trailer and couldn’t
stop the cameras from rolling and thankfully Will rolled with it. There was so
much insanely funny material in that scene, it was difficult to choose what to
cut and what to use. 

W&H: How did you go about funding your film?

JP & JW: We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Starstream
Entertainment, in particular Kim Leadford, Charles Bonan, and Daniel McCarney, who believed in us and the movie. Not only did they executive produce the
movie, but they produced the movie on the ground as well. Starstream cared
about helping us realize our vision, and they were there with us every step of
the way. We feel so lucky and grateful to have gotten to make a movie with such
supportive producers. 

W&H: While the film’s tone is undeniably comedic, your characters often find
themselves feeling uncertain or unfulfilled in their artistic endeavors and
their personal relationships. How did you manage to strike a balance that
allowed you to portray these issues in a comedic light without trivializing
them?

JP & JW: We discovered early on in our friendship that we both have a penchant
for dark comedy. We’re both a little silly and macabre at the same time. We
enjoy playing with the ways light and dark coexist and how sometimes the
funniest things are born out of the darkest things. 

When Jennifer was in 5th grade, she wore a hologram necklace that had the Greek
comedy and tragedy masks on it. You could bend comedy into tragedy and tragedy
into comedy. Whatever happened to holograms, by the way? 

W&H: Which filmmakers or specific films inspired you in the process of making
“Apartment Troubles”? 

JP & JW: We discovered we had a favorite movie in common, Bruce Robinson’s
British cult film “Withnail and I.” That was a huge inspiration for us. We also
studied the classics in the buddy movie canon: “The Odd Couple,” “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion,” and “Dumb and Dumber.” We were also drawn to the
80s East Village aesthetic in “Desperately Seeking Susan.” 

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