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January 19, 2010 4:31 AM
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Sundance '10 | "One Too Many Mornings": Going Rogue and Growing Up

A scene from Michael Mohan's "One Too Many Mornings."

Writer/director Michael Mohan arrives at Sundance with his first feature in the festival's new NEXT section - his first as director, although he has a few shorts under his belt. "One Too Many Mornings" is a comedy about two guys who are actually too old to be in the "coming-of-age" stage...

Fisher has it pretty good living rent free in exchange for taking care of a church and teaching kids to play soccer. But Fisher has a drinking problem. He drinks quite well, actually; it's just that he acts like a moron when he drinks (and the morning after)-- destroying things and relationships every time. Suddenly, Fisher's old friend, Pete, shows up looking for some dude consolation after his girlfriend cheats on him. Too bad he looks for it in Fisher because not even hot "cougars" and bad advice can make Pete happy. What Pete needs is for Fisher to realize that they aren't teenagers anymore. And that's when Pete's girlfriend shows up with some truth he sorely needs.

In "One Too Many Mornings," director Michael Mohan intelligently explores the nuances of friendship and responsibility and keeps it charming. The hilarious film perfectly illustrates the complex problem of wanting to be loved while refusing to make yourself attractive. The acting is great, the characters are real, and the story's challenge asks you personally--this is your life; what are you gonna do about it? [Synopsis provided by Sundance Film Festival]

"One Too Many Mornings"
Director: Michael Mohan
Screenwriter: Anthony Deptula, Michael Mohan, Stephen Hale
Cast: Stephen Hale, Anthony Deptula, Tina Kapousis, Jonathan Shockley, VJ Foster, Abby Miller
Executive Producer: Robbie Young
Producer: Anthony Deptula, Stephen Hale
Cinematographer: Elisha Christian
Music: Capybara
Production Designer: Cindy Chao, Michele Yu
Coproducers: Meg Halloran, Alex Mackey
Website: http://www.onetoomanymornings.com/
78 minutes

Mohan on his eclectic film background...

Hello, my name is Michael Mohan, and I directed the film "One Too Many Mornings." I've wanted to be a filmmaker ever since I was five years old, after seeing "Back To The Future" at the multiplex in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. My interest in independent film happened after seeing movies like "Slacker" and "Heavy" on TV really late at night when I was a freshman in high school.

In terms of my filmmaking background, it's kind of unique - I've been fortunate to have some really awesome day jobs that not only payed my rent, but provided the resources for me to make short films and music videos on nights and weekends. While I was in college, I started working as an assistant at Fox Searchlight Pictures as part of their now-defunct Fox Searchlab program. It was really cool - we made short films and hosted this incredible lecture series with people like Baz Luhrmann and Ridley Scott. I would also smuggle equipment out from their lighting and wardrobe departments, and stay extra late to edit on their Final Cut systems.

After that, I worked for about five years in various positions at the Sundance Institute, starting out making popcorn at the Screenwriters and Directors Labs, and then eventually working my way up to help create the video content on their website. Working there, it felt like I was auditing the most incredible and progressive grad school filmmaking program in the world. For instance, Stewart Stern leads this screenwriting workshop - it changed my life. He taught me not only how important it is to tell deeply personal stories, but how to access that side of yourself in order to do it.

Currently I make music videos and promos for the indie record label Dangerbird Records. My last video was for the band Sea Wolf for their track off the New Moon soundtrack, which I think will be coming out any week now.

Mohan on going forward, then holding back and evaluating and taking a different path for "Mornings"

Anthony Deptula, Stephen Hale, and I were actually going to make a totally different film. A producer had hired us to write a script for a horror comedy, and was going to finance the movie himself. Around June 2007 we were just about to let our bosses know that we needed to take all of August off from work to shoot it. But instead, we pulled the plug. We had a script, we had financing, we had a start date, but we took a hard look at ourselves, and the year ahead of us, and realized that while we were intellectually invested in the story, we simply weren't emotionally invested.

So we were back to square one. We met in Stephen Hale's apartment, which is in a giant church complex in the Pacific Palisades. It's really crazy - he lives there rent free in exchange for turning off all the lights and locking the front door. He works at the YMCA next door. So in coming up with a story that was more personal - it can't get more personal than that - we made Stephen our main character; wrote it for him and for that location. Everything fell into place from there.

I'm a big fan of all the Mumblecore films that have been playing the festival circuit the past few years. I just think it's great that these scrappy but personal stories are being told, it's even better that they're actually finding audiences.

For us, we wanted to embrace the spirit in which those films were made, but really challenge ourselves to take it a few steps further. I think those films are great because of how loose and natural the performances are, but we wanted our narrative to be a lot more tightly constructed. And even though we were working on a small scale with hardly any money, we wanted it to be cinematic, and just use all the tools you get when you decide to tell a story with a camera.

This took an incredibly long time. The instant you start using dolly track and lights, but with a crew of sometimes three people - the time it takes increases exponentially. We ended up spending just under 2 years shooting this film.

On a typical weekend, on Friday night we'd run straight from work to the church - maybe stopping by Subway to grab food for the crew. We'd get all our sets ready, set up our lights, and maybe shoot a short scene that night. Then we'd sleep on the floor, wake up the next day, and shoot all weekend long. We had to be careful on Sunday mornings, because of church services. We'd then wake up early on Monday to return any rented equipment, and get back to our day jobs by 9:00am.

Mohan on going DIY...

We are actually facing our biggest challenge right now. We have decided to self-release our film, and are selling DVDs and downloads straight from our website RIGHT NOW at www.onetoomanymornings.com.

We're trying to use all the publicity from the festival to our direct benefit. Like this article here - everyone reading it - even if you can't go to Sundance, you can still see our film. If you live in Los Angeles and want to see the film theatrically, you can go to the Cinefamily on February 9th.

Ever since getting into the festival and commmitting to this release, it's been a real whirlwind trying to get everything ready at the same time. Up until now we haven't had the pressure of time - we just chipped away at the film as long as it needed. All of us still have to maintain our day jobs, and we're scraping the bottom of what we have left in our checking account.

And how about those Sundance audiences and how they'll take to the film.

The performances. I know I'm the director, and I know the lead actors in the movie are my friends, but I just think the performances in this movie are fucking awesome. Throughout production I asked Stephen, Anthony, and Tina to do some seriously stupid things. And not only did they totally play along - a lot of these things ended up in the final film. They put a lot of trust in me, and I am really grateful for that.

Back when I was a fly on the wall at the Sundance Directors Lab, Joan Darling said that actors are the most important piece of equipment on set. I could not agree more.

Giving a shout out to those influences and what's coming up next...

Because we were shooting over such a long timespan, I would constantly go back to the same movies over and over to remind myself to not lose sight of whatever original intentions I had. Those films were "Stranger Than Paradise," "Sideways," "Noi Albinoi," and "Buffalo 66." To me, all of these films contain hilarious moments, but they're hilarious in their own ways. You can't really compare them to anything else, because there's a specificity to the storytelling. The characters and situations are truthful and understated.

Honestly, this film would not have been possible if it weren't for all my friends who donated time weekend after weekend trying to push this thing along. Most of which are also directors. So I think I'm going to be spending quite a bit of time in the next year holding the boom mic and slinging c-stands for all the people who worked on OTMM, but on their films.

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