Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Writers, Here is How Not to Interview an Acclaimed Director

Photo of Eric Eidelstein By Eric Eidelstein | Indiewire March 24, 2014 at 10:42AM

I spent the night before my interview with Drake Doremus, director of the Sundance hit "Like Crazy" and the upcoming "Breathe In," brainstorming questions and making sure I didn’t sound like a 20 year-old college kid.
25

"I'm glad you brought that up, I didn't realize I do that," Doremus said, smiling. I won. Doremus and I were on our way to becoming BFFs. My dad was going to be so proud. 

But things went downhill from there.

I checked my recorder, mid-conversation. Note to reader: Don't ever check your recorder mid-conversation. An interview is like a family dinner and you can't check your phone until it's over. But since I did, I happened to notice that we were less than five minutes into our conversation and I was out of questions.  

I then remembered to ask him about his upcoming project "Equals," a sci-fi romance. Yes, I thought. I was back on track. I asked him if Felicity would appear in that film too and, well -- Doremus, it's not your fault. It was my job to check IMDB and see that Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart had already been cast as leads. It's something that everyone should do instinctively before conducting an interview, but somehow, it just hadn't occurred to me.

After the slip, I hardly knew what else to ask and I'm pretty sure Doremus noticed. At one point, I just babbled on about my personal relationship with the film. I caught myself saying "I really didn't understand..." about a scene that I had thought was completely improvised where Lauren, the daughter of the Guy Pearce's character, hits Sophie. Turns out it wasn't improvised. It was always in the script. I know nothing. 

An interview is like a family dinner and you can't check your phone until it's over.

You have to understand that Doremus had been doing back-to-back interviews all day. The guy who went in before me took up the full 15 minutes and I didn't want to leave until I had at least 10 full minutes. 

So I proceeded to humiliate myself by asking what he watched on TV, justifying the question by saying "it seems to be the thing film directors are doing lately." 

Doremus told me he liked "soaps like 'Homeland' and 'House of Cards'" and I agreed those are great ones. They key to any stable relationship is communication and I was failing you, Doremus. I had nothing else to say. I was stalling.

As we hit the nine minute mark, I realized it was probably best I wrapped up before I appeared any more unprofessional, and this is where I made the most fatal flaw. As I was about to stand up, I told Doremus that I didn't have much else to say and asked if there was any subject matter he'd specifically like to talk about. I, the person who was supposed to be steering the conversation, became a backseat passenger. No one was driving the car.

He politely said he had nothing specific to talk about and it was over. I finished and I had failed. We shook hands and I thanked him and said goodbye to what I had hoped would be a blossoming friendship. 

As I walked out, the organizers and press people in the office gave me funny looks. One woman even said, "that was fast." I nodded and left, embarrassed, but hopefully wiser. 

"Breathe In" will be released on Friday, March 28 in NYC and will open in Los Angeles and San Francisco on April 4.

This article is related to: Drake Doremus, Breathe In, Interviews, Felicity Jones, Filmmaker Toolkit






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More