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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.
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Drake Doremus at the NY premiere of "Breathe In" sponsored by Forevermark Diamonds
Amanda Schwab/Starpix Drake Doremus at the NY premiere of "Breathe In" sponsored by Forevermark Diamonds

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. 

The thing is, I am a 20 year old college kid. I had never really interviewed anyone "big" before and was too fixated on whether or not I would ask Felicity Jones, the star of "Breathe In," who would also be there, if she wanted to take a selfie with me to focus on my questions.

Unfortunately, I didn't actually consider the proper ways to plan my talk with an acclaimed director. I guess it's important to note that I first started interning for Indiewire in late January and had previously interned at the Miami Herald while in high school. At New York University, where I am currently a student, I only had to do a couple of interviews for an NYU publication, but those were mostly with students, random people on the streets and faculty. Nothing too ambitious or intimidating.

Film Independent Forum Kicks off with "Like Crazy"; Hosts TV, FIlm & Media Panelists at DGA
Drake Doremus' "Like Crazy"; stars Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones

Still I had told my boss, who has called me a strong writer, that I was a fan of Doremus' "Like Crazy," which won the Grand Prize at Sundance in 2011. Not exactly one to make us interns go on coffee runs or pick up laundry, he generously offered me the opportunity to interview Doremus, who was in New York promoting "Breathe In." Of course, I jumped at the chance -- without any real concerns or hesitations -- and assured him I was up to the job. I was a pro (sort of).

Nevertheless, when I got to the Cohen Media Group office in midtown, where I was going to have my 15 interview with Doremus, I started to get nervous. So nervous that I became chatty. A little too chatty. I began a conversation with an Italian journalist, a woman probably not much older than myself who works freelance for a bunch of publications, and was also waiting to speak with Doremus. She spoke about interviewing Paolo Sorrentino (director of The Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film "The Great Beauty"), while I bit my cuticles and contemplated bolting. How could I compete?

Anyway, I finally got my time with Doremus. And he was pretty cool. He was wearing plaid, sporting some cool facial hair and looked like every kid I go to school with -- I thought we would get along swimmingly, maybe we'd even be friends.

We were led into a small theater where I immediately commented on how "cool" the armchairs with cup-holders looked. Everything seemed cool to me, but what was I talking about? Then I began my questioning, doing my best to limit my "ums" and "likes." I'm a professional now.

I started off by asking Doremus about how "Breathe In" came into being. The story follows an 18 year-old exchange student, Sophie (Felicity Jones), who moves to a suburb of New York and lives with an American family, where she falls for the outcast patriarch (Guy Pearce). It's Drake's second film that tackles a complicated romance between two individuals.

Doremus spoke about how he likes to take on subjects that relate to his own life, how he began working on the film right after "Like Crazy" and how the role was "made for Felicity." So far, so good.

Breathe In

In a panic, right before the interview I had called my dad, a business professional who seems to know how grownups are supposed to behave, looking for some guidance. He advised me to be conversational, always smile and most importantly, make the interview subject feel comfortable.

I thought I was doing a good job, after all, Doremus seemed to really like when I asked him about how it must sometimes be difficult improvising dialogue --  something he had his actors do in both of his films -- considering that people often talk in non-sequiturs and go on tangents. I could tell he especially liked my question about why both of his films have ambiguous, open-ended conclusions.

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





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