Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of interviews with directors whose films are screening at the 2009 CineVegas Film Festival.
“Mercy” (USA, 2008)
Director: Patrick Hoelck
Cast: Scott Caan, Wendy Glenn, Troy Garity, Erika Christensen, Alexie Gilmore and John Boyd, with Dylan McDermott and James Caan
A successful but cynical young writer writes about love but does not really believe in it until he meets Mercy, who turns his world upside down.
What initially attracted you to filmmaking and how has that evolved since starting out?
When I was barely in my teens I used film as a form to escape from a dysfunctional childhood. Nowadays I think I escape more in literature.
How did the idea for your film come about and what excited you to undertake the project?
Scott Caan gave me a copy of “Mercy” and he was super excited about it. I think he wrote it while he was in Europe on one of the “Ocean’s” projects. He told me he wrote it while smoking like 3 packs of cigarettes in some bourgeois hotel room. Once I finished reading it I started chiming in with my notes and he interrupted me by asking me if I wanted to direct it. I had said “no” to so many projects that I didn’t write and felt like this was a story I could do something with. The exciting part I’d have to say was working with Scott knowing his ability as an actor up until this point hadn’t really been challenged or utilized.
How did you approach making the film, and were there any pivotal moments of learning during the life of the project for you?
I went back to watching all my favorite films if the 60s, 70s and 80s and I remember the last film I watched was a current film Harmony Korine directed called “Mr. Lonely.” When I got tired of visuals I just went through the script and created subtext for almost every line so I could really get a handle on the actor aspect. One of the great things was having an actress, Miriam Harris, do this script study with me every night.
I think every day has 10 to 20 pivotal moments. What I quickly learned is that my past background in music video and commercial directing doesn’t carry over much to making films. I have a few good friends who are filmmakers and every time I asked someone what it was really like to make a movie, they would pause and weren’t really able to word it. I guess I understand the pause a lot more now.
What were some of the biggest challenges in making the film?
At first it was the money kept falling in and out of the project duing pre-production. Then securing the right locations and portraying Los Angeles in a different way. Some of the casting was challenging, trying to find our lead female to play Mercy. Thank God for Mary Vernieu and Venus Kanani for being overly patient and having actresses read who would normally just take a meeting. All in all every challenge was just more inspiration and as I’m answering this question I miss the day to day challenged of film making.
Are there any interesting anecdotes from the shoot?
Troy Garity making me watch YouTube videos of people on Salvia in the middle of crisis moments.
What other genres or stories would you like to explore?
I’d have to say stories inspire me more than a particular genre.
What other projects are you looking to do?
There are a couple of different films that keep coming back. There’s one piece I wrote that I’ve always wanted to make, and the boys at Paradigm, Brad, Chris and Mark, are constantly helping me to develop a few different projects that I’m excited about. I’m really happy to have them in my life. I’m sure something will happen soon, I’m anxious to get back on set.