Patrick Hoelck grew up in the world’s some of the world’s most cosmopolitan environments: California, New York, and London. Inspired by the human side of sexuality and celebrity, Hoelck is intent on providing humanistic renderings of seemingly shallow characters. Hoelck whose big feature film break came when he produced “Coffee and Cigarettes” for Paul Thomas Anderson, has released his first feature film, “Mercy,” this past week at the IFC Center in New York. The film will open in Los Angeles tomorrow at Laemmle’s Sunset 5.
In “Mercy,” Scott Caan plays Johnny Ryan, a young, successful romance writer who doesn’t believe in love. He meets Mercy (Wendy Glenn), a book critic, at the launch party for his latest book. When Mercy is the only major critic who doesn’t like his book, Johnny becomes interested in understanding what makes Mercy tick.
indieWIRE Managing Editor Brian Brooks conducted an email interview with Hoelck, the entirety of which is below…
How or what prompted the idea for “Mercy” and how did it evolve?
“Mercy” was something Scott had written when he was stuck in Europe for one of the “Oceans” movies. We had spoke of working together for many years and when I read “Mercy” I knew it was the right time and the right project to do together.
Elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film…
We began by going over the script line by line, arc by arc. Acting out the scenes with Scott was one of my favorite parts of the project. This way we could hear the problems as well as the solutions in story and performance. As I got closer to set I worked on storyboards and how I wanted the film visually. I was also lucky to have a talented actress stay up late and wake early with me to create different subtext for parts of the story and various lines in the dialogue. I really wanted Mercy to be a performance piece and have a ton of support for my cast if they needed to call on me. The subtext in my pocket made me feel comfortable and prepared.
What were your biggest challenges in developing the project?
The money would fall in and out and in and out. Also, having sometimes 25 pages of dialogue to shoot in 8 hrs… With little films I think there are a lot of challenges, but with that said it really helps you strip away any excess in visual and performance.
In what way does LA itself play a “character” or “role” in telling this story?
I really wanted to capture Los Angeles the way my friends and I inhabit it. I’m not a big fan of the cliché Los Angeles we see in a number of films. I really liked “The Long Goodbye” starting Elliott Gould, I found it a good source of inspiration for “Mercy.” A gentleman I met after the LA premiere told me he thought “Mercy” had captured Los Angeles the way Woody Allen captures New York City. I think that and The New York Times quotes were some of the kindest I have heard about “Mercy.”
Why do you feel audiences will take to this story?
I think we all identify with love and friendships, we all have these conversations night and day with good friends. We all want to figure it out and wonder if we ever will. I’d really like people to recognize Scott Caan’s hard work as a dedicated actor. His vibrance and subtlety really stood out to me in this performance, as well as all the cast, for working really hard to dig deep and take risks within their own performances.