After being a local sports celebrity with screaming fans in Elmira, New York, Tom O’Brien naturally became an actor. A few years in, he decided to start making work for himself and began writing plays at a theater company in New York (All Seasons, run by John McCormack). There, he met actor Chris Messina (“Six Feet Under”) and after working together sur la stade, the pair developed “Fairhaven” for O’Brien’s debut into film. O’Brien says people thought his plays were like movies, and now say his screenplays are like stage plays. “Sometimes I think people just like to say things,” he says, “But I’m really interested in the medium of film now. I find it fascinating. I love to blur the lines between fiction and documentary and between actor and character. I think that’s the direction I’d love to take if I’m lucky enough to make another one.”
What it’s about: It’s a small town reunion story about three friends reunited for the funeral of one of their fathers. They have all taken different paths and are all stuck in their lives in different ways. It’s a drama with some laughs.
Director O’Brien says: “I guess I don’t really want the audience to know anything. I love going to movies and not knowing anything and then getting totally engaged in the world of the film. I mean, maybe just that it’s a great ensemble cast that includes Chris Messina, Sarah Paulson, Rich Sommer (‘Mad Men’) and Alexie Gilmore and oh yeah me. I’m in it too. Oh and also that my cinematographer Peter Simonite, who is Terrence Malick’s second unit DP, and was responsible for that beautiful poster shot in ‘Tree of Life,’ the one of the baby’s foot, he did a tremendous job on a very tiny budget. And my editor Nick Houy, this is his first feature where he is the head editor (that’s probably the wrong terminology), but Nick is someone you’ll be hearing a lot from. He’s a huge talent. I guess there’s a lot I want the audience to know and the first sentence of this answer was bullshit.”
On his biggest challenge (aside from the obvious one: Money): “Really the biggest challenge was me. Once I really grabbed this thing and decided nobody was gonna make this happen but me, obviously I had a lot of help but for a while I was kidding myself into believing that I didn’t need to be the quarterback, btw there’s a Tom Brady football theme in the film, hence the reference. But once I really believed that I could lead and I stepped into that, things started falling into place in an unbelievable way. It was fun to watch people and everything we needed just show up. I felt so lucky.”
Inspirations? “It’s funny, when Chris Messina and I were developing the script and sending it around people would always compare it to ‘Beautiful Girls,’ which is a movie I always loved, but we would always say we wanted to be more like ‘All the Real Girls’ the David Gordon Green movie. Which tonally I think it’s closer to. Another movie that Chris and I loved was ‘Old Joy’ by Kelly Reichardt. If anybody hasn’t seen it check it out. Love that movie. And then one of my all time favorites that we talked about in terms of tone is ‘You Can Count on Me’ by Kenny Lonergan.”
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
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Below watch two clips from the film: