Today I’m joined by Hannah Rosner the director, star and one of the writers for the new indie comedy Park City. The film has just opened up online and is receiving plenty of positive critical attention due to its warmly depicted characters and its humorous observations of the movie making business. I’ll let Hannah explain a little more about what the film is all about below…
Hello Hannah, thanks for joining me today! How are you?
Thank you, James! I’m great… Park City was released on iTunes this week, so I’m very pleased.
It must be very exciting! First of all can you just tell us a little bit about Park City and your role both within it and as director?
Park City is a mockumentary-style comedy about a director, a producer, an actress, and their assistant, on a journey to premiere their little-indie-that-could at Sundance. They get so caught up in the madness of the film festival (for anyone who hasn’t been: during Sundance, Park City is not the sleepy mountain town one might expect, it’s a party!) that they lose their only copy of the movie and must re-trace their steps from the night before to find the film print before their screening. The four leads each play exaggerated versions of our real selves. Although I actually directed Park City, I cast myself in the role of the producer, who is basically the “Mom” of the group. She’s supposed to be the responsible one so she takes charge in the search for the missing film and yet on the night in question she gets just as wild as the rest of them.
What was it which initially inspired the film? Were you as I suspect drawing somewhat from experience…?
The movie was inspired by my first trip to Sundance in 2010, which was wild and fun and full of misadventures. After I heard that a few films I worked on in college were screening there, I called up my buddy Dave and asked if he would drive to Utah with me. We were fresh out of film school and totally broke, so we slept in my car in a Vegas casino parking lot, we used a couchsurfing website to find free places to crash in Park City, and we even met Bill Murray! We had almost no money but we managed to find free drinks everywhere we went. (I don’t remember ever eating… I think we had beer for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.) When we got back to LA we told the story to all of our friends and at some point someone said, you guys should make a movie about that. I thought, that’s not such a bad idea!
Haha and so you did! Your cast are all playing on archetypal depictions of the filmmaking crew, was there a challenge to ensure that you found the right balance between humorous observations and character depth?
Yes, each character had to embody certain tropes of their role; the jaded, overly ambitious director is a character many audience members are familiar with and find humour in, but Joey played him with enough nuance that he’s a likable guy. We know he just wants people to see his movie and be moved by it. Jill’s character derives comedy from playing the melodramatic, vain starlet, who feels she’s been dealt an unfair hand having to travel with the lowly “crew”, yet there is genuine warmth between her and Joey, as well as with Hannah, as evidenced when she teaches Hannah how to be seductive. I find that characters can be archetypal for humorous effect, but what makes audiences connect with them despite their flaws is how they treat each other. Luckily the four of us are good friends and the chemistry made it easy to believe our (often begrudging) affection for each other.
I was surprised by just how well the interview segments worked and by how integrated into the overall plot they were because as a general rule it’s such an abrasive technique I think it runs the risk of disrupting a film. What was the thinking behind using them as a narrative technique instead of perhaps more common storytelling devices?
We had always intended that the film have a mockumentary/ found footage feel and the confessionals helped sell the conceit that we had actually gone to Sundance with our film and documented the experience.
The film does strike a pleasing balance between interview, handheld and standard styles of filmmaking but did you ever consider fully committing to the handheld documentary style?
We never wanted to make a fully handheld “found footage” movie, that wasn’t the style we were going for. We wanted to experiment with the styles to put together something unique, partly because audiences are getting a bit tired of the found footage genre, partly because we wanted to tell the part of the story that was not supposed to have been documented by Dave, our fearless/ clueless camera man – and those segments called for a more conventional shooting style.
And as both an actor and a director which method of storytelling proved the most challenging? I would assume (perhaps incorrectly) that the way you approach an interview scene as an actor would be very different to how you would approach say the bar scene…
The interview scenes were by far the easiest! Easy to shoot, to light, and to improvise. Yet in other scenes, I got to play off the other actors and improvising gave the scenes some life. In the interview scenes it’s just us getting to talk at length about whatever subject, and that gave us lots of options in the editing room in terms of putting together parts of the story that may not have been clear enough, or add some extra elements to the plot. We had to be much more straightforward with all of the non-interview scenes and try to stick to the script, though we did play around a lot with physical comedy and improvise a lot to make the scenes funnier than they were on the page.
How does working as a director inform your acting and vice versa?
It was actually being the co-writer of the script that made playing the role of Hannah pretty seamless. I knew all of her quirks, her backstory, and her reactions very intimately. Acting in the scenes I was also directing was sometimes frustrating, because I could not watch a scene unfold and therefore might not catch something happening in the frame. Yet it was also sometimes very helpful because I was fully immersed in the scene and could really feel if a take wasn’t quite there yet. It helped that I fully trusted my DP, Megan Boundy, to tell me if she noticed something or had a note on the scene I was just in!
And finally Hannah what can you tell us about your plans post Park City? Do you have any projects brewing in the background? Will you be focusing more on directing or acting?
My true passion is writing and I am working on a few scripts right now. One is another comedy with my frequent collaborator Julia Turner (who co-wrote and produced Park City). We are also in post production on a short film I directed called Gym Buddies, which we both wrote and acted in. It’s a comedy about two friends who deal with all the trials and tribulations of a workout-buddy relationship. It plays off of typical rom-com tropes, so it’s silly and fun and sweet. We’ll be posting it on my website this summer (www.hannahrosner.com).
Fantastic, I look forward to seeing the short! Thanks again for chatting with me today Hannah!
And thank you James for all of your kind words about Park City!
And that’s all folks! I hope you enjoyed this chat with Hannah about Park City. Look out for my review in the next few days!