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PAPER HEART

50% Narrative
Shooting on Paper Heart began in the winter of 2008 in Toronto, Canada. Production then shifted to Paris for several rainy days, then back to America for a four-week, cross-country shoot. The cast and crew packed themselves into a 12-passenger van and drove from Los Angeles to New York City, stopping in 10 major cities along the way. 

"We stopped in Vegas, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Nashville, Memphis, Atlanta, and Harrisonburg, Virginia,” says Nick. 

 "Each city had its own personality and very distinct culture,” says Elise.

 "People's histories are often married to their homes – where they grew up or where they settled – and their sensibilities and opinions are so heavily influenced by that. It was really fascinating to experience that in each of our locations. It lended a quality to the production that we would never have achieved had we merely interviewed a few subjects in Los Angeles.” 

On the road they also often stopped and pulled over in the middle of nowhere to create scenes in unique locations. 

"I don't think we could've made it any more difficult on ourselves,” says Nick, "not having a traditional script and trying to mix documentary footage with narrative, changing the story line and plot points on the fly. We had an outline, which is still intact, but we would create stuff constantly. We would also shoot different versions of each scene so it could be placed in different parts of the movie, because we didn't know what we were going to find when we got to the editing room. It became ‘Shoot way more than you need.' "We shot 300 hours of footage to make a 1-1/2 hour film,” continues Nick. "It definitely created a lot of work in post-production, but it also created a lot of freedom and options. I think if we had shot the film traditionally it wouldn't have the life it has.” 

"With 300 hours,” says Elise, "some days our dailies would have an hour of someone cooking borscht in a hotel room telling Charlyne a story about how they were camping and got really close to a wolf one time. That creative freedom is what made this film possible. It's why the film has a personality and a life of its own.”

 Because the fast-and-loose nature of the shoot included a great deal of improvisation, Charlyne felt out of her element at times. Jake was experienced with improv, but for Charlyne it was a whole new world. 

"I was so intimidated to act with Jake and improvise because he's so funny and good,” says Charlyne. "I thought, ‘Oh God, if I suck, he won't like me! What if we don't click?' We were friends, but at that time we didn't know each other that well. When you get stuck in a van with someone for 12 hours, that's when you really get to see the other side of a person.” 

"Also, I never took classes on improvisation,” she continues, "so I was very unsure of what to do. We'd improvise a scene and I'd quickly say, ‘No.' Jake had a whole talk with me. ‘What's going on? You're not feeling this scene? You don't like working with me?' I'm like, ‘No, I like working with you – what are you talking about?' He's like, ‘The first rule of improv is we don't say no.' I'm like, ‘I didn't know that. I don't know how to act. I don't know how to improv. I'm barely learning how to talk to people so they can open up to me for the documentary portion. I'm still learning here.' "Ultimately, it was nice that I had someone to work off that actually knew what he was doing,” Charlyne laughs. 

"That was really reassuring, and we became closer friends on the road. Best friends, actually.” Of his participation in the project, Jake Johnson says it was great that friendship was such a big part of the equation. 

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