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LIKE CRAZY

The Story
"Tell me everything that happened. Tell me everything you saw. They had lights inside their eyes . . . ” -- "Dead Hearts Are Everywhere,” Stars

Like Crazy is not so much a love story as a story about what we experience when we're in love – the excitement, the inspiration, the communion, the angst and the all-out craziness that envelop us, shake us and leave us wondering what on earth just happened to us. Rather than spin another ethereal fairy tale about the ideal of love, Drake Doremus decided to get down into the dirt with the sheer emotional reality of falling into it –- and then battling to sustain it, especially in a world in which geography, technology and individuality seem to conspire against it at every turn.

To do so, Doremus worked in his typically unconventional style. He did not pen a traditional screenplay. He wanted something more alive, more spontaneous, more filled with the surprises, good and bad, that love --especially the mad, addictive love of unbridled youth -- always brings. So Doremus began with a kind of in-depth, extended outline, co-written with his friend Ben York Jones, who starred in his previous film, the dramatic comedy Douchebag. Though it did not lay out hard-and-fast dialogue, the outline delved into subtext, character back stories, scene direction and nuanced details that gave those who read it a visceral sense of Anna and Jacob's journey with each other.

At the time, Doremus was in the throes of heartache and felt an urgent need to explore creatively what he had just been through emotionally. "The story of Like Crazy began as an amalgamation of some intense relationships that I've had, and perhaps one in particular, and it felt very, very personal,” he says. "I was hungry to work on it and it just poured out. I needed to tell this story, I had so much to express – about certain emotional moments and about the way two people navigate a relationship that is so meaningful yet isn't necessarily going to last -- and it was all bottled up. I wrote a first draft and then I worked with Ben York Jones, my writing partner, to hone that draft and we started moving very quickly. When I have an idea, I kind of have the need to act on it immediately. When you know the characters and you know the movie you want to make, if you wait, things change. To me, the most important thing was a quality of genuineness to those feelings I was in the midst of right then.”

As Doremus and Jones began exploring more deeply into Like Crazy, they kept a laser-focus on emotions. They kept the narrative of Jacob and Ann's love affair full of tension yet included no break-up sequences. They honed in on those fleeting, contrast-filled moments that stick with you more than the obvious moments –the ones that haunt you in the night and propel you to keep trying to make love work. They also began to crack open the puzzle of why the greatest and most all-consuming encounters with love can feel both very real and completely illusory, can seem to be both the deepest connection of all and proof that no one can ever fully know the underneath of another's skin.

"In some ways, this love is really a blank canvas for Anna and Jacob,” observes Doremus. "They've never had these feelings before, so they project so much onto each other and then they become that projection with each other. But then, when they have to be apart, they begin to wonder if what they had, and that person they knew, is just fantasy and they start to think the other person might not be quite what they imagined. Yet, when they're together, the important thing is they really believe in what they see in each other. They want it to be true and they want it to endure.”

What had been so intensely internal for Doremus at the outset now began to resonate with others. "I really thought this experience was so personal that no one else might relate to it,” laughs Doremus, "but then it turned out that anyone who's been in love seemed to know exactly what I was talking about.”

Producer Jonathan Schwartz, who has worked with Doremus from the beginning of his career, recognized right away that Like Crazy was going to be something special. He and his partner in Super Crispy Entertainment, Andrea Sperling, began talking with Doremus about the film in March of 2010 . . . and they were already shooting by June 1st of the same Spring.

"Drake is someone with a rare passion and fire, and he has this idea that he wants to make a movie a year,” explains Schwartz. "Right after Douchebag, he came to me with this idea, and it was so personal and based on his own experiences, and yet it was so universal that everyone recognized their own experiences in it. Everyone has been through first love or hard love or long-distance love with all the ‘if only' feelings that come with those things and the film is so true to that experience. There was no doubt in my mind that Drake could do this in his own unique way – he has always been very strong at telling love stories that are fun and touching and also serious. And he's a force of nature in terms of his energy.”

Sperling, who worked with Doremus for the first time on Like Crazy, adds: "Drake is open-minded but he's unwavering in his vision and his passion is infectious. It was really interesting to become part of his unique process, which is highly collaborative, but in a very different way from other films I've worked on. The process is intense and fun and leads to a lot of exciting ideas. At the same time, it was very raw, because it was all coming from his personal experience, and very intimate, because we had a very small cast and crew in small spaces shooting with a very small camera.”

Schwartz and Sperling were soon joined by a team that includes executive producers Zygy Wilf and Audrey Wilf, best known as owners of the Minnesota Vikings, as well as executive producers Steven Rales and Mark Roybal of Indian Paintbrush. "We were grateful to receive such strong support in every way,” says Schwartz.

The tone of the film seemed to compel everyone who came into contact with the project – and its texture-rich style emerged from its substance. "I knew how I wanted to tell the story – and I've always wanted to make a film in the style of the French New Wave,” says Doremus, citing the youthful film movement that put an emphasis on personal artistic expression and spirited naturalism.

Yet, he was also inspired by two more contemporary indie classics: Lars Von Trier's defiantly emotional Breaking The Waves and Alfonso Cuaron's exuberantly poetic road movie, Y Tu Mama Tambien. "I watched Breaking the Waves for the incredible integrity of the performances; and I watched Y Tu Mama Tambien for the enveloping world that film creates with its style,” he explains.

But most of all, Doremus trusted in a process he has been developing over the last several years – one in which the actors are not given pre-determined lines. They rehearse together, talk at length about the trajectory of scenes, but then come to the set fresh, with the freedom to improvise like jazz musicians and expand on their characters in unexpected ways. For Like Crazy, Doremus took this approach even further, trying to give the actors not only the freedom to explore but also the safety to be emotionally transparent, as if the camera was stealing the most precious, private moments.

"I like to keep the set feeling like it's not a set,” Doremus comments. "Every scene in Like Crazy was treated like a sex scene, even though there are no typical sex scenes, but the feeling was always that we'd closed the door and everything inside was safe and intimate, yet also wide open. In that a

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