Q & A With Writer/Director Jamie Linden
What was your inspiration for the film?
This is going to blow some minds, but believe it or not the inspiration came
from going to my own ten year high school reunion. For a while now, I'd wanted
to try to make a large ensemble movie. They have a high degree of difficulty,
but the ones that are done well are some of my all-time favorites, and some of
the most rewatchable movies of all time, too. I'm thinking of films like
American Graffiti, or Diner, or The Big Chill. As a writer first and foremost, I
liked the challenge of trying to write a script with a big cast, and trying to
make an audience care about a whole handful of characters and storylines instead
of just one. After going to my own reunion, it occurred to me that this would be
as good an excuse for a large ensemble as anything. It might not be the most
original setting in cinematic history, but I was much more interested in the
If the movie was inspired by your own reunion, then how autobiographical is the
The reunion in the movie superficially resembles mine as far as the size and
style of it. The characters went to a high school which is named after my high
school back in Orlando, Florida. And after the reunion they go to a dive bar
which is the named after the bar we went to after our reunion. But none of the
characters are based on real people, or people I went to high school with. They
were all created and formed in collaboration with the actors.
How did the film get off the ground? What was the process of getting the film
A couple of years ago, a bunch of us made the movie Dear John together. Myself,
Channing Tatum, the
producers at Temple Hill (Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, and Adam Londy), and also
my friend Scott Porter, who's an actor that happened to go with me to both Lake
Howell and our ten year reunion, which had taken place not long before the Dear
John shoot. Channing's producing partner Reid Carolin came to set for a week or
two and we were all hanging out after work one night and I mentioned I was
thinking about writing a ten year reunion movie based on mine and Scott's
experience, and that was pretty much it. I wanted to try directing, and Channing
and Reid were looking for their first producing project and we all wanted to
work with Marty and Wyck again. So I wrote a loose script, we went and shot a
little short film one day to show people the style we were going for, and then
we met with Eric Gores, who understood it completely and was good enough to
write us a check so we could just go off and make the film.
The film is truly an ensemble project. How did you cast it?
Well, we didn't cast it, exactly, at least not in the traditional sense of the
word. We didn't even have a casting director. The whole idea was to subvert the
process-instead of writing roles and then going out and finding actors to fit
into those roles, we picked actors we wanted to work with up front, and then
we'd create the characters together. So basically we talked to friends we liked
and had worked with before, figured out characters and storylines that
interested all of us, and I went off and wrote something resembling that. And
then I wrote a few parts for actors who I admired but didn't really know, like
Justin Long and Chris Pratt. At some point along the way I'd meet with them and
tell them about the movie and the process and I just crossed my fingers they'd
say yes. Of course, by the time we finally had everything in order to shoot the
film, a couple of the actors couldn't make their schedules work out so we had to
replace them, but even then I met with other actors I liked and we talked about
what to do with their roles and we changed things around together. The movie's
really an actor's piece, so the whole idea was to make the process as
collaborative as possible.
How long was the shoot? Where did you shoot?
We shot for about five weeks in Albuquerque, New Mexico. One of our goals from
the beginning was to film the movie chronologically. That way, since the script
was so loose, we could make changes on the fly as we progressed. So we designed
the movie with that in mind, keeping our locations to a minimum and keeping
everybody around for the whole shoot in case we wanted to add characters to
scenes or change things up. We filmed the reunion itself at the Hotel Andaluz in
downtown Albuquerque, which is also where the entire cast and crew stayed during
the shoot. We basically took over that hotel. It was nice to be able to take an
elevator down to work, and it definitely helped to foster a sense of intimacy on
set and amongst the cast. It felt like sleepaway camp, only with more alcohol.
It was pretty chaotic. I felt bad for the people whose job it was to keep things
You both wrote and directed this film. Which process do you enjoy more?
Both. Or neither. I don't know. Screenwriting is what I do for a living. I've
been at it for almost eight years now, and by this point I have a pretty decent
idea of what I'm good at and what I'm not so good at. I don't like how solitary
writing tends to be, but it is nice to be completely in control of something,
even if it's just a screenplay that will ultimately morph into something else as
it gets filmed and edited. I'd never directed a movie before, though, so I had
to kind of start over and learn what I was good at and what I wasn't so good at.
I liked how collaborative it was and I liked being around a bunch of people all
day and I loved working with the actors.
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