A Few Minutes With Writer/Director Matt Sadowski as we ‘Pretend We’re Kissing’

Posted in Interviews, Movies by - April 01, 2015
A Few Minutes With Writer/Director Matt Sadowski as we ‘Pretend We’re Kissing’

This business of show, tends to be a busy one and there are always missed connections at every turn.  I had missed the press day for Pretend We’re Kissing which is opening at the Carlton this coming Friday.  However sometimes a missed opportunity becomes a blessing in disguise as I got the chance to link up with writer/director Matt Sadowski to talk about the film and how it gives us a uniquely fresh take on a genre of films that has been ridden into dull obscurity by the Hollywood system, presenting us with something uniquely genuine…this is what he had to say.


Dave Voigt: I loved the movie and it isn’t often that we get to see a romantic comedy from what is essentially the neurotic and uncomfortable side of relationships.  What ultimately inspired the idea behind Pretend We’re Kissing?

Matt Sadowski: Thank you so much. I’m thrilled that people are liking it and I really hope it finds its audience.  All relationships are awkward. Even the best ones.  Once I found one that works, it gave me the perspective to reflect back at how I screwed up with all my previous girlfriends. And it was often based in lack of courage. I was my own enemy. I overthought every action and everything I said. I stood in my own way. I only hoped that others could relate to that feeling, and romantic comedies that didn’t feel like an authentic representation of what it’s like when you (think) you fall in love, only added to the problem.

Credit: Erin Simkin

Credit: Erin Simkin

DV: In many ways, this feels like a parallel to your previous feature the John Hughes doc Don’t You Forget About Me, as it speaks to the nature of audiences being dissatisfied with the generic happy ending that we get in so many Hollywood rom-com’s and you gave us something more akin to what happens in real life.  How important was it for you to stay away from the generic tropes that are all over this genre and give us an effort a little more genuine and imperfect?

MS: I wrote this film when Before Sunrise was a stand-alone film. I really loved it, but couldn’t relate to Ethan Hawke’s charisma, confidence and look and it left me with the feeling that Jesse and Celine would realize how fleeting their connection may have been, if they had spent more than one day/night together. I mean, at least that happened to me a half dozen times. I’d meet someone, feel connected, it would be magical, and then it would be quickly over without either of us knowing exactly why.

DV: What inspired the neurotic voiceover moments?  I loved it, if only because we’ve all been there when nervous on a date.

MS: I wanted to create a world where you get to be inside Benny’s head and the best way to do that is to have the audience witness to his running internal monologue. If there’s anything that is really his obstacle in life, it’s himself. I think it’s like that for most people.

DV: As much as the writing in a movie like this needs to be sharp, the dynamic between the two leads has to be bang on.  How long did it take you to find Dov & Tommie?

MS: 10 years. My background is of an actor, so I used that to my advantage my constantly having read-throughs of the film when I had a new draft of the script. Each time I “tried out” actors who I could see in the role, and each time, I felt like I hadn’t found my leads yet. When Tommie came to fill in for another actress that wasn’t able to make it, fate intervened. She was magical. When I met Dov I felt like I was talking to myself, and since this character is based on an amalgamation of my own experiences and neuroses, it all just fell into place. That and they’re both incredibly gifted performers in their own right.

DV: So much of their chemistry even doesn’t feel scripted, especially when they were stuck on the island together. Did they have any freedom to riff and improvise in the moment?

MS: I think that’s both their best skill. They had an ability to make my scripted dialogue sound spontaneous. Even when we were shooting, because I’m watching them, not reading along with a script, I felt like they had maybe improvised but how organic they’d make a scene. I’d refer to my script and see that they hit every line, word-for-word. Any improvisation came in pre-production rehearsals, and many times I would infuse things we’d discover into the script.

Credit: Erin Simkin

Credit: Erin Simkin

DV: I loved Zoe Kravitz’s character and she made for a great kooky shaman for Dov has he tries to get over himself and get a date. Having her as a nudist in the opening minutes to make Dov’s character that much more awkward and uncomfortable was a great touch and it really set the tone for his character.  Tell me  a little of how she became involved? She is unquestionably a star on the rise right now with her appearances in The Divergent Series Mad Max: Fury Road.

MS: Zoe’s character is based on a roommate I had. That exact scene happened to me and I’d often describe it to others who would shake their head in disbelief. It was difficult to find an actress that was prepared to live in that skin, to be honest, but it was integral to the character. Dov and Zoe are actually friends, and again, it was a strange coincidence when he told me that there was a time when she crashed at his apartment…overstaying her welcome and always chirping in his ear about this or that.  I’d have been a fool not to take advantage of their pre-existing chemistry and life imitating art kind of moment. The fact that she is a star on the rise is icing on the cake.

DV: Without giving anything away, the movie still ends on somewhat of a sweet moment but it could have easily gone bittersweet as well.  Was there any temptation to not give the audience the somewhat happy ending and end on something a little more introspective?  Or was this ultimately an attempt, at creating balance between the happy sweet and the bitter sweet moments that are all over this genre?

MS: Great question. There was an early script/cut that had a little bit more of a vague ending, but we all felt that we needed to end the film with some closure, optimism and hope – but do it in a way that’s not overly saccharine.

DV: With this being your first fictional feature under your belt after having worked on shorts, documentaries and television, what is your one takeaway from the entire experience and what are your ultimate hopes for Pretend We’re Kissing?

MS: I hope that audiences connect to the characters and see something of their own lives on screen.  I’m eager to see if they can get into a movie with a bit of different cinematic approach that demands patience and attention and really exposes awkwardness. I learned a lot about myself from making this film. I don’t think I’ll know what the takeaway is that I can apply to my next film, until I’m making my next film and see if that new love flourishes or fades.


This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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