Spotlight: Holiday Engagement

  • Q & A with Director Jim Fall

    1. How did you become interested in filmmaking?
    I became interested in filmmaking as a kid because my dad was an avid home movie maker. Also, now, I’m dating myself here…but I remember begging my dad to take me to see THE EXORCIST when it first came out. I was in fifth grade (!!!) and he finally relented and took me and my older sister to see it on Easter Sunday 1974… haha. That movie changed my life. It blew me away. And even though I have made romantic comedies my whole career, THE EXORCIST is still my favorite film.

    2. What films have influenced your approach to filmmaking, either thematically or stylistically?
    I’m pretty old fashioned when it comes to story-telling. I believe in narrative and a classically structured movie. But the movies that influenced me the most are the one’s I grew up with watching. Movies from the 1970′s. Early: De Palma, Spielberg, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Scorcese, Sidney Lumet, Arthur Hiller, Sydney Pollack… I learned a little from all of them. I’m a sucker for love stories and tear-jerkers, though. In no particular order, movies I love: Close Encounters, Dressed To Kill, Annie Hall, Making Love, Blazing Saddles, Somewhere In Time, Garbo Talks, From Noon Till Three, The Way We Were.

    3. What inspired you to write this story that eventually became the film?
    Actually, I re-wrote the story. I signed on because I really liked the script Barbara Kymlicka wrote, but I felt it needed to be more emotional. Among the things I’m proudest of adding to the story is the scene between Jordan Bridges and Shelly Long late at night, and the scene where Bonnie Somerville and Jordan Bridges sing at the piano.

    4. What was the screen writing process like? Was Holiday Engagement a challenge to write or was it an easy story for you to tell?
    It was a challenge to re-write because there was so much I wanted to add and change, but only a matter of weeks to do it. But it was easy in the sense that I love romantic comedies and feel that’s where my strengths lie. I had fun re-working the script, and Barbara Kymlicka, the original writer, was very supportive of the changes I wanted to make and very helpful along the way.

    5. Holiday Engagement features a lot of very good, talented actors, something gives your film a very realistic feeling. How did you find the cast for your film and get them interested in the project?
    Luckily our producer had a wonderful casting director attached named Lindsay Chag. She and I were very much in sync on how this movie should be cast. I had worked with Bonnie Somerville before on a movie I directed titled WEDDING WARS, and I knew that she’d be wonderful in the lead. She was my suggestion at my first meeting about the film. Lindsay suggested Jordan Bridges for the male lead, and I’m glad she did! He’s charming and wonderful in this movie. He and Bonnie have amazing chemistry. And we were so lucky to get Shelley Long! I’ve been a fan of hers for so long, and it was an honor to work with her. She brought a warmth and sense of humor to a role that could have easily been “one note” in a lesser actor’s hands. In fact the whole cast elevated their roles. My job as director got very easy with this cast bringing their best everyday. I felt very lucky.

    6. Your film uses original music very effectively to underline the emotion the characters were experiencing. Why did you decide to use an original score for your film, rather than previously written pieces of music?
    I’ve been an avid collector of soundtracks since I was a kid, and knew full well how effective a score can be. Also, in a sweet movie like this, the score is very important. It shouldn’t be overwhelming, but needs to support the emotions on screen. Kerry Muzzey, my composer, brought a sense of melody and emotion that reaches right to your heart. I think the score turned out beautifully in this movie. He also arranged the beautiful version of “Angels We Have Heard On High” that is sung in the movie. Beautiful stuff.

    7. Many of Holiday Engagement’s scenes appear to be filmed on location throughout California. Why did you decide to shoot most of the film on location?
    The decision to shoot the movie in the Los Angeles area was already determined when I came on board. I was very excited to make a movie close to my home. In the ten years I’ve been in Los Angeles, this was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to shoot a feature this close to home. My other films were made in New York, Canada, and Rome. There is such a large talent pool here in Los Angeles, and casting was much easier. We shot the movie between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so that helped in that it’s a slow time for work in town.

    8. What was the most interesting experience you had while making Holiday Engagement?
    The funniest thing that happened was when I finally yelled on the set. I’m a very calm director. I don’t like to yell. I rarely do…I like to keep a happy set. It’s hard enough to make a movie, so I want every one to be happy. But when I’m pushed to my limit, I will raise my voice. We shot in a big house in Canyon Country, outside of LA. One day on the set after a particularly noisy day, where people were talking on the set, and a few shots had been ruined by this, I heard someone talking upstairs where we had make up and hair stationed. I was pissed and called “cut!” then started yelling “Who is talking up there! WHO IS TALKING! I WANT TO KNOW WHO!!!”….. It was Shelley Long. The one time I decided to yell, I yelled at my leading lady. I heard a tiny voice say… “It’s me, Shelley”…. Oooph. The problem was we didn’t have enough production assistants that day and no one told them we were shooting… Shelley laughed and forgave me and thought is was hysterical, actually. Needless to say, I was embarrassed. I never pays to yell, lol.

    9. In the film, the characters deal with issues of family acceptance and true versus false love. Why did you have the characters explore these themes in the film?
    Well, as I said earlier, Barbara Kymlicka conceived this movie, but I think it’s themes are universal. When you are honest about whom you are and what you want, and you let people know — including your family – it gives them the chance to step up to the plate and accept and love you in an honest way. This is a simple and sweet romantic comedy, but underneath the surface it is about communication and being true to yourself. That’s what made me what to make the movie in the first place.

    10. Are there any upcoming filmmaking projects in the works for you?
    Yes. I’m working on an adaptation of a novel titled DOROTHY ON THE ROCKS. It’s a moving and musical “coming of middle age” story about a boozy cabaret singer in New York City, who can’t quite get over the death of her friend and musical partner. I’m hoping to get this movie made in 2012.

    November 1st, 2011 | Joe Wilka |

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