Posted by Valentina Valentini on June 26, 2013 at 4:37 pm
In the dark dramedy Between Us, hardly an ounce of comedy exists. Unless, of course, you’re dark like I am.
Co-writer/director Dan Mirvish – who adapted the script from the stage play by and with Joe Hortua – brings to the screen the rawness and fear of what the depths of a toxic relationship can look like with two couples reuniting over two incendiary evenings. Grace and Carlo (Julia Stiles and Taye Diggs) are a newly married New York couple who visit their oldest friends Sharyl and Joel (Melissa George and David Harbour) at their Midwestern mansion. But with their wealth has come a bitterly destructive marriage. A few years later, the couples reunite in New York, only to find the tables have turned somewhat.
Getting the deeply emotional performances out of these A-list actors wasn’t the hard part for Mirvish. It took eight years to get Mirvish and Hortua’s work from script to screen – “by hook, crook, spit and gumption,” Mirvish likes to say. And it’s now screened in over 22 film festivals all over the world and has theatrical releases in several US cities, including Los Angeles and New York. (A detailed and interesting timeline is below.)
“It’s certainly true what they say about Hollywood,” says Mirvish over a milkshake (you’ll get it once you see the film) at the film’s Los Angeles premiere. “It really is who you know. What they don’t tell you is that it’s really easy to get to know people. Making a friend in Hollywood is as simple as sending a message via Facebook or running into them at a party in Park City. I built this movie brick by brick and had the long-term stamina to keep it going. I like to say that everything and everyone in a movie will fall through at some point, but as long as they don’t all fall through at the same time, you’re OK.”
One of those points came three weeks before principal photography in July 2011. They’d already shot one scene with Harbour in a wheelchair in the snow, and the rest of the cast was on board and Mirvish was pleased with the way that scene looked, but the crew was falling apart. Everyone who had worked on it up until then were either very new to the business or kind of upper-level producers, or were on the verge of quitting.
“I was missing the guts of the crew,” he explains, “so I put out an urgent call on Facebook for anyone who wanted to work on the movie in any capacity to just come by my garage and I would give them donuts (I worked in a donut store in high school, so I know they’re a powerful motivator). About 25 people showed up and we had an amazing session that was equal parts job fair, pep talk, and group therapy.”
Mirvish didn’t hide anything and made it clear there was no guarantee of money. He was amazed that anyone stayed, but in fact everyone stayed. (Must have been the donuts.) By the end of the day, he had his Line Producer/UPM, 1st and 2nd Assistant Director, Production Coordinator, half the Grip/Electric department, and a half dozen more Production Assistants.
But before all of that, there was years of casting in the works, the economy tanking, another project that took over his life, and despite all that Mirvish is confident that “eight years is the new two years.
“I think the important thing is that you should enjoy each step in the process, both creatively and personally,” continues Mirvish. “Yes, casting took years, and raising money is a drag, but meeting talented and wonderful actors every week isn’t so bad and doing a Kickstarter campaign can be a fun process in and of itself – reconnecting with old friends, coming up with creative perks, etc.”
Despite being one of the co-founders of Slamdance Film Festival and still running it with his team every year, Mirvish insists he is Blacklisted by as many companies as he is shortlisted on. He never got into any of the Sundance, IFP or Tribeca labs; of the two hundred production companies they sent the script out to, none offered a hand or a pocket; and no agency indie division expressed financial interest, no matter who their cast was.
“Honestly,” he says, “marry well. That’s the best advice I can give to an aspiring filmmaker.”
Link to trailer HERE.
2004: Between Us performed at biggest Off-Broadway house in New York City, Manhattan Theatre Club
2007: Hortua and Mirvish began writing the screen adaptation
2008: They came close to making the movie for $2 to 3 million, then economy collapses in the fall. Movie goes on hiatus and Mirvish gets a book offer on his Martin Eisenstadt project
Fall 2010: Eisenstadt project runs its course and they recalibrate Between Us as a micro-budget film; raise $10,000 on Kickstarter directly, plus two or three times from private equity
Jan. 2011: On heels of Slamdance, Mirvish casts Taye Diggs and gets Nancy Schreiber, ASC, on board to film
Apr. 2011: They shoot wheelchair scene on top of Mt. Piños
Jun. 2011: Start two weeks of rehearsals in Mirvish’s kitchen, followed by three weeks principal photography in Los Angeles
Jul. 2011: Go to Omaha for a week for a day and a half of shooting, followed the next week by a trip to New York City for one long day of shooting
Sep. 2012: World premiere at Oldenburg Film Fest (Germany), followed by whirlwind world fest tour to Athens, Hamptons, Woodstock, Napa Valley, Gijon (Spain – closing night film), St. Louis, Whistler (Canada), Brisbane, Virginia, IndieMemphis, and more.
Dec. 2012: Finish fall fest tour with Grand Jury win at the Bahamas Int’l Film Fest
Jan. 2013 – Out-of-competition screening at Slamdance, leading to distribution deal with Monterey Media, Inc.
Mar. 2013: Signed deal with Monterey for North American distribution; continuation of spring festival tour including Atlanta, Sarasota, Dallas, Ashland, and Waterfront
Jun. 21, 2013: Theatrical premiere at Downtown Independent in LA
Jul. 2013: Continuation of theatrical rollout
Jul. 30, 2013: VOD/DVD release