Breathe In, Like Crazy. Two words: Drake Doremus

Drake Doremus

This Friday sees the release of Breathe In, the new film from hotshot indie director Drake Doremus. From the same man who helmed 2011’s Like Crazy, Breathe In reunites Doremus with Brit Felicity Jones, but in a much more downbeat, gloomier story, focusing on forbidden love, collapsing families, and isolation in an ever changing world. OnTheBox chatted to Drake during this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival about his new film, his influences and the pleasures of directing Guy Pearce.

How did you get started with Breathe In?
It really started with wanting to work with Felicity again, creating a character for her. As well as listening to Dustin O’Halloran, who’s a wonderful composer and who’d written some new music while I was writing the script. A lot of those things formed a lot of the elements in the film – the tone, the world, the characters, the story – so it was very fortuitous the way the music element came together along with Felicity coming into the film.

You worked with Felicity before in Like Crazy, What made you want to work with her again?
I didn’t think we fully explored the extent of our collaboration yet and there was more to do, as well as to experience and explore. It was a more exciting continued collaboration with this film.

Whilst Like Crazy was based mostly on your own experiences, did you have to come up with your own idea for this film, or did you take ideas from your own life again?
The idea was to do the opposite of that. Something very foreign and far, and to attack it from a much more mature standpoint, relationships and the idea of being in the right place at the wrong time, and reawakening something inside of you that’s been lost in kindred spirits.

I believe you started making short films like everyone else, before gradually moving towards features. Who were your influences when starting out?
I was really inspired by filmmakers like Lars Von Trier. When I started making shorts and going to film school, I was really experimenting with structured filmmaking as well as using improvisational elements that I wanted to have in there. Movies like Breaking The Waves influenced me very much. The process of making a movie keeps changing and involving, but it’s an exciting one to continue to learn and grow.

Have you managed to put your own ideas and styles into your films? Breathe In & Like Crazy are films both very different in terms of colour, tone, location etc so how do you separate them?
The location does very much so, and the weather element too. I really wanted to make a movie in which the moodiness and the weather were tonal elements, the idea of a misty mirky kind of summer rain element, a backdrop I was very interested in playing with when making this film.

What stories most interest you as a filmmaker? What makes you want to make a film?
I suppose the idea of trying to understand or gain knowledge into why we do the things we do, why relationships are the way they are, having love, finding love, maintaining love etc. Those themes and subjects continue to interest me. Their themes I still want to play with and themes I still understand. Basically I feel with my movies, I’m continuing to work through things in my own life that I don’t get or understand and with relationships, there’s a vast amount of subject matter that I want to explore more.

Do you get a lot of freedom as a filmmaker?
Thankfully making movies independently has given me that opportunity to be free which is essential when your trying to make movies that don’t have big plot pieces or aren’t geared towards making millions of dollars at the box office. It’s certainly not my concern at this point, but I’ve been really lucky to do that.

What’s your take on the Hollywood system? Is that an area of the film industry you would like to venture? Or are you happy where you are?
My goal would be to balance the line; have one foot in, one foot out. I would hopefully continue to make bigger films coming out, and still make them the way I want to make them, but at the same time use bigger means and try to explore new territories and grow. I think the one foot in/out idea is an interesting one. It’s tough, it’s a very difficult time for distribution. The form is changing so rapidly. It’s a scary time, but also exciting if you approach it from an optimistic way.

What was it that made you want to work with Felicity Jones so much?
It’s funny because I didn’t meet her when I cast her; she sent me a tape of her audition for Like Crazy. She shot herself in her apartment, doing the audition of the end scene in the shower, and she was improvising. I had to phone her up and give her some direction over the phone for that scene when she shot it. She really understood it so well, and was just born for this process of this type of filmmaking, as well as a born improviser. So I called her and asked her to come to LA and do the film. It was the best decision I’ve ever made and one that has changed my life. It just came together like it was supposed to.

What was it like to direct Guy Pearce?
He’s amazing. He was very apprehensive about doing it, as he’d never improvised in a film before, let alone in a foreign dialect. But after I met him, I knew I wanted him to do it. I was very lucky to get him.

How important do you think film festivals as well as independent cinema are to getting a film released?
I think Film Festivals are monumental to Independent Cinema. In a way, Film Festivals are the new form of distribution. It’s no longer about putting movies into theatres and going to see them. With VOD, the only chance you get to screen your films in theatres is at film festivals. It’s paramount more to the filmmaker than anyone else. It’s an exciting time also, with so many festivals around, and it seems like there in a good place. It seems every inch of the universe has a film festival. They really help filmmakers and they are incredible devices for independent cinema.