It’s been approximately six years since the filmmaking duo of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris made “Little Miss Sunshine,” the independent comedy that merited a Best Picture nomination. Now Dayton and Fairs, who are married as well as being creative partners, follow-up their debut picture with “Ruby Sparks.”
This is another wonderful comedy from Dayton and Faris with a first-rate screenplay by rising talent Zoe Kazan, who also plays the title character. Their film centers on Paul Dano’s Calvin, a frustrated novelist who writes a woman name Ruby into existence. In due course, Calvin falls in love with the fictional girl he has made reality.
This past week, Kazan, Dayton and Faris dropped by Harkins Camelview 5 for an open question and answer session. Throughout the interview, they touched based on the collaboration that went into bringing “Ruby Sparks” to life.”
In addition to working as a playwright, Kazan has taken on small supporting roles in movies like “It’s Complicated” and “Revolutionary Road.” Through “Ruby Sparks,” Kazan not only constructed her first screenplay, but also wrote the best role of her career thus far. Ironically, Kazan did not even have herself in mind to play Ruby when she began writing the script.
“That was the last thing on my mind when I started it,” Zoe said. “So rarely do you feel truly inspired by an idea. The idea was so vivid and enticing that I wasn’t even thinking who would play it. Then Paul read the first few pages then asked if I was writing it for us. There can be an element of vanity in writing something for yourself where you want to give yourself a good scene or paint yourself in a positive light. But I felt that I would be doing a disservice to the characters.”
The three filmmakers went on to discuss how they closely worked together to make “Ruby Sparks” the best movie possible.
According to Kazan, “When you’re in collaboration it stops being your head and starts being a collective head. It’s very close to what we dreamt of. The thing I originally dreamt of was smaller in scope. Our imaginations combined made it a bigger version like putting it on drugs.”
Dayton butted in, saying, “The script came to us with Paul and Zoe attached and we were very excited about working with them. We spent nine months working with Zoe on what the film would be.”
According to Faris, “It’s so important to have a good, strong script in the beginning so everybody is working with the same themes. It’s your roadmap. A movie starts with a conversation between all the people working on it. Our goal was to make a movie that would start a conversation between the people watching it. What’s important to us is that we’re all one mind.”
Once the story was virtually perfected by the team, they began filming “Ruby Sparks.” This was an equally mutual effort with the whole crew working to get the picture just right.
Kazan believes that “the big juicy scenes are always the most fun and it’s the little mundane stuff that sucks. One scene when we’re walking from a parked care to a café, we did like 26 takes."
"On take 26 we thought we got it but ended up using like take 13,” Dayton followed up. Fortunately, the three seemed to all have great chemistry, claiming that they “don’t really fight that much and certainly not on set.”
Kazan ultimately left with some beneficial advice to aspiring writers. “It’s so important to know what you’re writing. You want to let inspiration speak to you. Ask why am I writing this, what are the themes. Every scene and character in a screenplay has to tie back to the themes.”
Anybody in the creative writing profession should heed Kazan’s words and see “Ruby Sparks” when it comes out on August 3rd.
- Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org