Interviews with Mike Kravinsky and Blair Bowers
I recently spoke to writer/director Mike Kravinsky and actress Blair Bowers. We discussed their upcoming film Geographically Desirable, along with their starts in cinema and their upcoming plans.
First up is the interview with Mike Kravinsky, immediately followed by my interview with Blair Bowers. Both provide great insight into the film!
And make sure to check out the facebook page for the film at www.facebook.com/geographicallydesirable.
Bethany Rose: What sparked your idea for the film Geographically Desirable?
Mike Kravinsky: Well, I actually worked in TV news in the Washington DC area for 29 years. I worked for ABC News. With downsizing they offered me a buyout in 2010. I decided I wanted to continue doing what I was doing, just not in news. I wanted to do fictional/narrative stuff as opposed to documentary stuff, and it just got down to, I was writing this script and a lot of it is just my experience. Write what you know. It was my experience working in TV news with this added component of the Rom-Com. Originally the main character was a guy, but as it went on I felt it was better to have a strong woman in the lead role. That’s basically the genesis for the idea, moments I had experienced in my years in news, wrapped around a fictional story.
BR: How far had you gotten into the idea for the film before you decided to change the lead to a female character?
MK: It was pretty early. I wanted to be able to explore—it’s a much more interesting change to have a woman who is really work obsessed to start exploring other options in her life or exploring other options in her life. I think it’s a healthy thing, no matter what sex you are, to have your priorities in order. It was fun to have a woman in that role experiencing things the way a woman would experience them in the business because when I got into television, women were just starting to get into managerial roles and things like that. They really had to deal with this male culture, and so that’s one of the things I wanted to bring into the character. She doesn’t know how to talk with her superiors or ask for certain things. I encountered many women like that in my career who were just tough as nails until they had to ask for something from a superior. And that’s sort of why I switched over pretty quick. I just felt like it just can’t be more natural than to make that lead character a woman.
BR: That’s really interesting. It reminds me of Alien and how the character of Ripley was originally supposed to be a man.
MK: Oh yeah! You can have this nice thing like this whole back story with Alien where she wanted a child or had lost a child, but in the original Alien that wasn’t really part of the script. But then she [in Aliens] bonded with this girl, but she was still really tough. I really like that aspect.
BR: I also noticed that you wrote and directed The Nextnik [his first feature film], and there were many cast and crew members involved in both that film and in Geographically Desirable. So what is it like working with so many of the same cast and crew members on two different films?
MK: I really feel like I lucked out because The Nextnik was a first effort. You’re in television news, and you’re making documentaries, and you think you know how to make a narrative film, but you really don’t. It didn’t come to me naturally. You think it will, but it doesn’t. You really need people who understand that they’re working with a director who’s starting out and will support them. That’s what all these people did. Rick Kain, Emily Morrison, Connie Bowman, Paul Fahrenkopf, and so many others, are all really good actors.
DC is not really known as a film area, you think of actors coming out of New York or LA, but it’s got a great stage presence, and a lot of these actors did that. And they were prepared to hold my hand in The Nextnik and say, “Let’s try it this way,” and “Let me help you.” They took what I wrote and said, “I’m thinking I want to have this character be like this.” And I’d say that that was great, a perfect idea. So what happened with Geographically Desirable was that I’d learned so much working with these people in The Nextnik and that they were so good with what they did that I brought my found experience with them. It made the process so much better. Number one, I had a relationship with them, and I know how they work, and they know how I work. Now all the sudden what I learned from The Nextnik and what I learned working with the same people is that the performances were just terrific because again, we had this great working relationship.
BR: I just interviewed a director who made a film [Dan Steadman who directed Belleville] near where I live, and then he decided to make another film here and he used a lot of the same cast and crew, and he really had the same feelings about working with them multiple times.
MK: You’re still the boss, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be dictatorial. Yes, I know some directors are, but I personally like a good working relationship. A good working relationship comes with time, working with certain individuals. If you think about it, Judd Apatow, uses the same people in front of and behind the camera, so everybody is sort of on the same wavelength. I told Rick Kain who played Larry in The Nextnik, I also asked him to be in Geographically Desirable as the bureau chief, and I decided to call him Larry, so I told Rick, “Any time I cast you in one of my films, your name is going to be Larry.”
BR: I like it! I also noticed that one of the characters in Geographically Desirable, Joe, who is obviously one of the important characters in the film, recites some poetry throughout. I was an English major in college, so I found the use of poetry very interesting.
MK: Did you like the poetry?
BR: Yes, I did! It definitely caught my attention, so I was wondering if you could tell me a little about those poems.
MK: Well, let me tell you, I’m so glad you brought that up. That’s my dad’s poetry. My dad, who passed away at 100 years old in 2012, in the late ’60s, got into poetry writing and started writing this amazing stuff. I was a kid so I didn’t understand, and he would write me these poems and I’d say, “Oh, that’s great dad, thanks, bye.” It didn’t connect until I was an adult. Basically, when I made the film, I couldn’t have done the film without the financial contribution from him, so I made him the Executive Producer, but I also basically used his poetry, and his name is Joe, just like the character.
He has an amazing number of poems. If he were in a particularly sour mood his poetry would be really dark. [Laughs]. And sometimes it was just really sweet stuff. You could tell his mood when you would read his poetry. I hired a screenplay consultant in Los Angeles when I was in the final stages of the film, and she said the same thing, she said, “I love that poetry.” I’m just so happy that people notice that. It’s a tribute to my dad.
BR: I’m one of those people who reads as much of the closing credits of a film as possible, so when the credits were scrolling I said to myself, “I have to see if someone separate is credited with writing the poetry,” and I noticed that the person credited had your last name. I thought it was probably family, but I wasn’t sure.
MK: This had a lot of family in it. My dad obviously wrote the poetry. My wife Liza is a composer and she wrote the music. We sort of help each other. She had a documentary out a few years ago and I edited it for her. So she helped me and wrote the original music for this film.
BR: Nice! So, overall, I know you were involved in the news business, but do you have any film influences, or films that influenced even parts of Geographically Desirable?
MK: Certainly I lean towards the comedic stuff. I like big budget films. They are a lot of fun. I just saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and loved it. It’s an amazing film. But there is something about small budget films that are done well that is just fantastic. There is a lot of amazing stuff out there. There’s the film In a World … that’s about voice-over artists that I like. And Another Earth is a really good one with a small budget. Back about ten or twelve years ago there was a film called Happy Accidents with Marisa Tomei and Vincent D’ Onofrio, again, a small budget film. It was kind of quirky, with science fiction, but it had really good character development and was really well done.
And then you have films like the Paranormal Activity films that were done for a really small budget but would scare the crap out of you. I’m a fan of small films that are done really well. When the creators really think about the characters and the stories, and the actors get it, and the crew gets it.
BR: I had planned on asking you about your personal influences with the films you make, but you already answered that when discussing your time in the news industry. Is there anything that you’d like to expand on with that experience?
MK: I’d been working broadcasting or news my whole life, and I’d always been working for someone else. At this point I guess I’m sort of reeling from the fact that I’m on my own. I get up in the morning and I have to think of the things that have to be done. There’s not someone hovering over me telling me I haven’t filled out reports yet. So these themes are really reflective of what I’m personally going through. Who knows. As I get more comfortable in the fact that this is what I’m doing now, maybe the themes of the film will change.
I’m working on a script now. I’m really taking my time on this one. Sort of like Geographically Desirable it’s about finding the inner strength. There’s a lot of that, and the personal inner strength thing that I think is a neat subject. It doesn’t matter your age, personal growth is personal growth, whatever story is around it, in my case that story always involves around career, but who knows what will happen in the next film.
BR: I was going to ask you about upcoming projects, so you are writing another film?
MK: I have a story, but I’m figuring out a way—all the story ideas I have right now are good ideas for short films, but not maybe as a feature. Basically I’m trying to make the characters the story so I don’t have 40 different stories. I don’t want to call it a romantic comedy, but there is some romance in it, but it’s also science fiction. If you haven’t seen Happy Accidents, see it. I wouldn’t copy what they are doing in that movie, but I would like to emulate it.
Bethany Rose: Tell me a little about your character in Geographically Desirable.
Blair Bowers: Nicole is a driven, hardworking woman with very clear goals for her future as a news producer. Unfortunately, as hard as she works, she has been stuck with the overnight shift for the past two years, which has led her to neglect other important parts of her life. She is a loving, caring, happy, fun person, who is just too tired to show it. The movie is a lot about getting those priorities back in line and learning balance.
BR: What were some of your favorite scenes to shoot?
Blair Bowers: We filmed a scene in Floyd, Virginia at the Country Store where every Friday they hold a jamboree and the whole town comes out to dance. We recreated this event for the film and had a bunch of locals dancing with us and showing us the steps and it was just a blast. We had a great time chatting with people in between shots and watching people dance who were so much better than we were. I am so grateful for the hospitality that Floyd and its residents showed us.
BR:Who are some of your acting influences and why?
Blair Bowers: Oh, goodness, such a big question. My acting professor in college, Wolf Sherrill, encouraged me a great deal to pursue this often difficult career path and really pushed me to be a better actor. I’m a big proponent of continuing education. You should always be learning new things and honing your craft. Currently, I’m studying with Gregory Berger-Sobeck, who has already helped me so much with spontaneity, physicality, and script analysis.
In terms of actors, I have so many people that I am just in awe of – that I respect and admire. I love Cate Blanchett for her fearlessness. I love Emma Stone for her humor. I love Tina Fey for taking care of business. Those are the first three that pop into my head, but there are many.
BR: What drew you to acting?
Blair Bowers: I think it’s just in the blood. My family has home videos of me acting and singing in little skits that my little brother and I would put on for our parents. I was a very demanding director at seven. He will attest to that.
BR: What is some typical preparation you do for a role? Do you do research?
Blair Bowers: Yes, there’s a ton of homework that goes along with acting. There’s a lot of script analysis that you do before any of the filming starts. Along with that, I had to learn about the producing world and the world of TV news.
I wouldn’t say there was too much ‘research’ for the role of Nicole because we do have roughly the same experience with the world. It would be different if it were set in 1820’s London. There would be a lot more to research in that case on what day to day life was, how women were viewed, what jobs were available, et cetera.
BR: What is the most unique role you have done?
Blair Bowers: For theater, there’s all kinds of crazy stuff. I’ve been zombie Paris Hilton, a little girl’s stuffed animal brought to life, and a proper young lady in Victorian London whose cousin was possessed by an evil monkey. Film is a lot tamer. I did, however, get to play a female version of Doctor Who for a short film not too long ago and that was a blast because I got to geek out a bit.
BR: Do you have any upcoming projects?
Blair Bowers: I do! Actually, it has a fun connection with Geographically Desirable. I just finished filming a short called The Drive, which really focuses on the strength of female friendship. It happens to be written, directed by, and costarring the extremely talented Felicia Gonzalez Brown, who plays Nicole’s best friend, Abby, in Geographically Desirable. It was such a joy to work with her again. Get us in a car together, which both movies did, and we will ad lib entire scenes and just crack each other up.
by Bethany Rose