Will Slocombe recently screened his film, Cold Turkey, at the 2013 Newport Beach Film Festival. Influx writer, Paul Booth, had the fortune of speaking with Mr. Slocombe about the experience.

Paul Booth: How long did you take to write the Cold Turkey?

Will Slocombe: I wrote the first draft in five days. Overall, it took one year of re-writing to get the shooting script. It was originally supposed to be set on the East Coast, not Pasadena.

PB: You said at the screening (at NBFF) this film is based on your family. Being male, how did you find the voices in your strong female leads?

Will: I decided to make the main character “Jacob” (who is meant to be me) younger in the film itself. Also, my sisters are very strong women. So it was easier to find those moments and beats in the film. The movie is based around a family situation, I decided to stop writing what “really” happened to our family. When the film’s main event (the older sister coming home) occurs, the characters and screenplay were then able to evolve without being tied to our life.

PB: How did you prepare to work with an Actor like Peter Bogdanovich and Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm)? Wait, let’s stay with Cheryl Hines. She is incredibly well-known for improv comedy, yet in this film she pulls off a magnificent dramatic performance.

Will: Well, with the whole cast, including Peter, I did two things. I wanted to make sure I knew their reel. I also asked that I have a one on one dinner or did something with each person including Alicia Witt (Two and a Half Men). For me I needed to experience them as people. The process paid off well. With Cheryl it was a careful process, but ultimately I knew we trusted each other. On a side note, she’s a great filmmaker herself and really knows her craft. She’s amazing.

PB: Alicia Witt (also known for an excellent comedic role on Two and a Half Men) to me nearly steals the movie with one of her key scenes. Will, this scene was pure drama and again, I associate her with comedy. Where did that come from?

(Referring to a scene that involves her and her younger brother Jacob–I have to stop there. It involves the film’s ending)

Will: Alicia had some personal tie to that scene. As it was written she cries or breakdown. Alicia was the one who took it to that level. There was something in that scene for her and it just came pouring out. I was pleased with everyone’s performance. They all found their mix in the story.

PB: Peter Bogdanovich had never carried a movie, something he said to me in our interview. What were ways you revolved the film around him, aside from the script and his character? I mean, you couldn’t rely on him alone. The setting was great, what were your added “touches”?

Will: There are a few things I find incredibly important that lent themselves to the Poppy character (Bogdanovich): the house and the opening/closing scenes. I feel we had to show this starts and ends with him. He’s the head of the family. The house had to say he was wealthy with a high-level job. On the other side, the house couldn’t say he was too wealthy.

PB: I liked the house you guys used. It was perfectly reflective of your character.

Will: Thank you, without giving away too much. We knew we had to follow two things most indie-filmmakers forget. The first is Production design, so I’m glad you liked the house we used. The other thing indie-filmmakers forget is, sound is key. These two aspects (when not used properly) can take you out of a film.

PB: The film is titled Cold Turkey (originally titled, Pasadena), yet we never see the city itself or any of its landmarks? No shots of the Rose Bowl or historic buildings.

Will: We did look at a house that over-looked the Rose Bowl and did have some scenes where they go into town. However, I felt since the film is about family and what happens in the house, we could go without showing the Rose Bowl. The title is the title and doesn’t mean we need to see landmarks. I feel it was a good choice.

PB: Me too. One last thing, the camera work was excellent. I sense you enjoy the films of Paul Thomas Anderson. Any other films influence your shooting plan?

Will: Thank you, yes I love Boogie Nights. It is one of my favorite movies, so you’re correct. The gliding camera and house was borrowed from PT Anderson’s shots in Boogie Nights. In our shooting plan we used 12 Angry Men. Since the movie takes place in one setting, we found a lot of ideas from 12 Angry Men.

Read the review of Cold Turkey here.
Read the interview with actor Peter Bogdanovich here.

Interview by Paul Booth

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