One of the things I love most about attending film festivals is discovering small independent gems that were labors of love for everyone involved. You always worry if the films will ever see the light of day outside of the festival circuit. Many don’t. I was very impressed by a comedy that had its world premiere at last year’s Los Angeles Film Festival. I so enjoyed Forev, written and directed by Molly Green and James Leffler, that I met up with Molly, James and the cast of talented unknowns: Noël Wells, Matt Mider and Amanda Bauer. I had a great time talking to this affable group and I remember walking out of the interview with Wells. We were worried that our parking meters were about to run out and we joked about the ancient broken-down jalopies we were both driving. It’s hard enough making any kind of living as a writer, but being a struggling actor? Now that’s tough! About a month later, I was sitting in a coffee shop and almost did a spit-take with my latte when I read that Noël Wells had just been signed to the cast of Saturday Night Live. What? How quickly things can change in this crazy business!
In Forev, Sophie (Noël Wells) and Pete (Matt Mider) are friends, kind of — mostly they’re just neighbors in a somewhat seedy East Hollywood apartment building. When Pete has to drive six hours to pick up his little sister Jess (Amanda Bauer) from college, Sophie invites herself along. Somewhere on the drive, a joke about getting married escalates, and by the time they arrive at Jess’s sorority house in Phoenix, they are officially engaged. Why not? They can split rent, buy milk by the gallon — and, if Sophie marries Pete, he never has to worry about getting up the courage to ask her out. They expect everyone to be excited by their news but Jess, who just broke up with her boyfriend, is horrified. When their Jeep breaks down on the way home, they find themselves stranded in the middle of the desert, and after a night at a local bar, Jess disappears with a bearded drifter. Lost and suddenly dependent on each other, Sophie and Pete’s scramble to find his sister and get back to L.A. exposes some serious cracks in their budding relationship. By the time they find Jess and her one-night stand, they’ve started to realize that falling in love can be a lot scarier than getting married. Forev is a romantic comedy about how far you can go without saying what you mean. It will also make you never want to eat a hot dog again.
I had the chance to sit down again with Molly Green and James Leffler at a local coffee shop. Forev is being released this week on digital platforms and will soon be available on DVD. I really like these guys — they are talented without a trace of the prima donna syndrome that afflicts many first-time directors who make a mark in the festival circuit. I’m excited that everyone can now see this very funny movie and I hope to see a lot more work from these two.
Molly Green: I think we did about 15 other film festivals. It was really fun to travel around with the movie.
And you won some awards, didn’t you?
James Leffler: Yes, at the Portland Film Festival and the Tallgrass Film Festival. It was really really cool to see the different vibes of all the different festivals.
Molly: Yeah, the Portland festival was exactly what you’d imagine it to be. There was a Tom Petty cover band appearing on the stage just before the screening!
I was thrilled when I saw that Noël was going to be on Saturday Night Live. Did that help you get your current distribution deal?
It definitely didn’t hurt. We’re so happy for her — she’s amazingly talented! It was crazy to go from a bunch of friends who made a movie to “Here’s a movie starring SNL’s Noël Wells!”
As I’ll surely be saying in the headline of this article. I remember seeing some of her Girls parodies online just after I saw the movie. Her Lena Dunham is so dead-on. Is that what got her the SNL gig?
When she did her first five-minute audition at a comedy club here in L.A., she came running out afterwards and said, “Oh my God, I forgot to do Lena Dunham!” But all of her impressions are amazing. She probably has one of you from when she met you during that last interview.
James: I remember when we were doing press at that film festival, she kept doing impressions of the two of us after listening to us talk.
Yikes, it’s a good thing she’s so nice — who wants to be friends with someone who can taunt you that easily?
Molly: She is that nice! She never uses her powers for evil! It’s so strange about SNL — it’s one of the fastest ways you can become famous. All of a sudden, Noël was going to be on network TV in two weeks. She was like, “Bye, I’m moving!”
What has Matt Mider been up to?
He’s been booking a ton of commercials lately. You’ve probably seen him.
James: He’s in the Snickers Godzilla commercial so we’ve joked that he’s now out promoting two movies. And he’s writing a lot, too.
I hate to use this word that reality TV has ruined for all of us, but has your “journey” with your first film been what you expected?
Molly: I think it has definitely exceeded our expectations!
James: With each new step, I was like, “I can’t believe this is happening.”
It’s pretty impressive that you managed to get this film made at all.
We had been writing stuff together for a while and had been directing smaller things, but we basically just decided that we were going to write this script and make it — even if it was just Molly holding the camera and me doing sound. That was actually a possibility we discussed. When our producers came on board they wisely convinced us that there was a better way.
So you ended up with a decent-sized crew?
Molly: It was enough for us. We probably had about 12 people on set. We shot the film over 19 days spread out over a bunch of weekends. We mostly shot in the desert where it averaged about 114 degrees!
I assume you had a micro- or non-existent budget but you’d never know it — the film looks great!
Thank you! Because we did have a micro-/non-existent budget! The largest chunk of that came from our own bank accounts.
James: And money we were making in our regular jobs while we were making the movie.
Molly: Yeah, we’d get a paycheck and say, “Okay, we can spend this much on the movie today!” Hey, Danny, I need you to turn around slowly and verify a celebrity sighting.
I’m about 85 percent sure that Taissa Farmiga is sitting right over there.
Vera Farmiga’s little sister? Oh, she’s great.
James: We should just yell out her name and see if she looks up.
Oh yeah, that’s definitely her!
Molly: I love her in American Horror Story!
Speaking of that, can you see yourselves wildly switching genres for your next film? Could you do a horror movie?
I think we’ll probably stay in comedy but maybe a much darker comedy.
James: Yeah, to be honest, I can see us possibly switching genres but not really switching tones, if that makes any sense. I think whatever we do will have equal parts comedy and emotion.
As Forev certainly does. Have you been working on a new script?
Molly: Yes, we’ve been working on a bunch of things. We’ve written one feature script since the last time we saw you.
James: We’re excited for Forev to be available online and we’re thrilled about the DVD release, but we’re also anxious to get on to the next thing.
Molly: I can’t wait to be making something new. It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it’s the same budget as Forev or 80 times the budget level, we’d just love to be out there shooting something!