David Henrie spoke with Solzy at the Movies about his new film, This Is the Year, while also touching on Wizards of Waverly Place.
Directed by David Henrie and executive produced by Wizards castmate Selena Gomez, This Is the Year stars Lorenzo James Henrie, Vanessa Marano, Bug Hall, Alyssa Jirrels, Jake Short ,with Jeff Garlin and Gregg Sulkin. Th script is written by Sienna Aquilini, David Henrie, PepePortillo, and Bug Hall.
This Is the Year marks your feature directorial debut. When did you decide it was time to direct a feature film?
David Henrie: I guess from the time I was a little kid, I grew up making home movies for my family. I come from a big Italian family and whenever it was someone’s birthday, I would pick up a camcorder and I would parody them and that would be my gift to them. I guess the feeling that got me in the business in the first place was making an impact on someone with moving images, putting a smile on their face. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid. I feel like, in a lot of ways, my acting career built me to the place where I was able to direct my first film. It’s something I wanted to do forever and it’s a feel-good movie. I feel like we live in crazy times right now so my goal with this wasn’t to win festivals or get an Oscar but it was merely to try to give someone a feel-good experience and give them a warm feeling. Those were always my favorite movies growing up so hopefully, we were able to take people away from reality for a brief moment and have them just enjoy a popcorn feel-good film.
Would you say that you are the type that was always asking questions to the directors on set of shows like Wizards of Waverly Place or How I Met Your Mother?
David Henrie: Oh, yeah. From the time I was very young, growing up on sets, I always was very curious about why people were placing the camera in different positions and why they used different camera moves and how they worked with actors. I was always taking mental notes over the course of my 20 year career—directors that I respected, once I didn’t respect .I learned you learn as much from people you don’t like as people you do like. I hope that I emulated the qualities of those I’ve learned from.
Speaking of people that you do or don’t like, what was it like to direct your brother?
David Henrie: (Laughs) He’s a don’t like for sure. No, he was amazing. It was great. I’m sure you know this—you’ve spoken to a lot of filmmakers over the years—the enemy of all independent films is time. So to work with someone who I love, trust and respect, and who could give me what I wanted very quickly because we have such a shorthand was an absolute blessing to the project. I would just have to give him one look and he’d know what I needed. It didn’t take a five-minute discussion and those minutes add up over time, which then gives you the luxury of getting a sweetheart shot, which improves the end product. To work with someone who could give me what I wanted very quickly just made the biggest difference to a low-budget independent film.
I think you just answered my next question, which is the most challenging aspect of the production because it seems like every filmmaker always says time.
David Henrie: Yeah, time really is the enemy of every independent film, especially because you have this grand vision and everything you’re comparing it to has budgets that are nine times the size of your budget. You’re trying to get across that feeling of those films that inspired you, which are way bigger and you don’t have the time to do that. You have to get really creative to try to recreate that feeling so that’s what I did. I spent a lot of time in prep, doing things like storyboarding, which a lot of first-time filmmakers don’t do because of cost or not liking that specific way of making films. But it really, I think, helped make this film better because we’re able to do things that I think gave it a bigger feel because we storyboarded it out, because we beta-tested it as Steve Jobs would say when speaking about storyboarding. We got to test the film out ahead of time and I think that made a big difference to the overall look and feel of the film.
The film is a contemporary take on the coming-of-age films from the 1980s. Do you have any favorite films from this era?
David Henrie: I always wish I could have been in Ferris Bueller’s. I wish that was real life and I could have been on that journey with them. I just loved that movie. It was so fun and so feel-good. There’s a lot of movies in the 80s that I that I really liked. I really liked Some Kind of Wonderful—just all the John Hughes kind of films that it’s hard to pick one. There’s so many.
I see a lot of the Ferris Bueller’s locations every now and then with Chicago.
David Henrie: Cool. That’s awesome. Chicago is great.
Is it hard to believe that next year will mark 15 years since Wizards of Waverly Place premiered on Disney?
David Henrie: Is it that long?
David Henrie: Dude, I am old! That’s crazy. I was 16 when that show started. Yeah. Wow, that’s crazy. Good to know. Man, time flies.