Kelly Blatz spoke with Solzy at the Movies this week about his newly released film, Senior Love Triangle, launching on Digital and VOD today.
Senior Love Triangle is getting released on August 4. How excited are you to get the film out in front of a wider audience?
Kelly Blatz: This has been a project almost 5 years in the making, so I kind of feel like I am sending my first child to Kindergarten. Equal parts terrifying, equal parts exciting, and looking forward to some afternoons where I am not screaming and cleaning peanut butter off of the kitchen floor.
You co-wrote the film with Isadora Kosofsky. How did you first hear about her photo series in Time?
Kelly Blatz: Isadora and I became friends through our mutual love of James Nachtwey. She showed me her photography work and I was stunned by “Senior Love Triangle.” The photo series was so cinematic, I thought they were stills from a film. I asked her if she would be interested in trying to adapt the story as a narrative film. We scribbled down everything she remembered about her experience with the three of them, and that became the foundation for the script.
How did the casting come together?
Kelly Blatz: The casting was a sort of kismet situation. After we decided to write the film, we met Marlyn Mason at Ashland Film Festival, and Isadora told me that she “was Jeanie.” So we sent her the script and she said “If you need me to ride a horse or get naked, I will.” So we cast her on the spot. We met Tom Bower at an acting workshop randomly. We sent him the script and he said “I am in, and I know who is going to play Adina.” So he sent us Anne Gee Byrd, and she was like “Let’s do this,” and that became our triangle. I was incredibly lucky.
This was your first feature film as a director and you also worked on the film as a co-editor. Did the process get overwhelming at times?
Kelly Blatz: Did I mention I was screaming earlier? Like life itself, the experience of making this film was absurd, beautiful, painful, and worth every second.
How did you end up editing the film in Tel Aviv and Paris before coming back to Los Angeles for post-production?
Kelly Blatz: I planned to work with an editor in Paris, but the day I was flying there she dropped out. I had already paid for an apartment for two months, so I put my iMac and hard drive in a suitcase and decided to edit the first cut myself in Paris. How I ended up in Tel Aviv after that…I am not really sure. I think it was a strong Mediterranean wind. But the food was incredible and the first cut got finished. I came back to LA and told my friend/co-editor Seth Clark, “I am not sure if this film even makes sense.” He watched it and said “It does” and we tweaked it for another couple of months at my house in LA before screening it.
You mentioned the food in Tel Aviv. Did you have a favorite restaurant or go-to meal?
Kelly Blatz: My favorite go-to spot was the SHAFFA BAR in the Jaffa old market area. Their Shakshuka was out of this world. And they always had disco coming out of the speakers. I didn’t know Israeli’s loved disco so much. The mix of the ShakShuka and a Gloria Gainor remix one afternoon was a combo yet to be paralleled in my life.
When you decided to make the transition to directing, did you start looking into shadowing a director on set?
Kelly Blatz: The only director I ever asked to “shadow” was Gus Van Sant. I met him at the Kubrick exhibit at LACMA years ago and had his number in my phone. Five years later I texted him “Hey Gus, it’s that guy you met on a random Wednesday at LACMA around 2014. I am making films now and would love to shadow you.” To my surprise, he responded right away “I remember you. Coffee tomorrow?” We had coffee and he showed me how he wrote his outlines. He’s a painter and he draws his stories visually and with colors. I took a lot out of that afternoon. I haven’t seen him since. Thanks Gus.
What was the most challenging part of the production?
Kelly Blatz: Trying to make sure the actors always had a place to change their clothes.
What is one thing you wish you knew going into this experience?
Kelly Blatz: That all is well that ends well.
As far as figuring out the look of Senior Love Triangle, were there any films that you watched prior to going into production?
Kelly Blatz: Jon Keng (the DP) and myself really wanted to emulate the look and feel of the photo series. Isadora shot her entire series with a 50mm lens, so we decided to shoot the entire film with a 50mm lens. The only film that we watched before we shot was Andrea Arnold’s American Honey because Jon liked the way the camera moved with the actors in certain scenes.
The film played a number of film festivals. What has the reception been like?
Kelly Blatz: Whether the reactions have been good or bad, they are never tepid. They are always quite strong. I saw an elderly woman in Victoria walk out of the theatre holding her chest and searching for a cup of water. I think that was the best reaction I’ve gotten so far.
Given how hard it is to find screens for independent film these days (and that’s before the pandemic), how much did getting a theatrical release factor in choosing a distributor?
Kelly Blatz: I always expected myself to throw this film in a backpack, jump on my motorcycle and take it from village to village like the old circus players in France. Gravitas only wanted to pick up the On Demand/Streaming rights, so I still planned on my cinema circus act, four-walling with any art house theatre who would take me. I believe in the magic of watching a film in a dark theatre, with an audience. Then the pandemic hit, and that dream went into a coma (but will live again).
How has the pandemic affected you as an actor and filmmaker when it comes to getting any work done?
Kelly Blatz: Does perfecting my Grandma Jo’s Zuchini bread count as work? If so, then it’s been fabulous. If not, then it’s been strange.
As the director of an independent film, do you feel worried that it might not find an audience at a time when so many people are turning to nostalgia for comfort?
Kelly Blatz: I listen to the same Disco playlist every day of my life, so I turn to nostalgia for comfort just like the rest of them. But I tend to not worry about stuff like that. I have faith that, if you build it, they will come. Maybe now, maybe later. But in the end, the privilege of making the film itself, with a group of wonderful people, makes it all worth it.
What do you hope people take away from the film?
Kelly Blatz: A feeling. Any feeling.