Kat Foster and writer-director Gina O’Brien spoke with Solzy at the Movies about First One In ahead of Tuesday’s Digital/VOD release.
First One In stars Kat Foster, Georgia King, Alana O’Brien, Catherine Curtin, Emy Coligado, Aneesh Sheth, Karina Arroyave, Josh Segarra, and Michael Ian Black.
How exciting is it to get First One In out there in front of a larger audience?
Gina O’Brien: Oh, man, I couldn’t be happier. I just think it landed in the best place it could especially during a pandemic. The choices are very limited. I am thrilled.
One of the things I like about the film is that it’s not the typical comedy starring women. What was the genesis behind the screenplay?
Gina O’Brien: Well, absolutely. We could have easily become a romantic comedy but that is not what my goal was. I really wanted it to be about this group of women who became friends, were in situations that were different than traditional situations, and didn’t end with meeting a guy and getting married to the bank.
One of your cinematic inspirations from my understanding is Edgar Wright. In what way did his work influence the film?
Oh my gosh. Did you read my director’s statement?
Yes, I did.
Gina O’Brien: Edgar Wright absolutely was an inspiration. We needed ways to make certain scenes work. I love the way he uses humor in having somebody enter a scene, leave a scene, or go from day to night—which, if you’ve seen the film, you saw that a couple of times: the head popped in and popped out. Kat wakes up. We don’t need to see her get ready for work. She’s ready for work, ready to go at home. I definitely appreciate the way he uses different camerawork to bring more humor to a scene.
There are actors here with improv backgrounds. When you’re shooting a film over 23 days, how much opportunity is there to improv on set?
Kat Foster: Gina was very liberal with us. Wouldn’t you say, Gina? She encouraged it.
Gina O’Brien: Yeah. It was very welcome encouragement. It’s great to allow these professional actors and comedians really do their job—just let them do their jobs. We did tap into the improv world—the UCB world—to find a couple of actors who would perfectly bring the materials to a different level. Jeff Hiller was one of them. Cathryn Mudon was one of them. I definitely encouraged it.
What’s the most challenging part that comes with shooting a film that involves sports especially since you can’t direct a tennis ball?
Gina O’Brien: (Laughs) You have to have a great editor. Our editor, Chuck Divak, did an incredible job of really making the tennis play energetic and it really was. It also had a lot to do with how we shot these tennis players who many of them never picked up a racket. That was another challenge but we did have an incredible on-set pro, Medhi Darlis, who is a filmmaker in his own right and really knew how to capture people playing tennis. It was challenging. It definitely was challenging especially in the heat of summer on Long Island and Kat her in life, too—
Kat Foster: I think the fact that you don’t necessarily have to see where the tennis ball goes in the same shot that you see the tennis ball shot compensates for the fact that tennis balls don’t take direction very well.
Kat, what attracted you to Gina’s screenplay and what did you bring to Madi that wasn’t in the script?
Kat Foster: What attracted me to skip is that I thought it was really funny and I thought it was a really unique jumping off point. I thought it was sort of a really unique journey. Also, I found it very funny the first time I read it. I thought there’s a lot of fun, fun stuff to dig into comedically. I was just sort of talking about this with someone else but I feel like for a lot of stuff I do, there’s a theme that emerges about—going from a mind that is evaluative and sort of wants to place both myself and others on some kind of totem pole—higher or lower—going from a mind like that to a mind that is all-inclusive and more connective and not evaluative in that way. I think that is also Madi’s journey. She starts in sort of the lowest low and she sees this other character who she perceived to be at the highest high, and through trials realizes that it’s actually all one in the same. I think that’s sort of what I extrapolated to be the journey in sort of a bigger way.
What do you typically look for in a script when selecting a project?
Kat Foster: It’s really, can I find truth in this? Can I relate with this? But the real question is: is there truth in it? As long as there’s truth in it, then I can relate with it. That’s really the biggest thing for me. Does it feel real? Does it feel honest? As silly as it is, it feels like there’s honesty and humaneness in here. That’s what I look for. Certainly, I thought First One In had that in spades.
Gina O’Brien: Absolutely. Kat definitely brought in this real and genuine personality that I think a lot of women can relate to so it great. Kat did a fantastic job being a real genuine person.
Kat Foster: Being Madi?
Gina O’Brien: Of course, she was a really character. Thank you.
Are there any other things that you take into account such as scheduling, location, etc.?
Kat Foster: When we started shooting First One In, I had a 10 month old. It was the first time that I’d had to deal with how do I be the lead of a movie with a tiny, tiny baby I’ve committed my life to taking care of. This was a unique circumstance for me. Gina and the team of producers, Rosetta Films, Paul Jarrett, and Nick Huston were so accommodating, thankfully. But generally speaking, that always comes second to the script, the character and the truth in it. It becomes who am I working with? As soon as I got on the phone with Gina and I heard her. We spoke and discussed. It all felt like a great match and she’s obviously—as I’m sure you can tell only having spoken with her for 10 minutes—she’s a lovely human who is very intelligent, feeling, compassionate, inspiring and funny. It all felt like quite a good match.
Gina O’Brien: Thank you. Danielle, I have to mention—there is a moment when we were shooting where my daughter was in the scene with Kat.
Kat Foster: By the way, Gina’s daughter is a great actress. She plays receptionist at ACME Tennis.
Gina O’Brien: She’s Front Desk Debbie. I was so nervous because—you have nerves the whole time—this moment, I thought, Oh my G-d, my daughter is going to be acting and I have to really be careful how I direct her. Hopefully, it’ll go well, so Kat doesn’t hate me. I was so nervous. It was like, I hope you know your lines. I think it really worked well and you were so generous. You really made her feel at home.
Kat Foster: I’ve had the opportunity now twice—in your movie and then this other movie I did called Accommodations. In that movie, I also got an opportunity to work with the director’s kid. I love that. I just love it so much because it adds some authenticity for some reason. It sort of feels like—I love this feeling that everyone is making the movie is in a big family. It’s sort of idealistic in some ways but if it works, then it feels really cozy and cushy. It’s a nice feeling and I think it’s really additive because there’s already sort of a connection that you don’t have to act. The scene becomes richer without anyone trying.
What were your tennis skills prior to signing on and where are they right now?
Kat Foster: Prior to signing on, I was an unskilled tennis player. No, I’ve taken some lessons maybe a decade ago. More recently, a few. I wasn’t altogether as familiar with tennis but the second that the offer came in, I signed up for tennis lessons and took a two hour tennis lesson every day until I left for Long Island, which is where we shot the movie. The lessons paid off. I felt like I had mastered a forehand, backhand, and maybe a serve enough to fake it a little bit enough to enough to get one or two good takes. Then we have amazing tennis pro on set was so helpful. When I got back, I had every intention of continuing tennis because in truth I love it. I love playing tennis. But like as discussed, baby, life, and whatever so unfortunately, I haven’t been back on a corner since we shot the movie which makes me sad. But maybe Gina can come to Los Angeles and, we can get on a court. By the way, tennis is the best quarantine sport in the world.
Gina O’Brien: It really is.
Kat Foster: You don’t have to think about.
Gina O’Brien: You can socialize a little bit.
Kat Foster: I know. Genius! I got to get back in.
Outside of sharing Instagram stories on food, how has the pandemic been in terms of creativity?
Kat Foster: It’s been great. I’ve been writing a ton. Auditions, I guess, are starting a little bit and some stuff coming through. The writing has been great for me and, yeah, the food stuff is creative. Gina, you’ve been writing, right? You’re probably almost done on the next—
Gina O’Brien: Yeah. Well, actually, the pandemic hit and then we had to stop post-production. There were a few weeks there where we were silent and then we figured out how to work remotely. That continued up until you two weeks ago. We really were still working on the film but yes, I’m going back to a project I had started before I even wrote First One In. I love it so I hope to finish it soon and see what happens.
Can you talk about finishing up the film remotely during a pandemic?
Gina O’Brien: We were in a soundstage just finishing up there and then starting to color the film. It was so strange. I mean, everybody has stories but I was hopping on the subways, working on the West Side, working on the East Side, and then suddenly just the streets are becoming a little bit more empty. It’s been a weirdness. And then we were, I think we were just, I don’t know, maybe a couple weeks away from finishing when everything shut down. After that, you really don’t want to lose your enthusiasm. Because at that point, we didn’t know how long this would go on. We were rushing towards the deadline trying to get trying to get the color done remotely. Our colors couldn’t go to studio. It was challenging. It was drawn out but we got there eventually and maybe it was good. It just took so long because we had a chance to really go over everything.