Neil LaBute

Run Time:


Synopsis: Fed up with her relationship with a married man, a young woman decides to meet his wife for coffee.

Was this film always intended to be a short?

It was a short. I still write a lot of material where I am not quite sure what it'll end up being. It’s often very dialogue driven. Sometimes, it’s just interesting characters or scenarios. I love the monologue. You don't see it used very often in film to break the fourth wall (between actor and the audience), something you do in theater quite often. I love it when you do see that sort of thing, so I wanted to do that with a really strong performance piece.

Where did the idea for the monologue come from?

I acknowledge August Strindberg in the credits. There's a play of his called STRONGER which has two actors and one of them stays silent throughout. I had always liked his work. The idea for SEXTING came from that.

Why black and white?

It’s just an aesthetic choice and a pleasurable one for me. I really love the look of black and white as a viewer. We see it much more rarely these days and I always appreciate it when I do see it. I think that's one of the beauties of the short form. It’s a lot like a play. It’s deceptively difficult. People think “Oh, its short I can write in five pages” but to do a good short story with a beginning, a middle, and an end is really quite tricky. I found it to be a really great exercise. I enjoy writing short stories and short plays and working on short films. There aren't the same economic pressures on a short film, like who will go see it and where will it be released and all that.

Was Julia Styles your first choice of actress for the part?

No, no, that was just a lucky break. I happened to work with her on a theater project and had always liked her work. I rarely write for a particular actor. When writing, what I'm trying to do is create a character that allows actors to mold themselves to the character. Often, when you think a part is perfect for this one person, you open yourself to heartbreak because maybe you can't get them or maybe it takes a long time to get them. I like to believe there are a lot of good actors out there that can take the material I create and make something out of it.

A monologue is one thought that transgresses into many thoughts. What are the tricks and pitfalls when writing one?

I had both actors in SEXTING talk right down the barrel of the camera so that they can be talking, in essence, to an audience--making that connection. A monologue can break that fourth wall and make the audience a silent partner in a way we rarely see in film. I try to use the form as much as possible to make that connection with the audience. Part of the trick to that is keeping the piece in the present. It can get very reflective. You hear many monologues in which an actor brings up something from the past, a part of their childhood or a first meeting. You can get very wistful and drop into a place that isn't as dramatically charged. In this case, I was doing something that is very present. In fact, she mentions things that had already happened, but her objective is to find out from this woman what was going on in her current relationship. That keeps the piece in the present tense and very electric rather then reflective. To sit back on the heels of reflection is always dangerous when trying to create a monologue.

Do you plan to make any more short films?

I would like to. Since SEXTING, I have written a couple that other people have directed. I would love to do some more. I found it really exciting. Getting together and creating something quickly with a quick turn-around was thrilling. It was still work. Everything you do, if you do it well, is always work, but there was a control to it that I hadn't felt for a long time. You know, no one looking over your shoulder, no-one worrying about money and all that. It was just all of us getting together to create this fun thing. It was a real pleasure and I look forward to doing a few more of these.

I can imagine this film becoming an audition piece for many actresses around the world. What advice have you got for that actress?

I think this piece is a bit too long for that. Maybe they could pick pieces of it, 90 seconds or two minutes of it. When auditioning, you only have those few un-natural moments where you go into a room and in a minute and a half you have to show them what you've got. In this piece, the fireworks are there. She can go from being tearful to angry to jovial. There are a lot of colors there to play. I would just grab those pieces and make them your own.

What advice would you give a filmmaker about to make their first short film?

Take the leap. Believe in yourself. Go from planning it at Starbucks to filming it at Starbucks. There's never been a better time. There are so many places people can see the film now, from YouTube, to cell phones, to festivals like this one. Stop thinking about it and jump in. You'll find out that the water is just fine once you do it.

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