Sitting Down With The Cast Of “The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Sitting Down With The Cast Of “The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed”

Space To Be Real

May 12, 2024 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

At times, things can feel a bit too real. Joanna Arnow planned it that way.

Arnow is the director and acting lead of the affecting new indie dramedy, The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed, a kinda/sorta coming-of-age film that chronicles an unspecified amount of time in the life of Ann (Arnow) via a series of five vignettes, each named after a love interest. The film’s deadpan humor, awkward pauses, and quirky sensibilities are all part of Arnow’s impressive vision to allow for a greater sense of realism by extending a bit of trust toward her audience.

This film wouldn’t work nearly as well without fellow actors who understood and appreciated what Arnow was trying to do and Scott Cohen (The Americans), who plays Allen, and Babak Tafti (Billions), who plays Chris, deliver as two of her primary lovers.

We recently sat down with the trio of Arnow, Cohen, and Tafti to find out more about working together through such vulnerable scenes and spaces and how the level of trust involved for all parties helped bring the film to life.

Matt Conner (UTR): The thing that’s most striking to me about the new film is that despite its short running time of 88 minutes or so, there’s so much white space in design terms. Awkward pauses. Uncomfortable silence. Even comfortable silence. I’d love to start here with the vision for allowing so much space and yet it’s all so short—was that all purposeful?

Joanna Arnow: It was all very purposeful. [Laughs] No, I’m glad you felt that way. I was really interested in creating an impressionistic experience of how this character is feeling time passing in her life. And you know, I feel like sometimes we feel things go by so quick and sometimes the days go by slower. So I was interested in exploring that variation in these five different sections that each have their own formal set of rules.

I think in terms of the negative space, I’m very much interested in exploring the in-between spaces of things. In relationships, there’s this long-term casual relationship that the protagonist has with this Alan character, and while it’s casual in some ways, there’s also this intimacy. What does it look like in that in-between space, say, when they’re having dinner?

I just think it’s interesting when a character is figuring out how to act in a moment and I wanted to leave space for that in the scenes. There was a slow, deliberate pacing of the scenes that were written with these comic rhythms in mind. So I wanted to leave space for characters to feel that uncomfortable, in-between moment. I’ll leave the rest for Scott or Babak.

Scott Cohen: I was just going to say that the shooting of it was longer than the actual run time of the movie, so some of those scenes went on for a very, very long time.

I’m going to compliment Joanna right now, but one of the things she was capable of doing was taking what we shot which was very long and editing it to a point where the comedy was so spot-on. I remember the first time I saw it, I thought, ‘Holy fuck! This is crazy! How did she do this? How is it possibly this funny?’ Because when you’re shooting it, you’re not aware of that kind of timing in it.

But I do think, and I want to say this, that the idea of living in that space for an actor is one of the greatest challenges that any actor can have is to live in a space and not worry about this kind of cliched concept that if nothing is happening in your eyes, nobody is interested. I disagree with that. I think space is space and should be treated as such and it’s a wonderful place to live in, to be in, to meditate in, to have action in, to be awkward in—all those things that create what it is to be human.

So that to me was wonderful to be a part of that and then to see it on screen work in a way that’s more dramatic and comedic, you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s really quite amazing.’

Babak Tafti: [Laughs] Ditto. Exactly what he just said.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

I want to go back to something you just said. The surprise you described when seeing what Joanna did with it after the fact implied an in-the-moment trust on your part as actors. Can you and Babak speak to what you’re given and the trust factor required?

Scott: Yeah, when we started, we rehearsed for a couple of days and I have to say that I don’t think it was me trusting her. I think it was her trusting me. Then, I think, because she really put so much trust in the fact that she cast me, she wanted me, and I did it that it became me trusting her. It wasn’t like I was going to trust her to begin with. She created this feeling like, ‘Oh, well, she’s okay with me being here so that’s okay with me.’

The trust between adults making movies developed very quickly and, again, it’s a complement to Joanna. She just created that vibe and you just went with it. It’s rare that an actor gets to work with a director and it’s like, ‘Ah, I’m just going to go with this. It feels like it’s going in the right place and I’m not going to get hurt. I feel safe. Everything is good.’

Babak: Yeah, she very much created a comfortable set. We’re dealing with a lot of scenes that deal with awkwardness in sexuality where it could possibly be tricky but I never felt that once on set. She was so relaxed in what she was doing and what she wanted and like Scott said, she made you feel supported in your choices and what you were bringing to the characters that you just gave yourself over to it. At no point were you questioning it.

She’s so specific. Once you read the script, you see a specific point of view. Everything is so specific that you’re more willing to give yourself over to it because you feel like you’re in good hands. It’s when things are general that I kind of get a little scared.

Scott: I want to add one thing. For my character, it’s all about control and dominance but really you’re in service to the script and you’re in service to the director in this case. Which is a strange place to be in because I’m playing a character who is the total opposite of what you’re doing on set. [Laughs]

Joanna: I wanted to say it was amazing to have those two days of rehearsals with both of you and the chance to talk about character and blocking and talk about the script before moving forward with the shooting of it. I was so moved by both of your commitments to the work and to these conversations and your generosity in the process in addition to your comedic acting.

It feels like they’re describing a veteran director here. This being your first feature, what allowed you to be that relaxed or comfortable?

Joanna: Well I was just lucky to have one great team that made it possible. I think I just try to be as prepared as possible and do a good job. It’s my first fiction feature, I should say. I had a doc feature in the past.

Also a lot of times people say acting and directing and doing both is hard. Sure it is, but in some ways it’s actually good because you have to prepare so much and rehearse so much in advance that the scenes really get in your body in a different way. I don’t know. Maybe with acting, it brings a certain relaxation to the directing as well. So I’m not saying it’s easier than not acting in a film you’re directing, but I think there are some under-appreciated benefits possibly.

This movie feels like it trusts the audience in some rare ways. Instead of some longer stretches of dialogue to get a point across or other such moves, there are these spaces we’ve discussed and it made me wonder if you had thought about trying to think more of your audience in that way?

Joanna: I wanted to create a film that was in some way more reflective of experience and life than some more conventional films. One way is through character arc. The change a character goes through is fairly small, if at all, and traditional films feature a character who goes from Point A to somewhere totally different in Point B. To me, that’s not reflective of how life actually works. To me, the journey is a bit more jagged and uneven. Things go back one way and forward another way. That’s one way with character change being so small.

Also characters didn’t signpost their emotional states in quite the way that a more conventional film would. In life, I don’t really go around seeing people signpost exactly where they are. I think it’s more interesting to have a character not being totally direct about the way she’s feeling all the time. I want to give the audience space to think about her actions and what they’re seeing and imagine what they might be feeling. That in itself give some narrative tension.

Babak: There’s something about the lean-in factor that this movie does as far as seeing little differences. When things pop, they really pop in terms of emotional expression. There’s a moment where I ask, ‘Are people not nice?’ And you kind of do a simple look up and say, ‘I don’t know.’ It said so much to me as an audience member about what her journey might be because there’s something about the pacing and the way it all works that makes those emotional moments pop. They’re so powerful and gratifying as an audience member when I’ve seen it. That lean-in factor and the paces let you really have these powerful evolutionary moments from these microscopic things that feel real-to-life for me.

Joanna: I just feel like in creating a story that’s a little bit more reflective of life and character that my hope as a filmmaker is that it gives people a chance to connect to it more strongly when they see it. They might see themselves that doesn’t seem as glossy or sensationalist or removed from everyday life.


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