Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Le'TALK: l'étoile interviews 'Nobody' writer/director Rob Perez

by Kate Iverson

Screenplay writer Rob Perez arrived in the Twin Cities two years ago and set up camp in Josh Hartnett's Lake Minnetonka home to pen the indie comedy Nobody, and subesquently fell in love with his surroundings. So much so, that when it came time to scout locations to shoot the flick, Minneapolis/St.Paul was the obvious choice. Best known for writing the romantic comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights, which starred local boy-made-good Hartnett (who aptly enough is executive producer on Nobody), Perez set forth with co-writer Ryan Miller to design a thoughtful film about an artist on a mission of self-discovery, and Nobody was born. His first crack at writing and directing one of his own films proved fruitful -- Nobody opens with plenty of fanfare with a red carpet premiere at the State Theater on Thursday night.

The film stars Minnesota-bred actor Sam Rosen (now of NYC) as Lindeman, an art school student who struggles with his final project -- and hence the meaning of life. Through a series of comedic events and revelations, Lindeman eventually realizes that "he doesn't need to be somebody to be someone." Filmed at numerous recognizable Twin Cities locations such as the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and even featuring a scene at Porky's Drive-In, Nobody has plenty of local flavor (and plenty of familiar faces).

The red carpet premiere of Nobody happens this Thursday, October 1st at the State Theater. Tickets are available HERE. Nobody opens to the public with an exclusive engagement at Kerasote's Block E in downtown Minneapolis on Friday, October 2nd -- for more info click HERE.

We chatted with Perez this week about his new film and his appreciation for the Twin Cities....

Your new flick, Nobody, is opening October 1st with a fancy premiere party at the State Theater. How did this labor of love come to fruition and why did you choose to set the film in the Twin Cities?

The short version goes something like this: Nobody came about because I was tired of writing screenplays for a living and wanted to get back to what I set out to do in the first place - make movies. It involved taking a huge paycut and finding a new place to call home, but it was well worth it.

Co-writer Ryan Miller and I choose to set the story in the Twin Cities because the vibe of the film felt right here. The tone of Nobody is sweet and charming and this town has that feeling in spades. Coincidentally, Sam Rosen, my leading man is from here. Josh Hartnett, as everyone knows, is also from here. So as we started scouting locations, everything kept pointing us to the Twin Cities. Even after scouting a few other cities, there was no other place we could shoot the film but here.

Nobody and your first film, 40 Days and 40 Nights, seem to be very different in tone, though they both fall under the "romantic comedy" umbrella. How has your writing evolved and do you ever see yourself settling into a particular niche?

One small correction - Nobody is not a romantic comedy. It's just a comedy that may or may not have some romance in it. My writing has evolved immensely since 40 Days and 40 Nights. I was just a wee pup when that picture was made, but five years from now I expect I will be saying the exact same thing about myself as a writer now. As you know, writing is not something you master - it's one of those student-for-life kind of deals. I expect I've gotten more sure of foot, and more comfortable in my own shoes as I've gotten older. This helps with writing because a point of view is very much at the center of telling a story. At the heart of what kind of writer I am, I'd have to call myself a comedy writer. I love telling stories that make people laugh. Life's plenty hard and if I can give people a reason to smile or, even better, laugh, success!

Not only did you pen the screenplay, but Nobody is also your directorial debut. Wearing both hats pretty much puts you in the superhuman category -- have you slept at all since the project began? How hard was it to make the jump from writer to director?

What is this word 'sleep'? I've heard it used before. It sounds familiar...I remember during the middle of production I was averaging about four hours. I would go to bed around 3ish and often be up by 6. The worst part is your brain is going so hard that even though you're exhausted, it's difficult to slow it down to actually fall asleep. But what you lack in that sharpness that comes from being well-rested, you make up for in adrenaline. you show up on set, see the circus, the 100 or so people and trucks and equipment there to make this film and you instantly find the energy to do the job as best as you can.

Jumping from writer to director was less preparation than I had hoped. As a writer I know structure, character, and arcs, but I didn't know anything about where to put the camera, how to talk to actors, how to lead a crew, editing a film. So you learn as you go. I'm a pretty quick study, so even though directing was the steepest learning curve I've ever been on, I feel like everyday I got better and the fact that this film makes any sense at all (and it does) is a huge triumph of sorts.

We love that Nobody was filmed at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Were you able to incorporate any local artists into the film?

My crazy answer to your good question is: I didn't use any local artists in the film because I didnt use any art in the film - at all. One of the conceits in this film is that I never show any art. maybe an edge of a canvas or a very small part of a sculpture, but never-ever the whole thing. The story is about an artist (a sculptor) and his artist friends (fashion, photographer, performance, etc.) and yet we never see one whole piece of art the entire picture. I do that because this film is not about the art; it's about the artist and his journey. The finished product, the actual art he makes is a bit beside the point.

You wrote Nobody while living in Josh Hartnett's home on Lake Minnetonka. Now that the film has wrapped, do you plan on sticking around the Twin Cities? Have any juicy Hartnett gossip you can spill?

I've been here in the Twin Cities exactly two years and I plan on staying as long as this community will have me. I want to tell stories that make people laugh and smile and feel. If I can do that in this city again (I've now done it once) I will stay and try my hardest to make my next story a little bit better than this one.

Josh Hartnett gossip? Don't you have the tabloids for that? And, if so, I would recommend you believe everything you read in there.

What's next for Rob Perez?

When I first got to town in September of 2007 I was completely inspired by the theater community here and I wrote a play. The story is set here in the back room of a pub and I hope to put it up this winter at Keiran's Irish Pub.

What are your top five favorite things about the Twin Cities?

-Enjoying a Prairie Vodka martini while watching the sunset on Lake of the Isles
-Little kids wearing winter jackets that are so puffy their arms stick straight out
-Enjoying a beer at the Bryant Lake Bowl
-Sunday brunch at the Grand Cafe

The red carpet premiere of Nobody happens on Thursday, October 1st at the State Theater. To purchase tickets and for more info click HERE.

Nobody officially opens on Friday October 2nd with an exclusive engagement at Kerasotes Block E. Click HERE for info.

Visit the movie's official website at

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