Writer-Director Drake Doremus on His Career Breakthrough 'Like Crazy' (Audio)

Drake Doremus
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Though Doremus attended AFI and learned a "more structured style of filmmaking," it's his improv roots -- he taught at the Orange County Crazies after studying at the Groundlings, where his mother was a founding member -- that are leading him to fame.

Each awards season, moviegoers and the media devote their attention to some new breakthrough star (i.e. Amy Adams, Carey Mulligan, Jennifer Lawrence, etc.), but the people who make the industry go 'round -- studio chiefs, agents, managers, publicists, etc. -- focus even more on a breakthrough filmmaker (i.e. Jason Reitman, Oren Moverman, Tom Hooper, etc.). After all, a good filmmaker influences whether or not a film turns out well every bit as much as a big star (usually more so) and will probably have a much longer career in the business.

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This year, a young up-and-coming filmmaker who has caught everyone's notice, arguably more than any other, is Drake Doremus, the 28-year-old co-writer (along with his best friend Ben York Jones) and director of the micro-budget indie Like Crazy. The film is a semi-autobiographical love story that stars Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, won the Grand Jury Prize at January's Sundance Film Festival (and a special prize for Jones), was the subject of a bidding war that was ultimately won by Paramount for $4 million, and is now being rolled out in art house theaters around the country.

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Aside from the deeply engaging story that unfolds on-screen, what makes the film and its filmmaker so interesting to me is the way that it came together. Doremus, who previously co-wrote and directed the borderline-mumblecore indies Spooner (2009) and Douchebag (2010), doesn't exactly furnish his actors with a "script," but rather with various scenarios, each of which includes all sorts of useful details but still leaves plenty of room for spontaneity and improvisation. Moreover, like Derek Cianfrance on Blue Valentine (2010) -- another heartrending story about the ups and downs of modern love -- Doremus essentially had his lead actors inhabit their parts for the entirety of the month-long production; they always assumed that they were being filmed, and consequently "became" their characters as much as actors can. (The most remarkable part: Yelchin and Jones, on whose chemistry the movie depends, met for the first time only a week before shooting commenced!)

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Doremus is an eccentric, exuberant, lovely guy with whom I have crossed paths numerous times since we first met a month ago -- in fact, we sat across from each other at the Governors Awards on Saturday night. He is definitely someone to watch -- his next film, which just wrapped this month and will probably be released next year, also stars Jones -- and I have truly enjoyed getting to know him. Following is audio of a conversation that we had several weeks ago about his life, work, and aspirations.