Roxane Mesquida, Najarra Townsend, Kevin Wehby, Jack C. Newell, Shane Simmons and Michael Glover Smith on “Mercury in Retrograde”

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Michael Glover Smith’s sophomore feature, “Mercury in Retrograde,” is a lyrical ode to the unspoken truths tucked between words. It follows three couples on a weekend vacation to a cabin in Michigan, where they take part in a series of diversions—disc golf, yoga, horoscope readings, book club debates—occasionally doused in alcohol. What makes these casual interactions so compelling is their subtext, which grows clearer the more we learn about the characters. Being in such close quarters with other couples around your age can often result in an unexpected revelation. A voice echoing from another room can tell you something about your own life that you weren’t willing to acknowledge, much like the voice emanating from the ventilation system in Woody Allen’s similarly thoughtful 1988 gem, “Another Woman.”

Among the film’s stellar ensemble cast are Roxane Mesquida and Najarra Townsend, two actresses who both received breakthrough roles in the early 2000’s as young women faced with the decision of how to lose their virginity. Each was featured in an uncompromisingly honest female-directed masterpiece: Mesquida in Catherine Breillat’s “Fat Girl” and Townsend in Miranda July’s “Me and You and Everyone We Know.” Smith’s film casts Townsend as Peggy, a woman harboring a deep well of pain, much to the bewilderment of her boyfriend, Wyatt (Shane Simmons), while Mesquida plays Isabelle, a French woman whose relationship with Richard (Kevin Wehby, the young lover in Smith’s debut film, “Cool Apocalypse”), has hit the skids. Injecting warmth into the proceedings are Golda (Alana Arenas) and Jack (Jack C. Newell), whose decade together has brought them a great deal of perspective.

One year ago, I had the privilege of visiting the set of “Mercury in Retrograde” on the second-to-last day of the shoot, where I spoke with Mesquida, Townsend and Wehby. Now that the film is set to premiere this Saturday at the Full Bloom Film Festival in North Carolina, I met up with Smith, Simmons and Newell—all of whom are accomplished filmmakers in their own right—to discuss their memories of the production. What follows is an edited compilation of these conversations, detailing the story behind one of the most remarkable Chicago-made indies in recent memory.

On the film’s origins

Michael Glover Smith (MS): The first idea that I had for “Mercury in Retrograde” actually grew out of a scene in “Cool Apocalypse.” That film intercuts between two couples who are going on dates, and at the climax, the characters all have dinner together. There’s a moment where the women are going out on the porch, and the men are in the dining room. One guy says to the other, “What do you think they’re talking about out there?” and the other guy says, “Probably about you and me.” Then it cuts to the women, and they’re actually talking about clothes. Every time that played to an audience, it got a lot of laughs, and I thought, “There’s a lot more to be mined here in terms of this kind of juxtaposition.” 

Whereas “Cool Apocalypse” is a relationship film about people living and working in Chicago—they go on a date when they’re on their lunch break—“Mercury” is about people on vacation. There’s something about the act of going on vacation that is conducive to allowing you to reflect on your life. Whenever I’ve had realizations about a change that needed to happen in my life, it often happened after I stepped out of my daily routine. When you live in a city and you’re working 40 hours a week, sometimes you get into this daily grind where you’re almost like a robot. You work 9 to 5, you come home, make dinner, your significant other comes home, you ask how their day was, they tell you, you tell them how your day was, then you turn on the TV and do whatever until it’s time to go to bed. In this film, the act of going on vacation gives all of these characters a chance to reflect on who they are and where they’re going.

Kevin Wehby (KW): I responded to my role as Paul in “Cool Apocalypse” because it was basically just me. It wasn’t so much Paul, it was mostly Kevin. Mike explained to us that he had written himself into a lot of the characters, and so we actually spent a lot of time with him. He talked us through why the characters were a certain way and what we needed to convey because the story was close to him, so we just tried hard to do that. We didn’t really improvise much at all. The dialogue was just how he had written it. We rehearsed with the whole cast and then for the specific scenes between couples, we would rehearse individually with our scene partner. We were able to do each scene a few times before we actually got onset to film.

When I traveled up from my home in Birmingham for the screening of “Cool Apocalypse” at the Siskel Center, Mike told me that he had another script and asked if I’d like to do a read through. He had me in mind for some reason, and he liked what I did with the character of Richard. The cast changed a few times over, and I was the only one that stayed in the same role. I was just happy that he kept me onboard.

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On working with Miranda July

Najarra Townsend (NT): I think I only worked a total of six days on “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” and I was really young when I made it. I was 14, and the experience was fast and condensed. Miranda was amazing to work with, and I really looked up to her. She would have discussions with us to make sure that we were comfortable with everything, and that everything was true to life. I spent a lot of time with Natasha Slayton, the girl who played my friend. We would hang out offset to grow a bond. Miranda had to go through a lot of the child labor laws with us because we had a blow-job scene, and we couldn’t be in the same room as the boy. Certain words had to be changed because I wasn’t old enough to say them. I wish I took more from it, but at the time, it was just a super-fun experience. I knew I was making something that was different and cool and that would possibly make people uncomfortable, and I really enjoyed that. The film is refreshing, even to this day.

Roxane Mesquida (RM): It’s very interesting for me to hear about how sexuality is dealt with in American films. “Kaboom” was my first American movie, and I had to have a conversation with my manager and my agent about the fact that I show my breasts in the movie. They were talking to me about my nudity, and it all had to be written in the contract. I felt so awkward that it would be on paper, and I didn’t like to speak about it with these men who I didn’t really know. In France, it’s not like this at all. But “Fat Girl” faced a lot of problems regarding distribution. The girl who plays my sister was just 13, and her character gets raped in the film. There was an effort made [by the Ontario Film Review Board] to ban “Fat Girl” from theaters in Canada. It was intense.

On working with Catherine Breillat

RM: I totally agree with Catherine when she says, “I am the movie, and everyone else is helping me making it.” She doesn’t speak about anything with her actors. She puts us in the mood of the scene, but she doesn’t intellectualize anything. To her, it’s all very instinctual. If she saw you thinking in your head while not conveying an honest emotion, she would scream at you or pinch you or do something to get you in the right mood. Working with Philippe Grandrieux was a similar experience. The whole crew is making the same movie. People aren’t just sitting there detached. Everyone in the room wants to make something that is going to be different.

I had done a few movies before working with her, but I was mainly interested in painting and other forms of art. She opened my eyes to a different style of movies that were made by more artistic and independent voices. I got passionate about them and became a cinephile. I started eating films and watched five of them a day. I’ve worked with Catherine three times and every time, I felt like we were going further. In “Fat Girl,” there’s a shot that holds on my sister’s face as she watches my character lose her virginity. Then in “Sex Is Comedy,” the camera is pointing at me and another actor as we stage a similar sex scene. It was very interesting. I love to feel like I’m learning something when I’m working with a director. You learn something about yourself, and you’re like, “Oh my god, I didn’t know I could do that.” Pushing the limits can sometimes be very painful, but I don’t mind being in pain for a movie.

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On what attracts you to a particular film 

NT: It’s different every time for me. Sometimes it’s the director, sometimes it’s the script, and hopefully it’s a combination of those things. Sometimes it’s just the character, and I want to bring that person to life. When I read the script for “Mercury in Retrograde,” I thought it was interesting that Michael is not a plot person. He just wants to see people in their everyday lives and in their relationships. This movie is essentially a study of people, and I liked that. As an actor, my favorite thing is to study characters and their relationships to one another. I felt like the film would be a bit of a challenge in terms of my character’s arc and how the film ends for her. I wanted to see what I would do with that challenge.

RM: To be honest, I don’t really care about the script. I think it’s just a tool, and I’ve accepted movies without reading the script. I did that for Gregg Araki and Philippe Grandrieux and Catherine Breillat. When I’m a fan of a filmmaker, I tell them, “I’m going to be in your movie. I’m not going to read the script, I’m just saying yes.” When you don’t know the work of the filmmaker, or if they haven’t made many movies, then it depends. “Mercury in Retrograde” was a big challenge for me. I changed almost everything. My character was American, and now she is very, very French. I don’t think I’ve ever been so French in my entire life. I changed her name, and I made her very homesick.

I’ve been living in the states for seven years now, and I know what she’s going through. When you live in a culture that you don’t understand, you feel so different. You wouldn’t think there would be a great many differences between Europe and America, but there really are. I felt so lonely and so misunderstood when I first moved here. I was rude without realizing it, and after going through all of that, I was able to put it in this movie. It’s a point of view that often doesn’t end up in American movies. The audience isn’t usually made to feel how a character like her feels about being in America.

KW: Roxane hasn’t kept her opinions to herself, and we’re really thankful that she didn’t because every change she’s made has been the right one. It’s strengthened the script and it’s made all of us have a better experience. If she saw something that she didn’t like, she’d bring it up and she’d fight for what she felt, and I think that’s what makes her a great artist. Working with Roxane has been like a crash course in acting. She’s taught me more in the past ten days than I’ve learned in 25 years. Every scene was a lot better because of the things that she would do, whether they were written in the script or not. Just the tiniest little things would give the character so much life, and force me to have so much life within the scene as well.

She encouraged me to follow my own instincts and have confidence in the choices that I was making. I was able to explore the character more, and have more freedom while we were acting together. It’s great to be with someone who encourages you to do more instead of saying, “This is my scene, I’m going to do what I want to do, you can do whatever.” We had this fight scene, and every time we did it, it just kept escalating because we both kept giving each other more and more. By the final take, we were both exhausted.

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On finding the character of Isabelle during the shoot

MS: Working with both of those actresses was an amazing experience, and I cast them because I had seen them in films that I loved. The main thing that Roxane taught me was to go with the flow. The movie wants to be a certain way and you shouldn’t fight it. Having said all that, we shot the film in 12 days, so it was an incredibly tight shooting schedule. The script was 119 pages and we had a shot list that was 30 pages. If that script had not been the blueprint for the film, we never could’ve gotten the film done in time. We had six rehearsal days prior to shooting “Cool Apocalypse” that allowed the actors to ask questions about their characters and work through them with me. With “Mercury,” we had four actors flying out from different parts of the country—Najarra and Roxane flew in from L.A., Kevin flew in from Alabama, and the great Andrew Sensenig from “Upstream Color” flew in from New York. So we weren’t able to rehearse in advance. All of the discussions about who the characters were and what was happening in the scene happened immediately before we shot them. It was scary but also totally exciting.

Roxane’s character was originally an American woman named Madison. She flew in the night before we shot her first scene, and we went out and had Thai food. That’s when we decided that her character should be named Isabelle, and that she should be French. In the script, her character is bitter because she wants to be married, and her boyfriend, Richard, is not as into her as she is into him. He gave her what she thought was an engagement ring, but it wasn’t. Roxane really brought a sense of homesickness and alienation to the character. Isabelle talks a lot about La Pradet, which is the town where Roxane is from. After she read the script, Roxane told me, “This character is very blunt and very politically incorrect. This is the way that French people are.” Making the character French brought so much more complexity to her initial frustration with how quickly Golda has accepted Peggy. There’s a sense that Isabelle is thinking, “It took me a long time to get in this good with you all, why are you accepting her right off the bat?”

RM: I didn’t have that much time to form the character, so I haven’t slept much, to be honest. When you make a movie, you live in characters that are just written. They are not real people, and we’re the ones who have to say their lines. I feel like the script has to adapt to us instead of us adapting to the script. If you do the latter, then you end up with a movie where people are saying lines that don’t sound real. Sometimes that approach works, depending on the genre that you happen to be working within. Michael told us that he was very much into the French New Wave as well as the earlier movies of Woody Allen that were relationship-based. I felt this film would work better if my character was talking more like I do.

The degree to which you get along with your scene partner also impacts your character in the movie. For example, in “Fat Girl,” my sister and I, on paper, were supposed to hate each other. But we were having so much fun, laughing all the time between takes. When it came time for us to film the scene where we’re in bed together, and I’m recalling the days in which my sister was “less fat,” Catherine told us, “You will be saying the lines while laughing.” It’s beautiful because you finally got to see that there’s something more than hate between these sisters. There is this moment of them being so close to each other, and it wasn’t originally in the script. Catherine also added a scene where I do my sister’s makeup.

I added a scene in “Mercury in Retrograde” for the same reason. Isabelle tells Peggy, “I want to be honest with you, I didn’t like you at first.” My character is bitching earlier in the movie about Peggy, saying that she’s trying too hard and I was like, “I can’t just go through the movie feeling this way.” In real life, sometimes you hate someone before you realize that you were wrong about that person. I wanted to add that because I felt like these characters needed that moment.

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NT: It’s always interesting how your relationships grow stronger onset as the film progresses. Though Isabelle and Peggy weren’t supposed to like each other, Roxane and I hit it off immediately. Michael was really flexible. He allowed us to develop and change characters, scenes and dialogue in order to make them fit better with the actors. It’s been a really interesting and challenging experience.

RM: And a lot of work. We spent ten hours yesterday together trying to work through a particular scene. My character was supposed to recite an Emily Dickinson poem, but I didn’t feel like it was the sort of poetry that my character would read. I thought that it had to be a French poem, since Isabelle is always speaking about France throughout the movie. It made more sense for the character.

NT: She had to find her poem last night. We sat down with Michael yesterday and talked about the scene and the problems we had with it, and he was like, “Cool, change what you need to change, and we’ll all talk about it again,” And that’s what we did. We sat down and changed it to how we thought it would fit better, and now we’re doing it. It’s been a really cool part of the process. One thing that’s been interesting about working with Michael, being a second-time director, is that when we started the film, he was directing it one way. As we went and changed things and started to understand each other and how everybody else worked, he grew and changed and has been learning every day. The director he is today compared with the director he was two weeks ago is totally different.

NT & RM: He’s a totally different person.

MS: Najarra has a monologue toward the end, and I wanted it to feel like a raw wound being ripped open. That’s why the scene is tinted blood red, and why the color red has been suppressed up until that point in the film. Her dialogue was actually more fragmented in the original script, and the monologue was a lot longer and more disturbing. She started off talking in the past tense, and then she kind of moved into the present tense, as if she were reliving the memories as she recounted them. Najarra told me that she wanted to edit the monologue, and at that point, I completely trusted her. She said, “I’d like to make it more like I’m telling a story,” so she got rid of some of the more poetic aspects, and made it a little bit more straightforward. She shot her monologue on the last day of the shoot, and by then, she knew her character better than I did.

On Wyatt and Jack

Shane Simmons (SS): I felt like I understood the character of Wyatt. This is a guy who has a lot of feelings for this girl, even if those feelings aren’t necessarily all that deep. He doesn’t quite understand what she’s into, and doesn’t understand what she needs him to be. At the same time, it’s not his fault. The character is somewhat similar to me, but it also allowed me to push outside of myself in ways that were super-fun. Sometimes Wyatt’s a little bit of a d—k, sometimes he’s a little bit naive, and I think all of that stuff is within me, so it’s nice to do that on purpose.

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MS: Shane brought a lot to the character in much the same way that Roxane brought a lot to Isabelle. One of my favorite scenes is Shane and Najarra in bed on Friday night, when you can tell that he wants her to open up to him. The moment where they do the pinky swear, I suggested that Shane say, “Trust me,” and he asked if he could say, “Deal?” instead, which was a million times better. The moment where Wyatt interrupts Jack and Richard’s scripted dialogue by exclaiming, “BORED!” was also a Shane Simmons ad lib.

SS: I was truly bored. [laughs] Though I served as a producer on the film, I was strictly an actor during production. I had my shirt off half the time onset, so it was a little tough to do any kind of producing. You can’t leave the ensemble cast to go sit behind a monitor.

Jack C. Newell (JN): Mike told Alana and me that there was a challenge and opportunity associated with our characters. There’s no real conflict that we’re dealing with, at least no immediate conflict that happens within the course of the film. Our job was to anchor the viewer experience, serving as the straightmen to the drama endured by everyone else.

SS: The character of Jack is basically a classical Jimmy Stewart everyman, and Jack—the actor—grounded his role was a gentle kindness. He’s not going to come at you full force like Stewart would. He’s always listening and engaged, while remaining generous and good-natured.

On improv and reading between the lines

KW: When I lived in Chicago, the only theatre that I did was improv-based. I went to Second City to do the conservatory program. It helped me be more intuitive as an actor because it required me to listen to the other person. On “Mercury in Retrograde,” we got to improvise a lot more than on “Cool Apocalypse.” Jack is an excellent improviser and Shane has been trained in improv. In a couple of the scenes where it’s just the three of us, we had to improvise a lot, and it was really important to just be focused on each other. The cabin in Michigan where we shot the film was a perfect setting. It was so secluded that it took 45 minutes for us to drive there from our hotel. Every day, Shane, Jack and I would drive there together, and we just got to talk back and forth. We ate every meal together and hung out at the hotel a lot, so we got really close.

In the separate scenes where the girls are off on their own and the guys are off on their own, you get to see how these women talk about their relationships versus how these men are talking about them. Jack’s character is awesome because he is tried and true. He’s gone through it and he’s got the advice for us. Jack wanted to take a step back and let Shane and I explore the dynamic of our own relationship with our female counterparts, and then, when he felt it appropriate, he would offer the advice. He would pick his moments to interject based on whether it felt right rather than how it was written in the script. It was like Jack and Golda were leading these other couples. Isabelle and Richard’s relationship was definitely falling apart, and everybody could kind of tell that there wasn’t much hope for it. Up until that point, our characters had been ignoring these problems, but at the cabin, they are forced to face them.

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MS: Many American viewers are used to having dialogue just be the thing that holds their hand, signaling how to experience the film. They teach you in screenwriting class that the characters should serve the plot, but I actually think the reverse should be true. The plot should serve the characters. As a viewer, I don’t like when I can feel the gears of the plot turning. I want to feel like I’m just observing people, but I also don’t like it when things feel aimless. It has to also feel purposeful, and that’s the balance that I always try to strike as a writer/director.

The one scene where we shot way more footage than we needed was the men’s book club sequence, which we juxtapose with the women’s conversation at the bar. That scene was 17 pages long in the original script, but most of it didn’t end up in the film. Prior to shooting it, I met with the three actors at their hotel, and we had an hour-long meeting where I said to them, “Look, the script for this scene is just a blueprint. These guys are talking about a book, but what’s important is what they’re not talking about. They’re not talking about things that are personal, while the women are. I want you to say things in this scene that will reveal who you are and how you feel about the relationship without actually talking about it.”

They could’ve been talking about anything in that scene—politics, sports, movies—but those topics would be more obvious. Some people suggested to me that the characters should be talking about a more well-known book or author, but I figured that if I chose someone like Hemingway, the audience would be paying more attention to whether or not they agree with what the characters were saying about the author. I wanted the guys to talk about a writer whose work would have the connotation of masculinity, so I thought the hard-boiled detective fiction of Dashiell Hammett was the way to go. I chose his 1931 novel, The Glass Key, in part because it’s lesser known than The Maltese Falcon or The Thin Man.

JN: When I realized that the scene wasn’t about a book, the specifics of the dialogue started to float away. Hammett’s way of viewing the world is romanticized and idealized and does not reflect reality at all. This film allowed us to play around with all the gray areas that Hammett’s black and white world ignores. The book club scene was the last thing that the other guys and I shot, and Michael told us beforehand which moments in the script were mandatory. How we arrived at those moments was up to us. Wyatt and Richard are working through their s—t through this novel, and Jack is more interested in trying to understand the world through literature.

SS: We all got along really well immediately, and the cast bonding was built into our schedule. You can tell when actors haven’t had the time to develop a sense of comfort with one another. There’s no script that can dictate what that dynamic is supposed to be like. It’s something that can only be figured out between two people. We cruised around Grand Rapids and Saugatuck, we had some chicken sandwiches, we played a lot of pool and we listened to Bob Seger’s “Night Moves.” If you don’t have a lot of experience on camera, you get in the habit of just following the blocking and doing whatever the director says. But Jack has a lot of background in improv and comedy, which teaches you how to work with objects and create a space. I love how he brought that to his performance—using the space, making it feel like we’re real people on a real vacation. It glues the scenes together.

JN: I’m a very much a space-oriented kind of filmmaker. My film “Open Tables” is based on space, and that focus transcends my other interests in public art and all that. On a low-budget film, you have to think about what tools are at your disposal. A small detail here and there can suddenly make a scene feel more real. I co-created the curriculum at the Harold Ramis Film School with Trevor Albert, and we want to upend the stigma that has recently been associated with improv. In a way, everything is improvised in a film. Even if you are saying the exact same words in take after take, you are still playing around with different ways of saying them.

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On the cinematography of Jason Chiu

MS: Jason is a great visual artist. I was a big fan of his work in “Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party,” and I felt like he had a strong point of view as a cinematographer. He’s incredibly gifted at doing elegant handheld camerawork, and we both like natural lighting, which is much more difficult than people might think. Oftentimes you’re just using reflecting boards to redirect the light, and he’s a master. A lot of cinematographers will want to execute good-looking shots that might look good on their reel but don’t really feel integrated into the story. Jason is the opposite of that. His sense of how to light and frame an image is always in service of the screenplay and the characters.

The shot of Roxane crying while alone in bed was actually inspired by a shot from Hou Hsiao-hsien’s “The Assassin,” which is one of my favorite films of recent years. There’s a shot where Shu Qi, the great Taiwanese actress, is crying with her head in her hands, and the camera backs away from her. It’s a very different scene from the shot in our film, but it served as the inspiration for that moment. It was a very elaborate tracking shot where we laid dolly tracks. I wanted it to feel like it was so intimate that the camera itself felt that it was being intrusive and that it needed to move away and give her privacy. Roxane’s acting is superb in that scene. She cried real tears, and I’m always amazed when actors can do that. At that moment, her character becomes more likable, because you can see how much her character is suffering.

I always considered the book club sequence a four-act play. In the first act, the guys are pouring the whiskey, lighting the cigars, and talking about the book. The second time we see them, they’re still talking about the book, but they’ve had a little whiskey and are feeling a little loose. The third time we see them, they’re s—t-faced, and the masks are starting to slip a little bit. They’re starting to reveal things that are a little bit personal, but straining to prevent the conversation from going there. Then the fourth time we see them, they’re still s—t-faced, but now the energy is very low because they’re tired and it’s late in the evening. The mood is very heavy and the conversation is a lot slower.

I told Jason that we needed a visual style that would correspond with each of these four moods. So the first time we see the guys, the camera is outside the cabin shooting through the screen windows and is locked down on a tripod. In the second chunk, the camera is inside the cabin, so it’s closer to them, and we’re isolating them in separate close-ups, but the camera is still locked down. The third time we see them, we are going crazy handheld, and I told Jason to do whatever he wanted. I wanted the camera to move as if it were drunk. Then the fourth time we see them, the camera is at a great distance, and the whole thing is done in one long take.

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On the editing of Frank V. Ross

MS: Frank was Shane’s suggestion, and as soon as he suggested him, I immediately said yes. I feel like Frank and I are somewhat kindred spirits in that his films are all about character and so are mine. We are very different in terms of our ideas about visual style and narrative structure. I think I’m a little bit more formal than him, and he has a little bit more of a “go with god” approach. But I knew that if I told Frank not to cut for story and to leave things long, he would instinctively know what to do.

SS: I knew Frank’s straightforward approach would be the perfect match for this film. Frank’s work is earnest even as it verges a bit into cynicism, which he does just to f—k with people. He knows how to let the text speak, and to let the scenes have the weight in time that they need to have.

MS: When the film cuts from Isabelle reciting her poem at the bar to Richard at the book club, while juxtaposing the sound of Isabelle’s French words [sans subtitles], that was Frank’s choice. I don’t shoot a lot of coverage. Every moment in the film is pretty much only captured from one angle, but the book club scenes were a bit looser and wilder. That was one of the places where Frank really made a bold choice as an editor, and it’s something that I never would’ve thought of. Shane got up from the table on four separate occasions, and he’s the only one who does. It says so much about his character, and I didn’t ask him to do that. The push-ups that he does were not in the script, and the fact that we see Shane doing push-ups twice is something that Frank came up with in the editing.

SS: For the record, the push-ups were a tribute to Chicago actor Michael Nussbaum, who is 93 years old and I’ve heard does 50 push-ups every morning.

On life reflecting art

MS: I felt like Najarra’s voice-over, which bookends the film, was important because the film is so much about memory. A lot of micro budget indies take place over a weekend and they’re about people hanging out. Many of them aren’t plot-driven, and they feel a little inconsequential. Our narrator is a young woman thinking back on a specific period in her life, where she was taking emotional stock of who she was and made decisions about what she was going to do, even though she wasn’t really aware of that at the time. Out of the three couples, Jack and Golda have been together the longest and are the most mature and responsible characters out of the six. The couple who’s been together five years, Richard and Isabelle, are always at each others’ throats, and you can tell their relationship has gone on too long. Peggy and Wyatt have probably only been together for a couple months, so I wanted to give a sense that they could go either way.

I honestly see myself in all of the characters, including Golda. When she talks about what she likes about the song “Stardust,” that’s me talking, more or less. But when that dialogue comes out of the mouth of an African-American woman, the context totally changes. She puts a different spin on it just by virtue of who she is. The relationship between Jack and Golda is most in line with my own life presently. My wife and I have been together for a little over a decade now, and she has had to do a lot of suffering while I’ve pursed filmmaking. I’ve shot movies in both of our last two homes, so I thought it would be a nice gesture to offer a part in this film to her, which you see at the end. I have been in the Richard and Isabelle relationship, and in the Peggy and Wyatt relationship too. But right now, Jack and Golda are the characters who reflect my life the most.

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“Mercury in Retrograde” premieres at 6pm on Saturday, September 16th, at the Full Bloom Film Festival in Statesville, North Carolina. For the full festival line-up, click here.

Poster art by Loren Greenblatt

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