Keanu Reeves and Mark Mann talk about working together on “Generation Um…”
by Mike Gencarelli
Keanu Reeves is known for his films in franchises like “The Matrix” and “Bill & Ted”. In this film “Generation Um…”, he plays a much different role within this character piece. Mark Mann is the writer and director on the film, which is his feature film debut. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Keanu and Mark on the film and what we can expect.
Mike Gencarelli: Mark, tell us how did “Generation Um…” come about for you?
Mark Mann: Alison Palmer (Bourke), the producer on the project, gave Keanu the script to look at as a friend at first. He liked it and said he wanted to meet with me. We had a coffee and it was sort of monumental coffee. We riffed creatively for a bit and found out that we got along well. We shared visions for the characters and the story. So after that he decided to do the film, which was great. He was perfect for the role. So we went out and made a movie [laughs].
MG: Keanu, what was it that really drew you to the role of John?
Keanu Reeves: I liked so many things about the character. What stuck out for me was the writing, the structure, the humor, the humanity and the way the story was told. With John, in particular, I had a great sympathy for him. He felt like a character that was hyper-aware. He was trapped in his past, maybe with his confidence or trapped in his life. He was seeking a connection, a friendship or something that we might think of as simple but is fundamental to life. I felt like a lot of people could relate to him. I also felt that since this took place in New York and it was more personal and I liked that.
MG: Any challenges with shooting in New York?
MM: I had no issues whatsoever [laughs]. New York is a great place to shoot. Just because you are shooting there doesn’t mean that it is going to behave any different than New York does. It seems to add attention to the frame. We were using New York in a somewhat unorthodox fashion, with shooting in the park, running down streets, driving over bridges and staring at trains. In general, I think that New York tolerates you if you shine at the end of it all.
MG: Keanu, this is a real change from some of your past action driven films; was it a challenge taking on this character piece?
KR: I wouldn’t really say a challenge but more of an opportunity. What struck me was getting a chance to actually shoot the footage that John does in the film. That was a very unique situation for me and it was something that I really appreciated and enjoyed. The trust that Mark put into me was great. He was like “Ok Keanu…go shoot!” We shot on Super 16 with a lot of wide angle lenses and fixed perspectives. So we get to learn about John through the camera but also get to learn about the other characters from John’s perspective. For me that was very unique, fulfilling and a fun opportunity.
MM: What was interesting about that, as well, you will notice in the film that he bundles that into the character. You watch the character developing his own feelings through the camera itself.
MG: Mark, what was your biggest challenge taking on your first feature film?
MM: I would have to say just making a film. It is an impossible pursuit. Once you start getting into it there are so many things going on at the same time. It is like you are one with the inside of your head with little tentacles extending out sort of taking of the form of all these different people all handling various tasks. It is impossible…
KR: No it’s not [laughs].
MM: Yeah it was easy. It was like butter [laughs].
MG: Keanu, I loved the chemistry between you and your leading ladies, Adelaide Clemens and Bojana Novakovic. What did you do to form that bond between the three of you for this film?
KR: We started with the audition process. Mark went on search for Violet and Mia. Luckily, I was a part of that process. He asked me to videotape the actresses that came in to meet on the project. It happened with both Bojana and Addy that there was a nice simpatico between us and we got along right away. They were interesting and loved the material. As me moved forward in rehearsal and just hanging out, everyone seemed to be on the same page. We just got along really great, so that was really cool. Mark really let me in and be a part of the creative process and I really appreciated that as well.
MM: That was part of the fun though. The film ultimately is what happens between the people making the film. It was just great. Having Keanu, Adelaide and Bojana together work through it all in rehearsals and then turning on the camera and watching them do it was amazing.
MG: Mark, you also wrote the screenplay. How much did it change throughout the production?
MM: The script was god. It was bible. It didn’t change.
KR: Urgh…writers and directors, they say that the script is god. [laughs]
MM: [laughs] If you asked me the question as a director, I might have a different answer but in terms of writing you have to have a moment when you can be a writer. That is what writers do.
KR: It was just really a great script. One could think that it was improvised since the words are just so great.
MM: There are also a lot of moments of silence in the movie and I had to try to push it into direction. But there were these long moments with Keanu, Bojana and Adelaide where they are just there and they are doing what they are doing. That is not something you can write. It was very exciting to see them take the implications that I wrote and then completely bring it to this magically level where they were and just embodied these characters.
KR: Human animal footage [laughs].