Now playing at the Arena Cinema theater in Los Angeles, The Park Bench is a great movie for all (you can catch a review of the movie here). When I got a chance to catch up with writer/director Ann LeSchander, as well as female lead, Nicole Hayden I was giddy like a little kid.
Our conversations were brief, but as the saying goes “some of the best things comes in small packages!”
The first interview was with Ann Leschander.
Kim Haueter: I really enjoyed the creative element of the story being set up like chapters in a book. What made you want to add these chapters?
Ann LeSchander: The movie is about storytelling and there is a part of us, where aren’t we the stories we tell? So then I thought this is a movie about books, but its also about our stories, the stories we tell. And the way The Park Bench is, it’s day after day after day. It really felt like chapters in a book to me. So, it opened up the opportunity to start naming them.
When I first started, I had chapters for everything. After time you realize that it would become tedious. I really have to give it to my graphic designer, who created the pages. So, I was left trying to figure out how to make it work, which ones could I choose that would hold more meaning and to add an additional layer to the film.
KH: In the past you have made a few short films, but The Park Bench was your first full length movie. Did you make a big leap going from short to full feature? Also did you find any trouble along the way?
AL: Yes! It was very more difficult. You know, its a whole other ball game. You hope you are creating something with legs. Of course, I wanted my shorts to be good. But with The Park Bench, I want to make something that is worthy of the actors and their time, my team, and everyone involved. Besides the fact that it is longer and requires a lot more people. It’s also just a sense of this film needs to live when its done, with short films you don’t have that same pressure. So, I would say it was much, much harder.”
KH: Was there anything you really enjoyed about writing a full length movie?
AL: I loved creating this relationship that went on and on. I kind of felt like I was creating some type of realistic way we don’t talk about our feelings, but how we usually talk around our feelings. I wanted to catch the small slices of moments we have in our every day life. I just loved figuring out how Mateo would react or how Emily would say this. Creating Dialog was my favorite part. With shorts you have to get straight to the point. It was a a lot of fun, great fun.
KH: Now that you have wet your whistle with writing and directing your first movie, do you have any more projects in the work? Or perhaps one you have been dying to work on?
AL: Well, I am writing my next feature. It’s a fish-out-of-water tale with some of the same sensibility. I feel as with The Park Bench I kind of found where my humor lies and so I think I’m going to keep exploring that.
KH: What was your favorite part of the movie?
AL: Ooo, I’ll tell you what it is. There are so many things… I love my movie! It hard to choose just one, but I love love love love love the dance.
While Ann LeSchander was fabulous, she wasn’t the only talented woman I had a chance in meeting. Nicole Hayden, who plays Emily, sat down next for an interview.
Kim Haueter: So the first question I have to ask is, the character you played, Emily is such a strong woman who is very serious about school and learning. She has a certain standard she holds, as is shown in her list of rules to Mateo. What did you do to prepare for this role?
Nicole Hayden: Emily is defiantly smarter then me. Of course I totally connect with her on certain levels, like being a little OCD and feisty, but I had to do a lot of research! I had never read Ethan Frome before, so I read it and ended up horrified by it. My fiancé was like, ‘I remember reading that in High School and it so sad.’ And while I’m readying it I’m like ‘Oh God, why, why why’. So, yea I had to do a lot of reading. There were a few words I wasn’t saying correctly, that I ended up saying over 100 times.
The great thing is I felt like I really got to know her as I researched and learned all these things. These things were so important to her and a part of who she was, how she looked at the world. Luckily, I am a huge theater major and dorky that way. It was perfect when she was listening to musicals, because I could completely connect with that.
KH: How long was shooting?
NH: We shot for a week, we had six days. We would get to the park right before sunrise and we should shoot to sunset. Then we left, only to return the next morning. It was definitely a time crunch because you only have so much day light. We had so many scenes, so it was a time crunch. But it made it that much fun, trying to get through everything. It was so crazy and so thrilling. I would honestly say, it was one of the best shoots I ever had.
KH: Your portrayal of Emily was perfect. Was there anything else you really connected with her on?
NH: That is so nice. Even before I got the script because for the first audition I only got a few pages, I just felt it was me. I only read it once and twice, but already knew it by heart. I don’t know why I felt like that, I just did. We are defiantly very similar, even with certain life moments we were just able to connect. It also helps that Ann is such a flawless writer and really wrote from the heart. That it became so effortless. As well as a testament to Walter’s acting; he’s just so connected to himself. When we first met we just instantly connected and we had a lot of fun together. So it was easy that way, there was no struggle to connect. It was a bunch of things coming together and making something wonderful. I’m flattered, but I’m so honored to have been able to spend it with Ann and Walter who I believe are so talented.
KH: Can you share a little of the fun you had behind the scenes while shooting?
NH: I think the changes were the funniest. We were in Griffith Park, in public kind of. As you can tell by the movies, we had a zillion costume changes that had to be done very quickly. I don’t know how many people saw me naked. I know Walter’s dad saw me topless a few times when he stopped by to visit. And I’m all like “Oh I’m so sorry, your dad is like right here.” At that point Walter and I had been changing so quickly, so fast that no one cared. I would say that was the funniest thing. Walter was like “My dad must be so excited he came to this set, he is getting the full treatment today.” We had so much fun, we laughed the entirely time.
KH: My last question has to be, what is your favorite part of the movie?
NH: Oh god, I don’t know, there are so many! I would say the funniest for me to watch is when my computer breaks and Walter comes flying through on the bike. I am not very athletic and I had to get on the bike with him. Every time we would get a take, he would go crazy on the bike and I’m screaming the whole time. There was no acting in that scene, I was legitimacy terrified. He was doing wheelies, he was really talented on that bike. And I would warn him not to do anything, but he was having so much fun freaking me out. So now, its just one of my favorite moments.
I am so thankful and honored that Ann LeSchander and Nicole Hayden from The Park Bench took the time to meet with me. I am so over the moon in love with this movie, I can’t get enough. Take my word for it and check it out at the Arena Cinema theater in Los Angeles. The Park Bench is a movie build on the small moments in every day life that when pieced together, create a tale for the ages.