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New York Cool - Interview

Katharine Heller Talk with Paul Soter About His Film,
Watching The Detectives

 

The first time I met writer/director/actor Paul Soter I did not recognize him from his comedy troupe Broken Lizard or their widely popular film, Super Troopers. I was too busy watching his dog play with mine at a dog park in Brooklyn last year. It wasn't until conversation went from breed speculation to film making that I figured out who he was. Last Summer, Soter was about to embark on an exciting
journey; he was breaking free from the collaborative world of Broken Lizard films and just weeks away from directing his first film Watching The Detectives, a film he also wrote. A quirky tale about a video store owner and starring Cillian Murphy and Lucy Liu, Watching The Detectives premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival this week. I had a chance to catch up with Paul about directing, shooting and of
course, his dog.


Cilian Murphy and Lucy Liu
Watching the Detectives

 

Katharine Heller: How was directing by yourself for the first time?

Paul Soter: It turned out to be a blast. You know, I felt pretty confident going
in just because over the course of doing these Broken Lizard films I'm in the room for the process start to finish so I kind of knew how everything worked. The big unknown element was I didn't know Lucy really and I didn't know Cillian. With Broken Lizard movies you know what you're going to get in terms of the guys but working with two movie stars, I was just concerned. I hoped they'd be cool and easy to deal with and they turned out to be really, really great and a lot of
fun.

Katharine Heller: Also, if the joke fails with Broken Lizard you can say, "Oh, it was the other guy's joke", right?

Paul Soter: Exactly. You can pass the blame off. I can sit through screenings of
Broken Lizard movies and if something didn't get a laugh it didn't affect me too much, but I've now had probably five informal public screenings of Watching the Detectives and it's the worst experience of my life so yeah, you realize now that anything that may not work or is not perceived well is directly a result of my work as a writer and director so I just sit there and sweat the whole time. I'm looking
forward to Tribeca but at the same time I know how brutal these things can be. People have been responding to it certainly, but you just sit around anticipating every moment, every joke.

Katharine Heller: You have a great fan base, even just for you. If you Google your name on the Internet, there are so many people who are so excited for
this movie to come out.

Paul Soter: Is that right? It's been a few weeks since I Googled my name I'll have
to try that again.

Katharine Heller: Are you worried that the fan base might not appreciate the
different kind of humor? That is, how would you categorize this film?

Paul Soter: Um, it's a very… I hate to say small, I don't want to make it sound
too precious, but it's really not like a Broken Lizard film. I wanted to do something that wasn't too ambitious because I had never directed before, because I was going to be sending around the script and taking a chance, so I wanted to make something that didn't cost a lot of money and wouldn't be a huge undertaking. Broken Lizard movies are certainly a lot broader and Watching the Detectives is certainly a lot more dialogue driven; more personal relationship stuff. It's not a big
laugh out loud movie. I think of something more like Rushmore, which is one of my favorite films, but I certainly don't sit around you know and like, laugh my ass off. It's a very cool, very smart, very sweet movie, so if I could to make a movie like that I'd be really happy.

Katharine Heller: How much of this movie is autobiographical?

Paul Soter: It's autobiographical in the main concept. It's about this guy who has
spent his life watching so many movies and grew up watching movies and inevitably sort of fantasized about the woman up on the screen. And not just in a physical way but in a way of always sort of wishing that a woman like the characters in the movie will actually show up on your door someday, and so I had always had that feeling. But if a femme fatale actually showed up at your door it might sound really nice but she would probably ruin your life. You can't really live your life as if they were scenes in movies.

Katharine Heller: I know you filmed it all over New York and NJ, what were some of your favorite areas?

Paul Soter: It was amazing. When you're in your 20's living out in Manhattan
there's not a whole lot of occasion to check out Yonkers or Staten Island so it just was very cool. Staten Island is really cool. There are parks everywhere and I had no idea.

Katharine Heller: Lucy Liu and Cilian Murphy…You have a good looking cast.

Paul Soter: They are both gorgeous. We used to sit around and look at the monitor and there are certain scenes where there's like, dueling cheekbones.
They are these impossibly gorgeous people, and my fear was I hope
people will buy them as real people but I guess that speaks to them as
actors. They do both look wonderful on screen, but they feel very
real.

Katharine Heller: How's your dog?

Paul Soter: He's doing pretty well. It's funny, we had a terrible incident; we had
some Visa issues with Cillian, and he wasn't even going to be arriving in NY until two days before we started shooting and so my strategy was he was going to do all of his costume stuff on Saturday and spend all day Sunday rehearsing just me and Lucy. We got together at Lucy's place and I immediately got a phone call from my pregnant wife who had this really terrible experience at the dog park. Some guy was feeding his dog and my dog together, which you're not supposed to do, and there was a fight, and my dog got into it with this guy's dog and had
I guess had a pretty good bite in on him and he started screaming at my wife and threatening my wife, and she's seven months pregnant and she freaked out. So then I got this phone call and my wife is hysterical and the dog was hurt and I ended up having to bail on Lucy and Cillian. I spent that day before shooting putting out fires in Brooklyn and dealing with the dog and dealing with my wife and so I left the two of them together and they ended up watching the World Cup
finals. But it was good, it broke the ice between them and I think that it was more important that they just become more comfortable with each other than to be over-rehearsed. Sometimes with Broken Lizard stuff we'd end up going through the stuff so much and it starts to get a little tired. In this case I think it was under-rehearsed but it worked out really well and the time that we spent beforehand was just getting everyone really comfortable with each other.


 

 


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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