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Moon Yun Choi interviews CHARLOTTE SOMETIMES writer/director Eric Byler

Our hardworking gal in the isles has sent ol'Father Geek here another cool report... this one an interview with Writer & Director Eric Byler, plus she's included show dates and locations for his latest flick... CHARLOTTE SOMETIMES.

Now, on to Ms Moon Yun in Hawaii...

Eric Byler, the writer/director who made a splash in the film fest circuit with his evocative art film “Charlotte Sometimes,” is finally reaping the rewards after having struggled to make his first feature on a shoestring budget.

While “Charlotte Sometimes” didn’t win at the Independent Spirit Awards, Byler walked away with a distribution deal and an offer by Showtime to script a new series called “Infidelity.”

“Charlotte Sometimes” is currently in theatrical release. For those of you who feel you won’t be able to see it because there’s no art house theatres in your town, don’t despair. Video and DVD will be out before Christmas. It will be widely available in major stores like Blockbuster. “Charlotte" DVD will have commentary tracks with Byler and all four lead actors, behind the scenes footage, omitted scenes, and bloopers. Also, it will have an hour-long Q/A hosted by Roger Ebert with Byler and actors Jacqueline Kim, and Michael Idemoto.

I got to chat with Byler who was recently in Hawaii to promote his film. (Check out the photos of the cast of “Charlotte Sometimes” and “Better Luck Tomorrow,” another incredible Asian-theme film.)

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AICN: You’ve mentioned that you make “anti-romance” movies. What exactly is an “anti-romance” movie?

EB: It doesn’t mean that it’s against romance. It just means that in the same way that you have an anti-hero who rather than being an idealistic flawless Superman has the same kind of foibles and flaws and same kind of darker emotions that people have in their life. “Charlotte Sometimes” is a movie that comes from real life not really from other movies. I don’t think that it comes from the romance genres. An anti-romance is more of a realistic portrayal of romance and real life that I think it acknowledges that love and sex not only brings out our strengths as human beings but also our weaknesses.

AICN: So what are your some of your favorite anti-romantic movies?

EB: “Comrades, Almost A Love Story,” “Carnal Knowledge” by Mike Nichols, “Five Easy Pieces” by Bob Rafelson, anything by Eric Rohmer … “The Green Ray” is my favorite. “Vive L’Amour” the French title of a Taiwanese film. Actually if you take “Vive L’Amour” and “Carnal Knowledge,” “Five Easy Pieces” and anything by Eric Rohmer you can blend them up to create “Charlotte Sometimes.”

AICN: So what intrigues you about those films?

EB: It’s the moments that they capture that almost seem to be as true as life. Certain films that have those moments that is unforgettable because they are so true that those are the films that stay with me. I think you have to have a willingness to reveal to create an anti-romance film. You have to be willing to embrace those aspects of yourself that you’re not exactly eager to share. Instead of writing a story about characters we all wish we could be we need to be writing about characters that we are but we don’t wish to be. It’s almost as if the “truth” is the anti in anti-romance. Our willingness to reveal is what makes a romantic movie into an anti-romance. It’s the willingness to embrace life itself as opposed to life as portrayed in the movies. Not everything in life is picture perfect, pretty, romantic sweet feel-good-hit of the summer. Life is not a feel-good-hit of the summer.!

AICN: So you’ll never be writing or directing a feel-good-movie.

EB: Actually the day that I flew here I interviewed at Paramount Studios to direct a multi-million dollar romantic comedy. I really feel that this is a romantic comedy about two people who meet because they decide to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. They don’t die because they both happen to choose the same night. I said to them that the script is much too light for a story about two people who want to die. What I would like to do with this movie is make the presence of that death wish actually palatable and make the film actually feel like it’s a story about two people who came this close to ending their lives. Sure we can build in some jokes and they get a love story at the end. So I said to the guy that I’d like to give it an element of realism and an element of complexity.

AICN: And what did he have to say?

EB: He said, “I’ll get back to you.” But he loved “Charlotte Sometimes.” [Unfortunately Eric found out later that he didn’t get the job but don’t go crying for him. The deal he got with Showtime is a lucrative one.]

AICN: There’s the double-date lunch scene in the movie with Justin, Lori, Michael and Darcy. The two girls go to the bathroom and you find out that “Darcy” is Charlotte, Lori’s sister. Darcy is in a sense making a fool of Michael and just “fucking with him.” You’re watching that and you think, “Oh my God, that’s one of the worst things you can do to a guy. That’s just awful.” Where did you come up with that idea?

EB: When I was in Moanalua (High School in Hawaii) … maybe it was 10th grade or so there was a Lori that I really liked. You know how Frank De Lima (popular comedian in Hawaii) always joked about a girl in his song and how he doesn’t think that she’d go out with a Portuguese? There was a Lori character that was like that where I liked her but I didn’t think she’d go out with me because I was not only hapa (bi-racial in Hawaiian) but also kind of weird looking guy. I started getting these phone calls from this mystery woman and we became phone pals. She’d be flipping through the pages of the Moanalua High School year book, she’d look at my pictures, and she’d make comments or whatever. She’d ask me what girls ! I liked and who was prettier. She turned to a certain page that had this one girl’s picture. She was asking me in particular about this one girl. And of course it’s very similar to how Michael tries to deny he has feelings for Lori so I was very evasive about how I felt about the girl. Then I learned in school that that girl had a cousin visiting from the mainland. I heard the cousin was hapa. This hapa girl from the mainland was calling this hapa boy in Hawaii and trying to make a connection but refusing to say who she was and how she was related to her cousin. So I called that girl’s number where the cousin was staying and I asked for the cousin by name because I learned her name. She got on the phone. It was the same voice. And I said, “Why are you fucking with me?” And she was like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She hung up and that was the last time that I spoke with her. So you might say “Charlotte Sometimes” was born ! in Moanalua High School in 1989.

AICN: So that’s what you mean when you say the movie is a “confessional.”

EB: Sure, sure. But that’s more plot. The confession parts are in the characters. And not just the men. There’s a lot of my confession in Charlotte/Darcy. The fear that who you really are isn’t the person you want to introduce to others. It’s really important when someone likes you that maybe it’s better to send an imposter to battle than your true heart of hearts. Maybe it’s just safer. And as a writer, isn’t it easier to tell yourself that none of this really matters because it’s only research? Life itself is only research for my work. My relationships don’t really matter to me in the way that they matter to everyone else. Michael asks her “does any of this really matter to you?” at the end of the scene in the green room where they kiss. The original line in her response was “to be honest not as much as it matters to you.” I cut that line. I like the way it plays now because she has no answe! r. And it becomes clear that wow it does matter to her. The Charlotte person that she is deep inside, the vulnerable woman who wants to be loved by someone just shows for a moment because the truth is it matters but she doesn’t want to admit it. A lot of that comes from me.

AICN: “American Knees” is your next feature and it’s based on a Shawn Wong novel that you adapted for the screen. What is that about?

EB: American Knees is all about sex and race again. In this movie, the hapa person is a woman and she’s choosing between an Asian man and a Caucasian one. The definition of whether she’s Asian or not is dependent on whether she’s acceptable or not and is dependent on which she chooses as her lover. It’s almost as if a woman who’s interracial is making a choice about her own ethnic composition in the way she chooses her lover.

AICN: For “Charlotte Sometimes” you were able to have a lot of control because your parents and relatives helped financed it. For “American Knees” is someone else financing it? If so would that mean you would have to fight for control?

EB: Yes, but at the same time if the movie gets financed it’s clear because I’m the one directing it. It’s because it’s a follow-up to “Charlotte Sometimes.” So I do have a certain amount of power probably more than I would have with a studio film where any director could direct it. I think these people I’m working with understand that I’m the only person who could direct this movie. And there is some difference of opinion. I mean if everybody had the same perspective that I did, then my films wouldn’t be as unique as they are. I have to convince the financiers that the best execute a director’s artistic vision is to execute a director’s artistic vision.

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Below is a list of theatres where “Charlotte Sometimes” is playing:

L O S A N G E L E S:

Laemmle's Fairfax 3 1:00, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10:00pm **screening times as of Fri. July 11-- 2:00, 7:15, 9:30 7907 Beverly Blvd. (323) 655- 4010 On the Corner of Beverly and Fairfax

P A S A D E N A:

United Artists Marketplace in Old Town Pasadena, 64 W. Colorado Blvd. 11:50, 4:50 and 9:50 PM **moves to Academy Theater as of Fri. July 11 1-800-FANDANGO

I R V I N E:

Edwards Park Place 10 1:30, 3:40, 5:45, 8:00, 10:15 PM 3031 Michelson Drive Irvine, CA 92612 949-440-0890 **closing Thursday July 10!

H O N O L U L U:

Starts July 11th Restaurant Row 9 Art House Cinema 500 Ala Moana Blvd. Honolulu, Hawaii (808) 526-4171 FREE PARKING w/ Theater Validation $5 Bargain Matinee Opening Night Reception July 11th at Meritage **director in person July 11th evening shows and! July 12th all shows

P O R T L A N D:

Starts July 11 Regal Fox Tower 10 846 Sw Park Ave, Portland, OR 97205 (503) 225-5555 x4604

A T L A N T A:

Starts July 18 Cinefest Film Theatre - Georgia State University 66 Courtland St., Atlanta, GA 30304 (404) 651-2463

N E W Y O R K:

Starts July 25th Cinema Village 22 E 12th St New York, NY 10003-4424 (212) 924-3363 **director in person Opening Night

S A N D I E G O:

**date changed to July 25th Madstone Theatre 7510 Hazard Center Drive San Diego, CA. 92108 619.299.4500

Soon to be added: Washington D.C., Seattle, Boston, Miami.

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