Many of you might recognize Chad Hartigan from his full-time job as a box-office analyst for ReelSource or for his Friday Forecast/Sunday Cents columns over at InContention, but he is also pursuing a career as a writer/director on the side. In 2008, Hartigan finished his first feature film, titled Luke and Brie Are on a First Date. The film is essentially a 76-minute chronicle of a couple's first date, but that's much easier said than done. The majority of films span days, months, even years. Very few films tackle hour-long stories, and it is in this characteristic that this small project finds its ambition. What may seem like a black-and-white issue on paper becomes much more interesting when it is considered within its thematic context.
Hartigan co-wrote the film along with lead actor George Ducker. In a film chock-full of long, drawn-out takes, much of the dialogue in Luke and Brie feels improvised, and I was surprised to learn that it was quite the contrary. Hartigan apparently wrote the first 25 pages of the script with the thought that the actors would improvise much of the rest, but Ducker "was adamant that we script the whole thing," and with the limited time and resources that most people involved had, it was without a doubt the right way to go.
Meghan Webster -- a neighbor of Hartigan and a non-professional actress -- was cast as Brie well after the two had been playing with the script. This is a film that relies heavily on its dialogue, and once she was cast, Webster "rewrote some of the female dialogue and added some personal experiences." It is this type of intimacy and openness that goes a long way towards ensuring the film's success.
Another interesting characteristic of the film's dialogue was how it "showed the arch of their relationship." The film's individual lines are not solely used to keep the viewer engaged, but they also contribute towards reflecting the development of the couple's date as a whole. Their beginning conversations are "inconsequential, mundane stuff and [they] slowly get more personal and intimate as the night [grows] on."
With all of this information, it's obvious that a lot of the film's dialogue was well-planned, but a lot of credit is also due towards the two people who delivered the bulk of the lines. Ironically, the success of the actors' delivery contrasts completely with the planning of it. Ducker and Webster play this out like a first date, focusing on each and every line they say as if it could make or break things. When they're talking about their first childhood fights, they're not thinking about where the night will lead do. They're living in that singular moment.
Their realistic representation of a first date also extends into their mannerisms. They don't play two people with supreme chemistry such as George Clooney and Vera Farmiga -- a reference I'm sure Chad will love -- but rather, they play two nervous individuals trying to get to know each other. This is a interesting case in which a lack of chemistry isn't a negative. That isn't to say that the two actors don't play well off of each other -- which they do -- it's simply to acknowledge the realistic manner in which these two characters are played.
Perhaps the most interesting thing Hartigan had to say was in his description of the film's purpose.
I'm interested in things I haven't seen before and like I said, for Luke and Brie I was interested in the idea of shining a magnifying glass on something that might be just a small part of a larger film.Think about how much truth there is in that statement. How many times do we see five minutes of a romantic film devoted to a couple's first date? Almost always. Other than Luke and Brie, I can't recall another film I've seen that simply tells the story of a singular first date, and then cuts to black. What might seem like an abrupt way to end a film is actually a unique, original take on a story that has been told since the origins of cinema. Whether it works for you or not is a matter of opinion, but the originality of the concept is undeniable. Personally, I am fascinated by films that, in Hartigan's words, "[shine] a magnifying glass" on certain things. It's one of the reasons why I was so enthralled by Tom Ford's A Single Man.
With Hartigan, I see a director with a unique voice, ready to tell stories with interesting, imaginative concepts. This is also a filmmaker that doesn't want to be labeled with a single genre. He is currently working on his second project, which "is based on [his] Dad and has to do with loneliness and making friends in middle age, which is a much different and new challenge." Hartigan would "also love to make something like Superbad someday." This range of storytelling is something I admire.
Well, now that you've read enough about the film and the people behind it, it's time for you to actually see it. Luke and Brie Are on a First Date is available for a 7-day rental on Amazon for $2.99, but if you send Chad an e-mail, it's quite possible that he could share a promotional code with you that would give you access to the film for free. At only 76-minutes, this film is a breezy, delightful, fresh take on an old story. I have no doubts that you will enjoy it as much as I did, and be sure to give the film a rating on IMDb once you have indeed watched it.
For more information on Hartigan, be sure to check out his Wikipedia and IMDb profile pages. You can also follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
Watch the film's excellent trailer below: