The Returning Champion at Sundance: Drake Doremus on 'Breathe In' and His Romance Trilogy

The Returning Champion at Sundance: Drake Doremus on 'Breathe In' and His Romance Trilogy

Jan 23, 2013

The following is part three of our four-part Sundance Film Festival interview series: The Breakout Star, The Debut, The Returning Champion (you are here) and The Comeback.

The Returning Champion

Few filmmakers are more familiar with the Sundance Film Festival than Drake Doremus, who is here for the third time in four years with his latest film, Breathe In, a deep, dramatic soul searcher about a family man (Guy Pearce) who begins an inappropriate relationship with the foreign-exchange student (Felicity Jones) living in his house.

Breathe In follows in the footsteps of Doremus’ Sundance Grand Jury winner Like Crazy from two years ago, and both films share similar themes in that they’re about unconventional relationships and the hardships they provide. When we sat down with Doremus to talk about the film, he said it's the closest he's come to making a musical, and surprised us by admitting that it may very well be the second part in a planned trilogy.

In addition to the transcribed interview below, we've also included an audio component called What Happens After You Win the Grand Jury Award at Sundance? This part of our conversation specifically focuses on what happens to a filmmaker when they win an award like that, and whether it helps or hurts their creative process moving forward.

The rest of our interview is below. Like Crazy came from a personal place for you due to your experiences with long-distance relationships, so where did Breathe In come from, considering you’re not married with kids?

Drake Doremus: It started with wanting to write something for Felicity [Jones] again, and wanting to work with her again, and it also came from a musical place, to be honest. My composer, Dustin O'Halloran, was involved from the very beginning. We worked together on Like Crazy, and I wanted to work with him again too. His music, in listening to it over and over and over again, kind of brought the story to mind. The story was born out of listening to the music. The music in this movie is so important because there are scenes where it seduces characters, and then scenes when it tears them apart. How do you go about choosing which music to put where?

Doremus: From the very beginning I kind of looked at the movie as a musical or an opera in a sense. I wanted this sort of bond to be born out of a simplistic idea like that. Dustin was composing during the writing process, during the shooting process and in post, and all of that was part of the shooting process. We were enveloped in it; it was almost like another character. We were inside of it. It was a really interesting creative process in that sense, so this is the closest I’ll ever come to making a musical or something like that. You love writing about these relationships that are almost impossible to make work. Do you believe in marriage, or do you think people are setting themselves up for failure?

Doremus: That’s a really interesting question. I do. I think to each their own. Everyone’s got their own thing going on in their life, and it just depends. At the premiere someone asked a question about moral compass, and I jokingly said I didn’t have one. But there’s obviously some truth in that. The problem is I sometimes feel so overtly romantic that I’ve gotten myself caught up things sometimes that aren’t always the healthiest for me, but it’s hard to let go of them. That impulsivity in me really came out in the movie. Yeah, it’s amusing because on one side you’re this hopeless romantic, but then you’re also drawn to these impossible-relationship scenarios. Which side are you drawn to more?

Doremus: I think the fact that they are impossible. I think that’s why I’m making these movies. I can’t come up with an answer or an easy fix on how to make everything work myself, so for me it’s simply about me exploring the answers, with the movies asking the questions. You said you were trying to do something different with this movie. What is that something different?

Doremus: I felt like I had two choices at the end of Like Crazy. I could’ve gone in the direction everyone expected me to go in, which was to make a much more commercial, mainstream, accessible film. Or make something for me that would be a little more measured, a little more restrained and a little more classical. I always wanted to make my version of Out of Africa – my version of a classic, epic, almost Bergman-style love story. And I felt now was the time to do it. It was in me and I was hungry to do it. What’s your favorite moment in the movie?

Doremus: I think the moment where the title comes from. There’s a scene in the movie where Keith (Guy Pearce) is about to go on this audition for a chair in the orchestra and Felicity really calms him down and goes through this breathing exercise with him. I feel it’s kind of the sex scene in the film in a way. It’s the scene where they emotionally go somewhere intimately where they haven’t before. It’s where the title comes from and it’s probably my favorite moment in the movie. So where do you go from here?

Doremus: I’m starting to tinker with this idea of making a futuristic love story in a sense – that this will be a trilogy of past, present and future. Like Crazy was about the past and had a very nostalgic feel to it, and kind of about my past. [Breathe In] is about confronting the idea of love in the present, and then what love means in the future is what I’m interested in exploring next.    

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Categories: Features, Interviews
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