North Texas Daily

Paper Heart Q and A

Paper Heart Q and A

August 13
09:47 2009

“On the Record” interviewed Charlyne Yi and Jake Johnson, stars of the popular Sundance Festival film “Paper Heart,” who delve into how they both captured the true love stories in a documentary and improvised on a 10 hour road trip in a scripted film.

PAPER HEARTQ: Where did the inspiration come from?
Charlyne Yi: Originally it was going to be a traditional documentary, and my idea was just to capture true love stories ’cause you’ve seen – and I’ve seen – so many fictional films about love that take you emotionally there, but I thought it might interesting to capture true love stories, and maybe there would be more weight because they’re real. Originally, I was gonna co-direct it with [Nick Jasenovec] and just be off-screen. And Nick, his hope was that it would be more than just an hour of just love stories. There would be some sort of arc and some sort of growth in myself, but I think there was no guarantee that we could do that in the five weeks; and also I didn’t want to start dating on camera. That idea of making a hybrid of a narrative film and a documentary came about.

Q: So is it true that at the outset of the film you had never been in love or at least you didn’t buy into it, or was that more the elaborated upon, fictional side of you?
Yi: It was true, but a bit more exaggerated for the film. I think I’ve had limited relationships, and I think when the idea came about I was 19 and I had just dropped out of college and pursued my life of performing onstage, and most of the people I hung out with were the older crowd, like 40 year olds, and I also was like, “A lot of them are single,” like, people don’t get married as young as they used to. Like, my parents got married at 23, I think, if not younger. I think I would just have a ridiculous panic attack if I had to pull that off.

Q: Did you always want Michael Cera to be in it?
Yi: We made a list of people, and I knew Michael as a friend and I knew he acted, but everyone kind of acts in L.A. and so it was like, “He probably does commercials or something.” And Nick suggested Michael, and I was like, “Really? Oh, really?” And he showed me some “Arrested Development,” and I thought he was really talented and he’s really funny.

Q: When did the decision come about to have Jake [Johnson] play Nick [Jasenovec] instead of Nick play Nick?
Yi: When Nick realized the director would be sort of a character, he really didn’t want to be on camera because he’s ugly. [laughter] No, because he’s afraid, and Nick and me were like, “Who could play this character?” And I think Jake was kind of like a new friend and we had only known him for a couple of months, and we were both excited about him because we thought he was really cool and asked if he would do it.

Q: So how did you keep the scripted part feeling as real as the documentary part?
Jake Johnson: We improvised everything. We only had a five-page outline, so a lot of times the camera people didn’t even know where we were going with it. So the idea was if it’s fully improvised and it’s new to us and it’s new to the camera guys, it’ll have that same documentary feeling to it.

Q: What was your favorite part of filming? The documentary stuff, the actual scripted stuff or was it the puppetry?
Yi: I think the documentary stuff. I found the people the most interesting, and also I think, as far as the fictional stuff, I think my favorite stuff was the dramatic stuff like the break-up scene when he comes in. That was really fun. And the bridge scene. I think I was singing “2 Legit [2 Quit]” by MC Hammer right before that. I was real psyched to do something sort of serious.

Johnson: I think my favorite part was the adventure of it all.

Q: What was so adventurous about it?
Johnson: We really left from L.A., driving to New York in an 11-seater van with 10 people and some equipment, and we really didn’t know what the movie was gonna be. We had a loose idea. We were allowed to improvise and take anything we wanted and go in any direction we wanted. We would wake up in the mornings and talk up the scenes and try and figure out what we were doing, and so it felt like a road trip, while during that road trip, we were making a movie.

Yi: Because we really were, like, struggling, making the movie. We traveled for 10 hours and improvised something or talked to complete strangers.

– Kip Mooney

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