Young adults often struggle with conflicting emotions about whether they will be truly content in the professional and personal paths that society has deemed acceptable for them after they finish their education. That relatable internal questioning is humorously narrated in the new sports comedy, ‘Intramural,’ from rising helmer Andrew Disney and first time feature film writer Bradley Jackson. Nikki Reed leads an all-star supporting cast in the movie, which had its world premiere at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. The actress’ character, as well as the people she interacts with throughout the story, showcase that overcoming these unexpected hurdles can actually make a person stronger when it comes to choosing their life path.
‘Intramural’ follows fifth year college senior Caleb Fuller (Jake Lacy), who’s contemplating life after his upcoming graduation. He has left behind his extracurricular enjoyment to prepare himself for the adult world, including being engaged to Vicky (Kate McKinnon), and also having a potential position with her father’s law firm. However, with his fear of his impending commitments growing, Caleb decides to get his friends back together and compete in their school’s flag football intramural championships.
Their group, The Panthers, which is led by their unorthodox head coach, Grand Rosenfalis (Nick Kocher), must defy all odds to achieve the intramural football glory they once had. They have to overcome their underdog status to defeat the still dominant Titans, which is led by Dick Downs (Beck Bennett). Caleb must also overcome the tension that’s still present between him and Grant, as well as his budding romance with campus employee Meredith (Reed), in order to figure out what he really wants in life.
Reed generously took the time recently to talk about filming ‘Intramural’ at the Hilton New York Fashion District Hotel during the Tribeca Film Festival. Among other things, the actress discussed how she was drawn to the independent comedy because she doesn’t focus on the size of the role or the film’s budget, and instead considers the character’s personality; how she appreciates the Tribeca Film Festival, because it has always values movies for what they are, no matter what their size is; and how her first writing and acting effort, the 2004 drama ‘13,’ will always be filed as a very unique and gratifying experience for her, as it not only affected her career, but also the lives of everyone who has seen it around the world.
ShockYa (SY): You star as Meredith in the new sports comedy, ‘Intramural.’ What was it about the character and the script overall that convinced you to take on the role?
Nikki Reed (NR): I read everything that comes my way, whether it’s big or small; there’s not much regard to the budget, or the size of the role. I like to read everything that comes in. I feel like there are opportunities in things you can easily miss, if you’re not looking at everything.
So I read this script and thought it was really fun and silly. There’s something really appealing about being a part of something so light-hearted. That makes you laugh and feel good.
The director and writer of the film, Andrew and Bradley, sent me a super-cute video that was really creative and fun. It painted a picture of what the whole experience would be like if I was in the movie. They sent me a video of the 10 reasons why I have to do this film. It was them going through Austin, saying “The food! The music!” I wanted to be a part of that energy with this group of people.
My biggest concern with doing this movie was that Meredith is the character who brings you back to reality. She’s probably the most serious character in the film, and I didn’t want her to feel like the girl who brings everyone down.
When Andrew and I were initially speaking, I was constantly voicing that concern to him. I said, “I want her to be quirky, interesting and intelligent.” Often times, with leading ladies, every actress wants to find a role that is “The Girl,’ but has all of those qualities, too.
SY: Speaking of Andrew, ‘Intramural’ is the second feature film he directed. What was your experience working with him as you were filming?
NR: He’s phenomenal. I think it takes a lot of confidence as a director to let your cast experiment, and this cast had a lot of freedom. With a comedy like this, he really has to know what he’s doing, especially when letting everyone improvise, and he really did.
SY: Is improvising something you enjoy doing while you’re filming?
NR: Sure. This was quite a different experience for me, in terms of improv. I’ve never had a director say, “Okay, everyone go! Do whatever you want!” You’re like, whoa! (laughs)
Normally I’m under strict guidelines when making films. I think there was more freedom in this than I’ve ever experienced before. But I enjoyed all of it. I love this group of guys. (Reed pointed to the actors featured on the movie’s poster she was sitting next to.)
I can’t say I was 1000 percent confident going into this that I was going to feel completely comfortable. I was one girl with a bunch of guys in Austin for six weeks. I was like, I’ll probably be the odd one out. But they made me feel as though I was one of the dudes.
SY: The film was shot last summer in Austin, which you mentioned earlier. What was the experience of filming in Texas?
NR: I really enjoy Austin. I love the city, the music, the food and the people. If there’s any place I would want to go film, essentially by myself for a long time, it would be Austin.
SY: How did you build your working relationships with your co-stars, including new ‘Saturday Night Live’ cast members, Jay Pharoah, Kate McKinnon and Beck Bennett? Were you able to have any rehearsal time with them before you began shooting?
NR: We didn’t really rehearse too much. I think bonding comes in between hanging out in between takes, and eating barbeque together. We spent our days off together. I went paddleboarding with Jake Lacy, and we would go to the gym together. We all had different things we did together.
SY: ‘Intramural’ is a low budget indie comedy that shot for six five-day weeks. Did shooting the film independently pose any challenges on the set, or did it add a sense of authenticity to the story?
NR: No matter how big or small the films I have done are, they all have the same elements. You have a crew of people who are a little bit stressed. You have to make sure you accomplish what you need to accomplish. Whether or not you have money, sometimes you don’t make your days and shots. I think we all just want to make a good movie. Generally speaking, when I’m on a set, that’s what I feel the energy’s focused on.
SY: The film follows fifth year college senior Caleb Fuller, played by Jake, as he reunites his flag football team, while he contends with graduation, marriage and an uncertain future. While the movie is truly comedic, do you feel the story is reflective of people’s true emotional struggles as they try to determine what direction to take their lives?
NR: I sure hope so. I tried to make Meredith as relatable as I could in a film where everyone was really broad. I didn’t go to college and have this experience. I haven’t’ lived Meredith’s life at all, by any means. But I still felt that I could relate to her.
SY: ‘Intramural’ had its world premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and two of your other films, ‘Murder of a Cat’ and ‘In Your Eyes,’ also premiered at the festival. What does it mean to you that all three of the movies are playing at the festival?
NR: I’ve been really busy; I have the three films here, which has been crazy. But I’m thrilled and really honored, as they’re three films I really love. I’ve been whisked around, and I’m like, which movie am I talking about now?!?
I love Tribeca, but haven’t been here in years. I had a movie, ‘Mini’s First Time,’ here years ago. I’m really excited to be a part of this festival again.
SY: Joss Whedon, who wrote ‘In Your Eyes,’ made an unexpected move after the premiere on Sunday, April 20, and announced the film would have an instant digital release on its website www.inyoureyesmovie.com. Are you both fans of watching films On Demand? Why do you think the platform is important for independent films like this one, and ‘Intramural?’
NR: I don’t know. What’s great about Joss Whedon is that he’s willing to take a chance. He does things in an unconventional way. This was his idea, and he’s absolutely right about people wanting immediate gratification. They want content quickly. They want to see something while people are talking about it. I think it’s a brilliant move, but I can’t predict its success. But I love that he was willing to take the chance, and see where it goes.
I spend a lot of time watching movies On Demand on my computer and TV. I’m usually busy filming, and I get home at whatever hour after shooting all day. You just want to kick off your shoes and turn on something to watch. So I do like that.
SY: Besides acting, you’re also known for co-writing the script for the first film you starred in, the 2004 drama, ‘13,’ with director Catherine Hardwicke. Are you interested in writing again in the future, or trying directing?
NR: ‘13’ will always be filed as a very unique and gratifying experience for me. It was my first film, and you can’t compare it to anything else I’ve ever done. It will probably always be the heaviest, intense and rewarding experience I’ll ever have. It’s indescribable. I was a child, and I made a film that affected my life and my family’s lives, and I think a lot of people around the world. I couldn’t have prepared for that. If I had to go back and do it again, it wouldn’t be the same. It was my first experience that set up the rest of my career.
SY: Would you be interested in writing again, or trying directing, in the future?
NR: I actually just directed something, but I can’t say what it is yet. I’m always writing and creating, and trying to expand as a human being. I always want to grow and challenge myself. I look forward to many more experiences.
SY: Besides films, you have also appeared on television, including ‘The O.C.’ in 2006. With so many acclaimed series currently on TV, are you interested in appearing on another show?
NR: I’m open to anything I connect with, no matter what the project is, no matter how big or small it is, or if it’s TV or film, or it’s acting, producing, directing or writing. If I feel like I connect with something the moment I read it, I’m open to do it.
SY: Do you have any upcoming projects lined up that you can discuss?
NR: Last year I did a couple films that I’m really excited about. One of them is called ‘Scout,’ which was written and directed by Laurie Weltz. I love working with female directors, and I had one of my best experiences as an actress on that film. I also start another project in a month, and I just finished directing something, so I’ve been keeping busy.
SY: How does working with female directors compare and contrast to working with male filmmakers?
NR: I don’t like to compare projects in that aspect; I like to compare them in terms of experiences. I don’t think it’s necessarily about gender; I’ve worked with wonderful women and men directors. But I definitely get excited when I hear about a woman making a film, because it inspires me.
Written by: Karen Benardello