Capturing the attention of the person you’re romantically interested in can be a challenge, especially when they barely know who you are amongst all the people who are vying for their attention. Deciding to take extreme measures to spark their interest may initially seem like a satisfying way to become noticed, but when the truth of your intentions is eventually revealed, you may no longer be able to hold onto that positive acknowledgment. That’s certainly the case with the seemingly charming protagonist, whose alluring nature is questioned when his true motives are revealed, in the new crime comedy, ‘Get the Girl.’ Orion Pictures is set to distribute the action film, which was written, directed and produced by Eric England, in theaters this Friday, January 27.
‘Get the Girl’ follows a wealthy young man, Clarence (Justin Dobies), as he’s conned into staging a fake kidnapping by a master manipulator, Patrick (Noah Segan). in order to be a hero and win the affection of the woman he’s madly in love with, Alexandra (Elizabeth Whitson). But when one of the hired kidnappers is accidentally killed during the charade, he’s forced to actually save her life while not revealing that it’s been a ruse all along.
England generously took the time recently to talk about writing and directing ‘Get the Girl’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the filmmaker discussed how he agreed to develop the script with his friend, Graham Denman, who developed the initial concept for the story. England liked the challenge of writing a protagoinst who’s both sympathetic and morally questionable, as he purposely sets up a horrible scenario to capture the attention of the woman he loves. The toughest challenge England admitted having while making the crime thriller was finding the right ensemble of actors who could all bring their characters’ distinct motives to the screen while they were filming.
The writer-director began the conversation by discussing how he developed the script for ‘Get the Girl.’ England noted that the idea for the story “was brought to me by a friend of mine, Graham Denman. He and I have been buddies for a long time. We were looking for a project to make together, so he had pitched me this idea.”
Denman initially thought the premise for ‘Get the Girl’ would work as a horror comedy, or as a slasher film. “When he told me the idea, I said, ‘That sounds so absurd.’ I saw it more of a dark comedy, so I asked him if he would be okay with me acquiring the idea from him, and developing a new take on the story,” England shared. The filmmaker then began relaying his ideas to his friend.
“There was just something so absurd to me about this guy who wanted to go to these crazy lengths, in order to win this girl’s affection. But then I looked at the morality of it,” England shared with a laugh. “While there are some sweet, romantic elements to the movie, it’s generally creepy…Clarence is a creepy guy for doing this, and there’s obviously a moral issue.”
The scribe added that he was intrigued to include those creepier elements about Clarence when he was penning the screenplay. “I liked that challenge of writing this guy who purposely sets up this horrible scenario, while also making him sympathetic and relatable,” England also admitted.
The filmmaker then delved into the process of going on to direct the movie after he finished penning the screenplay. He explained that it was an easy process because he wrote the screenplay so quickly. “We began filming the movie less than two months after I finished the last draft of the script,” England revealed. “We were scouting locations while I was still writing, because we wanted to write the locations we found into the movie, which really helped.”
With the majority of the comedy’s events taking place in Clarence’s house, ‘Get the Girl’ was mainly shot in actual locations. The director explained that “Practical locations are so important to me…When you shoot on a soundstage, nothing ever truly feels real. So it was so nice to shoot in a real house. We shot in Brentwood in Los Angeles.”
While England appreciates the experience of filming on location, he admitted that it was difficult to find a house where they could shoot ‘Get the Girl.’ The crew faced challenges in securing the house because “of our budget restrictions. Also, a lot of people had to know what we were shooting in the house. When we told them that we were going to put bullet holes in their walls, and blood all over their floors, it became really tricky,” the filmmaker admitted.
“It can be difficult to shoot in an actual location, because you’re dealing with an actual neighborhood. We didn’t use any CGI guns; they were all real gun shots on set, which were going off while were shooting,” England also revealed. “We were shooting exclusively overnight, as there aren’t any daytime scenes in the movies. So there definitely was a challenge. But it’s a challenge I love, and want to continue on every movie, because I think it makes it that much more real.”
The toughest challenge the helmer found in directing the crime film was “corralling all the actors. There are a lot of scenes where we have five to seven actors on screen at any given time. Finding all of those perspectives, and figuring out which ones were the most important to the story at that moment, was really the biggest challenge.”
England had to do that while also finding the right tone for the scene he was shooting. “When you’re dealing with actors, especially ones who are as experienced as some of the ones we have in this movie, like Noah Segan and Scout Taylor-Compton, they bring interesting ideas to the table. So no two actors are given the same direction, as it’s all about the communication,” he noted. “Trying to figure out how to communicate with everyone, while also trying to find the right tone, was a huge challenge.”
Further speaking of the actors, England then admitted that the casting process was difficult for ‘Get the Girl.’ He revealed that “We started reaching out to different people, and when we landed with the cast that we did, I was excited.
“Noah is a friend of mine, and is someone who I have admired for a long time. We were talking about making another film together. So it was nice that his schedule opened up-we got him at the very last minute. He actually flew off of one set, landed and was on our set the next day, so it was a tight window,” the filmmaker divulged.
“Justin Dobies was a newer actor at the time. He was coming off the success of his Sundance movie, ‘Dear White People,’ and at the time, had just recently moved to L.A. He has this great charisma about him, and he has this energy about him that I love,” England revealed. However, Dobies initially had a different take on the character of Clarence than the filmmaker did. “But he had something so exciting about him as an actor that I embraced him as an actor. I was happy with what he did.”
“Beth Whitson was most known as a model, and she was also doing some TV” work when England first considered her for the role of Alexandra. “But she had such a natural talent, as well as this strength and independence about her, that I think really worked for the role.
In terms of the actors who play the kidnappers in ‘Get the Girl,” “Adi Shankar is a producer, and has worked on such films as ‘The Grey’ and ‘Dredd.’ He and I were talking about making a movie together, for which he would work as a producer. But then he started to get into acting.
“Adi plays a really interesting character. So while I was writing the role (of K.J.), and was getting ready to cast, I said to Adi, ‘You’re pretty intense. So I’d love for you to bring this role to life,'” England said with a laugh. “He fully embraced the role. He was one of the best roles to write, and I think he steals the show a bit.”
Another performer who appears in the action comedy and who England admires is Taylor-Compton. “Scout is someone who I’ve admired for years. I started watching her movies when we were younger-we’re about the same age…She was a friend of Eric Fleischman, who’s one of the producers.
“I told Scout that I was dying to work with her, and thankfully, her schedule was open. I thought it would be cool to watch her play something that’s different than what she normally plays, which is the girl who’s running from the masked killer. But in this film, she plays a potential masked killer,” England added with a laugh.
“The cast brought a lot of interesting ideas to the table,” the director revealed about his collaboration process with the actors when they began building their characters and the story. “The casting process was pretty expedited, so we didn’t have months to talk about everything. But since the actors were a mixture of people I knew and people who were either fresh to my style, the genre or acting in general, we just dove right into it.”
England allowed the actors to figure things out about their characters on their own, but he also “had a blueprint of what I wanted from each character. But I really allowed them to bring their own touches to the project.
“Noah, for instance, wore a lot of his own wardrobe in the movie. A lot of the leather jackets he wore were his own personal wardrobe. I think Scout also brought some of her own wardrobe,” the filmmaker divulged. “Adi, like I said, is an interesting guy already, so he brought a lot of interesting things to the character, and ad-libbed a lot of lines.”
Dobies “brought a lot of charisma to the role of Clarence,” England said with a laugh. “This is a character who essentially commits a crime from the beginning. But Justin found a way to make (Clarence) so relatable and endearing. I think that was such a tough challenge.”
The director also thought that Whitson “brought a lot of strength and independence to the role of Alexandra. She wasn’t a girl who was going to be swept off her feet, and fall head-over-heals for this guy. That’s what I needed. This movie isn’t about the complications of what’s happening. There are bigger things at hand than just the initial plot. So we needed someone who understood the complexity of that moral dilemma, so it was great that Beth understood that,” England explained.
In addition to working with the actors on their characters’ emotional arcs, England also collaborated with the cast on creating the physicality and stunts for their roles. “We had an incredible stunt coordinator, Henry Layton, as well as a firearms guy, and they deserve to have their names listed along with the cast. The stunts and guys in the movie are almost another character.
“While the actors did a lot of physical stuff, we did have stunt doubles and on set training. My approach to the action in the film was to keep it really naturalistic and sloppy,” the director admitted with a laugh. “None of these people are professional mobsters, hit-men or kidnappers. So I wanted the physicality and the violence to feel very natural. It was a weird balance to figure that out, but we always wanted to steer on the side of reality.
“Beth suffered a few bruises, unfortunately, because she did a lot of her own stunts. While we did have stunt doubles, all of the actors did do a lot of their own physical stuff,” England added.
While ‘Get the Girl’ has darker physical and emotional elements to its story, there are also comedic moments between Clarence, Alexandra and Patrick. The filmmaker explained that he feels it was essential to include the more humorous moments throughout the story, as “The comedy is what attracted me to the story’s idea in the first place. Graham saw this as more of a horror comedy, but veered more on the side of horror.”
But the director pictured ‘Get the Girl’ as being more similar to such films as ‘Very Bad Things’ and ‘Fargo.’ “There’s comedy in it, but it’s wrapped around this crime. You read about these crazy stories in the news all the time, and to me, the humor brings a level of humanity to it. So the humor was absolutely essential to it.” As a result, England was inclined to “accent some of this outrageous violence in cartoonish action and comedy.”
Before the filmmaker began working on ‘Get the Girl,’ he finished his 2013 horror thriller, ‘Contracted,’ which he noted has “elements of dark humor that was more of a straightforward horror movie, and was grounded in drama. Coming out of that, I wanted to do something that was more of a good time, and that people could sit down and enjoy, and maybe want to revisit later.” England wanted to move away from making another straight-forward horror movie that he feels “gets under your skin and stays with you for a few days, and you may not want to visit for awhile.”
While he wanted to make a more light-hearted film with ‘Get the Girl,’ the director did note that he does plan on getting back into the straight-forward horror genre soon. “Some of the projects I’m looking at, and considering to do next, are horror movies. But moving forward, it’s not just about making more genre projects-it’s more about connecting to the story, and how it relates to me and my personal life. Each movie is it’s own experience, and when it’s finished, you grow and are altered,” England explained.
The filmmaker also revealed that since he finished making ‘Get the Girl,’ he has already shot his next movie. “It’s called ‘Huntsville,’ and it’s a straight-forward character drama, which stars Dylan McDermott and Sophie Turner from ‘Game of Thrones.'” After he finished making ‘Get the Girl,’ England “wanted to do something a little more serious and nuanced. I didn’t write the screenplay for ‘Huntsville;’ it was written by a very talented writer named Anthony Ragnone.”
The director also admitted with a laugh that “finishing production on ‘Huntsville,’ and releasing ‘Get the Girl,’ at the same time, is a weird experience. I’m trying to figure out which emotion will sweep me up into my next movie, since they’re so different from each other. But I definitely think I’ll be dabbling in the horror-thriller genre again, and also maybe make a straight-forward action movie.”
England also explained that what appeals to him about the different genres “is the energy they have. There’s a connection that the audience has to those movies, whether they’re afraid or excited. There’s such a visceral reaction that makes you forget what’s actually going on in the world. It’s such a cathartic feeling, and that’s what’s exciting to me. You can relay that feeling tot he audience, without even having to say anything. These genres create such a pure emotional reaction.”
Watch the official trailer, and check out the poster, for ‘Get the Girl’ below.