Revealing your true feelings and motivations to your closest friends can not only be beneficial to achieving and maintaining your biggest goals, but may also serve as an intriguing inspiration for their own creativity and sense of purpose. The two emotionally relatable protagonists in the new comedy-drama, ‘Apartment Troubles,’ which is now available on DVD, enthrallingly rely on each other as friends to help push each other to follow their artistic dreams. The equally flawed lead characters grippingly realize what kind of people they truly are in the process, which pushes them to reevaluate their lives.
Real-life friends and screenwriters-actresses, Jess Weixler and Jennifer Prediger, effortlessly adapted their personal journey of living together as they fulfill their own artistic goals into ‘Apartment Troubles.’ The two, who also made their feature film directorial debuts with the comedy-drama, generously took the time recently to discuss their experiences of writing, helming and starring in the indie during separate phone interviews.
‘Apartment Troubles’ follows aspiring artists and friends Nicole (Weixler) and Olivia (Prediger), who are struggling to remain financially secure in their walk-up apartment in New York City’s East Village. The space is ideal for their needs, as it includes a workspace for their art, and their landlord (Jeffrey Tambor) is far more lenient than they deserve. But he’s eventually forced to evict Olivia, who wants to become an actress, and Nicole, who desires to become a prolific artist and sculptor, as they can’t afford to pay their rent and they’re subletting the apartment illegally.
While their bohemian lifestyle is no longer suiting them, neither friend has the complete desire or ambition to fully pursue their goals. In a last-minute, vain attempt to follow their dreams, the two decide to visit Nicole’s aunt Kimberley (Megan Mullally) in Los Angeles, where she hosts a reality show. When they arrive in their new city, they decide to try out for Kimberley’s show, but their auditions have disastrous results. The experience leads the two friends to reconsider what they’re doing with their lives, and realize that they truly have to depend on each other to achieve their goals.
The comedy-drama’s genesis came about when “Jess and I ended up being roommates in the East Village of New York,” Prediger revealed. “I was subletting the apartment of a filmmaker, and then I went to work on a movie. Jess came to New York from L.A. to work on ‘The Good Wife,’ and needed a place to stay. So she subletted the place I was living in. It was this bohemian apartment, which was the inspiration for the apartment in the movie.”
Prediger also revealed that while Weixler was staying in the apartment, she received an eviction notice on the door. So the two filmmakers bonded over not only over the threat of losing the apartment, but all of their experiences living there, which motivated them to write ‘Apartment Troubles.’
Weixler described her experience of developing and penning the comedy-drama’s script with Prediger as “awesome.” Weixler embraced the remarkable and immediate connection she developed with her fellow filmmaker and co-star, especially since they only became friends a month before they began working on the story together. She added that their instant bond formed in part because they were both “writing scripts about our fathers individually.”
During the midst of the two actresses working on the respective screenplays, “Someone said to Jennifer, ‘I really like you guys. If you want to write something together on an indie budget, we can try to make it together,'” Weixler revealed. After that encouragement, the two decided to try making a film together, as they both also had a desire to direct. “So we thought, wouldn’t it be awesome to make our first movie together, as friends? Making a film for the first time can be tricky, as you don’t know what the process is going to be like,” the former star of ‘The Good Wife’ said of collaborating with Prediger on ‘Apartment Troubles.’
Weixler added that “it was really helpful to have someone else there” as they were making the comedy-drama, especially since “we wrote very quickly-in about a month-and-a-half-and then we shot it in about 14 days.” The two were “constantly thinking that we wanted to make a female buddy movie” as they were penning and shooting ‘Apartment Troubles.’
Since the two filmmakers’ experience scribing the screenplay was so collaborative, Prediger also divulged that it only felt natural for the two of them to then direct the movie together. “We were so excited to create these characters and the story together,” she revealed. She added that by working together, she and her fellow filmmaker and actress felt as though they could “magnify our powers, and make it a bigger project than what we could have made on our own.”
Weixler also noted that she felt that working with Prediger on ‘Apartment Troubles’ script was beneficial to crafting their skills and duties as first-time helmers. “While we were directing the film, we developed a short-hand. We whispered in each other’s ears, because we didn’t want to be shouting directions to each other on set,” the actress revealed. That process of directing each other made the experience feel “quite intimate. Since our personal relationship is so intimate, whispering to each other helped us stay in character.”
Prediger added that it was a great experience making her feature film directorial debut on ‘Apartment Troubles.’ But she admitted that helming and starring in the comedy-drama became “a big tricky at times.” Weixler agreed that the process of acting in, and directing, scenes was the hardest part of making ‘Apartment Troubles.’ “We had to act while trying to forget about the clock,” as helmers, she emphasized.
However, the process became easier because when she went into character, she tried not to over-think about finding the right balance between acting and directing. “When you’re acting, you don’t want to be as analytical. But you do have to go back and forth,” Prediger said.
But overall, Predigre emphasized that she and Weixler both enjoyed the experience of finding the rhythm of directing themselves as they were acting. “We often joke that as directors, we couldn’t find better actresses for the roles,” Predigre laughed as she explained why they also decided to portray Olivia and Nicole. “We knew we wanted to play the roles. The cool thing was that we knew we could keep an eye on each other’s performances. We could direct each other through acting.”
Further chronicling the process of also collaborating as co-stars on the set of the comedy-drama, Predigre added that “We were in so many scenes together that I could give Jess a performance that would cause her to react in a certain way. She was able to do the same for me.” She also noted that they would “whisper in each other’s ears, so that we could give each other notes in a very quiet and intimate way.” The filmmaker added that becoming such close friends with her co-director and fellow actress during the shooting process allowed them to develop their shorthand and trust, which really helped and influenced their performances.
Predigre also found the process of compromising with Weixler as co-writers, co-helmers and co-stars as they were working on the creative decisions to be interesting. “Luckily, nine times out of ten, Jess and I agreed on everything. But that one out of ten times when we didn’t agree could be tricky,” the filmmaker admitted.
While the two did have the occasional disagreement over what to include in ‘Apartment Troubles,’ they “both want to direct more in the future,” Predigre revealed. She also noted that while she enjoyed working with Weixler on the comedy-drama, she is interested in solely writing and directing film in the future, as she’s eager to make all of the creative decisions.
Predigre also discussed the casting process for the supporting actors who appeared in the comedy-drama, revealing that she and Weixler had a personal connection to everyone who became involved. “I was in a movie called ‘Life of Crime,’ which Will Forte was also in. I was in a scene with him that actually got cut from the movie, but I played his assistant,” the actress noted as she explained how the Emmy Award-nominated actor became involved in ‘Apartment Troubles.’
The comedy-drama’s writer-director described Forte as being “such a supportive, kind and incredible guy. He hung out with Jess and I, and told us, ‘Whatever you guys do, I want to help and be involved.’ So that was a real gift.” Predigre added that his role was written specifically for him, and some of his character’s “peculiarities are some of the things he says in real life. So he had so much fun” playing the role.
Predigre also noted that Weixler had previously acted with Mullally in the 2012 comedy, ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me.’ The ‘Apartment Troubles’ filmmaker then revealed that “Megan said to Jess, ‘If you’re ever doing anything, let me know-I’d love to be a part of it.'” The filmmaker added that the Emmy Award-nominated actress “brought so much life to the film. She had so many great ideas.”
Tambor became involved in the comedy-drama because he and Weixler have the same agent, “the wonderfully tenacious Rhonda Price. She just kept at Jeffrey until he finally gave in,” Predigre revealed. Once he arrived on the set, the Emmy Award-winning actor “had such great instincts that it was cool to see what he came up with on any given take. He was also really great to play off of; he was full of surprises.”
All three of the supporting actors were “such pros and were so great, we didn’t have to direct them much,” Weixler enthusiastically noted. The entire cast was “so gracious. Working with them was like taking a master class,” Predigre revealed. She further praised Forte, Mullally and Tambor by adding, “They were kind enough to work on this SAG ultra-low budget film, and only making $110 a day, $10 of which went to their agents.”
Further speaking of making ‘Apartment Troubles’ independently, Predigre noted that the film “had a wonderful production company, Starstream Entertainment. Our producers, Kim Leadford and Dan McCarney, were also incredibly supportive of us, and wanted us to fulfill our vision. I think we had such a unique experience to have that much support. They really protected us and allowed us to make the film that we wanted to make.”
Also speaking about the experience of filming ‘Apartment Troubles’ independently, Weixler added that she feels “some magic came out of us having to instantly make choices, and just going with them. Like we always wanted dancers in the subway scene, but we couldn’t coordinate it. Then there just happened to be dancers on the train.” The filmmaker revealed that the film’s crew offered to pay the dancers to stay with them on the train, and allow them to film their routine.
While Weixler added that she and Predigre were happy with the shots they were able to get on their schedule and budget, she would “have loved to have more days. Time is everything. I think the hardest part of shooting the film was the awareness of the clock. You realize how much time you have to film each scene.” Weixler noted that she and her co-director would figure out which scenes were the most important to focus on during their shoot, and which ones they had to film in only one or two takes.
Since they shot the comedy-drama independently, the cast and crew were able to film at actual locations in New York and L.A. “We were really lucky that we found all of our locations, and that people allowed us to use their houses,” Predigre noted. the filmmaker also revealed that she and Weixler wanted to film the majority of the comedy-drama in New York. But they also wrote in the L.A. scenes because the only way they could cast Mullally was if they shot her part in California.
Weixler added that she enjoyed the process of filming on location in both cities. “We filmed for 10 days in New York, and four in L.A. We shot a lot of what was supposed to have happened in L.A. in a house in New York that was able to match the mansion that Mullally’s character lived in.
The actor-director also appreciated that the production was able to take approximately two weeks off between shooting in New York and then filming in L.A. “We were able to reorganize our minds, and figure out what we really needed to get…to tie everything together,” the filmmaker happily noted.
Weixler laughed as she then noted, “Also, changing locations allowed us to get a private jet! Obviously, it was just sitting in a hanger and not actually flying. But it added a lot to the movie, and I feel it says so much about the characters.” The actress added that “my character, Nicole, came from such a wealthy background that she still had connections to, and she was still able to work her charm in that world” to get what she wanted.
‘Apartment Troubles’ was also able to film in several different locations in both cities because of the crew’s skilled abilities, Weixler also emphasized. “The crew were our saviors. They worked for very little money, and did beautiful work. They had to show up and figure everything out at each location, which takes some time,” the filmmaker revealed.
Once Olivia and Nicole arrive in L.A., they decided to take their performance art sensibilities to the mainstream by auditioning for Aunt Kimberly’s reality TV talent show. However, their friendship is inevitably tested along the way. Predigre explained that their relationship is put in jeopardy, because trying to become a successful actress is a difficult process. The experience is extremely challenging for the film’s two characters, “as they both had different values about what they were doing. My character’s a little bit more willing to make money by starring in commercials than Jess’ character, who’s a creative purist.”
Those distinct ideals in part contributed to the two characters drifting apart, Weixler noted. “They’re too co-dependent and don’t know how to translate to the rest of the world,” the actress explained. She added that they have “entangled themselves too much, and must be able to relate to the rest of the world to be healthy.”
Predigre ended on an insightful note, saying that she also feels Olivia and Nicole became too co-dependent on each other in some ways during their journey. “Sometimes, when you’re too close to something, you have to move away from it so that you can reclaim yourself. You can then reset the dynamics and remain friends in a healthier way,” the filmmaker said.
“We invented these characters so that they would be in opposition to each other. We wanted to create a co-dependent dynamic, and show that one was more narcissistic, and the other really needed to be needed,” Weixler noted as she also discussed the characters’ bond. “As we were writing the film, we realized that we wanted them to feel as though they’re a pair who are inseparable. That shows that their relationship is unhealthy, in a way. They spoke their own language, and had a hard time letting in the rest of the world.”
Written by: Karen Benardello