People can often easily discover what they’re passionate about pursuing in their personal and professional lives, but they don’t often find complete satisfaction in actually achieving it until they overcome the obstacles that have blocked their success. That’s certainly the case with the two main protagonists in the new romantic comedy, ‘A Date with Miss Fortune,’ which was co-written and produced by actors Ryan K Scott and Jeannette Sousa. The two performers and filmmakers, who are also in a cross-cultural marriage together in real life, perfectly captured the struggles of their relationship, and relatably transferred them to their on-screen counterparts. The romantic comedy was released in time for Valentine’s Day, as it debuted in the USA and Canada on February 5 in select theaters. It was then distributed on DVD and VOD on February 9, following a successful theatrical release in Portugal and a positive first showing at the American Film Market.
‘A Date with Miss Fortune’ follows Jack (Ryan Scott), a sitcom writer who’s still struggling to move on from his last relationship. When he sees his former girlfriend with her new husband at the George Street Diner, he pretends that he’s engaged to another customer, Maria (Jeannette Sousa), who’s contending with the ending of her recent engagement. Jack and Maria then end up spending the entire night together at the diner, as they talk about their interests, backgrounds and experiences. After the two become comfortable with each other, he decides to not leave New York to take a job in London, so that they can pursue their relationship.
As Jack and Maria continue their first date in the diner, the development of the rest of their relationship is told through flashforwards. Scenes of their future together, which are interwoven with moments of their first date, show that maintaining a relationship with Maria isn’t as easy as Jack initially believed it would be. He’s surprised to learn that she comes from a large Portuguese family that’s extremely close, and her father, Jose (Joaquim de Almeida), doesn’t approve of their relationship because Jack isn’t of the same ethnic descent. He’s also skeptical of her superstitions, which in part rises from her religious faith, as well as the fact that she regularly relies on her psychic to help her make her life choices.
While Jack is determined to make their love last, his struggles to be accepted by her family do help him professionally. The obstacles he’s forced to overcome to prove his worth to Maria’s family inspire him to create a new successful sitcom with his writing partner, Wilson (Vik Sahay). As Jack finally begins to achieve success in his career, he remains determined to also find a way to make his relationship with Maria work.
Scott and Sousa generously took the time recently to talk about co-writing, producing and starring in ‘A Date with Miss Fortune’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the filmmakers and actors discussed how they decided to co-scribe the romantic comedy together when they realized their own personal experiences of being in a cross-cultural marriage are full of humor, and would serve as an amusing inspiration for a film. They also revealed that they cherished working with L’Ecuyer as the movie’s director, after they approached him during the beginning stages of the comedy’s development, and he was immediately supportive of their script.
ShockYa (SY): You co-wrote the script for the new romantic comedy, ‘A Date with Miss Fortune,’ which is based on your real-life marriage. Why did you decide to scribe a screenplay about the difficulties of being in a cross-cultural relationship? What was the writing process like for the both of you as you began working on the script?
Ryan Scott (RS): You’re right, the story is based on our real-life relationship. So we basically had a collection of stories from our life together. Those stories may not have been funny at the time they happened. But a couple of years down the line, when we looked back at what happened, we laughed at our choices. Eventually, all of these stories weaved their way into a feature-length screenplay.
Jeannette Sousa (JS): Since we come from different backgrounds, we can still surprise each other. Throughout our relationship, we’d constantly look at each other and say, “That was pretty funny. We should put it in a movie one day.” We finally decided to write a screenplay with all of those experiences. (laughs)
SY: Besides writing the script together, you both also played the film’s main characters, Maria and Jack, who fall in love despite their cultural differences. Why were you both interested in playing the comedy’s protagonists? How did your collaboration on the script influence the way you approached playing your characters?
JS: Well, when we originally wrote the script, we didn’t think that we would also play the lead roles. Since it had a bigger studio feeling to it, we originally thought about shopping the script around, and maybe have Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher play the leads. But we soon discovered that they were completely out of our price range. (laughs)
Then a friend of ours said to us, “No one knows these two characters more than you do. You’re both actors, so why don’t you both play the roles?” That was true; no one knows Maria more than I do, and no one knows Jack more than Ryan. So we took on the roles.
SY: As the writers and main actors of ‘A Date with Miss Fortune,’ what were both of your experiences like of collaborating with the movie’s director, John L’Ecuyer?
RS: John was great to work with John. We approached him at the very beginning stages, so we saw one of the first drafts of the script. He knew that it was really our story that we wanted to tell. He was just very supportive all the way through it. He’s a fantastic director who was able to work very quickly with our short schedule.
SY: What were your experiences like of also collaborating with your co-stars in the comedy, in order to build your characters’ relationships and backstories?
JS: Well, the amazing thing was that almost all of the actors who played the family members come from pretty large families themselves. That was just by coincidence, but it help them understand the family dynamic between the characters.
Joaquim de Almeida, who plays Maria’s father, was an absolute gift. Ryan and I wrote the script with him always in mind to play the role. As a writer, that can be dangerous, because if the actor you have in mind doesn’t accept the role, that can hurt the portrayal of the character. But we were very lucky that he very graciously accepted the role. Working opposite of him was a dream for both of us.
SY: Why do you both feel it was essential to include comedy in with the more serious moments of the film, especially when Jack meets Maria’s parents?
JS: Ryan incorporates humor into everything! (laughs)
RS: I guess it’s a prerequisite for a romantic comedy to have that humor aspect to it. But we infused a non-linear structure into the story. We received comparisons to ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding,’ and we’ll happily take that compliment. We are a cross-cultural romantic comedy, but we do have the non-linear structure. It sets up the first date between Jack and Maria in the beginning of the film, and it’s continuously shown throughout the rest of the movie.
That structure allowed us to focus on the theme of the story, which is the question of what happens when all of the firsts are gone? So we get to see Jack and Maria on their first date in a diner. It’s like one of those instances where people say they like a certain type of music when they first meet, just to impress the other person. But then six months down the road, they admit they don’t like that kind of music. It’s this whole facade, and we show that things change when reality settles in.
SY: The comedy was shot in a non-linear fashion, like you just mentioned. Why do feel it was important to showcase moments of Jack and Maria’s first date into the rest of the story as their relationship progresses?
JS: We thought it was really important to show what happens on a first date, and then what happens in a relationship when all of the firsts are gone. You have things like your first kiss and the first time you hold hands.
But for us, the diner was a safe place for us to really focus on Jack and Maria and their first experiences together, and that was our A story. The B element was the family element, and what happens when you have an opposing father figure. Then the superstition element was our C story.
SY: Besides co-writing and co-starring in ‘A Date with Miss Fortune’ together, you both also made your feature film producing debuts on the comedy. Why did you both decide to also produce the film? What was the experience of producing a movie for the first time, especially in one you both starred in?
JS: Producing the film was an interesting experience for us. We both wore three hats on this film. Ryan and I are both very creative people, and we come from an actor’s background. Ryan does a lot more writing than I do, but overall, the process allows us to be creative. But as a producer, you use the other side of your brain, as you start number crunching and figuring out the logistics of it all. So it was an interesting process to balance both sides our our brain.
RS: I agree with Jeannette. We’ve had a lot more experience as actors and writers. But since we were first-time producers, everything was new to us. That was funny, since the film is all about experiencing things together for the first time. (laughs)
SY: What was the process of filming the comedy independently, as both producers and actors? How did the process influence your creative process?
RS: I think being on that tight shooting schedule definitely helped. The shoot was done in a family-style atmosphere, so I felt like our cast and crew really had no choice but to bond really quickly together. Everybody brought their A-game, because they knew that we didn’t have the budget to keep shooting scenes. I think that really made the film better in the end.
We also had a lot of family on set. Jeannette’s mom helped us out with the Portuguese cooking. That experience really added to the camaraderie of the cast and crew. Everyone knew we were telling a very personal story. They really respected that, and gave the film their all.
JS: There was definitely an independent spirit on the set. I think we were very fortunate. Despite the fact that we were an independent film, we still had people working with us who are the best at their craft. We were able to bring them on board because they loved the script. So we had this A-level team who was working with this indie-level spirit, which was fantastic.
SY: What was the process of finding the location where you shot ‘A Date with Miss Fortune?’ do you feel that shooting on location was beneficial to telling the story overall?
JS: Well, we wanted things to feel really authentic and relatable. That was something that was very important to us throughout the entire process. So we put attention into the details of the locations, as with all elements of the film. In fact, Maria’s home in the film actually belongs to a Portuguese family. (laughs) So we tried to keep it as authentic as possible.
SY: The comedy has played at several film festivals, including the American Film Market and the Ottawa Indie Fest. What was the experience of bringing the movie on the festival circuit?
RS: We had a really receptive audience. But we didn’t really set out to screen the movie at film festivals. Our primary goal was to do a wider theatrical release.
But we started off in Portugal, and we had a lot of success there. The audience was very receptive to the film. We didn’t know how it would translate, since it was filmed in English. But the audiences there loved and supported the film. Over 35,000 people saw it there. It seems to be catching some momentum, and we’re really excited to see that.
JS: One of the biggest compliments for us as filmmakers is when people come up to us and say, “I totally understand the film, and it’s so relatable!” The idea that the story is based on a cross-cultural relationship is something that a lot of people can relate to, since North America is so diverse and multi-cultural. I’ve had people also tell me, “I’m not Portuguese, but my mom was Moroccan and my dad was Italian. So I totally get it-the same things have happened at our house!” So it has been really special for us to have people of all nationalities and ages be able to relate to, and also understand and appreciate, the humor in the story.
SY: Speaking of the digital distribution, ‘A Date with Miss Fortune’ (was) released in select theaters on February 5, and then on DVD, VOD, iTunes and Amazon on February 9. Do you both think the On Demand platform is beneficial for independent films like this one, particularly in having more people see it?
JS: Yes, I think that’s definitely the goal. (laughs)
RS: Yes, absolutely. Since it’s a romantic comedy, and having the film be released digitally around Valentine’s Day, will bring more awareness to the project. I also think that the platforms will support each other. I think the theatrical release will bring more awareness to the digital release, and having the movie advertised and streamed on VOD will maybe drive some people to see it in a theater.
SY: Besides ‘A Date with Miss Fortune,’ do you both have any other upcoming projects lined up that you can discuss? Are you both interested in working together again?
JS: I think we’re definitely interested in producing some more projects together, but perhaps not wearing the three hats that we did for this film again. (laughs) We have a few other…
JS: …yes, comedies, that Ryan has written. I think the next two films that we work on together will definitely be comedies again. But I think we need to deposit some sleep hours into our sleep accounts first! (laughs) Our sleep accounts are a little overdrawn after making this film! (laughs)
Written by: Karen Benardello