In this interview with Close-up Culture, director Motke Dapp talks about his fantasy rom-com flick, Another Version Of You. The film follows the story of Diggsy as he gets an opportunity to explore parallel universes to find another version of the woman he has long loved who might love him back.
Q: ‘Another Version Of You’ is out on VOD this coming Tuesday (26 November). When did this journey begin for you?
A: In the summer of 2011, I was filming my first feature film and after principal photography, I wanted a break from the intense few weeks we just had making a movie. I had this idea for a parallel universe love story, so I decided to write a novel (my third) about a guy who has been in love with same girl his entire life but just watched her get married to someone else. What if he could find another version of her in a parallel universe who might love him back?
A year or so later, I turned the novel into a screenplay, and then a short film we made called Contrary To Likeness won a bunch of awards at the 2015 48 Hour Film International Competition called Filmapalooza. The top 10 films (out of around 3,000 worldwide) get to screen at the Cannes Shorts Corner at the Cannes Film Festival. Several of our team members from the short were interested in going to Cannes, so we took a huge leap and decided to film some footage for Another Version Of You in Iceland and France, in hopes of using that footage to get us funding to make the entire film.
Q: Why did you want to use this high concept of parallel universes to explore unrequited love?
A: I love sci-fi and fantasy, but I gravitate toward the stories that don’t rely too much on the technical aspects (About Time, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) – they focus on the story more than the mechanics.
I wrote this film loosely based on string theory where every time a big decision is made, there’s a split, thus creating the multiverse where there are other versions of everyone who have all made different decisions that have shaped their lives. And what better way to explore the multiverse than being on a quest to find another version of the person you loved in the off chance that one of them might be interested in you?
Q: Can you tell us more about Diggsy? Is there any of yourself or people you know in him? Or is he the universal male who is head over heels for a woman he can’t be with?
A: There was a girl I really liked in university, and I asked her out three separate times over two years, and each time she said it wasn’t the right time. We were close friends, but we never dated. And I know a lot of people have stories like that, so I wanted to lean into that concept with this story.
Ultimately, I wanted Diggsy to kind of be the “everyman” – someone with which everyone can somewhat relate. But I also wanted him to be a character, and I worked very closely with Kristopher Wente, the actor who plays Diggsy, to craft a complex character with his own emotional struggles outside of finding the love of his life.
Q: I’ve read that the film takes on a ‘darker edge’ at times. What kind of tone and emotional journey can audiences expect?
A: The film is a beautiful blend of comedy, adventure, emotion, and heartache. We have spent the last several years (a little too long, probably), making sure the film had the right emotional beats to take the audience on a realistic journey of unrequited love through parallel universes. This involved testing it with many audiences and shooting new scenes to make sure we were telling a satisfying story. And the thing about love is – sometimes there are heartbreaking moments, and this story has them, as well as some really fun fish out of water moments.
Q: The trailer shows there are some awe-inspiring and beautiful outdoor settings in the film. How was the shoot and the opportunity to film at these locations?
A: As we were exploring filming in France, Kristopher (Diggsy) suggested we make a stop in Iceland. He had family there, and by taking Iceland air, it wasn’t that much more to spend a few days in Iceland, which ended giving us some gorgeous footage. When our cast and crew started looking at what we could do by going overseas to shoot some initial scenes, we followed a couple of rules: let the environment guide us – if we see something beautiful that will get us a fun moment, let’s grab it and let’s try to get usable scenes (we captured a lot, and then ended up not using much of it – we hope to release some of this as bonus footage in the future). There were a few times we sacrificed usable scenes to get one shot that would hopefully wow people (like Diggsy and Daphne jumping off the cliff into the water from our trailer).
The shoot itself was a tough one. When we were in Iceland, it rained most of the time. So we would be waiting for breaks in the rain and then would frantically try to shoot something when the rain stopped. We had an incredible Icelandic guide helping us navigate where we could shoot and where we should avoid, and he was invaluable.
Once we got to France, our camera’s battery charger stopped charging batteries, so we had to drastically limit how much we shot once we got there. We would shoot a shot and then power down the camera. And there were no camera houses around for us to pick up new gear.
But we’re super happy we were able to capture some beautiful things while we were there. Plus, that adventure eventually paved the way for us to make the rest of the film.
And the visual beauty of the film can be attributed to the cinematography of Micah Simms and the coloring of our editor and colorist, Ken Conrad.
Q: This is an eye catching cast featuring Kristopher Wente (The Reason, Turn, We’re Doing Fine), CJ Perry (WWE Superstar Lana, Pitch Perfect, Total Divas), Miroslav Barnyashev (WWE Superstar Rusev), and Sara Antonio (The Reason, Nashville, The Inspectors). What did you enjoy about working with this team?
We have an incredible cast. It’s always amazing when you write something and then the actors come in and bring the characters to life. I’m a collaborative director, so I like to let the actors bring parts of themselves into the characters. I find if they take ownership (as long as it doesn’t interfere with the story), they will be the characters rather than imitating something they read on a page.
Each of our actors approached their characters in different ways. It’s fascinating to see how each actor approaches their roles. And as a director, it’s important for me to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each actor, so I can make them look as amazing and as real as possible in every scene.
A lot of the film surrounds the relationship between Diggsy (Kristopher Wente), Suzette – the love interest (Sara Antonio) and Diggsy’s sister, Daphne (the late Brittany Belland). The three of them spent a lot of time together when we went overseas, creating incredible bonds.
With CJ and Miroslav’s stringent tour schedules while we were filming, we had to plan our entire shoot around their availability. But it worked out so well. They are professionals and came in ready to do whatever they needed to do to get the shots we needed.
CJ understands her brand and what her fans like, so we worked closely together to craft her character (Gwyneth) to fit what I wrote, but also add things she knows her audience will like. CJ and I spent a lot of time before we filmed talking about the character. She wanted to know everything I could tell her. And it was her idea for Gwyneth to always wear polka dots – and then our wardrobe stylist, Ciciley Hoffman, worked with her to bring that look to life.
Miro is hilarious. He basically did whatever we asked, and brought his dry humor to everything. We kept wishing we could get him in more scenes and even wrote a scene for him once we did some reshoots.
A quick note about Brittany Belland, who plays Daphne. I had worked with her on several films and commercial projects, and when I wrote the novel in 2011, I had just come off set working with her on a feature film, so when I wrote Daphne, Brittany was in my mind as someone who could definitely play that role. Brittany was one of the first people to read the screenplay. And I remember the day I called her and asked her to be Daphne. It was a magical moment.
Sadly, she knew we loved her, but her darkness was too much. Brittany was very open about her struggles with depression and even was a champion of suicide prevention efforts, but she took her own life a year ago. Her absence from the world, and from the release of the film she worked so hard to help bring to life, is felt by me every day.
Q: The names CJ Perry and Miroslav Barnyashev jump off the page. How did they become involved and what did they bring to the project?
A: As independent filmmakers with smaller budgets, we have to find ways to champion the up and coming actors and crew but find creative ways to get recognizable faces on the screen. We had a connection to CJ and Miro through one of our producers, and after several conversations, we all agreed they would be an ideal fit for our film. CJ has been in Pitch Perfect and is, of course, a huge star in the WWE as well as Total Divas at the time of filming. And getting Miro on screen was a blast.
They both bring a lot of savvy. They have faithful fan bases, and they understand how to engage them. We’re hoping their fans will get to see a very different version of the characters they play in the WWE – alternate versions of themselves, if you will.
Q: The two are currently touring the globe with WWE, but we’ve seen many stars successfully transition out of that world and into Hollywood. What do impact do you feel these two could have in the world of film?
A: I know they’re both very interested in getting into more films, and once people see them in this film, they will see they are very different than their WWE personas. We’re starting to get film reviews, and many people are mentioning how magical CJ is as Gwyneth.
I’m excited for her fan base to see them. One review by Carl Burgess from Screen Critix said it best about CJ: “Perry is a revelation in this role, like Suzette she appears a number of times throughout the film and each time she has a huge impact on both the overall story arc and the characters’ development. She fills the screen with her charisma and with a gesture here or an eye-roll there she is able to showcase both beauty and brains using simple nuances and line deliveries. By making a couple of interesting choices in her acting career I believe CJ Perry could become a real bonafide movie star.”
Q: ‘Another Version Of You’ won the 2018 Audience Award at the Nashville Film Festival. How did you find the festival experience and seeing audiences engage with this story?
A: Having our film premiere at the Nashville Film Festival was special. We filmed 90% of the film in Nashville, and most of the cast and crew live there and were able to see the film they helped create on the big screen. We sold out 3 of 4 screenings and were the 3rd most attended film of the film festival’s history. I’ve had a lot of films screen at the festival, but there was magic with the screening of Another Version of You.
Q: Lastly, what are your hopes for the film when it arrives on VOD?
A: I want people to discover how incredible our cast and crew is. All of us want to move forward in this industry and make more great things. I hope this film is a steppingstone for all of us to do bigger projects.
This film has been a labor of love for me and the other producers, David Perry and Ryan Hartsock. Our investors have been incredible throughout the whole process. We all love the film, and we want as many people as possible to see it.
I want Brittany’s memory to be honored and for people to see what an incredible performance she brought to this role.
Title image by Gabriel Max Starner