Actor and writer Michael Tennant joins us on Close-Up Culture to talk about his critically acclaimed film, Pretty Problems.
The film follows a flailing couple on a getaway trip with affluent strangers: down the rabbit hole, and into the most unhinged weekend of their lives
Hi Michael, welcome to Close-Up Culture. I heard your love of indie film led you to write Pretty Problems. You can tell us more about your inspiration for the film?
Thank you for having me! I’m going to be incredibly blunt. I was trying to save my marriage. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I wish I could wax poetic, but that’s why this movie exists. I love indie films. I live for adult comedies about real-life experiences. I love Star Wars, I’ve read and watched Game of Thrones (House of Dragons took a second but it got GOOD), and I enjoy all of the Marvel movies… I am entertained by these franchises, but I don’t feel seen by them. I spent a lot of time as an actor and then a producer reading scripts and everything started to feel homogenous.
I wanted to take a shot at doing something that existed outside of the “Can we franchise this intellectual property?” system. The Duplass Brothers, Lynn Shelton, Joey Solloway, Jim Cummings, Lena Dunham, and Judd Apatow. I watched these people create, and I wanted to see if I could do it.
Can you tell us more about the dynamic between couple Jack and Lindsay Simpson and what you wanted to explore through them?
Definitely, and great question. I’m fascinated by potential. We love potential, right? Sports, politics, art, etc. Your team gets an early first-round pick, the politician whose views agree with gives a rousing speech, and your favorite musician drops an album! We love these people! But we fall in love with their potential and not the person. We also do this with our romantic partners for better and usually worse. So we enter into a relationship and we see who we could be with them and who they could be with us, and what we MIGHT build together. The hard truth is that we fail to see and love people for who they are. Jack and Lindsay have hit the ceiling of their partnership. They’re living in “Is this it?”. Which, I believe, is a pretty universal feeling.
You wrote, produced, and starred in the film. What was your experience like playing Jack?
Honestly? It sucked. Jack isn’t a good hang. He’s the worst part of me. He’s got an unhealthy amount of shame, a huge ego, he’s a bit of a nihilist, and he’s given up on what his life could’ve been because he got kicked in the teeth one time. I have to give our Director, Kestrin Pantera, a lot of credit for fleshing this out with me. I wanted to play Jack as a much more charming POV character for the audience. Kestrin kept making me dig into the “yuck”.
Watching the rest of the cast play these hilarious hedonists I’d written was so sexy, and I wanted to play too. Kestrin kept asking Britt Rentschler and I to be the grounding characters. It wasn’t fun in real-time. We’d wrap takes of Britt and I and I’d say “Damn… I didn’t mean to write Marriage Story.”. Then when we were shooting the ensemble scenes, which get WILD, I would turn to Kestrin and Britt and say “Damn… I didn’t mean to write American Pie.”. I think it’s a huge credit to our post team for threading the needle the way they did.
Pretty Problems has received great reviews on the festival circuit and online. What type of experience can audiences expect from the film?
We’ve been blown away by the response. When I initially pitched the idea to my fellow producer, Charlotte Ubben, I knew how risky this was. We were going to make an R-rated indie comedy that has no celebrities in it. But that’s kind of the point. I wanted to make a movie that people felt seen by. Not taken out of because they recognized a famous face. My hope is that people come out of this movie having laughed a lot, thought a little, and felt acknowledged.
While the movie is set in a wine country chateau, I believe most of us are walking around feeling like we didn’t get where we wanted. So I hope people can find some love and acceptance of where they are and who they’ve surrounded themselves with. I’ve had a lot of strangers reach out to me and say something along the lines of “I think you just saved my marriage.”. That’s all you can ask for as a storyteller.
You just started a new company, My Therapist Think Productions. What type of films do you hope to make in the future?
I want to make movies therapists will like! Movies that are a bit introspective, wry, and punch you in the gut once or twice. I’m an unabashed supporter of therapy and self-reflection. Too often we look to other people to fix our problems, and I know it’s cliche but it’s true: Wherever YOU go, there YOU are. The goal of MTTP is to continue to tell stories centered around adult issues with a healthy dose of laughter. We want to be the spoonful of sugar that helps what medicine goes down.
What are your plans and ambitions for the coming years?
I plan to continue being an advocate for females in film and to keep chasing the dragon that is artistic fulfillment. The last year has treated me to some of the lowest lows and the highest highs. I want to keep moving forward in my life and career with the understanding that both can happen at the same time. We aren’t one thing. We’re all just trying to figure it out, and I hope I get to keep being a mouthpiece for people to explore who they are and where they’re at. We just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Find out more about Pretty Problems – Pretty Problems | Official Website (prettyproblemsmovie.com)
Pretty Problems Film (@prettyproblemsfilm) • Instagram photos and videos
Photo Credit: Gerald Sandoval