Navigating the darker side of social media has been a major theme of several recent films like Ingrid Goes West and Eighth Grade. It’s a poignant time to be talking about the social effects of the digital world on the real world. The burning desire we seem to have developed for the internet to like our #blessed selfies and photos of our avocado toast can quickly lead to full blown social anxiety if left unchecked.
This is what New York based writer and director Lizzie Logan challenges in her indie rom-com People People, which follows the story of an internet obsessed millennial and vlogger named Kat (Natalie Walker) who also happens to have not left her apartment in a long time. A very long time. Self-diagnosed as agoraphobic, Kat’s only non-family real world interaction is with her delivery guy, Colin (David Rosenberg).
With People People now available to rent/buy on VOD, Lizzie Logan talks about the ups and downs of independent film-making and how People People successfully came together with a talented team working on a next-to-nothing budget. People People has screened at the Citizen Jane Film Festival, the Lift-Off NYC Film Festival and the deadCenter Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Narrative Feature.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for length.
AD: This is your first feature film that you wrote and directed. How did you come up with the concept for this film?
I was in college and I went to NYU for dramatic writing, so I was always playing around with different script ideas and I had this idea – how much story could you fit in one location? What if there was a character who never left her apartment and there wasn’t a ton of plot and not a lot of outside forces driving it? I wanted to distil the romantic comedy down to just the relationship and just one location to see how far I could take that.
There are minimal locations and minimal cast. It almost feels like it could transpose quite easily to a theatre piece because it’s all about the characters and really intimate.
Yeah! I wouldn’t consider myself a playwright but I’ve taken play writing classes and done a lot of student theatre in my younger days. Right now, I’m on a sketch team where you try to do everything in one location. Having things take place in real time and in one location, it makes things a lot easier on a practical level and also you have to force that conflict. It’s easy to heighten the stakes when someone is at gunpoint and you have something external driving the plot. But you really have to focus on the characters when it’s just the two of them in a room and everyone is safe and no one is forcing them to talk about the things they don’t want to talk about. That’s something I think theatre is really good at and I borrowed for this.
Did you come up with the characters or the concept and the parameters first?
I guess the parameters but also the main character of Kat really influenced all of that. It’s her issues that are driving the plot and she is her surroundings. She and the apartment are one entity because she is stuck there and also moulding it to be what she needs. I would say that I developed Kat along with the plot and then I just stuck in other characters to feed the beats of the story.
The main character Kat is played by Natalie Walker who is an actress and an internet star herself. How did she become attached to the project?
She auditioned. We had gone to the same summer camp. We didn’t know each other there but I knew she was an actress and a writer and made great videos. So, I invited her to the audition event on Facebook and then our mutual friend, Liz Watson also invited her to the audition event. Liz is a producer on the movie and they had known each other also through camp. It’s all very small world. Natalie came in and auditioned and we were all like, “that’s perfect.”
Going into more of the practicalities of the film-making process – it’s a micro-budget indie feature. How did your funding come together?
The funding has a simple and a bit of a bummer for an answer which is my Grandmother died and left me a chunk of money. So, I financed it myself. I was very lucky to be in that position. I didn’t need to crowdfund or apply for grants. I was able to buy people plane tickets and food and the practical day to day things. Our crew worked for very little which is also again very lucky that they were in a position to be able to do that. The apartment we used for the majority of principle photography is my Mom’s apartment. So they were the three big freebies. We didn’t have to pay for a location, I had a chunk of money and everyone’s fees were minimal.
I’ll also say that one of the reasons I didn’t want to ask other people for money, including producers or grants is because I wanted the freedom to have it be really bad if it turned out really bad. I had never made a feature before. I had only directed a couple of shorts and I think there is a lot of pressure and a lot of responsibility when you take other people’s money to deliver. I wanted it to be like, “if this doesn’t work out, I haven’t wasted anyone’s money but my own.”
I guess that’s the true definition of a passion project, right?
Yeah, a passion project and truly being independent. A lot of people helped me but nobody is putting their cash on the line for me. This is all on me if this sucks…. and it doesn’t suck actually. I’m very happy for how it turned out.
When you have other people’s money and other investors, you also have other people’s influence. This movie really is exactly how you wanted it.
Josh Ruffner our DOP and Marissa Rutka or editor were super helpful. They are great talented collaborators and I deferred to them a lot. I would say their vision really comes through in the final cut. We had a lot of freedom to play around with it and it was a liberating and cool way to make a project.
Absolutely. What kind of takeaways did you have from the process?
Post production is long! We shot this in Summer 2016 and for a long time people were like “what ever happened with that movie you were making?” and I’m like “it’s still in post.” That’s not a complaint. I had made a few 10-15 minute projects and I thought well, this film will take five times as long as that. No! It’s exponentially longer. But again, that was a great thing, I didn’t have a deadline to meet. I didn’t have to deliver it on anybody else’s schedule.
Yes, you need to surround yourself with equally as good and talented people in order to pull of something like this. And when you’re making a film as an independent filmmaker you have to wear all the hats – producing, writing and directing…
Yeah, and especially for this, it was nuts on set. I made lunch for everyone, so I was the caterer too.
Yes. You’ve got to do it all in the indie world.
I would call action and then call cut so that I could run around and fix someone’s makeup. I made the fake blood that’s on Damon’s head. It was super rewarding to be that involved in a project. So, in the future, it would be great to focus on one aspect, but it was also great to focus on all the aspects.
Well that’s also the real benefit of starting at that grass roots, all hands on deck, micro budget indie way. You know how to do everything and moving forward you’ll always have that.
Yes. I was my own PA. I was my own Art Director. All of it.
And fake blood wrangler!
So where can everybody find the link to rent your film People People?
Interview by Adelle Drover
Adelle is an Australian film youtuber (https://www.youtube.com/c/rollcredits) and critic. You can find her on Roll Credits (www.rollcredits.net) where she takes a journalistic approach to film culture… but still gets super fan-girl excited for the next big Marvel release! Her cine-quest is to find a happy medium between more thoughtful film discourse and action-adventure popcorn flicks. Why not both? Say hi over on instagram