A cheeky Kiwi filmmaker makes the world's first crowd-sourced documentary romcom
In Love Story, a beautiful woman, Masha (Masha Yakovenko), is carrying a piece of cake on a plate on the New York subway when she’s spied by New Zealand filmmaker, Florian (Florian Habicht). Florian convinces her to star in a home-made film with him, but Florian doesn’t have a script. Instead, he asks random New Yorkers to come up with the plot twists. He also consults his father, Frank, via Skype. However, things become complicated when Florian begins to really fall for the willowy actress.
The resulting Love Story leaves the audience unsure of what is reality and what is fiction. Time Out sat down with Habicht to talk about his mind-bending movie.
Florian, you really nail the feeling of NYC and paint a beautiful picture of its people. How long did you live there?
I lived there a year before we started filming, but I still had that excitement, those childlike eyes, that I had when I first arrived. Some New Yorkers actually said a local wouldn’t have been able to make the film like that. They thought me being an outsider gave it something else.
You are pretty bold in the way that you approach people for plot twists. Most are friendly, but jumping into that stockbroker’s cab and asking for sex advice was pretty forward. Was it tough at first to be that outgoing or did it really just come naturally?
Having a camera helps for me. Because I was making a movie and I wanted some love advice, I didn’t have a problem. Though, I had the jumping-in-a-taxi idea since the beginning of filming and it took me months to build up the courage to actually do it!
There was so much wonderful coincidence in the film. Was much of this planned?
There were some things that we thought out, but so many amazing coincidences happened. Like when my dad gave me the idea for using the Michael Jackson impersonator. I Googled "Michael Jackson impersonators New York City". Most videos came up of this small guy, Alex. I tried really hard to find out his contact details, but there was nothing online. Then I’m going through the subway one night, and we literally walk into each other in a crossing, and my eyeballs pop out. I couldn’t believe it. I just briefly told him about the film, got his number, and it was magic.
Your dad seemed to play a big part in guiding the film. Did you two talk about direction beforehand, or was it spontaneous?
That’s pretty much my dad, how he is, and it happened really naturally. He was Skyping me about the weather for shooting conditions in NYC, and I started filming it because it was very humorous, and then he’d start giving film ideas, so I captured it. I asked him if I could film at the beginning, but I think he forgot that I was filming, and I didn’t really remind him. It would have been different if he had known.
In the film, you say the lines between the documentary and real life are getting blurred. Did that happen to you while filming?
Oh yeah, totally. I was living the film, waking up every morning on the film set. The thing is, if you do a scene and you give an honest performance, of course you’re going to have real feelings, because if you don’t have real feelings then you’re not doing it properly. I think for all of us involved in the film it got really blurred, and it was something we hadn’t experienced before.
Love Story screens from Thu Dec 6.