Exclusive Interview: Kat Coiro on And While We Were Here
I first met director Kat Coiro at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2011, when her feature film directorial debut L!fe Happens premiered. She was very, very pregnant at the time. Her latest movie, And While We Were Here has been on VOD for a month and opened in theaters last weekend. Kate Bosworth stars as a married woman in Italy with her distant husband (Iddo Goldberg), who begins in affair with a local boy (Jamie Blackley). Since I was there at the beginning, I wanted to keep up with Coiro and speak with her about her latest film.
Crave Online: You are a married woman. Does your husband worry about what you’re expressing in And While We Were Here?
Kat Coiro: No, he was there during filming. You know, the actual personal element of that film came from the tapes, the set of tapes. I had actually made a set of tapes of my own grandmother, and for years I kind of had them, like Kate’s character, on a shelf and they would stress me out because they weren’t quite enough to make a biography of my grandmother but they were really compelling and a slice of life. So it was the tapes, to which I have the really personal connection to this story.
The infidelity was actually something that Kate asked me to write for her. It was a subject that she was interested in, so I wrote that for her. The tapes were my very personal connection to that.
Will there always be a role for Kate Bosworth in your films?
You know, it’s funny because somebody can inspire you for a period of time and then you want to move on. I think both she and I, we did three projects in a row very rapidly together. For now, I think that muse has sailed if that’s an expression. Yeah, I would work with her again. I really enjoyed the many times I worked with her.
But there was no Krysten Ritter this time?
No Krysten. I mean, it really is just the three actors. Everybody else in the movie were real Italians. The movie was so tiny. The budget was nothing. The budget was pizza and plane tickets to Italy. So everybody besides Jamie, Iddo and Kate, I would pull out of a restaurant. All the waiters and the cab driver, he’s a real Neapolitan cab driver. So outside of the three actors it was just real Italians.
I know L!fe Happens was very personal to Krysten, so was it Kate’s turn to get a personal story?
I wrote L!fe Happens. That’s my story of my first daughter.
The one you were pregnant with when L!fe Happens came out?
No, I have a daughter who’s six. When she was born, Krysten and I were old friends and we always tossed around the idea of doing something together. My daughter was about three months and I had literally changed my desk into a changing table. I wondered how, when I would ever work again. We came up with that idea based on my having a baby and our friendship together.
How different have the collaborations with your friends been in the different stories you came up with together?
Like I said, so Krysten and I were friends. Here she was calling me and being like, “Let’s go out” and I was like, “I can’t. I have a baby.” So we came up with that together. It’s really fun to write with a specific actress in mind or actor because I knew Krysten very, very well. I knew Kate very well. The character already exists in real life when you have that, so it comes out on the page very quickly. I wrote While We Were Here in three weeks because we had that hard ticking clock of my being pregnant. We had to do the movie before I had the baby. So it was very much based on knowing Kate and knowing her strengths.
Was it natural that L!fe Happens be a more comedic take on something personal, and And While We Were Here would be a more dramatic take?
Yeah, mostly I have done comedy. And While We Were Here was so small. It was so tiny and I really had the freedom to break out of what I’ve been doing. I’ve written a couple pilots and sitcoms. I just directed this other film, A Case of You which is a big comedy. So While We Were Here was a departure for me to experiment and I loved it. I love that genre of drama, romance. It’s fun.
Did you plan your shots with the background in Italy in them, or just saw what was there on the day and rolled with it?
I wrote the script knowing that I wanted to film on the island of Ischia because my producing partner, her boyfriend’s family lives there. They had a house there and they said we could shoot there for free. So I Google Earthed the island and I would see some beautiful place and write a scene based on that, although I’d never been there. The castle for example, I Googled Ischia, I found the castle, I wrote the scenes in the castle, not knowing if the castle would let us shoot there or what it actually looked like but just going by pictures.
Then we arrived in Italy and for about three days, we went to all these locations that I’d found on Google Earth and we planned our shots pretty meticulously once we’d been there. But it was a completely renegade production. We just went around and stole all the shots and it worked out. Everywhere, like the cemetery, I found that on Google Earth and wrote that scene there, and then we arrived and shot it. It was a very quick process.
When Caleb says, “You need to be less serious,” I thought that was a different way of saying “You can’t be serious” or “You must be kidding.” How did you think of that particular line and that expression of that feeling?
It’s funny because Kate’s character, Jane, she’s young. Caleb is not that much younger than her. He’s only 10 years, eight years younger than her but she is living her life like she’s a much older person. She’s kind of let things pass her by. She’s married this person who’s obviously not right for her, who is very serious. She’s gotten into this thing where she wants to have children but she’s not able to and I think he sees the youth in her that she herself has bypassed and forgotten about.
So when he says that to her, at that point they’re not even really doing anything except for running around and enjoying each other’s company and she’s already stressing as if they’ve slept together. She’s just a very fraught person and I think he sees that. I love that line. Actually, it’s funny you picked that out because I think there’s something very sweet and tender.
It’s a very specific sentence. It’s not just a casual thing to say.
Yeah, I’m glad that you noticed that line. Thank you.
You’re welcome. How easily did your next film come after L!fe Happens?
It was very quick actually. While I was editing While We Were Here, I had a meeting with Justin Long and his brother and their writing partner, Keir O’Donnell and they had this script that was more in the vein of L!fe Happens. They’d been trying to put it together for a while and they saw L!fe Happens and they wanted me to direct it. So I finished shooting While We Were Here in July of 2011 and by January of 2013 we were shooting A Case of You in New York.
So you were doing And While We Were Here regardless of whether or not you got another job.
Yeah, I did that for artistic purposes.
A Case of You went to Tribeca, right?
Yeah, they both did actually. While We Were Here was Tribeca 2012 and A Case of You was Tribeca 2013.
Is A Case of You coming out soon?
Yeah, A Case of You sold to IFC and it’s coming out in November in theaters and on all the other platforms.
Did you also shoot Departure Date?
I shot Departure Date right after I shot A Case of You. Now Departure Date is a short. There’s been some confusion. It’s a long short that I shot for Virgin Airlines, so it’s kind of like a branded integration but it’s a complete narrative. It’s not a commercial but we shot it all on Virgin planes and they flew around the world. It was crazy.
So that answers my question, you shot it with their permission.
Yeah, I shot it for Virgin. They wanted to have some content. It was like a movie that they played on all their airlines. It also premiered at the L.A. Film Festival but really it was for playing on the planes, and it was an amazing experience because they said to me, “Write anything you want. It just has to be able to be filmed on these three flights. One LA/Australia, one LA/London and one LA/Dallas and back, and it has to have X amount of characters and it can’t be about terrorism.” That’s more in the vein of While We Were Here. It’s a romance movie. It’s a little bit funnier. It’s kind of in between genres.
Did they say anything about having snakes on the plane? That’s where I would’ve gone.
[Laughs] You know, I wanted to put some snakes in there but it’s been done.
So we can’t see that movie unless we fly Virgin?
Oh yeah, you can now. In fact, if you Google it, it’s online on many different platforms. I love that little film. It’s so cute and it’s got an awesome cast too. My favorite story from that is Janeane Garafolo, I’d worked with her before and she signed up to do Departure Date. She arrived in L.A. and we started boarding this commercial flight to Dallas where we were doing her scene. She’s like, “Wait a second, I thought we were going to be on Richard Branson’s private jet.” I said, “No, Janeane, it’s a commercial flight to Dallas.” We filmed with passengers. We filmed on full flights.
What can we look forward to with A Case of You?
A Case of You is the first film that I didn’t write. It was written, like I said, by Justin Long and his brother. It’s Justin and Evan Rachel Wood and it’s basically about this guy who’s very insecure, played by Justin and thinks that this girl that he’s dating isn’t going to like him unless he likes everything she likes so he kind of molds his life based on her Facebook page. It’s got an incredible supporting cast with Brendan Fraser, Vince Vaughn, Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage, Sienna Miller. It’s a great little film and I’m excited for it to come out. It’s a pretty interesting film that they wrote because it’s like a romantic comedy but without any of the formula of a romantic comedy. It really is, the theme is we are our own worst enemy. Justin plays the protagonist and the antagonist.
It’s sort of the classic idea of someone comes up with a great plan to attract someone, but realizes they have to be themselves.
Exactly, and that’s all that person wants but they just can’t do it. It’s a really sweet, heartfelt little comedy. I loved working with Justin. He’s one of those people who just makes you laugh no matter what hour of the day it is, no matter how long you’ve been working. A real pleasure.
What is your next film going to be?
It’s not been released yet but I just signed on to do a new film that I absolutely love. Again I didn’t write this one, so it will be revealed film. It’s another romantic film.
Does the industry see you as "Kat Coiro, Director" now?
As opposed to?
Well, I’ve never been Kat Coiro, Actor. That’s my line and I’m sticking to it. No, I acted under a different name. I really didn’t like it. I never wanted to be a professional actor but it’s been one of the most helpful experience in becoming a director, having been an actor. I think actors in a lot of ways have one of the hardest jobs because it’s so vulnerable. It’s very difficult I think and having been through it and experienced it myself, I’m an actor’s director for sure because I know how hard it can be to come to set and look good and be on when you don’t feel like it.