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Revising the Rom-Com

See Girl Run
Director: Nate Meyer • 89 min.
11/9, 7 p.m. • $15 • City Stage
11/10, 1:15 p.m. • $10
Thalian Hall Black Box

CHILDHOOD DREAMS: Robin Tunney as Emmie steps back into her past relationships to help guide her current life.

There’s a certain stigma with romantic comedies: cheesy, overly emotional romps book-ended by hijinks and quippy dialog. There was a time in the past decade when independent films breathed new life into the genre by stripping its clichés and giving it substantial qualities, but even indie films have recently become oversaturated and with their own set of expectancies. Up-and-coming director Nate Meyer is very aware of this, which is why his second feature film, “See Girl Run,” succeeds as a genuine, unique must-see at this year’s Cucalorus.

Starring Robin Tunney (“The Mentalist”), Adam Scott (“Parks & Recreation”) and Jeremy Strong (“Robot and Frank”),“See Girl Run” tells the story of Emmie (Tunney), a woman who leaves her comfortable married life behind to travel to her coastal Maine hometown to explore how her life could have been with her high-school sweetheart (Scott). Seemingly taking notes from Cameron Crowe and Mike Nichols, Meyer proves his knack for stitching together tender and humorous scenes with painfully relatable and intimate ones.

encore spoke with Meyer about filming in Maine, the film’s inspiration and his quest to make intelligent rom-coms.

encore (e): While parts of “See Girl Run” were filmed in Brooklyn, the majority of the movie was shot in Maine. Do you have special ties with that area?
Nate Meyer (NM): After I finished film school, I moved to New York and got a master’s in acting. I always had the intention of directing, but I just wanted to understand the actor’s process. The acting performance is most crucial to me, and working with actors is my favorite part of the process. After acting school, I wanted to make a film, and it was a small-town story, and so my wife and I moved to somewhere outside New York City to make “Pretty in the Face.” We found this spot in Portland, Maine, a really cool town only a few hours outside of the city, [and] moved up there for a couple of years to make the film with no resources whatsoever, no crew, and using locals for different roles.

I always felt I wasn’t able to take advantage of the distinctive beauty of Maine. Maine is unlike any other state in the country, and you don’t really see it too much in films because it’s off in the edge of the country, and with the weather there’s only a few months you can shoot. I always had an itch to get back up there with a cinematographer and build a story around it.

e: The film has all the elements of the dramatic, comedic and romantic genres without allowing itself to be pigeonholed into any specific type. Was this a conscious effort?
NM: It was very much by design. I mean I love romantic-comedies and dramas when they work, but I feel so often they don’t. Hollywood, by nature, the way they make movies . . . they don’t feel real or organic. They may deal with romance, but they never examine it for what it is, how it changes and how people react when it doesn’t sustain itself over time. Without being in-your-face about it, my team and I wanted to divert the subgenre and turn it on its head—not in an obvious way but hopefully in a realistic way. We wanted to go against what happens 99.9 percent of the time in these movies.

e: There are some very intimate moments in the film. Was the story drawn from personal experiences?
NM: The events of the movie are not the events of my life, but the kinds of issues the characters are going through are certainly thoughts and feelings I’m having all the time. One of the main themes in the movie, which all the characters are dealing with, is that life’s just not turning out to be what your young and näive, idealistic self hoped it would be.
As I get older, I’m always checking in with the 15-year-old version of myself. I always try to hold myself up to the standard of what that guy wanted to be at this age, while also wrestling with the fact that life is unexpected, things change and you learn to grow. Finding that balance is very important. What upsets me that I not only see in myself but with others, is you can spend so much time wondering “what if” that you don’t appreciate “what is.”

e: David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express”, “Eastbound & Down”) was the executive producer and a fellow NC School of the Arts alumni. I’m sensing a connection here.
NM: Yeah, we’ve been close friends since our first year at the NC School of the Arts. He’s a great guy and lover of all films. He’s very supportive of other filmmakers when he believes in what they’re doing—even if it doesn’t fit in with his own sensibilities.

e: Obviously, this film is still making its run through the festival circuit, but do you have any projects on the horizon?
NM: It will be distributed in the spring, probably in just a few cities, then through VOD and DVD [globally]. In the meantime I’m developing a couple things for television and have two features I’d like to make sometime next year. As with everything, it’s in the stages of putting together the financing and getting the right cast; hopefully, that’ll come together in 2013. The two features will be more comedic, but I still want to continue my constant quest to make romantic-comedies that are actually good.

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