Video Interview: Director Michael Dowse Discusses 'What If' & 'Goon'
by Alex Billington
August 18, 2014
"It's the essence of flirting." So how do you refresh and revitalize the romantic comedy genre? That's what I was hoping to find out from Canadian director Michael Dowse, the man behind the excellent film What If. I first saw this film at last year's TIFF 2013, and loved it, ranking it as one of my 5 favorite films of that festival. It was known as The F Word back then (and still is in Canada) but was retitled to What If for its US release, which is something I had to ask him about. What If stars Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan as a young couple perfect for each other–their chemistry was a topic, too. View the full video interview below.
Michael Dowse is also the director of the films Fubar, Fubar: Balls to the Wall, It's All Gone Pete Tong and Goon with Seann William Scott. If you've seen any of those films, you'll know he's a talented director, but that a romantic comedy isn't really his forte. Or is it? I decided to start by asking him about how this movie was a big change of pace, before exploring further into What If and how it all came together. I'm glad we could speak because this turned out to be a very fun and fascinating interview covering his directing choices.
Here's my video interview with What If director Michael Dowse, shot on Flipcam in New York City:
Timeline of questions: 0:14 - This seems like an odd turn for you - how did you end up here? 2:16 - Is the romantic comedy genre really that tired or does it just need a proper revamp? 3:46 - There are beautiful, personal moments in this that just happen… 4:57 - Who came first in casting: Zoe or Dan? 6:19 - Are there any moments drawn from reality that make it feel so real? 7:23 - How much is natural improv, how much script? 8:55 - Is it harder to craft the more natural scenes? 9:58 - What are the biggest lessons you've learned from this film that you can impart upon other filmmakers? 10:50 - Is editing something you still love? What is your favorite part of filmmaking? 12:03 - Do you prefer to just stay in the editing room? 12:58 - Feelings on the title change? 14:58 - Where do you plan to go from here, what will you direct next?
From TIFF 2013: "[What If] is up there with truly memorable indie romantic comedies along the lines of 500 DOS. It's set in Toronto and has a few quirky Canadian sensibilities, but that only adds to the overall experience. While the film may play better with younger generations, the comedy is never overwrought or overdone and is often just naturally hilarious without being an overt joke. On the sweeter side, the heart at the center of the film beats firmly and keeps the ever-so-important emotion at the forefront without being a burden. A delight in every way, The F Word is a fun romantic comedy gem that I recommend catching."
Michael Dowse's What If (my Telluride review) was released in theaters everywhere on August 15th - it's now playing, so check your local listings to see it. For more info and to find theaters, visit WhatIfMovie.com.