I recently had the opportunity to talk with Scoot McNairy, whose film, In Search of a Midnight Kiss, is making the rounds at film festivals and opened in theaters in August. Read on for his thoughts on filmmaking, friendships in Hollywood, and finding balance in Big Sur.
Jane: First of all, I love your name. What’s the history behind it?
Scoot: My birth name is John, but I’ve never gone by that name. My dad started calling me Scooter when I was about two years old. A lot of people are like, oh, it must be some amazing story. But it’s because I used to scoot around on my butt.
Jane: I’m looking at your IMDB.com page and, wow, you’ve done a lot of stuff. I just watched the entire series of Six Feet Under, and I’m trying to remember the character of Trevor that you played in the “All Alone” episode.
More after the jump, including a trailer…
Jane: Oh, right! I pretty much cried my way through those last few episodes. Awesome series, but so emotional, all the way through.
Scoot: Yeah, it was a great show to work on, too. Those people are a super close crew.
Jane: That’s so cool. So, “Midnight Kiss” opened August 1st?
Scoot: August 1st in New York and August 14th in Chicago and Washington, I think. Then it rolled out everywhere else on the 22nd.
Jane: I can’t wait to see it. And it looks like you’ve already got some good press going, too.
Scoot: Yeah, you just never know how it’s going to do until you throw it at the public. It’s pretty much up to them. But we did great in the UK, so I’m hoping that translates over to America, as well.
Jane: Tell me about the film.
Scoot: People can read the storyline, so I’ll just talk about the subtext. It’s about relationships and connection between human beings, and how we’re living in this modern world where communication is at its highest, yet we’re more disconnected than ever. The two characters in the film have recently moved to Los Angeles – the city of dreams, people say — and they’re both going through a lost time in their lives where they’ve sacrificed a lot and given up on relationships. So they’re trying to find a connection with each other, and it’s all told in a 24-hour period from New Year’s Eve to the next day.
Jane: In L.A., especially, you probably never know who your true friends are, because everybody’s trying to climb over each other, right?
Scoot: Absolutely. When I first moved out here, it took me about three years to weed through my group of friends. When you first get here, you meet, like, 2,000 people, and at the end of a year, you get rid of most of them and you’re left with about 15 really solid friends who’ve got your back.
Jane: The Hollywood Reporter says “Midnight Kiss” is like a Woody Allen-type romantic comedy in the vein of Manhattan…
Jane: You’ve worked with the director, Alex Holdridge, before, right?
Scoot: Yeah, this is actually my third film with him. He put me in my first movie [Wrong Numbers], when I was 18 years old, which was almost ten years ago. It went to the Austin Film Festival and got the Audience Award. Then we did another low budget movie [Sexless] that went to South by Southwest and got the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize. So when he said, I want to do another movie, I didn’t have to think twice about it. I was just like, absolutely, let’s do it.
Jane: A lot of filmmakers seem to form these alliances early on. Is it all about working with people you trust?
Scoot: It’s trust, I think, most of all. As an actor, you really put yourself out there. It’s like with reality TV these days…if you film anyone – even the coolest person in the world – for 48 hours, you can go back and cut anybody to make them look like an idiot. So, it’s knowing that you can put yourself out there and take risks and be vulnerable and know that this person is not going to monopolize on your insecurities. It’s like with Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, or Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks… Once you find a director who’s on the same page, the work is so much easier.
Jane: Your first film together…was that “Wrong Numbers”?
Scoot: Yeah, it was a film we made that the studio wanted to remake. I’d moved out here beforehand to go to film school, and Alex moved out here to work on this remake with the studio. In a nutshell, they kind of stole the idea and ran with it, and “Superbad” was made. It was just like, whoa – what? Four years of his life gone. But you don’t want to come out here and start rustling feathers. We moved out here to make movies, so you take the hits and keep moving forward. It was just a shocker to work so hard on something and then have it stripped. I mean, if you watch “Wrong Numbers,” it’s almost verbatim the exact same film.
Jane: I can’t even imagine putting all that time into it and then have that happen.
Scoot: He worked really hard, so it was frustrating…
Scoot: Yeah, when you’re on a limited budget and you’re on location, it’s a total impromptu endeavor. Just because I’m an actor doesn’t mean I can’t hold a boom or carry cords and cables or lock down locations. I don’t really look at it as wearing hats. I look at it as, if nobody’s there to light it, then let me light it. Let’s move forward. I also realized that I’m not going to wait around for Hollywood to bring me a film to do. I’m going to go out and find my own scripts and make them myself, because I could be sitting around here for the next 20 years.
Jane: And you started out building sets?
Scoot: Yeah, I started out building sets, and that’s how I met my commercial agent who’s now my theatrical manager and my producing partner, John Pierce. I’ve been with him for seven years. Everybody needs to find their one major cheerleader who will stand behind them on anything, and I definitely found that with John.
Jane: What are you working on now?
Scoot: We have two other movies we’re producing. One of them is called “The Last Time I Made Straight A’s,” written and directed by Dave Cole. I’m playing the lead opposite Amy Acker, who was in Alias and Angel [also in Joss Whedon’s upcoming series, Dollhouse]. Also in that is Eddie Jemison, who was in Oceans 11, 12 and 13. And then we have another movie called Frank and Cindy that I’m producing, and a couple of films, The Beautiful Letdown, directed by Jeffery Travis, and an untitled script that we should be shooting in October.
Jane: And your next film with Alex…?
Scoot: That’s called “Hate in Paris,” and we’re slated to shoot that probably in March of 2009. I don’t want to give too much information about that one, because that’s going to be our next big film.
Jane: Sounds great. I’ll look forward to it. I was looking at your bio, and it says you wanted to work as a glacier guide in British Columbia. Are you able to find a balance with your career, and get out into the wilderness very often?
Scoot: Absolutely. There are parts of L.A. that suck, but you also have all these National Parks at your fingertips right outside the city. So I go up to Big Sur, out to Idyllwild, Joshua Tree, and up to Yosemite and the Sequoias every chance I get. I pack up the car and head out to the mountains. I don’t do much climbing anymore, but just hiking, backpacking, camping, and fly fishing.
Jane: Anything else you want to say about “Midnight Kiss” or anything?
Scoot: Yeah, obviously, I want people to go see it. But I also want to tell people – don’t wait around for someone to make your movie. Just go get a camera and start shooting it. There are ways to make your movie with a small budget. I’ve had four friends who’ve been trying to do stuff like this for a long time, and they saw what we did with “Midnight Kiss” on a small budget, which inspired them to go shoot their movies. So keep shooting movies. We need more movies like this out there.
Jane: Thanks so much for all your time. I really appreciate it.
Scoot: Thanks so much, Jane.
“In Search of a Midnight Kiss” Trailer:
Images: Scoot McNairy, 2008; In Search of a Midnight Kiss, IFC First Take, 2007