In his first solo directorial effort, Three Night Stand, which he also wrote, Pat Kiely takes on the messiness of a fizzling marriage. It’s unclear just when they started to drift apart, but after being married for five years, young couple Carl (Sam Huntington) and Sue (Meaghan Rath) might as well be strangers.
In an effort to rekindle their romance, Carl takes Sue on a weekend ski trip to a resort in the Laurentians, the same one he used to go to with a former flame Robyn (Emmanuelle Chriqui), a woman with whom he had a steamy and passionate relationship he has never gotten over, as evidenced by the look on his face when she greets him at the resort’s front desk. She’s the new owner, and if you’ve ever been privy to a secret that you wish you can spill, you’ll know exactly what the first half of Three Night Stand feels like. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and you’re glad you’re watching it all unfold and not one of the parties involved. Sue has no idea Carl and Robyn have a past, let alone that her husband’s whisked her away to the same place he and her host spent days together.
Three Night Stand is set and shot in Montreal and the Laurentians and features a great supporting performance by Reagan Pasternak who plays Stacey, Carl’s wingwoman. The entire cast is very charming even when their characters do unlikeable and illogical things. Three Night Stand isn’t a rom-com in the traditional sense. It doesn’t break new ground comedically, but it is unconventional. The characters often do some very unromantic and mean things to each other, but Three Night Stand never feels false or like it’s trying hard to make terrible things happen to these people.
Three Night Stand opens at Cinéma du Parc on Friday, Feb. 7.
I caught up with Three Night Stand writer-director Pat Kiely, who grew up in Montreal’s N.D.G. neighbourhood, to talk about the film. Check out our Q&A below.
You wrote and directed the movie so I can praise you and blame you for everything about it. You get a sense that you definitely *get* the city. The main character Carl works in IT, and Montreal is a very IT city. There are other nuances that I picked up as a Montrealer that I appreciated. We don’t really get to see the city on screen as itself too often. Was it intentional to set Three Night Stand in Quebec?
Absolutely. My first film Who is KK Downey I was writing when I went down to L.A. and was writing movies, trying to pitch Hollywood scripts and writing down there, without success. So I started writing the script (for Three Night Stand) when I was in Los Angeles and the idea was just to write about a place that I knew in and out, which is Montreal and Quebec and the Laurentians. Just write a small movie that would be particular to my hometown. It was always the intention to have it in Montreal.
Part of the reason why movies like Fargo and The Sweet Hereafter are so great, at least photographically, is the difficult shots of snow are done very well. A lot of Three Night Stand happens outside in forests covered in snow. What was shooting in those conditions like?
It was quite nerve wracking to be honest with you. The night before we were gonna start shooting, there was no snow at all, and I stayed up all night rewriting the film to change it to hiking, instead of skiing, and to change the Skidoo stuff to ATV. And then we woke up and a foot of snow had dumped. And we were even more lucky because there was some freezing rain which kinda froze all the snow into place so it looked the same for the entire movie shoot. Cinematically, I think it’s beautiful. Rob Vroom, who’s the DP, did a great job of making the setting quite picturesque and honouring how beautiful it is up there in the Laurentians.
You had a $1.2-million budget (according to IMDb). Is that standard for a movie like this?
I guess so. When I wrote it, I was trying to write something small: We have eight characters, if we can’t get funding for this movie, then we can convince our friends to go up to a lodge and shoot it. Luckily that didn’t happen. We managed to pull in $1.25 million, and that was the most money I’ve ever had to make anything, so in that sense it was luxurious for me, but it was still tight. It was an 18-day shoot. In the grand scheme of things, 1.25 is a very low-budget film, but for me it was very enjoyable to have that amount to play with.
This is the first movie you write and direct solo. How much of a difference was there between that and working collaboratively with someone else?
I think there are pluses and minuses to both of them. I used to be part of a sketch troupe. We were this big group and we had so much fun, but things can move slowly when you’re in a group. It’s hard to make decisions, and you do things democratically. You feel like you have ownership but not full or complete over the product. So it was fun for me – for better or worse, like you said, I’m the one who’s gonna be blamed if it sucks and I get praised if it does well. It’s more risky but it’s enjoyable to put your own particular vision up on the screen. There’s a joy that comes from that.
Three Night Stand was one of three Canadian features at Slamdance. Is that a good showing for Canada?
Yeah. There weren’t any Canadian narratives in Sundance this year; only one doc got in. But there were three Canadian narratives that got into Slamdance. It’s just a highly competitive festival. Slamdance has 5,000 entries and 30 features get in, or something. We just felt really honoured to be a part of it.
Anytime anyone interviews a female comedian they have to ask her how she thinks women are doing in comedy. Can I ask you how Canadian filmmakers are measuring up on a international scale? A lot of directors coming out of here have huge reputations and Denis Villeneuve and Jean-Marc Vallée are doing really great things. What’s your experience been like, saying you’re a Canadian filmmaker?
Obviously, Villeneuve and Jean-Marc Vallée are killing it right now. They springboarded themselves into making two huge Hollywood films, so they’re definitely doing a great job at putting Quebec filmmakers and Canadian filmmakers on the map. There’s respect for Canadian film. Definitely down in Park City (Utah, where the Sundance and Slamdance film festivals take place), there was a buzz about the Canadian movies that were there, and I think that we are making good films. It’s different for me because I am an anglophone filmmaker in Quebec. I suffer a bit from an identity crisis. Quebec film by definition is great French film; they kill it and they make incredible movies, like Villeneuve and Vallée. And then the rest of Canada has English films, and you have your Atom Egoyans who are making big English Canadian films. So for the anglos in Quebec, we’re not really sure where we belong, and I think there are some great filmmakers that are doing stuff, like (Michael) Dowse, who’s a friend of mine, and Jacob Tierney, who’s also a friend, are English guys who are in this province who are making awesome films. Goon was fantastic, that (Dowse) made. In terms of our small little niche of anglophone filmmakers, I think that we’re growing and hopefully we’re going to continue to make good movies.
Who are your influences or your favourite filmmakers, ones that inspire you?
Being an anglophone Quebecer that’s working in Quebec, you’re centred around a mesh of influences. So I’m influenced by Quebec film, but then also straight-up American romantic comedies. A film like Flirting with Disaster by David O. Russell was a huge inspiration for this. Woody Allen was always very key for me. Husbands and Wives was a very important film in terms of determining my aesthetic for Three Night Stand. Because I’m in Quebec, I’ve heavily been watching French films for a long time and I love the minimalist Euro-style that they do and I tried to bring that cinéma vérité quality to Three Night Stand, so it wasn’t just a standard American romantic comedy in terms of the way it looked. I think Rob (Vroom, director of photography) did a good job at trying to differentiate it and make a film that isn’t easily categorized, like ‘Oh, this is a dramatic comedy or this is a romantic comedy or this is an anti-date film or this feels American or this feels Quebecois or this feels French.’ It’s sort of a melange of all of those. I don’t know if you agree with that.
It’s definitely a movie you can’t really pin down. At one point it’s an office/workplace comedy, then a road movie, then a rom-com.
I think maybe it’s an anti-date film.
I want to know about the cast. Sam Huntington and Meaghan Rath you know from Being Human. Can you tell me about how Emmanuelle Chriqui came into the picture?
She was one of the last pieces of the puzzle to come in, and we cast Jon Cherry to play Doug and he was really close with her and he communicated to her, privately, that she was perfect for this part and sent her the script without anybody knowing. She had the same agent as Sam (Huntington), so she called her agent and said: ‘I’ve been hearing about this Canadian movie, my friend sent this to me, I thought I’d be right for the part and I know it hasn’t been cast yet,’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, I know all about this because I represent Sam who’s playing Carl.’ So then I had a long conversation with Emmanuelle and we decided to team up, and I had not met her before we started the shoot, but I think she did a great job. It was serendipitous how it all worked out.
You’ve done a lot more acting than directing. Does that help or not when you’re directing?
I think it definitely helps because I know what it’s like to be on set as an actor, and I also know things that happen on set that I feel generate poor performances, so I think that one of the best qualities a director can have is to just create an environment where actors are comfortable to generate the best performances. One thing I really strived to do on set was to give actors ownership over their characters and allow them to run free in scenes. It was very important to me that we never had marks on the floor. I didn’t want to disturb the actors with makeup or hair so that we can just lose ourselves in the scenes. It was all about them making choices and myself and the camera team trying to follow them and give them guidance whenever they needed it. When you shoot a lot of TV, like I have, the whole day just feels like it’s about the clock. The only thing that’s going on is how much time you have to do everything. It’s about getting in there and hitting your marks and saying your lines and then you move on to the next scene. That was exactly what I did not want to do on this set.
Is that one one of the differences between TV and film, then? That you can take a bit more time with it?
Maybe we used the time better. We put more emphasis on the performances rather than all the technical elements surrounding them. It was a low-budget shoot so we didn’t have a lot of time, (but) we prioritized.
I love the idea of a female wingman – or a wingwoman, I guess – and Reagan Pasternak who plays Stacey is so good. Was that character originally written as a female character?
Right from the get-go, it was a female character. I think I’m somebody who always had confidants in life that were female friends, so (I was) generating from my own life on that one. I know that it’s different but the idea wasn’t like, ‘Oh, let’s be different and make the confidant wingman a female.’ It came from an organic truthful place for me because that’s what it’s like in my life.
Why do guys ask other guys for advice about women? It doesn’t make sense.
I know, good point. We’re so dumb.
Three Night Stand doesn’t have a conventional ending and even throughout people don’t really do rom-commy things. They’re actually pretty rude and mean and unromantic to each other. How did you make that stick throughout the whole movie?
At times, the characters are quite vicious with each other. When I initially set out to write the script, I never thought, ‘Oh, I’m writing a romantic comedy.’ I really was just trying to tell this honest story and I was trying to let the emotionality of the characters dictate the narrative rather than any predetermined formula. That was kind of the result of it, and that goes for the ending also. I wanted to stay true to the choices; if I was being honest with who Carl was as a character, then I needed to honour him and to write the choices that I thought he would make through the ending of the film. I think that cynical endings are actually more uplifting than happy endings because we can relate, we connect to them because in real life, shit doesn’t work out. I always appreciate films that try to give you a conclusion that is honest.
Three Night Stand opens at Cinéma du Parc on Friday, Feb. 7.
Three Night Stand
Dir. Pat Kiely, screenplay by Pat Kiely
Starring: Sam Huntington, Meaghan Rath, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Reagan Pasternak, Jonathan Cherry, Aliocha Schneider