Patrick Fischler (currently of Californication) and wife Lauren Bowles (True Blood) have established impressive résumés in Hollywood, but their new short film The Test (screening this Friday and Saturday at the Phoenix Film Festival) is first time the pair has tried their hands at executive producing and writing for film or television.
We talk with Fischler (Lost, Mad Men, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Mulholland Drive, Old School,) about why he and Bowles decided they wanted to write and produce their own film, which roles he loved doing best, what working with director David Lynch was like, and what his answer is when people ask him what Mulholland Drive is about.
Although this is Fischler and Bowles' first foray into writing and producing their own film, the couple had a theater company for about 12 years called the Neurotic Young Urbanites, where Bowles wrote a lot of the plays and Fischler produced them. The company ended up dissolving once the two became too busy with other projects.
The idea for the project came when Fischler and Bowles went to see a short film by Bowles' sister (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and her husband last year, which had gotten into the Santa Barbara Film Festival. The film sparked an interest in the couple to try their hand at filmmaking as well.
"We turned to each other and said we gotta do this; we can make our own," says Fischler.
Fischler says he brainstormed ideas and came up with one about a couple taking a pregnancy test. He showed it to Bowles, she loved it, and went off to write the script. When she had finished, Fischler says he read it and it was exactly what he had pictured.
"We batted about a couple different ideas, you know where they were in their lives, and it wasn't just sort of an average couple," says Fischler. "They were at a real precipice."
Fischler says they didn't necessarily base the film off any real-life experiences, but they were able to draw from some of their friends' challenges with getting pregnant.
"We've known friends who've had a hard time getting pregnant, which puts a lot of stress on a marriage," says Fischler. "So that little bit we were able to pull from. But we've never known a couple like this, who are breaking up because of not getting pregnant, and who are now at a point where they realize 'uh oh, we decided to break up and now we may be pregnant."
The film just won Best Short at Sun Valley Film Festival, which Fischler says came as a shock, mainly because they were so focused on just getting into the festivals they forgot people actually win awards at them.
"The first goal was getting into festivals, forgetting about the idea that someone wins these things," says Fischler. "So when we got the call that we won, it was so exciting."
Fischler credits their director, Anthony DiBlasi, with helping him and Bowles achieve their vision with the film.
"So much of the credit of the movie goes to him," says Fischler. "We wanted the feeling of being a fly on the wall in this couple's bathroom, and he did exactly what we wanted with the look."
DiBlasi tapped his friend, Nathan Connolly, from the band Snow Patrol to ask him if they would write an original song for the movie, which plays at the end of the film.
Fischler has played parts in many television and movie roles at this point in his career, and he says he appreciates any time someone stops him on the street and recognizes him from those roles to tell him they like his work.
"It's so great to hear that," says Fischler. "I mean it just validates what we do, it's what we're doing it for. Ultimately I feel very lucky that I get to be acting, and doing the path I wanna do, but really, we're always doing it for the people that are watching it, so to have people enjoy it is the bottom line."
Fischler says that almost every time people who recognize him from the 2001 film Mulholland Drive, in which he played a man recounting a dream he had, they ask him what it meant. He says he always gives the same answer, which, for anybody who's seen the film it wouldn't be what you hoped, but it is what you'd expect to hear.
"Whatever you think it is, your interpretation, that's what it is," says Fischler. "I really believe Mulholland Drive is like a piece of art that you look at hanging in a museum. You just sort of let it sweep over you, and make your own impression, and I really believe that's what 'Mulholland Drive is."
Fischler says that as far as directors go, working with David Lynch, who directed Mulholland Drive, was a complete dream, and helped him tremendously as an actor.
"He is sweet and honestly normal-I hate that word 'normal,' but he really is just a kind and sweet man," says Fischler. "Really so different from his films, and is a fantastic director and knows exactly what he wants, and he's wonderful. Getting to work with him at that time was a dream for me, because I was obsessed with Blue Velvet."
When it comes to working with other actors, Fischler says Diane Keaton was his favorite.
"I did the movie Something's Gotta Give, and she was so phenomenal, and kind, and I'm a huge Annie Hall fan," says Fischler. "She was wonderful, she was one of the greatest people I've worked with hands down."
Fischler adds that after getting to work with his wife on this latest project, Bowles is up there with Keaton as his favorite people to work with.
"She's my favorite person in the world," says Fischler. "I'd work with her everyday if I could."
Fishler says they have to wait until the festival circuit comes to an end before they can work on trying to sell the film, because you can't sell a film and still do the festivals. Once the season comes to an end they'll hopefully be able to sell it, Fischler says.
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Fischler says he and Bowles hope to continue making films together.
"I think our goal is to do another short, but a short that can be made a feature," says Fischler. "So when we're done we can take it into production companies and say 'here's the short, and here's the treatment-the idea-written on paper about what the feature would look like. So our goal is to hopefully start shooting something in early fall."
You can catch Fischler and Bowles current film, The Test, at the Phoenix Film Festival this weekend. It screens today at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m.