The LolliLove Interview: Jenna Fischer

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It is actually kind of disturbing how easily our home movies and photos plop in to support the story of the film. It makes the movie really creepy for people who know us.

Where did you come up with the idea for the mockumentary LolliLove?
One year, shortly after I moved to L.A., I went to a charity event that was raising money for a low-income school. I had done some grant writing and fundraising for the charity so I got to go for free. It was this huge black-tie dinner that cost something like $1,500 a plate. All of the women were wearing ball gowns and dripping in diamonds. There was a photographer that took your picture—like at prom. But the disturbing part was when they brought a group of the school children on stage to sing for us while we ate our eight-course meal. I was like, “Does no one else see how disturbing this is?” A group of poor Mexican children was singing to a group of white folks who sat back feeling good about themselves. It was insane. My only way to cope was to find the humor in the situation, and LolliLove was born.

LolliLove is your writing and directing debut. How was that?
I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. It was a lot of hard work. The directing was exhausting and the writing was painful. It was very difficult to direct and star in a movie. We also had a very small crew so I did a lot of things a normal director doesn’t have to do, like make the props and serve lunch. I was simultaneously getting into character, going over my lines, set dressing the next shot, coaching an actor, and brainstorming with my D.P. I’m good at multitasking, but that was too much for me. I couldn’t enjoy any one part the way I would have liked. I think I’ll stick to acting. That part was fantastic.

What were your strengths as a director?
The smartest thing I did was surround myself with really talented people. I don’t know how I got them all to say yes to helping me, but I did. I feel very lucky. James Gunn, my husband and costar, is so naturally funny and very clever on the spot. He made the movie much funnier than it was on the page. My editor and co-writer Peter Alton is amazing. He edits documentaries professionally so he really knows the genre. He came up with the hilarious idea of using all of our personal photos. My producer Stephen Blackehart was a workhorse. I didn’t even know how to make a production schedule. I would have been lost without him.

What was your budget for the film?
We shot the film for about $1,500. Our principal photography took 12 days, including our reshoots. We borrowed most of our camera and sound equipment. I had to rent lights and a special camera lens. One of my most creative moves was to post for makeup people at a local makeup academy. Recent graduates did the film for free. Most of the cost went to feeding our cast and crew. Post-production got a lot more expensive. We couldn’t get as many freebies when it came to things like professional sound mixing and color timing.

How much is scripted and how much is improvised?
About 50/50. I started by writing a plot outline. I invited my friends over to the house and I filmed us acting out the scenes. At that point, all of the dialogue was improvised. I gave very general character notes and people just ran with it. I used the tapes to write the script. I expanded the characters and streamlined the dialogue. I found some things that worked and some that didn’t. We all met about six months later to shoot the film. We had a full script at that time. I still encouraged improvisation and some of our best stuff is improvised. But I made sure we did scene as scripted at least once. That way, I knew I had the right material for editing.

Why choose to name the characters after yourselves?
Honestly, it was just easier that way. Almost everyone in the film uses their real first name. In the end, it was a stroke of genius because it meant that we could use our real home movies and photos to support the documentary style. It is actually kind of disturbing how easily our home movies and photos plop in to support the story of the film. It makes the movie really creepy for people who know us.

You’re starring in the new NBC comedy The Office: An American Workplace, which is based on the BBC hit The Office. How is that going?
Our shoot has been amazing. Our pilot was largely based on the pilot for the British show, but now we are doing all original episodes; we aren’t borrowing any plot lines or dialogue from the British show at all. Our writers are fantastic. Steve Carell is hilarious. I’m having so much fun. Steve has me laughing until I cry pretty much every day. I couldn’t ask for a better job. The whole process is very artistic. We sat down with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the creators of the British show, and picked their brains before we started shooting. They are executive producers on our show. [They] saw our pilot episode and dailies from our current episodes and loved them. We are all very pleased to hear how happy they are with our version of the show.

Get to know Blackehart, Alton, and that Fischer/Gunn super duo you keep hearing so much about at the Tivoli Theatre, November 20 at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to come on out and see this gritty and hilarious Trojan horse assault on the typical self-loving weekend philanthropist. Fischer will also be one of three actors presented with the Screen Actors Guild Emerging Actor Award. Other recipients this year include Mary Ellen Owens (Beaux and Daria, playing November 20 at 3:30 p.m., also at the Tivoli), as well as Sean Gunn, whose The Man Who Invented the Moon will accompany LolliLove. Some of you may know Sean Gunn as the character Kirk on the WB hit television show Gilmore Girls. Other locals may simply know him as Fischer’s brother-in-law. Benny Que, Flem Hocking, and Sammy Capulet all walking down Delmar? I must have died and went to Troma…uhh…heaven. | Adam Hackbarth

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