2014 Tribeca Film Festival Interview: Tristan Patterson (Director), Isabel Lucas (Actress) & Jim Sturgess (Actor) – ‘Electric Slide’

1983 Los Angeles is full of beautiful girls, luxurious mansions, and glamorous parties. Eddie Dodson, a hip and charismatic dealer of antique furniture for the rich and famous, is living the high life. When Eddie meets the cool and aloof Pauline, the attraction is instant and the two live out each other’s fast-paced fantasies until Eddie’s high-rolling life catches up with him and loan sharks start knocking on his door. To pay off his debts, Eddie and Pauline begin a spree of bank robberies across LA, charming tellers at over 60 banks to hand over the cash. Now the two are not only on the run from loan sharks but also have the police hot on their trail.

Electric Slide‘ screens as part of the Narrative Spotlight selections at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City again on Saturday, April 26, 2014.  We sat down with the films Director Tristan Patterson, as well as its stars Isabel Lucas and Jim Sturgess and spoke about the film’s development, the inspiration behind its colorful characters, SoCal of the early 80’s and much more.

Find More Information & Tickets to ‘Electric Slide’ at the 2014 Tribeca Film FestivalHERE

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Part One: Director, Tristan Patterson, Actress, Isabel Lucas

Tristan, what drew you to the real-life story of Eddie Dodson?
Tristan Patterson: When I first heard the story, there were details that jumped out at me, like the fact that Eddie made mixtapes to play on his getaways, and the fact that he sold art deco furniture. Here’s a guy who’s trying to turn his life into a movie. He’s providing his own soundtrack, he’s providing his own set decoration, he’s putting on wardrobe to get into character. He was all about performance. And I’m also really interested in Los Angeles, and that kind of character really embodies a certain mythology about the city.

Isabel, how would you describe your character, Pauline?
Isabel Lucas: She’s very enigmatic in many ways.  She’s searching for something. I feel like she wants to grow up, to fall in love, to live a fantasy, to be a bit rebellious and defiant.

Does Pauline, like Eddie, have a real-life analog?
Tristan: Yeah, that’s one of the things that excited me about the story. There was a girl who came to L.A. and dated him over the nine months when he robbed sixty-three banks. And she just left afterwards. So I really wanted to make a movie that framed the story with that relationship. It starts the first time she sees him, and ends the last time she sees him. It’s a way of looking at L.A. through the dreamy eyes of the sort of girl who still sees everything as being fresh.

Why do you think these two characters are so drawn to each other?
Isabel: I think in many ways, Eddie needs someone to fit the casting for a partner in crime. He was always performing, and that was part of his performance.

Tristan: He wanted to have eyes on him.

Isabel: She’s seeking this kind of rebellious feeling that she’s seen in all these films she’s been watching. And then she meets Eddie in this spontaneous way. And they develop this sense that there are no repercussions for what they’re doing. They meet and fall in love in that mode. But that’s not sustainable.

What are some of the challenges in adapting a real-life story like this, and what are some of the changes you have to make to make it work as a film?
Tristan: You have to have a framing device, a point of view. I’m not telling the whole story of someone’s life. I’m telling a story about a moment in a someone’s life. And that “moment” is this girl meeting him and then leaving him. Everything happens, present tense, inside of that experience. It’s not a rise-and-fall kind of story, where he moves to L.A., then starts a shop, and then gets addicted to drugs, or those sort of traditional bio-pic things.

What do you think sets Eddie apart from other movie bank robbers?
Tristan: For him, robbing banks is about this idea of performance, or becoming the star of your own movie. [The real] Eddie, after robbing his first bank, described the experience in a journal, saying, “I felt like I was part Warren Beatty, part Woody Allen.”

How would you describe the film’s genre?
Tristan: I think it’s an L.A. movie. And it’s a movie about movies. It’s also a lovers-on-the-run movie, but not like “Wild at Heart” or “Badlands,” where the characters hit the road. This is about lovers on the run in the contained world of Los Angeles–the city of their dreams.

Are you from Los Angeles?
Tristan: Yeah

How do the events of the film reflect the personality of the city?
Tristan: L.A. is a city people come to invent or reinvent themselves. In a way, everybody’s giving a performance there. I think this is the ultimate version of that.

What choices did you make to evoke a sense of time and place?
Tristan: I had all of the Polaroids that the real Eddie Dodson’s polaroids took during that ear. We really tried to capture what those Polaroids looked like with as much specificity as possible. Every charcter in the film outside of the cops had Polaroid references. And it was really important to shoot a movie about L.A. in the city of L.A., and to find pockets of the city that still looked the same as they did [in Eddie Dodson’s heyday].

The movie is structured like a countdown: Each section begins with a title card featuring a number, starting with 10 at the beginning of the film and concluding with 0. What is the significance of that countdown?
I like things that have a formalism to them. It makes it so the movie is an accumulation of moments, instead of just a traditional narrative. And also, the idea was to have the film be like a mixtape about a bank robber. So each chapter is like a track, and layers are being peeled back until you get to an essential moment at the end–the “0” moment.

What does the title of the movie mean to you?
It was just descriptive of someone going down. Honestly, I wanted to change the title really badly.

What did Jim and Isabel bring to the characters that wasn’t on the page?
They brought everything. What’s on the page is just ideas and a basic concept. And then actors make it real. Isabel has this amazing combination of watchfulness and calm, but also toughness. And Jim is just willing to go to far-out places, and is fearless about taking the risks to actually sound and talk like this guy sounded and talked. It’s a total performance, a total commitment to this character.

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Part Two: Actor, Jim Sturgess

How would you describe your character? What’s he like, and what does he want out of life?
Jim Sturgess: He’s pretty outrageous. He’s somebody to respect and somebody to pity at the same time. There’s something fabulous and flamboyant about him, and also a little off and creepy. He wants everything out of life, including to be the world’s greatest bank robber. Eddie Dodson lived his life like it was a movie. He was addicted to drugs, and that was all part part of the romance of the time he was living in.  He wanted to be a personality amongst some of the biggest personalities hanging around Los Angeles at that time. He was larger than life. And you kind of take your hat off to anyone who could push life that little bit further. We’d all like to think about how cool it would be to rob a bank and get away with it. But most of us would would never go through with it.

Why do you think Eddie does the things he does?
Jim: He’s fueling a fantasy. The romance of it all is an addiction. He says himself, it becomes a drug. I think he’s constantly searching for a feeling, for something bigger than what life had been offering him.

Why do you think the character instinctively targets the the most attractive female bank tellers? How does he know they’ll be the most cooperative?
Jim: He knows his strengths. He knows he’s charming. He’s very at ease around people, specifically women. Eddie Dodson was brought up by women. He knew that he had the gift.

Why do you think Eddie and Pauline are drawn to each other?
Jim: They intrigue each other. I don’t know if Eddie even quite knows who this girl really is, or what she wants from him. And she just arrives into the film out of nowhere. You see her get off a Greyhound bus, but you don’t really know where she’s come from. You know she’s sort of lost and on her own in the city. But as you watch their relationship, it seems like they’re both slightly on their back foot, working each other out. It doesn’t feel like they’re madly, passionately in love with each other. There are scenes where it seems like they’re using each other, really. I mean once he’s caught, she’s fuckin’ outta there. She’s already with the next guy.

Do you think Eddie lived in a bit of a fantasy world?
Jim: Yeah, I think he lived too much in the world of fantasy and romance. He had a very warped perception of the reality he was living in, especially with drugs kicking around his veins. And I think the film tries to give you that feeling: It’s sort of hazy and lucid. And I think that’s Eddie’s head space. I love the idea that he made mixtapes to go and rob banks to. He’d put on his favorite fuckin’ Iggy Pop tune, or some Clash, to get himself in the mood. Which means he wasn’t thinking rationally. He wasn’t meticulously planning a bank robbery. He was just playing out like he was a rock star, like he was the lead part in the movie of his life.

How did the mannerisms you brought to the performance, from Eddie’s accent to the way he carried himself, complement the character?
Jim: I didn’t know anything about Eddie Dodson when I first read the script. I didn’t know how he looked, I didn’t know how he sounded. And none of his mannerisms were written on the page, really. It just said he was very charming. I I knew there was an opportunity to experinment a little bit. And after meeting Tristan, I knew that he was the kind of director that would embrace experimenting and trying different things. He wanted something different as much as I did. We both said, let’s fuck with this, let’s push it. I sent him some recordings of me putting on an accent and doing some voice stuff. And Tristan sent me these recordings of Eddie on the phone in prison, and they were really scratchy and kind of hard to hear, but they changed everything for me. I was like, okay, he’s not this cool badass. He’s sort of camp, and a bit weird.

Being English, have you have done a southern California accent before?
No, never.

How did you practice that?
Jim: I actually told a bunch of stories [into a recorder] as Eddie, and sent those recordings to Tristan. One of the recordings Tristan had sent me was of Timothy Ford, who wrote the article [the screenplay was based on], interviewing Eddie over the telephone. And there was one interview where you can’t hear Eddie’s responses–just [Ford’s] questions. So I recorded what I thought Eddie’s responses would be. And that was the first thing I sent Tristan, just to see what he thought. I also once talked as Eddie about the first time I fell in love, just making up this random ten minute story. I’d go, Tristan, is this working? And he would get excited about the recordings, or he would go, No, it’s sounding too southern, let’s try and push it more into that sort of L.A. drawl.

What decisions does Tristan make to help bring out the best performances in his actors?
Jim: He gets very excited about things. He comes from documentary, and he likes new things being thrown at him, or things that he didn’t expect. A lot of first time [narrative feature] directors are overprepared, and if you do anything outside of their comfort zone, you can throw them. But Tristan is a punk rocker with a rebellious spirit. He lets you feel like you can mess around and try things. At the same time, we shot the film in twenty days, so there wasn’t time to experiment too much. But when you’re making a film, and an actor starts fucking around and trying things, you’ve gotta have balls of steel to still embrace that when the clock is ticking.

What do you think the film ultimately has to say about Eddie Dodson and his exploits?
Jim: Eddie was a romantic, and the film makes bank robbing look fuckin’ cool. It has a cool fuckin’ badass soundtrack. Eddie dresses immaculately. And that’s how he perceived himself. He was Eddie Dodson, this awesome bank robber that just walked in, charmed the tellers, got the money, and walked out as cool as he came in. The idea was to make a film that Eddie would probably enjoy watching about his own life.

 

t.patterson_headshot-375x335_ELECTRICSLIDEAbout The Filmmaker
Tristan Patterson is the director of the documentary Dragonslayer (2011), winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2011 SXSW, and was named one of the best films of that year by Indiewire and The Los Angeles Times. Tristan Patterson began his career as a screenwriter and is a graduate of Yale University.

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