Chicago based writer, actor and director Nathan Adloff can’t believe Nate & Margaret is truly finished. “We began brainstorming ideas in early 2008,” he says. “I've watched the movie close to 200 times and I’m still waiting for it to sink in that we actually pulled it off.” A quirky buddy movie in which the buddies are a 19-year-old gay film student and a 52-year-old aspiring stand-up comedian, Nate & Margaret grew out of Nate’s college experiences, but over time became something altogether new.
Our Town What inspired Nate & Margaret?
Nathan Adloff The story evolved greatly from first conception to the final film. My co-writer, Justin D.M. Palmer and I were working the same day job and began brainstorming ideas there. Our original idea was a collection of true stories about myself in college that had a younger female lead playing my best friend. Shortly after we began the writing process, we met with Natalie West [and] our concept quickly shifted to having an older woman as the female lead, which resulted in more fabricated stories, so we just scrapped the “based on true stories” tag altogether. Also, Justin and I really wanted to make a film that could be categorized as both "straight" and LGBT. Nate is gay and based on myself. Margaret is straight and is sort of loosely based on Justin (and his obsession with stand up comedy and comedians). And, obviously, a lot of it is based on our personal friendship.
OT How does co-writing work? Do you literally construct every sentence together or do you swap scenes?
NA It all begins with bouncing ideas off of each other in conversation, then creating a rough outline. I send Justin notes and ideas, and he incorporates them into a more structured outline. After we both feel that’s solid, we build the outline into a longer treatment, then work on scripting. Justin finds order in my mess of writing. By the time we get to scripting, we get together, sit in front of my computer and work on writing the script together, which takes a few weeks. We'll share pots of coffee, order food and basically try to make each other laugh our way through the process, writing it down as we go, until we have a final script. It's pretty awesome.
OT You also directed the film. Is it difficult to change hats?
NA It was much easier having Justin as my right-hand man on set everyday. Having him there to help with line re-writes on set and such was great. So, in a sense I didn't have to switch hats because Justin was my hat. That sounds dirty.
OT Though an indie film, Nate & Margaret has attracted a couple of pretty big names. How did that come about?
NA I was so fortunate to be able to work with two actresses I grew up watching and admiring. Justin knew Natalie West through the Chicago theater community and approached her directly. She came on board before we began writing the script, so we really got to write the role knowing she would be playing Margaret. Justin and I would meet with her over coffee and share new pages from the script with her as we were working on it. It was quite nice to be able to work that way. My producer, Ash Christian had recently met Gaby Hoffmann and suggested her for the role of Darla. I was absolutely thrilled when she signed on! It was a complete joy to work with her. She is so talented, funny and open to trying anything.
OT What are you working on next?
NA Justin and I are outlining our new project, “Miles,” again, based on my life. The story centers around a young, openly gay high school student named Miles, who joins the girls volleyball team. Growing up in such a small town, there wasn’t a guy’s team so they had to let me join the girl’s team. We’re also including other true events from my high school days, such as meeting guys in AOL chat rooms, working at the local movie theater, and trying to go to college in Chicago but not being able to due to my father’s death, which saddled my Mom with a giant debt after we discovered he bought his secret mistress a $30,000 car no one knew about. This one really is based on true stories.
Nate & Margaret makes its Chicago premiere at The Gene Siskel Film Center June 8th, 11th and 12th.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by following facebook.com/OurTownBlog.ChicagoSunTimes and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez and Facebook.