“Best Man Down” is about a newlywed couple who cancels their honeymoon to make funeral arrangements for their best man after an unexpected death. However, upon returning to Minnesota, they soon discover many things about their old friend.
The cast includes Justine Long, Jess Weixler, Tyler Labine and Addison Timlin.
The independent film is written and directed by Ted Koland.
Latino-Review had an opportunity to interview Koland via telephone last month to discuss about this wonderful indie dramedy. We discussed the Minnesota culture, the casting and the real relationships with our friends and family in the digital age.
“Best Man Down” is currently in theaters and on VOD.
Read the full transcript below or listen to the audio of the interview.
Latino-Review: How did you get the idea for “Best Man Down?”
Ted Koland: I heard of a rumor from a friend of a friend of a friend that died at a destination wedding. I just sort of felt like that this day in age we attached that we’re not into who that person was. In a broader sense, that we all become that tag line in this digital age. You’re the guy that died at the wedding. She’s the girl who had her dress ripped at the wedding. Or whatever since it doesn’t have to be a context of a wedding.
There’s so much more to all of us. It’s that there’s this one moment or one headline—good or bad. We’ve been doing it for so long to celebrities and now with era of Facebook, we now do it to our friends, our families and everyone else. We pitch it in how many characters that you can Tweet.
I was just trying to think of who or what else is going on in this guy’s life. I kind of wake up in the middle of the night; write down little notes; and I just want to write a character study of who that guy might have been.
Latino-Review: How did you finally approach that the guy was from Minnesota with a heart condition?
Ted Koland: For this particular story, I had a lot of it in my head. I usually work off an outline. Since I was intentionally trying to do something a little quirkier, but [I didn’t] go with an outline cause it may stunt creativity just a little bit. So it’s not the most efficient way to work since you already know the end result is going to be. And it could be a little bit stifling. For me, this is not going to be a big studio movie like I was trying to sell to Universal Studios. So I could afford to be a little bit nuttier about my process. I just let the creative juices flow.
I’m from Minnesota. So the whole setting for the character was really writing a postcard to my home town.
Latino-Review: Yeah. I was curious about the setting. I could’ve happened anywhere.
Ted Koland: That’s true. Yeah.
Latino-Review: So the setting it’s just that you’re from Minnesota. But, what about the Arizona part then?
Ted Koland: First of all, I love what you just said. I do think these characters could’ve just lived anywhere. There were certain attributes to some of the characters that were specific to the people living in the upper Mid-West.
There’s this thing called Minnesota Nice, where they are very, very nice there. Minnesota is a very opened, friendly Scandinavian community. It’s also a society that is very aware of itself. So if a wedding goes south, because of the best man dies the mother of the bride in Minnesota is much more concern about it than a mother of a bride in San Francisco or New York weddings. There were certain traits that were very specific to Minnesota.
It’s also an interesting place where it rarely gets any time on screen. So it wasn’t just completely random to my hometown. It’s the interesting things that go with that lifestyle such as ice fishing, snowy flights or even dying to go to Arizona where it’s warmer. Phoenix is a very popular vacation destination for Minnesotans. They now if they go there for the winter it’ll be 80 degrees.
Latino-Review: This is a comedy drama. I want to know is how you balance between comedy and drama parts for this particular film. When I was watching the movie I wasn’t sure if I should be laughing or crying.
Ted Koland: I probably bit off more than I thought I had when I had to balance two stories, because that was the hardest part about directing the film. The two characters were living in two different worlds. The bride and the groom were having this surprising, funny discovery of who this man was. And where Ramsey’s life is more dire.
If I took the tone by taking one of the stories in more of one direction then it would take the whole movie off balance. It made me walk those lines very, very carefully in production and post-production.
Latino-Review: Could you talk about the actor recruitments for the film? I just to let you know that I didn’t even recognize Shelly Long in the movie.
Ted Koland: [Laughter] Yeah, it’s been a while since she’s been in a feature. Is there a particular actor you want me to talk about or the whole cast?
Latino-Review: No, just how you got them on board and so on.
Ted Koland: First person to come on board a couple of years before we made the movie was Tyler Labine. I’ve seen his work on television. He just embodied on who Lumpy would be. There are a lot of funny actors out there. I knew he would break your heart in a way that Lumpy does.
Then the movie came together in terms of financing very quickly. We were very fortunate to get the actors we got. Casting Justin [Long] was an interesting idea, because he’s well known for his comedy work. And the role is not necessarily always funny. His character is dealing with a lot. He had to deal with an unhappy bride, because her dreams were shot. And then there was a loss of an old friend. Justin handled those moments so beautifully. People were constantly coming up to me and saying “I didn’t know he did that.” He does dramatic work and he’s so good at it. He also has the ability to layer in funny when it’s appropriate. It keeps it real to the character.
And Jess [Weixler], she’s done a lot of films and now she’s on “The Good Wife.” She’s just a terrific actress. She’s a Julliard graduate and can do anything.
Addison Timlin, who plays Ramsey, really feels the movie for a lot of viewers. She is somebody who has acted in her whole life. I was not familiar with her work. She was nineteen when we made the movie. She just embodied that character. She and Tyler Labine just had this special chemistry. They worked a lot together to make the Lumpy/Ramsey relationship more real. Sometimes you bring actors together, unlike a studio film to fly everyone together for a chemistry read, it’s just a leap of faith. We just really lucked out and hoped that all the characters come out like they do on the page on to the screen.
Latino-Review: This being your first directorial debut for a feature film, what was the greatest challenge for you?
Ted Koland: The tonal issue, like we just talked about, was probably more than I was biting off. Otherwise, when you create a story and these characters with these actors—it was a great ride. It was a fun adventure for me as a first time director. I worked with talented people and with the characters defined in my head—that was a challenge. The crew was so enthusiastic in a feature. They don’t make that many movies in Minnesota. It’s a local crew. It was a really great experience for everyone there. You never have enough money and time on an independent film budget. You get what you can and try to make it work. I worked with a fantastic cinematographer and editor. It wasn’t a painful process at all and it was great.
Latino-Review: My last question, in comparison, do you enjoy doing television more or maybe this movie more? Are you going to head back down to television or do more movie projects?
Ted Koland: You almost have to do both in this day and age to make a living. I simply hope to do more movies. There’s more work in television since there’s more real estate with all the cable channels and now Netflix. They’re all creating their own content and there’s more work. And television is so good now. It’s not what it used to be so hopefully and luckily I’ll be able to do both.
Latino-Review: Terrific. I appreciate the talk with you.
Ted Koland: Thank you for taking the time to watch the movie and talking with me.
“Best Man Down” is currently in theaters and on VOD.