Jennifer Finnigan, Jonathan Silverman Talk 'A Bet's A Bet,' Directing Mena Suvari, Geoff Stults! [MStars News Exclusive]

By Jorge Solis (j.solis@mstarsnews.com) | Jan 20, 2015 05:35 PM EST
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From Cinedigm, A Bet's A Bet follows a competitive young man who takes a different approach to both business and dating life. an exclusive interview with MStars News, co-directors/actors Jennifer Finnigan (Tyrant) and Jonathan Silverman (Weekend At Bernie's) discuss how they stepped behind the camera and worked with their leads, Mena Survari (American Beauty) and Geoff Stults (Enlisted).

In the romantic comedy, A Bet's A Bet follows Vince (Stults), a successful divorce attorney, who thinks everything in life is a competition and losing is unacceptable. Vince considers dating just to be another conquest. All of a sudden, Vince meets his match with the intensely and equally competitive Jane (Suvari). The duo soon participate in a series of bets, where the loser's fate is at the mercy of the winner. Soon their series of games turn into something much more.

Co-directors Finnigan and Silverman talk to MStars about directing their main leads, working alongside Josh Hopkins (Cougar Town), Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live), and tease about the upcoming second season of Tyrant.

MStars News: How did you become involved in the project?

Jonathan Silverman: I had directed one other movie prior by myself but Jen was so incredibly helpful from the get-go in casting, rehearsals. She pretty much was my co-director. By the time this offer came about, I immediately went to Jen, "Do you actually want to do this? We can actually make this happen? I know you would be an amazing director."

I was right! She's brilliant! She's so good in this! I hope we get to continue making movies together for many years!

Jennifer Finnigan: Well, he is extremely talented in that arena as well. He's been in the business a long time. He's observant and smart. We both picked up lot of knowledge over the years.

MS: Because you've both been on-screen before, from The Single Guy and Tyrant, was easy to step behind the camera as directors and work with the actors?

JF: I was in the movie too! Johnny and I tried tried to escape being in it, but the producers were insistent we attached whatever small name value we have to the project. In all honesty, my times in front of the camera were my least favorite time in the shoot. I couldn't focus on properly doing my job as a director. I would refer to Johnny a lot, which thankfully he's my husband and I trust him with my life, and with this project.

It was difficult because I didn't want to get my hair and make-up done! I didn't want to be in the scene! I wanted to be back behind the camera, setting up the shot, and focusing on that. That was one of the biggest lessons I learned on the project.

For the next project we direct, I will do what Jonny did! I will do a tiny cameo, one scene if we're lucky!

JS: I'm very lucky we were able to work it into the schedule. We scheduled my scene the very first day of filming. I let Jen take care of everything. I just jumped in as the actor. By noon, we were done with me. I got to wipe my make-up off and we were done!

MS: Tell me about building the chemistry between Geoff Stults and Mena Suvari's characters, Vince and Jane, who don't like each other at first.

 JS: Geoff is a dear friend of ours. I've been friendly with him for 15 years! Oh my god! I had always envisioned him playing this role, even before we shaped the character. He said, "yes," to us before we even sent him the script. We basically told him the scenario and shooting in these dates in Providence, Rhode Island. He said "Okay! I'll do it!" Don't you want to read it? "No, I trust you. I'll do it."

Then we needed to cast someone to do battle with him. Mena Suvari is an actress that we're such a fan of, but we had never met her before. And she had pursued the film! She said, "I need to play this part! This is a brilliantly written part for a strong female lead! And I'm going to nail it!" She came ready to play! She just destroyed on set! Mena took charge!

JF: They have really different personalities. They worked differently on set. Mena comes prepared 150% percent and Geoff like to play. They offered each other something different and new in a fresh take. It was a fun chemistry in that sense and it translated into the screen.

MS: Tell me about the group shots with Geoff Stults, Kenan Thompson, and Josh Hopkins. Their camaraderie felt so natural along with their improvisation.

JS: When Geoff finally read the script, he said, "Who do you have in mind to play Kenny? Who's going to be my best friend?" We had a list of names but he said, "My best friend is Josh Hopkins? You know Josh right? How about Josh? Let's get Josh to do it." He brought his best friend to Rhode Island to play his best friend.

They shared a house together, a car together, 24 house a day together. They brought it to the set. Once it came to say, "Action," they were already set. Jen worked wonderfully with Josh on-camera as well. It was a treat!"

JF: There's nothing quote-unquote actory about them. They're just football watching, beer drinkers. They're real and good guys! they came to play! They really just tried to make a great time out of the set. And that's what we wanted. We knew the schedule was tight, as well as the budget. We wanted to make everyone have a good time and come out with a good product. I think we accomplished that!

MS: As Vince and Jane, Mena Suvari and Geoff Stults play pool together in a scene that's done in one-take. Tell me how this scene came about.

JF: That was Johnny's idea! That was an impossible scene to shoot! We had no time to shoot the scene and the technicality of her shooting a perfect game, we were overwhelmed. Johnny came up with an idea to do it as a oner.

JS: We've all seen movies and television programs where people are playing pool. It's always close-ups of the ball going in. I thought, "Wouldn't it be great if it's a four minute scene that's not a Brian De Palma scene? It not's like Birdman!"

Let's try to focus with a wider shot at the top, so we see where we are. And then let's zero in on their faces. And by the time they're done with their dance, we widen back and see she's cleared the table.

JF: Our DP was great with the choreography of it all. We had PAs working the table, sinking the balls in. We orchestrated it like a ballet. What was cool was that everybody was up for the challenge. They knew we wren't going to get this in the first five takes. We kinda hit our stride in take nine. We did three more takes afterwards, and they were all terrific.

MS: What do you want viewers to come away with after they see this movie?

JF: It's not an award-winning movie! [Laughs] But it's a good time! My favorite genre of movies growing up was the romantic comedy. I feel like it went away for a little bit. It's my favorite genre. This has a cheeky, dirty, raunchy vibe to it as well. I feel it's going to appeal both to men and women. It's silly, fun, and no thought behind it other than I want people to have a really good time.

JS: I hope in six months time, when this movie shows up making the rounds on Showtime or HBO, I hope people stick around to see this scene.When the film premiered in Providence, I was watching the audience watching the movie on the big screen. To be able to look into their eyes and seeing the connection they were making, the nonstop laughter, I could see the smile and glows in their eyes; it just meant everything.

Check out the trailer here:

MS: What other projects are you working on now?

JF: I start season two of Tyrant. We're filming in Budapest this year. I take the occasional trip to Morocco, or Turkey, to get some exteriors. I leave in about a month. That's coming up fast!

JS: I've been acting in a couple of movies. I did a pilot, which we're awaiting word on. At this present time, I'm in the process of creating a new pilot that I would also be producing. Staying busy and of course, Jen and I now want to continue directing movies. We already been asked to direct more movies when she gets back from filming in Eastern Europe. When she's back from filming Tyrant, hopefully we'll be back behind the camera again very soon.

A romantic comedy to enjoy, A Bet's a Bet is available now on DVD.

© 2018 Mstars News, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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