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“Like Crazy” director Drake Doremus talks long-distance relationships, chemistry, and awards love – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell “Like Crazy” has no superheroes. It’s not a prequel, a sequel or a remake. It’s just an intimate, personal story about two college students (Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones) falling in – and eventually out – of love.

While watching, and thoroughly enjoying, Drake Doremus’ honest depiction of a complicated long-distance relationship, I couldn’t stop thinking how difficult it must be to get a movie like this made in today’s blockbuster-saturated film industry.

“I didn’t have an uphill battle at all,” Doremus told me during a recent interview, “because I made the film for so little. The budget on the film was $250,000. We basically did it in rewind. Now, once we sold the film, it was the studio’s film. But it wasn’t a battle. It was just, ‘Go out and make a pure vision.’”

And I hope things stay that way for Doremus, who happily talked all things “Like Crazy” with us as the Sundance Film Festival award winner prepares to open wider this weekend. I’m thrilled that you continue to do local Q-and-A sessions with the film as it expands. Why is it important to you to get in front of your audience?

Drake Doremus: Well, I think it’s important for our audience to be able to touch the film and make it a part of them. We made a small movie. We can’t just throw it into thousands of theaters and hope that people go see it. It’s like a band you hear for the first time. You want to make that band your own, and even share it. I think it’s important to reach out, put feet on soil, and become a part of that experience with the audience. Have you become the sound board for people’s long-distance-relationship stories?

[Laughs] Oh man, it’s so funny to hear you say that, because yeah. That is very, very correct. People come up to me and say the weirdest shit. It’s unbelievable. People literally will tell me everything about their lives and their relationships and then ask me for advice. And I’m like, “I don’t have the answer! I’m the last person who should be trying to help you with this.” It is actually pretty touching. I’d say that the coolest part of this whole experience has been when people come up and give me a hug, maybe start crying, and tell me about their relationships or marriage. That is everything to me, and it has meant to much. “Like Crazy” relies on the chemistry between Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin. I wonder where, in the process, do you find it? As early as casting? During rehearsals? Or do you find it in the editing room?

Well, I think I find it everywhere that you just mentioned. It’s a building process, and it starts with trust. Picking the right actors is a start. I had never seen them together in any kind of combination or screen test. I’d met Anton in L.A. and met Felicity in London, and in my head, I thought that they could be the two pieces that would fit. I brought them together, and it really worked. I was very lucky in that sense. But we were always building it. You can’t just snap your fingers and make it work. It’s a part of every step of the process. Was there a moment when you knew it was going to work?

Pretty much in the first hour of hanging out with them, really. It was obvious right away that they were both so willing to pour their hearts into it and check themselves at the door. And they did. There were no boundaries to what could happen, to where we could go. That was imperative to their chemistry. They both bought into the same philosophy. Both Anton and Felicity were been recognized for their performances by the Hollywood Film Awards, and “Like Crazy” took home the Grand Jury Prize and the Special Jury Prize at Sundance. It’s in the Oscar race. What do awards mean to you?

You know, it’s just incredible that somebody would single the film out. We had it for $250,000 and I edited it in my bedroom. It really is the American Dream as a filmmaker, to make your dream and put it out there. So everything else is just gravy to me. Just even getting into Sundance was a huge win, and everything that keeps happening after that is just gravy. And anytime the film is singled out mat any show, it’s just overwhelming. We don’t expect any of that stuff. Right now, I’m just focused on the audiences connecting with the film and sharing it with as many people as possible.

“Like Crazy” is in theaters now.

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