Ted Koland and Justin Long discuss 'Lumpy,' making films in Minnesota
Justin Long and Jess Weixler, photos courtesy of Koda Entertainment
When Minnesota native Ted Koland was brainstorming titles for his directorial debut, he didn't originally land on Lumpy.
"We did 'The Best Man' and all these cliché titles, but [the character] Lumpy activates every moment and every relationship in the movie. I thought I should name the movie after him," Koland says.
The film tells the story of Lumpy (Tyler Labine), who unexpectedly dies at his best friend Scott's (Justin Long) wedding. Scott and his new bride Kristin (Jess Weixler) decide to postpone their honeymoon to make funeral arrangements back in Minnesota for him. An unknown phone number in Lumpy's phone leads Scott and Kristin to Ramsey (Addison Timlin), a 15-year-old girl with a troubled home life who sheds light onto the months leading up to Lumpy's death.
Tyler Labine and Addison Timlin, photos courtesy of Koda Entertainment
Long, who was in Minnesota last weekend along with Koland and Timlin for the Twin Cities Film Fest, says that in addition to being drawn to the script, he was eager to play a role that was different from the comedic characters he has played in the past.
"The idea of losing someone that you're close to, and the idea that that might propel a story and compel a character to do whatever he does, is something I think about constantly without being
morbid. It's a struggle and a mystery that I feel very close to, for better or for worse," Long says. "Aside from that, it was a chance play someone who is a bit more straight and narrow, grounded, and not so weird and flashy. I got to play emotions that I normally don't do. The scene at the end -- I'm usually not trusted with scenes like that. I believed in the story. I thought it was really well-written, with realistic dialogue. That's usually the first thing I look for -- how comfortably the dialogue fits in your mouth. I know that might sound trite to say, but it's rare to find dialogue that feels like it flows."
For Koland, finding a balance of comedic moments and emotional moments was tricky.
"There's a version of this movie that's very sad and sort of stays in the maudlin place," Koland says. "One thing about independent films is sometimes you go to these festival movies, and they're so sad or they're so introspective that they lack entertainment. Those [comedic] moments are in the movie because they're realistic. Crazy stuff does happen even in the wake of someone's death, and you have these sort of odd things that lift spirits."
Born and raised in Minnesota, Koland says he wrote about his home state because "you write
what you know" and he always wanted to film Lumpy here.
Tyler Labine, photos courtesy of Koda Entertainment
"I don't think Minnesota has the appreciation it deserves for how beautiful Minneapolis and St. Paul are," Koland says. "Living in L.A. and going back and forth to New York, you always hear the Midwest referred to as 'the flyover states.' I personally get so insulted when that happens, not just because I'm from here, but because there's so much good stuff here."
Because Koland was familiar with the local theater scene, casting Lumpy was easy, and he was able to call out Minnesota actors by name that he wanted in the film.
"I promised the producers that I would find all the roles here in the Twin Cities, except for five or six, and they said it was impossible. I said, 'You don't understand. I was born and raised here and I saw theater at the Illusion, the Jeune Lune, the Guthrie my whole life. It was hugely gratifying to come back and showcase this amazing talent that inspired me to be a filmmaker," Koland says.
Long says that he enjoyed spending time in Minnesota.
"I loved it here. I'm so glad they filmed it here. I really responded to the script, and it was a part I wanted to play, but a huge added bonus was that I knew it was going to shoot in a place that I'd never been to but had always been curious about," Long says. "It did not disappoint at all. We had the best time here. There was always stuff to do and we were always really stimulated. We found great restaurants. I love eating, and this is a really great city for that. I love friendly people, and it's also a great city for that. We saw a Twins game, we went to great bars, we found some really good areas and met a lot of good people. Even if it had been a crappy movie I would have had a great experience. Fortunately, it turned out to be really good, so it was the best of both worlds."
Lumpy closed out the Twin Cities Film Fest on Saturday with two sold-out two showings. Jatin Setia, executive director of the festival, says he was thrilled to showcase the film.
"When I watched Lumpy, I fell in love with the production quality. The acting was phenomenal,
and the directing was out of this world," Setia says. "It's was almost a perfect storm for us. The film was made here in Minnesota, the actors Justin Long and Addison Timlin did an amazing job, the production was that of a major Hollywood film -- even though it was an independent film -- and the director is a Minnesota native, which topped it off for us."
Prior to the Twin Cities Film Fest, Lumpy premiered at the Hamptons International Film Festival where the film was very well received as well.
"It's so gratifying to move people," Koland says. "The whole reason I became a filmmaker was to tell stories. I'm a St. Olaf English major, so when you see that you've moved people or made people think about something, that's the joy of it."
Lumpy opens in theaters in 2013.
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