INTERVIEW: Director Adam Christian Clark Talks About His Latest Film ‘Newly Single’
Newly Single is a 2017 romantic drama about an aspiring filmmaker and his struggles with dating in the modern era. It’s a genuinely very good film that has a lot to say about millennial dating culture and how it warps who we are as people and how far people are willing to go just to get some action.
I was delighted to be offered the chance to sit down with Newly Single’s lead actor and writer-director, Adam Christian Clark, to talk about Newly Single ahead of its UK release on Amazon. We will be sharing our review for the film in the next couple of days.
Rhys: Thank you for talking to us. I’m quite nervous because it’s my first interview with someone for JUMPCUT!
Adam: Oh great! Well, don’t worry, it’s gonna be good!
R: So tell us a bit about you and the film, Newly Single.
A: So, the impetus of the film was multi-fold, but my motivation for the film was just that I love the romantic comedy genre, I’ve always loved it. It’s one of my favourite genres, and not to confuse you, this [film] is certainly not a romantic comedy (laughs). Think what I really liked about romantic comedies and what I loved about them for so long is how pithy they used to be. Like, for instance, Nora Ephron (screenwriter of ‘When Harry Met Sally’, director of ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ and ‘You’ve Got Mail’), I love her. You watch films like ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ and ‘Sleepless in Seattle,’ or a 90s [romcom], or her pivotal work during the 70s and 80s, or in some ways some of Woody Allen’s work. Just the genre in general, I used to love the romantic comedy genre.
You know, it hasn’t been doing well lately. I think the reason it hasn’t been doing well, for me, is that there’s been a departure in films from commenting on what is real. So – again, not a romantic comedy – I wanted to make a more realistic or accurate take on dating today, and I just wanted to focus it in…I wouldn’t say a dark place, but just a brutally honest place. So that’s why I made this movie. The character (Astor, played by Adam himself), obviously, is very unlikable, and the way he is going about his life is a product of being in a hurt place, acting [out] for those around him.
So like, because [Newly Single] just came out, in the last few days more than once I’ve googled “Newly Single movie” to see what’s going on with it, right. So there’s a movie that came out that’s quite a big movie, I think it starred Katherine Heigl or someone like that, it’s called ‘How To Be Single.’ I’ve never seen the movie so I can’t comment, but I see it’s like a 1-star movie (ouch, sorry How To Be Single fans). I was just sort of reading the by-lines, and I think it’s, like so many movies right now that are about dating, it’s an unrealistic view of what’s going on in the world.
R: It’s been 6 years since your previous film, Carolyn and Jackie, so what made you want to make this film now? Why the gap?
A: A year after Carolyn and Jackie came out, I was able to package together a much larger movie. Carolyn and Jackie was – I forget the exact number – around a $300,000 movie, so it’s a small movie but it’s still a “real” movie, I guess. So I was able to put together maybe a $2,000,000 movie and it had an A-list American actress in it. It was a big step for me, and I was feeling great. I had spent around 7 months preparing and rehearsing for the movie […] it was such a, like, sure thing. And, in less than a week before we were gonna shoot it, the actress decided to drop out.
R: Oh, no way!
A: Yeah! So I was like “oh, this is horrible!” So I re-cast it with a different American actress who is also well-known but maybe not as big, and I rehearsed with her for maybe 2 months, but she then ended up dropping out a few weeks before shooting as well. At that point I’d been working on the movie for around 2 years, and the funding was contingent on these people [the actresses]. It’s not only that the movie was not happening, I was actually, like, out of money. When you haven’t worked in like 2 years, I wasn’t so tapped into freelance work, it’s not like I had a commercial lined up. I was in a really dark place.
So, my thinking was this: I had this $15,000 credit card that was unused, and I was like…I’m just gonna make a movie in my apartment, the budget will be $15,000, I’m gonna act in it myself. Not because I wanted to be an actor, but because I know I won’t drop out of this movie [laughs]. And if I do get evicted from my apartment for having, like, no money, I will at least have the joy and the catharsis of making this movie. So that’s how this movie got made!
[The film] is like a heightened representation of me working out all of these dark issues I was going through at that time. There are certainly things in the movie that are fictional and heightened, like I didn’t ever go to any of these extremes [from the movie], but [Newly Single] does represent what I was feeling inside. So, maybe I was on a date but maybe I didn’t scream at some woman and tell her that I don’t believe in feminism, but I was probably horribly lonely and feeling really dark and thinking those things in my mind.
I didn’t even really intend to release it, when I was putting it together I thought “hey this isn’t too bad,” and then Sundance [Sundance Insititute, a non-profit organisation to support independent filmmakers] got involved and helped me finish the movie, and then I was able to raise a little more money to finish it properly. So that’s how Newly Single became a movie.
R: Wow. So you mentioned it there, how much of Astor (the protagonist of Newly Single) is in you?
A: That’s a very appropriate question and I’ve been asked it a lot because how could you not ask that? It’s very hard for me to answer because you could interpret it in so many different ways. What I will say is, if you were to take every dark moment and every bad thing that happened to you over a 2 year period, and then you were to stitch them all together into 90 minutes. Like, everyone could probably make an Astor movie.
So, I’m not that horrible, I’ve never been that horrible nor would I ever be that horrible, but I think what Astor represents is a lot of frustration and anger at what’s going on in the world right now. It’s a very transitional time and it’s been a very polarising time. Especially in America, I can’t speak for the UK, but here there isn’t a lot of room for subtlety right now. What are we going to do about the toxicity of modern culture? Where are we going to draw the line right now of what is appropriate and what isn’t appropriate? That’s what was interesting for me in this movie, so I wouldn’t say a lot of those aggravated moments of his are like me, as much as they were questions I’m having about male and female interaction.
So, on that note, the Izzy character [played by Jennifer Kim] is quite interesting to me. With her, I felt that there haven’t been many realistic views of submissive people in a relationship in movies. They’re always represented as this fetishized thing. I’m not trying to condone it or say it’s right or wrong, but the reality is there are people in this world that want to be exactly who she is as a sub…I’m now off the topic of your question [laughs]!
R: No that’s fine! It’s interesting that you say that about Izzy. That final scene with Izzy says a lot about the film, I don’t want to spoil it for our readers, but there’s a point where Astor is on his own in the shot looking down at Izzy but she isn’t in shot, and he’s kind of talking to her and himself at the same time. Am I wrong with that interpretation?
A: Yeah, that’s true! To be honest, I like that shot and I’m glad you bring it up. That shot is a little bit of a mistake. My intention for this movie is that…you’ll notice throughout this film that when these bad things happen to these women, the camera always stays with the women, it’s not off with Astor. That’s recurring through the film, and that was always my intention. I never had a goal for us to feel sympathy or empathy with the main character, which is something that some people are going to recognise and get down with and be really disturbed by that, like “haha I hate this guy, what are you doing?!” But that was always my intention! So I always wanted you to empathise with these secondary characters.
So that particular shot you’re talking about is really a mistake because I just didn’t have good coverage on her in that particular shot. I think I would have preferred in that moment to have it more on her, it was a dark room and it was a tough scene. That was the very first scene I shot with her [when you watch the film, for this to be their first scene together, it’s pretty daunting!]. It was really difficult to meet someone for the first time and do that scene. It was a rough night.
R: This is only your second film but your first as an actor, do you prefer acting or directing?
A: It’s hard for me to really draw a comparison because I think of myself as a writer-director. I’ve been writing and directing since I was 19 years old, when I was 20 I had directed reality TV [Adam has several years of directing Big Brother under his belt], so I never considered myself an actor. I still don’t consider myself an actor. I will say that I didn’t enjoy the act of…haha, the act of acting! I would probably do it again, but I’m not planning to do it again.
[Editor’s note: before the next question, important context to know is that in Newly Single, Astor is making his own film that, a bit like Adam’s experience, gets cancelled fairly last minute.]
R: Before I let you go, I just have one question that’s been on my mind since I watched it. Do you think Astor’s film would’ve been any good?
A: Oh that’s such a great question! No one’s ever asked me that. That’s a really good question. Huh. Let me think in reference to Astor and not just to my own life [laughs].
R: When I watched it, it felt like a film he was making for himself rather than for a wide release, you know?
A: Yeah. I think it would’ve been good, and here’s why: he’s very self-sabotaging, he’s sabotaging everyone around him, right? And that’s clear. But in that scene where he loses the movie, he’s sort of unrelenting in his vision, he had a clear idea of what his movie was, so I do think it would’ve been a good movie! Now whether he would’ve had too much chaos in his personal life to where he wouldn’t be able to make the movie, that’s another question. If he were able to pull it together, yeah.
R: Interesting! I like that. So, our final question, what’s your opinion on pineapple on a pizza?
A: Pineapple on a pizza? I like pineapple on a pizza! I would think of it as more of a special occasion pizza. It’s a nice thing to have, maybe, once every year and a half.
Thank you so much to Adam for the interview, I had a great time talking with him, and I highly recommend you check out this film.
Newly Single available to buy now on Amazon and will be available on Amazon Prime on February 14th
“On the heels of directing a life-changing motion picture, Astor Williams Stevenson drives away his girlfriend and aggressively re-enters the LA dating scene. The film director finds himself alone; looking for love through the darkness of downtown Los Angeles.
Following Astor on a series of dates, Newly Single explores the inner workings of his heart as well as the modern, urban world of dating, independent filmmaking, and the desire to be anyone but one’s true self.
Astor finds himself struggling to compartmentalize the many facets of his life, until his barely restrained acerbic nature, fueled by insecurity and sadness, boils over into his personal and professional lives, leaving both a pile of ash.
A noir-comedy love affair with downtown Los Angeles, Newly Single cuts through the coldness of modern dating, changing male identity, and the mad, sad desire to be loved.”