Jonathan Kasdan said he had an advantage when he wrote and directed “The First Time,” which premiered at Sundance last January and will finally come to theaters next month. It’s called “experience.”
“I’ve lived and died with the successes and failures of my father and brother (directors Lawrence and Jake Kasdan),” he said. “I grew up watching hundreds of movies a year, so I’ve probably seen just about every technique ever used in directing and screenwriting.” Still, he said, “Being part of that legacy in Hollywood is less of an advantage than you might think. So much of Hollywood today is second generation, so no one necessarily stands out on that (lineage) alone.”
“The First Time” gave Kasdan, 32, a chance to direct three young actors, something his father has also been known for. Britt Robertson (“Scream 4,” “Avalon High,” “Dan in Real Life,”), who is 21, plays Aubrey, while her male co-star and on-screen romance Dave, is with Dylan O’Brien (“Teen Wolf,” “High Road”), who is 20. Singer/actress and Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice, 19, plays Jane Harmon. The film depicts a high school romance between two teens over the course of a weekend. Dave, a senior nearing graduation, meets junior Aubrey at a party, and what begins as a casual conversation soon turns into something much more intimate, more romantic and thus more complicated. As Kasdan said, “It could be the beginning of a serious relationship, or the worst mistake of their lives.”
“I think the script really captures the awkwardness and sweetness of that first romance,” Justice said during our interview. “The story stays in the right direction—it makes you wonder if everyone should ‘wait’ for the right time for that first time.”
Robertson praised Kasdan’s direction that allowed for lots of “non-verbal communication. And Jon also let us speak for ourselves in our dialogue—for our characters.” The production was finished in just under five weeks.
“It was great working with Jon and of course Britt and Dylan,” Justice said. She made this film just before launching into another movie, “Fun Size,” which played in theaters this past fall. “This is a different area for me, much different than what I’m doing for Nickelodeon. Jon had a great ability to find our individual sensibilities as actors, and worked with those. It made the process much more seamless.”
“I think what will be memorable for me is the way we made this film,” O’Brien added. “It’s why films should be made. We all had time to know our characters, which the audience will find as well.” And Justice said again that it was a great diversion for her to work in film, having spent so much of her early career on TV.
“Jon was great to try different things,” Robertson said. “It was truly a dream come true to work with him.” She praised his script for looking at romance and love from an innocent perspective. Comparing his work to that of legendary director John Hughes, Robertson said, “truthfulness is his currency.”
Though Robertson had done intimate scenes before, O’Brien had not. Justice said Kasdan was sensitive to that, making both actors feel more at ease in front of the camera.
“The First Time” is set for a national release in January.
Post by Tom Haraldsen