Georgina Von Hof, from The Cameo, interviews the team behind RANDOM ACTS OF ROMANCE which screens at the Edinburgh cinema on Thursday 3 April at 8.30pm followed by a Q&A with its Scottish writers Jillian Mannion and Kevin McComiskie.
Described as a ‘sex comedy’ by Canadian director Katrin Bowen, RANDOM ACTS OF ROMANCE is a low-budget indie feature shot in Vancouver. It centres on two discontented couples, and derives inspiration and edgy humour from the extremes some will go to for love.
I had the chance to ask the director and the Scottish co-writers, Jillian Smith and Kevin McComiskie, about love, obsession and comedy. I was intrigued by the description of the film as a sex comedy rather than a romcom, and began by asking: what’s the difference?
Jillian Smith: I think there is a difference between a sex comedy and a romantic comedy in that romcoms are more formulaic in their structure, while sex comedies are unpredictable, edgy, and push the boundaries of comedy by exploring awkward situations in the bedroom. Kevin and I were conscious when writing RANDOM ACTS OF ROMANCE that it would be a sex comedy and reverse the expectations of romcom.
Kevin McComiskie: Jillian and I wanted to play with the conventions and really focus on the grey area of relationships, which when you boil it down is ultimately driven by sex and attraction. The motivations are generally clear in a romcom, but when we wrote the script we found the characters’ impulses and irrationality that arose through their sexual attraction made for a more interesting story, and made for some very awkward comedic moments. Sex isn’t sexy, it’s messy and unpredictable, and we wanted to get that across in the script.
The film is about love and obsessive behaviour. How much were the characters and their predicaments inspired by real people or events?
Katrin Bowen: Interestingly, I had a relationship similar to the Matt and Dianne relationship. I was ten years older than ‘Matt’ and wanted to mould him.
Jillian Smith: Some of the characters were inspired by people that Kevin and I had known or heard about in the past, and we exaggerated their personalities and situations in order to get the best out of them. The character Lynne, the stalker, is definitely not based on anyone we know!
The film is set in Canada and the humour is quite edgy. Do you find Canadian humour different from other nationalities?
Katrin Bowen: Our humour can be darker sometimes. (I blame the weather.)
Jillian Smith: I found the humour in Canada to be much less sarcastic than over here! And Canadian film seems more open to exploring the issue of sex through comedy than we are.
Kevin McComiskie: For the most part I think certain elements of Scottish humour sit well with Canadian humour. The witty, dry, self-deprecating tone that Scottish humour is known for translated well when the Canadian cast brought the characters to life. The hopeful and optimistic nature of Canadians certainly elevated the more pessimistic and cynical elements of the story, which enabled those moments to be more light-hearted rather than mean-spirited. I think in retrospect that element kept the script and its dialogue edgy but allowed the story to be more palatable for audiences – especially when it came to matters of kidnapping and stalking. The combination of comedy and drama in the film I think is down to an easy fusion of the Scottish and Canadian sense of humour. The tonal shifts that happen throughout the movie add to the chaotic and unpredictable nature of the film – a true reflection of what a relationship is all about!
The British have a reputation for being repressed when it comes to love. Are there any generalisations regarding Canadians’ approach to love and sex?
Katrin Bowen: We are also considered repressed, and we can be cold, apparently (I blame the weather), and a wee bit kinky…
The film features stalking and kidnapping, which makes me wonder… is it possible extract humour from any situation?
Katrin Bowen: I think you have to laugh at hardships and scary situations. It helps you get through them. When directing these situations, I really work on bringing out the humanity and vulnerabilities in the characters, so the audience can relate to them.
Jillian Smith: I think it is possible to extract humour out of many dark situations. Obviously there are exceptions to this. Some film concepts lend themselves to comedy, and the outlandish scenarios in RANDOM ACTS OF ROMANCE, even though they were conventionally dramatic, had a humorous element because of the characters and their actions.
Kevin McComiskie: I think the best kind of comedy comes from the most serious of situations. You have to find the humour in all of life’s trials, otherwise people would implode – even with RANDOM ACTS’ themes of obsession, stalking and kidnapping, there is an inherent absurdity to those practices which is ripe for mining comedy. When writing the script Jillian and I were very conscious of finding the comedic truth in all the ups and downs of the various characters, to push the characters and situations as far as they could go, no matter how uncomfortable the scenario.