Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Behind The Film 'What Goes Up'

For Jonathan Glatzer, winning the best film award for 'Prix Fixe,' a 28-minute short released in 1997, must seem a lifetime ago on the day before his full length feature film What Goes Up is shown at the Pacific Design Center before opening in six major cities.

Back then, he had directed Oscar nominee Douglas McGrath and Tim Blake Nelson. This time around, he directed a cast of brilliant performers including: Steve Coogan, Hilary Duff, Olivia Thirlby, Josh Peck, Molly Shannon, and a dozen other young and talented actors.

"Being around this young cast, I felt younger and much older at the same time," recalls Glatzer. "Younger because they brought an energy and commitment that has not been dampened by cynicism; older because sometimes I had to act like the mature one on the set. But only when I absolutely had to."

According to Glatzer, the script, which he originally worked on with Robert Lawson as a stage play, had a long history of what some might call moments of maturity. While it attracted champions, the number of characters and locations called for a bigger budget than many producers and studios would have considered from a first-time director.

And then, even after the financing was locked, it became even more challenging than Glatzer expected. The result, two weeks before principal photography, was a tight budget and fewer shooting days. It took some additional tenancy for the first-time executive producers at Three Kings Productions. And, of course, the cast.

"It all came down to having a truly great cast, talented and deeply cool, to make it possible for us to accomplish this film," says Glatzer. "When your budget has you by the edge of a knife, your cast makes the difference. Their performances were all wonderful."

The cast originally came together in a few short months, with Coogan being among the first to meet with Glatzer after reading the script. Duff, who was recommended by John Cusack, came on after noting a personal connection between herself and Lucy. And Shannon joined after hearing how she had enamored Glatzer during a screening of Mike White’s “Year of the Dog.” He still insists she should have been nominated for an Oscar.

"When I saw Olivia Thirlby’s audition tape, I was completely blown away; I still am," he said. "And Josh Peck, who was originally cast as the character Fenster, is one of the best, if not the best, actors of his generation."

Nearly everyone agrees. Many reviewers, even those who have been hard on the film, have given props to the performers. Even more so than reviewers, the film's first outing at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival won the "Audience Award."

"I think they walked away with what I wanted them to ... love for the characters, but the kind of love you might give begrudgingly because they are not without flaws," he said. "Just like this film, there is no ‘wrapped with a ribbon’ resolution or perfect plans or moments of unadulterated triumph."

Glatzer says that if there is any message, then it must be exactly that. There is pain, he says, not only in loss, but in every interaction between us all. He believes that is one of the reasons we look for heroes; each of us is trying to find ideas that are larger than ourselves, even if that sometimes means disposing of inconvenient truths.

It happens in everyday life, he says, and on the grand scale. It happens with groups of young people, in their teens, just like those brought to life in the film. Sometimes, kids have one adult in their lives who shines. But if they die, it leaves a crater in their lives that needs to be filled with whatever seems within easy reach and most convenient.

Glatzer began his career in theater as a director, staging productions at such venues as the Oxford Playhouse in England, Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C., and The Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York. He then moved on to work as a writer for Touchstone Television, Fox Television, Warner Brothers, Good Machine, and Industry Entertainment.

In addition to film, there is another interesting footnote on Glatzer's resume. He was an alternate for the U.S. men's fencing team for the 2000 Summer Olympics that was held in Sydney, Australia.

Glatzer will also be featured this Friday in an extended First Look video.


  1. That was a great read. Jonathan Glatzer should be really proud of his accomplishment!

  2. It sounds like he not only learned a lot while making this film but that he accomplished everything he wished for the film and more. What an amazing experience. I wish more people took time like this to write about their film to tell others not only the good things that came out of it, but also the struggles. I can't wait to see the film when it comes out, it sounds amazing.

  3. That's sounds like a good experience. I'm sure for him as also for the cast.

    Every time the film looks better and better to me. I only hope it doesn't take too long before i'm able to see it....

    Thanks for posting it. It was really interesting to read. I really think the cast & crew have done a great job that I hope the audience sees :)

  4. Hey isn´t he that guy from the series "little britan"? xD
    He looks like him. When I was in Madam Tussan(?) I saw them both there ^____^

  5. I hope Pete Hammond's review from, isn't the only good review this movie has. So far I've only seen critics being harsh and I hope as the days roll on that the real critics with the great reviews will finally be shown.

  6. sadly, this movie is getting bad reviews.. :(
    im still seeing it though:)

  7. Hey Jenn,

    Not all the reviews are bad. And we didn't find anyone who didn't like it at the premiere. Everyone loved it. As for reviews, there are several positive and mixed positive pieces out there. :)

    "There's some nice filmmaking tucked inside "What Goes Up," a muddle of moods and intentions." — The New York Times

    "It’s exactly what WHAT GOES UP strives to be–a funny movie about death, a sad movie about life. Most of the time, it works." — Gordonand, (who gave it a B+), Movie Guide, Top of the Hill, IE Weekly, and many other reviews all liked much of the film too. But at the end of the day, the only reviewers who count are people like you. :)

    All our best,
    The Insider Team

  8. great post... can't wait to see and read more about the premire :D

    there's always gonna be bad reveiws and good too.... everybody is different and not all people like the same sort of things, so that's natural ;)

    but i'm sure it's gonna be good :) at least I can't wait to see it :D

  9. Absolutely Hil.

    The only thing we don't understand is why a few fans, like the one who posted on "Oh No They Didn't," only picked the harshest reviews rather than a balance. We have a few more positive comments...

    "Yet despite the contrivances and frustrations (and there are more than a few), there's also something endearing -- and, occasionally, achingly poignant -- about "What Goes Up" and its gallery of valiant misfits." — Las Vegas Review-Journal

    And we keep receiving great comments from everyone is following us. They all like the film too. One wonders if the gap between reviewers and regular people has grown so wide, that some reviewers do little more than rehash what they read and not what they saw.

    Our favorite blunder was one reviewer who thought Olivia Thirlby was Molly Shannon. ;)

    All our best,
    The Insider Team

  10. I can't understand where some of the negative reviews are coming from. Maybe some of the critics didn't actually watch the movie from start to finish like I did. I was lucky to be at the premiere on Thursday at the Pacific Design Center and to meet some of the cool people involved, including Jonathan Glatzer. The film was very warmly received by the audience that night. I liked the film so much that I plan to see it again when it opens in my city and will buy it on DVD. The reviewers can wank on it all they want, but all that matters is what the audience thinks. The audience I was in loved the film.

  11. I defenetively won't agree with any of them until I see the movie with my eyes !

    to be, at the moment, it really seems like a "wanna see" movie :D for me, that's enough. I don't care if there bad reviews or good. Some classic movies have also had reviews but noone cares, do they??? we still see them...

    :) sure there'll be bad reviews , good reviews and some "middle" ones but movies are a subjective topic, it's how it goes.

    ^^ - N

  12. I just hate how hilary always tries to play the same stupid seductress roles she tries to hard to be something she is not. yuck.