“Chicks, Man” is a ‘collection of modern love stories set in Los Angeles about the struggle of falling in love at a time when most people don’t listen when you speak.’ It’ll be premiering on October 25th in Los Angeles.
Joe Black and Christina Myers Hepburn have forged an unusually productive partnership over the course of making four feature films together in the past three years. From the Shane Black-style character-driven action-comedy “Low Town” to the intimate Gena Rowlands homage “Gena” through their Neil Simon-esque “My Non Wife,” they have found a very different form of expression with each project.
But their latest collaboration (Black writes, directs and acts, while Myers Hepburn acts and produces) , the comic relationship study “Chicks, Man”, might be their strongest yet. Following the intertwining stories of eight main characters in four relationships and a couple of oddball outsiders to boot, it is filled with great dialogue delivered in riveting fashion.
Yet more importantly, it compels viewers to really listen to what’s being said, as the performers also focus upon each other with an intensity that’s sorely missing from most of today’s noisy blockbusters. For this dynamic duo, that is the most important quality of all.
“Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed that a lot of people feel frustrated and have problems communicating with each other,” says Black. “We not only struggle with saying the right thing, but also with feeling heard. I noticed this pattern and started probing and asking people, and found that my female friends all have a lot of similar concerns and frustrations, and the men I was talking to have a similar misunderstanding or fear of expressing themselves. I wanted to write something where people were unafraid to say what they wanted, and others cared enough to actually hear them.”
“When I re-watch the movie, I delight at watching the facial reactions of the characters who are surprised to hear such honesty coming from another person,” adds Myers Hepburn. “It’s the surprising rhythms among the actors’ performances. It doesn’t hit classic rom-com beats, but the magic is in the way the actors choose to deliver the comedic lines in an unexpected way.”
The film features a few impressively complex monologues, starting with a 10-minute opening riff by Black himself as a party guest so frustrated with others’ cell-phone fixations that he bursts open with wide-ranging thoughts on a million subjects at once. The scene is a masterpiece of social awkwardness and anxiety, complemented by another 10-minute monologue towards the middle of the film by a French woman in bed with a younger lover who merits attention of his own through his range of emotional reactions as he listens to her.
But the creative pair have found that audiences react most strongly to a 14-minute riff by veteran character actor (and frequent Black collaborator) Ron Thompson as a man who bares his soul while posing shirtless for a photographer. All three scenes are so raw and impassioned that they feel like the characters have come to life on the spot with an improvisational fury, yet they are precisely scripted and delivered exactly as Black intended.
“I’ve been stretching in that direction as a writer for a long time. In my early films, I was trying to make more genre-driven things, but I was always more interested in the characters than I was with hitting certain plot points. Why? Well, the characters are always based on people that I know – friends, family, partners, etc. – and those people fascinate me. I delve into their world and I want to hear them speak. When I get in a conversation with somebody, I can be fairly loquacious, but I prefer listening. These days it’s almost stock dialogue when people talk to each other, like ‘How’s the weather?’ ‘Did you see the ball game?’ I want to hear people explain how they feel! What’s really going on?”
“I hear stock ideas we’ve received in the media and on the national level being discussed as one’s personal truth and perspective, and we start to sound very similar,” adds Myers Hepburn. “They reveal so much about the loss of where we’re coming from in an intimate way. It mirrors this collective consciousness that ignores the individual’s own experience.”
Ultimately, Black has found that audiences at the earliest private screenings of “Chicks, Man” are rising to the challenge. “In this era, we’re told you have to keep everything in media short and tight and neat because audiences have such short attention spans. ‘Arguably no attention spans.’ Well, our film argues something different. Our film argues that as long as you’re authentic, and you actually have something to say – that you actually have a perspective to offer – it will resonate. People are starved to hear something again.”
While “Chicks, Man” is a genre bending indie-drama, Black and Myers Hepburn still hope to work in all manner of genres. “There’s no reason these big blockbusters can’t have this in-depth perspective of their characters,” says Myers Hepburn. “Our goal is to bring context back to content and to get people excited about movies as art and entertainment once again.”
In three short years as collaborators, Black and Myers Hepburn have officially found their voice in “Chicks, Man.” With their Los Angeles premiere Oct. 25th (at Westwood’s Regent Theatre) the filmmakers are ready to meet their audience and begin a new era of artistic endeavors meant to incite, inspire and entertain.
“For the first time, I’m not nervous about showing one of my films,” says Black. “Everybody brought their A game, and if I hadn’t made it I’d be jealous of the person who did. We’re learning, we’re growing and we’re getting better. People are learning, growing and getting better. It’s a very exciting time.”
“Chicks, Man” premieres at 7:45 p.m. Oct. 25 at The Regent Theatre Westwood, located at 1045 Broxton Ave, Los Angeles, Ca, 90024. Tickets are $11. Order at https://www.landmarktheatres.com/los-angeles/regent-theatre/film-info/chicks-man?attributes=165