My friend Candy and I were lucky enough to score tickets to the sold out double feature of Garden State and Wish I Was Here, featuring an appearance by the creator and star himself, Zach Braff.
We headed to the American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, where I was excited to revisit Garden State, as I remember falling in love with it… and listening to the soundtrack for ages, but it had been a while since I’d seen it.
In between viewings of Garden State (2004) and Wish I Was Here (2014) Zach took the stage to speak about his experience making the films and to answer questions from the audience. Here are my five favorite takeaways from the Q & A, in no particular order:
1. On inspiration:
Zach shared that the films were sort of like memoirs, and he was inspired by things that had happened in his own life. For example, the doctor that Large visits in Garden State, with the overly cluttered walls, was inspired by a real man Zach had met.
“I went to see a neurologist because I really did have those headaches,” he said. “And I remember looking on his wall and going, ‘Oh my god, this guy has one more f***ing diploma, it’s gonna have to go on the ceiling.”
And the idea that Mandy Patinkin’s character in Wish I Was Here saved his contacts in a jar was based on a curious thought Zach had himself one day.
“Every time I would throw away my contact lenses – I used to have the kind where you wear for three months and then throw them away – and I’d go, god, it’s funny to think about all I’ve been through in the last three months, and here I am flicking this piece of plastic that’s seen everything into the toilet.”
2. On being a rebel
The sensitive writer/directer admitted that he likes to challenge tropes and traditional standards with his work.
“I tried to break as many of the rules, that I’m sort of tired of seeing over and over again,” he shared. “That’s what I strive to do. Sometimes it works better than others.”
3. On the Kickstarter drama
The topic of funding came up – for both films – but it was a bit more of a conversation piece when it came to his second film, Wish I Was Here, for which he used a Kickstarter campaign. However, Zach assured the audience that he had the sincerest intentions, and never imagined it would have blown up to the scandal that it was.
“I really just wanted to make something with artistic integrity,” he said. “I didn’t think of it as a moneymaker. I thought, wow, wouldn’t this be rad if the fans bought a T-shirt, we could make a movie together. I really didn’t think that it would ruffle so many feathers.”
4. On the nature of editing
Zach revealed that an entire movie can change based on the beauty and power of a shot or a certain actor’s performance. He had particularly kind words for his young co-star in Wish I Was Here, Joey King.
He also spilled that focus in the film shifted, from a subplot on Joey’s character Grace’s first crush to her relationship with her Uncle Noah, played by Josh Gad. This was all because of the power she brought to the scene in which she cries as she’s talking to him on the phone.
5. On following your dreams
Lastly, he discussed how hard it can be to follow your dreams, whether it be writing, acting, directing – or all three.
“It was hard then, and it’s hard now, because it’s just so hard to get art made,” he admitted. “It’s incredibly frustrating, but if you love it, you kinda can’t stop. If it’s your passion, you know it’s your passion because you can’t give up.”
It was an absolute treat to hear someone like Zach share his insights on the industry, and on pursuing your art – certainly a way to shake up your average trip to the movies (not that I don’t love that, too).
Following the Q & A Zach stepped out and we were all treated to a showing of Wish I Was Here, which was exciting, seeing as I hadn’t had a chance to see it on the big screen.
If you haven’t seen either film, I highly recommend it. If you have, what are your thoughts? Do you have a favorite?
Until next time,