After some fifteen minutes of discussion about dating and relationships and sex and attraction, Tommie-Amber Pirie gets into it and says, “I’d rather do it all and do it full and do it hard and long and good.”
She is in fact talking about shooting movie, preferring an intense work schedule to one spread out, but we both concede that what she is saying works on another level; and it fits with her latest film. That would be Pretend We’re Kissing, a Toronto-set romantic comedy that isn’t necessarily about finding the love of your life. It’s more like finding the love of your day or weekend.
“It’s refreshing because the characters are people I know,” says Pirie while sitting down for an interview. “They aren’t blockbuster versions of a young couple trying to find romance.”
Her character Jordan happens across Benny (Dov Tiefenbach), an awkward twenty-something who is caught in his own head about relationships and what to do and how to act; they are some rather common insecurities. Benny’s foil would be his roommate Autumn (Zoe Kravitz), a self-diagnosed agoraphobic who is carefree and spiritual, and who we first meet sitting naked by Benny’s bed, because now she is a nudist.
Jordan is less reserved than Benny, and pushes him to go out. “I like her outspoken nature, her wanting to just do things in the moment just have fun and kind fuck it up,” explains Pirie. “Her sense of serendipity and how things happen for a reason, I like that.”
Don’t be fooled—this isn’t some manic pixie dream girl situation. Nor is this trying to be some larger-than-life romance to end all romances. It’s not a tragedy either. It’s just honest; and awkward. The title is a line that Jordan utters to Benny while in public doing something a tad inappropriate. He doesn’t know how to react, and whether it means he should kiss her or not, a situation that happened to director Matt Sadowski in real life.
“It was a girl I was madly in love with,” explained Sadowski in a separate interview. “Before we shot that scene I tracked her down and asked her, ‘did you want me to kiss you?’ She was like, ‘I don’t remember what you’re talking about.’”
So there is plenty of discomfort and second guessing. After a magical night together, Benny and Jordan have another go, although this time in a more intimate setting. The results are less than ideal: it’s uncomfortable for them and the audience, though not sure who suffers more.
“It’s awkward because Dov and I just met each other, and we’re going to be naked in bed,” says Pirie. “He was sick and had an insane migraine, and I was like ‘let’s go for this,’ and we were both on completely different pages.” Of course, it was meant to be awkward, so it worked.
Tiefenbach echoed her sentiments in chatting alongside Sadowski. “No problem making it awkward,” he said. “Tommie and I are not doing that in real life, nor do we want to. Then there is someone standing behind a camera pointing,” he said. It was at this point that Sadowski revealed that his trick to shooting his first sex scene was to strip down to his underwear to make the cast more comfortable. Or so he just claimed.
“I felt like you were really looking for an opportunity to take your clothes off on set,” joked Tiefenbach. “You didn’t want to be left out. You like being part of the camaraderie.’ I don’t want to be the only not taking my clothes off.’”
Still, shooting a sex scene that last a few minutes and is a single shot—there are no cuts—is tough for everyone all around.
“It was also one shot, we couldn’t make it something else,” continued Pirie. “When you’re really connected with your fellow actor and you’re really going there, it’s not just an idea of what the sex scene is supposed to look like. Then I looked up in his eyes and realized, ‘this is a man I never want to sleep with, this so doesn’t feel right, this is awkward and weird, and you’re so weird but you’re hilarious.’ It just makes it all very awkward authentically. It’s effectively awkward because of the circumstance, there are people sitting around watching, someone holding a light.”
“Just like real life,” she adds, laughing.
Shot across fifteen day on a shoestring budget, Pretend We’re Kissing features a slew of Torontonian landmarks in addition to its genuine emotions and relatable situations. There are those that may scoff at the attraction that Jordan has for Eggs, but as the movie and indeed Pirie (and myself) attest, there are connections that can’t always be explained, and moments that should be bought into and embraced.
“Expand your horizons and meetings,” says Pirie, offering some sage dating advice as we wrap up our conversation. “Jump into the things. Get out of your realm of comfort. Even if you’re in a relationship that you meet someone and have a good time, you always learn something from it. It’s so valuable.
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. You can follow him on Twitter @MrAnthonyWrites.