[DIFF Interview]…’PIT STOP’ Writer/Director Yen Tan

Gabe (Bill Heck) struggles with his identity as a gay man living in a small, rural Texas town, finding comfort in his relationship with ex-wife Shannon (Amy Seimetz) after his recent breakup. Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda) is also plagued with the demons of a failing relationship, as he is simultaneously forced to deal with another past lovers impending death. Pit Stop follows the lives of these two men as they unknowingly drift toward one another, demonstrating the way life often has a funny way of pointing us in the right direction, even in the moments we feel most lost.

Go, See, Talk chatted with Pit Stop writer/director Yen Tan about his writing process, collaboration, and filming in Texas.

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Pit Stop revolves around characters in unique, complex relationships; did you approach each character’s individual story and then structure the larger narrative from there; what was your approach for integrating each relationship into the story?

YT: I started writing Gabe’s storyline first, but I always knew I wanted another one to go along in tangent, so I thought about the possibility of someone else in the same town who is different than Gabe, but is going through his own emotional journey. Hence, Ernesto is born. I did know very early on that the third act is all about their meeting, and by then, the audience should have a very good understanding of who these two people are, and be rooting for them to find happiness.

All the supporting characters were easier to conceive once I figured out this basic structure. It wasn’t very conscious in the beginning, but in hindsight, I never really thought about approaching the supporting characters as secondary elements of the story. It became clearer and clearer that everyone had something very substantial to add to the film’s themes…Even the dog and the cat.

Sort of going off of that, the film has a universal appeal to it unlike many other LGBT centered films. Was that something you were conscious of when creating the script; how did that evolve?

YT: The Canadian playwright Adam Bock once said: “In being specific in my work, that’s how universality happens.Everybody is lonely, everybody is afraid. As artists, as we get more specific, the universe appears.”

I believe in that process, too, and it’s especially true in this case. I may be gay but I have never lived in a small town in America, nor have I been married, or have a kid. I can’t claim to understand completely what it’s like to be the spouse of someone who’s come out, or what I’d do if I found out an old flame was in a coma.

All I can do is to figure out the common emotions that bridge all of our different experiences, and understand that we, as human beings, ultimately seek love and connection. Creating identifiable scenarios for the audience is a lot less challenging once I recognize that.

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You’ve said it took almost ten years to finalize the script. When in the process of writing did co-writer David Lowery become involved, and what made you decide to bring him on board to help with the script?

YT: I’ve known David since I first began to dabble with filmmaking, which is more than 10 years ago. We’d share our scripts with each other, and so he was very familiar with how Pit Stop evolved over time. More importantly, he understood the film I wanted to make.

About a year before we went into production, I felt like I had done all I could to making the script better, and since I’m ESL I was always self-conscious about the dialogue. That was the first thing I asked him to assist me with, just to make everything sound more naturally Southern. But in the process, we also rewrote some of the scenes, and came up with a handful of news ones.

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How is co-writing a script different from writing on your own?

YT: Your thoughts and ideas matter as much as your writing partner’s thoughts and ideas. This is especially true if we both want to make the same kind of film. I actually prefer the collaboration because I’m always second guessing myself, but if I can bounce it off somebody else I trust, and he/she thinks it’s good, I feel more confident about putting it on paper.

What do you like about filming in Texas compared to other places?

YT: It’s definitely a lot more economical, and the support you get from the community here is amazing. Filmmakers here thrive on helping each other out. It’s a refreshing way of going about it, since the rest of the business is usually very cutthroat.

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Pit Stop is was selected to screen at the Dallas International Film Festival as a part of the Texas Competition, a juried competition of films either shot in or relating to the lone star state.  Winners receive a Grand Jury Prize of a camera package rental worth $30,000 from Panavision.
The 2013 Dallas International Film Festival runs from April 4th to April 14th. Click here to find out more about showtimes for Pit Stop