He directed a music video for Fitz and the Tantrums that was blogged about by Justin Timberlake no , really. And one year later he returns to Park City with a short film, Ex-Sex. Characters as fleshed out and likable as the duo in Ex-Sex deserve an opportunity to get back together, make even more mistakes, break up again, and live on — fumbling their way through a longer film or TV series.
Neither will the viewer. Mohan: After Sundance last year, I just needed a break. One Too Many Mornings took so much out of me. We worked so hard on it during those two years — in addition to our day jobs, most of our nights and weekends were spent working on this thing. I wanted to let things quiet down for a bit. At all. Instead, I probably had the busiest year of my life making music videos.
It was surreal, crazy, and awesome. Through this turn of events, I found a new way to work. And so making Ex-Sex was really an experiment.
Which really meant just not over-thinking it too much. It ended up turning out far more personal than if I had the time to question it. Filmmaker: Can you talk about the story for Ex-Sex? How it came about, inspiration for it, etc.? Did the story come before the title, or…? Mohan: So back when I was in my early 20s I started dating this girl. She was too good for me.
She was smart. She was pretty. She laughed at my dumb jokes. I knew that I wanted to marry her. Like I dated three-and-a-half girls in college. So in the months that followed, as she and I would get together and secretly continue to hook up, I went on dates with a handful of people.
All of which paled in comparison. She started going on dates too, and I got intensely jealous. It was rough, but I quickly learned my lesson, she took me back, and we are now happily married. Every once in a while, I wonder what would have happened if during that time we were broken up she decided to move on. Ex-Sex is that version of the story.
Filmmaker: Did you know Ex-Sex would definitely be a short? Or rather, when you first conceived it did you think it might be a feature? I wrote a treatment for a feature version of it, and then just put it up on the shelf.
After doing all these music videos, when Jennifer Cochis and I were thinking about making a short, I told her a few ideas and this one stuck out. Just the basic subject matter of Ex-Sex — the instant you say the title to people, they get it. Everyone can relate to it. So to me, this short is just one tiny springboard of possibilities to take the idea. In fact, just four days ago I finished the first draft of a script to the feature version of it. At the same time, I think it could also easily co-exist as a progressive tv show as well.
Filmmaker: Ex-Sex has a really dreamy, gauzy, slightly soft look. Can you talk about the look of the film and how you decided on it? There was something really inspiring to us in that work in that it feels nostalgic, but not specifically of an era. And it feels extremely sexual, but at the same time, innocent. What I took away from this is that I think perhaps pastels and low contrast will emotionally exude. From a nuts and bolts perspective — we shot on the camera du jour — the 7D.
And it was color corrected on my laptop in FCP. Filmmaker: What was the actual production like? When did you shoot? How many days? Mohan: It was just like a music video — incredibly fast: Thursday night I sent the two main actors, Kristen Riley and Jacob Womack, out on a date, without me, just so they could get to know each other. Friday night we rehearsed and shot the hardest scene. Saturday was our main day of production. Sunday we did pickups. It was edited by the end of the week. Sound was done by the amazing Brennan Gerle and his team about a month later.
Filmmaker: Lovely production design. Can you talk about the locations and how you worked with the production designer? Mohan: Cindy Chao and Michele Yu were the production designers. I cannot say more great things about them. Anyways — our color scheme was inspired by Scrabble.
The board game. The main couch in the film is very triple-word-score red. So in addition to getting all the props, they got gobs of colored fabric we could hang deep in the background to maintain this color scheme. Quintessential mid-century modern architecture.
The secondary location was this really smelly boat in the Marina, ironically named Passion. You know, I really wanted these characters to lead these very separate lives — she clearly comes from wealth, him, not so much — and their physical attraction is what brings them together. Filmmaker: Your male lead lives on a boat, huh? There must be a story there…. Mohan: Prior to this short, I directed a video for the band Fitz and the Tantrums. During that production, producer Jennifer Cochis was actually boat-sitting.
Why living on a boat is a good idea. And so that instantly sparked the very last image of the movie. I knew the main character had to live on a boat. Can you talk about the shot design? How you worked with your DP in that regard? Mohan: One of my biggest influences is Steven Soderbergh — he just always puts his camera in the right place. But I feel like he just really knows the story of his scenes and reacts to them appropriately — never distracting from the performances, and making it as cinematic as possible. And making bold choices whenever it is appropriate to do so.
Filmmaker: Your two leads are both great. Can you tell me a bit about them? How you worked with them? I met her then, and knew her chops were just miles beyond what I needed for that project. He had been wanting to do more dramatic work, and we were lucky to have been introduced via another director friend of mine Andy DeYoung. Casting directors take note! Write these names down: Kristen Riley and Jacob Womack. Can you talk about that emotional beat in the film? Filmmaker: What do you think is tougher — telling a good story in 90 minutes or 9?
The length is irrelevant. It all starts with the idea. A poor idea executed in the absolute best of ways is still ultimately forgettable. Filmmaker: How do you plan on spending your time at Sundance? Will you have time to see other films? To be totally honest, last year at Sundance I was so stressed out. You know, we also had the added pressure of launching a self-release for the film during the festival… it was a lot of work.
So this year I just want to meet more people and just have a good time. And…short or feature? If any of these take longer than expected, I will definitely find the time to make another short. Filmmaker magazine is a publication of click here to learn more.