Zoe Kazan, left, and Paul Dano in a scene from "Ruby Sparks." (Merrick Morton / Fox Searchlight…)
Six years ago, music video and commercial directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton made the transition to celebrated indie darlings when their sweet-natured family road trip movie "Little Miss Sunshine" emerged as the talk of the Sundance Film Festival and traveled a seemingly unlikley path to Oscar glory.
Afterward, the two took on adventurous projects, working on adaptations of Tom Perrotta's "The Abstinence Teacher," the long-gestating comedy "The Used Guys" and Demitri Martin's "Will" script, but none of those made it past the development stage.
Then they found "Ruby Sparks,"a script from young playwright Zoe Kazan that got Dayton and Faris back into feature production.
A fantastical love story centered on a blocked novelist and his literary-creation-turned-real, "Ruby Sparks," which opened in limited release Wednesday, was only in development for one year prior to the cameras rolling in Los Angeles last summer.
“We have worked on films nonstop since ‘Little Miss Sunshine,' ” said Dayton in a recent phone interview, admitting that it wasn't any creative hesitation that kept the two from filming again but rather a reluctance to start production on a movie that wasn't ready either from a script perspective or with casting.
“What was great about this was all the elements came together: the right actors, we loved the script, it was a small movie and [distributor Fox] Searchlight loved it and got it," he added.
In "Ruby Sparks," Kazan acts opposite her real-life boyfriend, Paul Dano (she wrote the part of the frustrated writer Calvin for Dano). Faris and Dayton felt they could strongly relate to the themes of creativity and control that resonate throughout the script, and the two filmmaking couples also found significant points of personal connection.
Faris and Dayton also found similarities to their previous film, specifically when it came to working with a first-time feature screenwriter. Michael Arndt, the writer of "Sunshine," won an Oscar for his original screenplay, went on to write "Toy Story 3" and is currently working on the second "Hunger Games" movie, "Catching Fire."
"There is something about working with a writer who is still drawing on their entire life," said Dayton. "I think this script for Zoe has so much of her life in it, and it draws from a lot of her expereince, though it's not autobiographical."
Faris added, "Zoe described how certain ideas were floating around in her head for years and then it all comes out in one script. It's more concentrated. And there's a quality to those scripts. They've had the time and they've put all that thought into it, and there is no pressure."
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