A conversation conducted and written by Jack Draper, with detailing from the film’s director, Peter Nogueira.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Shortly before the film’s release, we discuss the struggles and stories remembered during the summer of his debut feature, You Still Have Time. Also joining us are the films co-cinematographer/art director Ben Peterson and composer/sound designer Andrew Bacher. All of these guys are only 20 years old, sophomores in college, yet they all have a credit of filmmaking contribution in their resumes. Their passion and love for one another and their craft are as apparent as it will ever be, you sense that they have had this dream of making a feature film for a long time without even asking about it.
We are all sitting in my basement—it’s a bit cold and dirty, but the ambient lighting takes care of everything, only adding to the rustic decor. Cherishing each others company, it didn’t feel as though this was another formal or drudgery work, just another night for four friends to get together and reminisce. It was a great joy to pick their brains and learn about the formative time in all of their lives, it’s apparent that this was a summer they will never forget.
Andrew Bacher: So we made a film last summer called you You Still Have Time. As a matter of fact, it was originally titled “My California” as a homage to a song we all love—Pete, when do you think the earliest inception of this idea was?
Peter Nogueira: The summer before we filmed, the tail end of August 2017.
AB: I have never asked you this before, but are you like David Lynch in that you think of images first as opposed to thinking the importance of dialogue or character?
PN: I remember the first thought I ever had for the film—we were hanging out in my old Torres my dad got me in high school. I remember ripping out the backseat to double the number of people you can fit, many fond memories with that car. I had this image one night of a pregnant woman sleeping in a bed and a man on sleeping on a couch in the same room parallel to the couch. They have nothing in common except for the baby that binds them together. That non-idealistic scenario always fascinated me.
Jack Draper: Was this a fear?
PN: Fear? Maybe.
JD: Or it could have been a thought two years ago but evolved into something more real over time.
PN: I think a big part of You Still Have Time has Beth behaving like Alex’s savior. After all the baggage he carries with him, someone has come into his life who he can share it with. Nothing stands in the way of these two except for their own bullshit—they’re their own worst enemies in a way. I find that in a lot of people in my life that the only barrier is created independently.
Ben Peterson: What are you afraid of?
PN: Probably lack of fulfillment. As a creative person, I find it difficult to discern my identity from my art, those things are separate and it should stay that way. Many creative people have this trouble, it gets me down when I can’t investigate that separation well enough. I feel like I should put my all into every project I do because if I don’t it just eats at me with all regret. I have half-assed many times and I hated myself for it, making it a goal now to make the future better as opposed to looking back at the past.
JD: Do you feel like you have received the satisfaction you were looking for with your first feature?
PN: Of course not, people go their whole without finding it. If I found it now, I wouldn’t have the drive to go make my sophomore feature. The two weeks during shooting was the most alive I have felt—maybe ever. I never know how to behave like a normal person, I watch films I have never seen before or go hang out with some friends but it never feels like I am working towards something. When we got into our groove during production, we would get up on the crack of dawn so we never felt like the days escaped from us.
AB: Do you guys ever become antsy when you aren’t working on something?
PN: Oh god, I would love to be working to all day every day on something that I am fully passionate about.
BP: I think Alex even has a line where he talks about how he isn’t good with free time.
AB: The production was the most professional I think I have ever felt. It felt so natural. We all loved this story and wanted to see Pete’s vision come to life, all of us were there to make it so it would be the best version possible while still having fun. We never thought about a deadline because of our pacing was down to a science.
PN: That’s right. Normally it would be six pages a day, sometimes twelve.
JD: Do you think you ever got nervous on set?
PN: Things move so fast that it never felt like myself or the crew had time to be anxious, but if the deadline was longer then I think there could’ve been a bigger chance, yeah.
JD: What would you have done if you had a bigger budget?
PN: More shooting days for sure, sixteen was ludicrously fast, so to double it and make it a months work of time would have been much appreciated. I loved my cast dearly, all of them were a delight to work with, though I would hire a casting director because I had difficulty when it came to casting. It got me easily stressed and I never found the confidence to take pleasure in learning to get enjoyment out of that process. More equipment, even though the less the better, I liked that feeling of control so owning my tools would be great.
AB: Going back to anxieties for a second, I felt the most internal pressure on day one. I had acted in Peter’s shorts prior to You Still Have Time and I just wanted everything to go perfect. It was straight nerves that got the best of me with being unfamiliar with the co-leads of the film and only examining the script just once. The moment we broke bread and became closer during that first day of shooting, I knew this is what I wanted to devote two weeks of my life towards.
JD: Let’s talk about day one, how did it all go about to your recollection?
BP: All I remember is the coffee and donuts.
PN: I think I hold day one in a special place in my heart looking back on it. Waking up before the sun, waiting for the crew to arrive and just being excited for what is to come. It was all collaborative and chill, even on the days that one person wasn’t here to participate, the absence was never felt because everyone was so willing to take on double duty.
JD: How was the process with casting child actors?
AB: So-so. We were taken aback by how dissimilar the actor of Ethan and the character of Tommy are. Ethan is quiet and reserved, while Tommy is manic and full of energy. His maturity was years ahead of his age and we were lucky to have him.
PN: He was recommended to me by a co-worker of my moms who works at an elementary school as he had done a few plays and a documentary. He had come in to meet me for the first time with Emily Kokido and Ian Brownhill for their first table read, one of the few coincidences that just worked out funnily enough.
JD: What was the idea behind casting your dad?
PN: He had multiple purposes that helped us greatly. Caterer, production scout, and a supporting actor. The cast and crew were well-fed thanks to my dad, production was going so smoothly that the food was more valuable than budget at times. He plays a pivotal role as Alex’s dad—which was a hard part to find the right actor for—but it hit that my dad would be perfect. Given I resonate with the Doc character so much, and none of the alternatives had their schedules line-up, it was a happy accident.
JD: Did it feel cathartic after all this was finally complete?
PN: I recall the feeling of wrapping that last shot, I hesitated because I didn’t want this experience to end. Though when it did end, I think I did feel a bit of a relief because I had completed what I set out to do, I had always wanted to make a feature film so it’s still surreal that I had done it. It is like how some people who work on TV talk about how you are so used to a repetitive schedule for so long that the crew and the thing you’re making becomes instinctual, and you don’t realize how much you’ll miss it when it ends.
AB: I have been in several of Peter’s shorts when we were in high school together and we had a blast making them, and without those we wouldn’t be here right now. I’m not gonna say I was ever great enough to continue it into a career, nor am I the talent that Ian Brownhill is, but I do think I was good enough for Peter at the time. I was (and still am) around Peter so much that I feel like I understand him and his thought process a lot more than someone that just knows him as a friend.
JD: So you feel like this was a different beast?
AB: Absolutely. There is a sense of urgency to it—hoping that doesn’t show of course. Peter never had time to communicate and criticize because of the 16-day deadline we had for ourselves.
PN: I think if the movie shows anything, it’s that the three of us can actually commit to an idea with the right time and money. The passion too, of course, though we all proved that the impossible is possible now.
JD: Ben and Peter, can you two talk about what it was like sharing cinematography credits?
BP: I think I grew more comfortable with camera movements as the movie went along, just because of early-stage jitters I was going through.
PN: My goal was for the film to never feel like a short. Where I would do everything and Ben would be my assistant when I need him. He should be open to any decision that fits best, and we are so close that our sensibilities have aligned for the most part over the years. This one day we were filming with Michael Balzano who plays Beth’s dad, Ben had an idea of where to position and light him in the kitchen scenes and it looked way better than what I had in mind.
BP: Yeah, I remember this. That was one of the first times I got the confidence to interject into a predetermined idea, it’s not my movie after all. However, the film is a collaborative medium.
JD: Andrew, what was your process with composing the score?
AB: I love and know how to play guitar and am learning the piano. Trying to take all of my guitar knowledge and transfer it to piano. When Peter approached me to do the score along with his cousin Daniel, I had music stored that wasn’t specifically made for the film, but I was open to using it. It all worked out because when we started talking about it, Ben was also there so it was a bit euphoric to have everyone in the same place to show them a thing I made. That piece was later finely tuned and the rest was history.
JD: Where did you draw inspiration from?
AB: Originally, it was drawn from just an A and B minor. I really liked the way it sounded and started to mess around with it a little bit. It is supposed to play during the scene at the beginning with Alex in the car driving around customers. I think music is for everyone either appreciating or pursuing, anyone can mold their taste more easily than any other art form. Ben is my biggest source when it comes to finding new music, every day he is giving me something new or I am asking him for recommendations.
AB: We have talked about nerves a lot and I am open about it I’m a nervous person. One of the most anxious times when making the picture was playing that piece of music for Peter. Trying to get it right, showing you what I mean to this movie. This isn’t just one person and I needed to remind myself that. I wanted to know where I fit in. As a sound designer, I didn’t know how to give it my all, like Ben was saying about shooting it, I needed to learn to trust myself.
BP: There was rarely a time that I wasn’t communicating my feelings about the frame, it would just be a disservice not to. How could I have felt like it was the best job I could’ve possibly done?
PN: Communication really is key. It got easier because the crew knew each other, so we could be honest as opposed to crew members who we just met. Criticism of their work would feel more personal than professional. Specifically on day two, when the characters at the kitchen table deciding whether to even have the kid. The day was rough given the number of angles covered and the several pages of dialogue needed to be memorized. Ian Brownhill is his own worst enemy, so that discouragement is natural and we can all relate to what he is feeling, it is a challenging scene and a favorite of mine.
JD: Did you feel like this experience was at all therapeutic to you? That you got to exercise some repressed demons with the Doc character.
PN: I think if you make a film and its not revelatory, it’s almost like it’s for the wrong reasons, then it becomes like work and filmmaking shouldn’t feel like work. It’s our movie, I can’t think of it as just mine looking back at the production.
You Still Have Time is now available to stream on Vimeo.