SXSW Interview: Director Aaron Rottinghaus & Actor Josh Danziger on their film, ‘Apart’

Aaron Rottinghaus and Josh Danziger talk about their film, Apart, how they wrote the script and the casting of the film.

Director Aaron Rottinghaus and actor Josh Danziger’s thriller, Apart, premiered at SXSW to great reviews. The film is about two people who are linked emotionally and psychology through a shared experience and rare disorder called ICD-10 F24.  The story, which Danziger came up with, is based on actual case studies of the disorder.

The film, which also stars Bruce McGill and Joey Lauren Adams, looks beautiful and for a first time director, Rottinghaus has got to be estatic with what he put on screen.

The two friends sat down with me at SXSW to talk about how they wrote the script, how the first draft came in at more than 200 pages, the casting of the film and their advice to filmmakers and actors.

How long you have you guys know each other?

Aaron Rottinghaus: Like 6 years?

Josh Danziger: We met on a project.  It was a small indie horror film, which I had a small role in and Aaron was the editor. We just kinda hit it off.  Started talking about what he wanted to do and what I wanted to do. And at that time, I was working for a production company and they told me to reach out… “if you meet a young writer/director, get to know them.” I got to know Aaron and he had the script. I was like, “This is great.  We should definitely work together.”  I got the idea, the rest is history.

Aaron: I went off and wrote it and then I would come over with pages for Josh to read out loud and we figured out very quickly what was worth working and what was not.

Josh: He would give 2 notes, he would say, “Okay, it sucks on my end and it sucks on your end.”

And when you writing, did you have his voice in your head? Did that make it easier for you?
Aaron Rottinghaus: It did. Because working with him, I got to know his strengths and I could really kind of tailor the character to those – so that made it a lot easier.

How did you get the cast? You have Bruce McGill who I love.

Josh Danziger: Yes, he read the script and he responded to it. He also saw something that Aaron put together that he sent him and he was like, “Alright, I like it.”  And Bruce is type of guy where – he doesn’t wanna be doing the same over and over.  He wants to work with interesting projects and he really got this one and it was a blessing to have him.

Aaron Rottinghaus: Joey is my friend and I just wrote the role for her. I knew her from first film, Come Early Morning, which I worked on and we became friends. I tried to tried to keep it as brief as possible just because I knew that – with actors like that, you don’t have a lot of time with them. You get to him in and out.  Just because it makes it more – they respond to that more if they’re like, “Oh, I can come in and do 2 days. Do a really good role in 2 days and be out.”

It helps that the script is good. What’s your advice to filmmakers or actors, people who just wanted make a go at this?

Aaron Rottinghaus: Have really tough skin because you’re gonna get – you’re getting a crapped on for lack little better word.  It’s a tough business and it’s hard for me even to take criticism and you’re gonna get it.  So, for me, like you just have to keep plugging away, and you really have to believe in it. Believe that’s what you wanna do because otherwise, you’re fooling yourself and your wasting your time because its such a grind and so exhausting.

It takes such an emotional toll on you to just go through the amount of rejection, especially as an actor and actress.  I can’t even fathom having to do that, the amount of rejection that that trade gets because I give enough on my own. So, yeah, just have tough skin.

As far as film makers are concern, really- the biggest advice I can give anyone is to spend time in post production because it saves you – you learn so much that you don’t learn in production about what you need versus what you don’t.

And it allows you on set and save you time. And edit before. And when it’s getting late in the day and you’re losing the light the light and you have two scenes to shoot but you can only shoot one, it forces you to figure out, “Okay, this one can go.”  Coming from that background was invaluable.

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