First Blush follows the story of married couple Nena and Drew and the evolution in their relationship once they begin a relationship with Olivia. The three characters go on an emotional journey as they navigate the highs and lows of a polyamorous relationship. The Geekiary sat down for an interview with First Blush writer and director Victor Neumark and stars Rachel Alig (Nena), Ryan Caraway (Drew), and Kate Beecroft (Olivia) to discuss the making of the film and the depiction of the movie’s polyamorous relationship.
The Geekiary: What initially drew you to the story?
Victor Neumark: I hadn’t really seen a movie like it. That’s always exciting when we find a gap to try and do something fun in. I had seen other movies about three-way relationships or married couples opening up their relationship, but I hadn’t quite seen it done in the way you would see your usual Hollywood rom-com. The idea of doing a classic love story, to hit all of those beats, but to do it with three people instead of two seemed really exciting and fun and different.
Rachel Alig: I just loved the script as a whole. I also really, really loved the character I was auditioning for, Nena, as well as the other actors and characters. It just seemed like a really fun, emotional rollercoaster that I get to go on with a really cool group of people. I thought that it was going to be a challenge as an actor because I think, to do Nena justice, she needed to have a lot of ups and downs. That attracted me to the part.
Kate Beecroft: It was great when I got the sides for it for the audition. It was super refreshing to have just on a couple of pages a character I could immediately relate to and feel things for. That’s what really attracted me to it.
Ryan Caraway: For me, I’d never done a comedy before, let alone a romantic comedy. This was a great opportunity and I know that Vic came from a television comedy background, so I trusted his instincts and it was all in the script. That’s another testament to Vic’s writing also. Initially, it was written as a web series. Then it was turned into a film.
Neumark: First, it was written as a movie, and then a web series. Then, I put it back together.
Caraway: But the structural integrity was all there, so it worked either way. Props to Vic.
Neumark: Next I’ll be adapting it into a video game or something. Or an app.
The Geekiary: What was the audition process like? Did you have to do a chemistry reading?
Caraway: We did, yeah.
Alig: We did. I auditioned initially by myself and Victor was really making it hard for actors and gave us about eleven pages. But they were really good sides, so I was excited about it. I had a callback chemistry reading with Ryan and one of my favorite stories is when I heard his voice in the hallway. I heard his voice like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s Drew.’ I don’t know what it was, but it felt very, very right. Of course, when Kate read with the two of us, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s Olivia, duh.’ It was all very easy.
Neumark: Ryan’s got this great drawl that puts you at ease. That’s what Drew needed to be. I think in the script, Drew was a little bit more robotic almost. But Ryan has this great intelligence and sensitivity. When he came in, I kind of adjusted the character for that. This guy is definitely Drew, I’ve got to move the dialogue and how he approaches things a little bit to make it work for what Ryan’s really good at. It was love at first sight for all three of you, I think.
The Geekiary: What were your favorite scenes to film?
Neumark: I have a couple. Some of the super dramatic moments, weirdly. They were kind of tough, but when they would nail it, it would be like ‘I can’t believe we got that.’ There was one scene that was really fun to film where a few of the characters take molly and they’re all high on the floor. The whole approach to doing that scene, to keep everyone in the headspace, was to all talk to each other as if we were high. Just to do that all night so we didn’t have to keep bouncing back and forth, I felt that it would feel more real. Even though I think that was probably really annoying to the crew, it was fun for us.
Alig: It was. There were so many. The molly scene was one because it was just so fun. It was also very physical for me, crawling on the couch and on the ground. I liked the physicality of it as well, and it was a loose feeling. Two other scenes, the tent scene between myself and Ryan, or Drew if you will, where they come to a climax in the relationship. It was emotionally challenging, but very fulfilling at the same time because it felt like we did it justice. Also, the climax of Olivia’s and Nena’s character where my character is quite drunk, and they have it out. Again, I also found it challenging and it was really lovely to watch Kate as an actor bring the vulnerability to Olivia. It was a good experience.
Beecroft: For me, I’m always drawn to the scenes that are the turning points in a film. I really enjoyed a scene I have with Nena, Rachel’s character, when we first meet. Building that chemistry and that electricity between us, I always have a lot of fun with those kinds of moments because they’re so pivotal. There’s a scene where Ryan comes into the coffee shop I’m working at and asks if I want to start seeing them again, that’s also a big turn. I like those moments.
Caraway: I think for me, the most fun day was the Angeles Crest day up in the forest. I think that was the first day Chris [Moaney-Lawson, who plays John] and Jordee [Kopanski, who plays Carrie] were on set also. They were both hilarious. It was a bonding experience being out there.
Neumark: There was a lot of improv, too. You guys were playing games in the scenes.
Caraway: It was super fun. The tent scene with Rachel where, that happens at the end. Oftentimes, you work with actors and actresses who will give all for their takes and then when it’s your turn to go and the camera is off them, they tend to turn off or phone it in. We shot my coverage first and time after time, Rachel was right there she was with me, with every ounce of emotion delivered in her own takes, which was extremely powerful because it fuels you. It helps you carry on. Then there was a scene with Kate and I that was subsequently part of it that was cut out when I go to stay at her brother’s house. That was one of my favorite nights as well.
The Geekiary: How did you approach portraying an honest and respectful representation of a polyamorous relationship?
Neumark: I don’t know if we really discussed it much. I think we all kind of just had the same idea of approaching it, of treating it like you would treat literally any other relationship. I think a big point of the movie is that it’s just like any other relationship. It has all of the same elements, it has the same challenges, it has the same highs and lows and joys. That’s kind of baked into the script thematically so I think that when it came to actually doing scenes and talking about it, it was the same as you would approach a monogamous relationship on screen. Except there were probably more discussions because there were more angles.
There’s one scene in particular where the three of them are kind of having a fight and you’re trying to get all three of their points of view across. In a typical movie, when a couple is having a fight, it’s one line. This is a triangle so you’re trying to get all these different, competing points of view. To me, the differences were more surface level and similarities were what the whole thing was really about.
Caraway: That’s a testament to your writing. A writer with, maybe not less talent but less story sense, would have had the primary couple dealing with the fallout of having this third person in there, kind of vilify them. But you allowed me and Rachel to go off and have our relationship, me and Kate to develop ours, and Rachel and Kate to develop theirs. You kind of got the relationship from all angles.
Neumark: Hopefully, that kind of sneaks up on you. It starts kind of as a story about Nena, and she still is the main character throughout, but over the course, you and Kate start getting more and more of your own scenes and then it becomes more of an ensemble over the course of the movie. I think as the characters are also learning to see things from other people’s points of view, the movie also kind of does that. Also, all of you can carry scenes, so one person isn’t doing all the heavy lifting. You all were approaching it with the same amount of depth and specificity, so you kind of want to see other people’s perspectives throughout.
Alig: I think that it happened kind of naturally where we approached it as ‘we’re doing a movie about relationships.’ Simultaneously respecting and honoring this specific sub-culture, not trying to paint it in a certain light. These are people who have relationships, they’re slightly less common.
Neumark: Right. It’s not about polyamorous relationships. It’s about relationships but it’s through the lens of a polyamorous relationship.
The Geekiary: If you want your audience to take away one thing from the film, what would it be?
Beecroft: That everybody is on their own journey and dealing with different things, whether it be their past, who they are now. It’s just refreshing because it shows kind of a taboo relationship, but with no judgment. There’s trust between all of us. I think I would want someone to take away to not judge other people and not judge where people are in their lives or where they came from. At the end of the day, we all want love, and we all want respect. No matter what kind of relationship that you’re in.
Caraway: I would say life is hard enough as it is, and we should all stop worrying about what other people are doing and just live our best lives and let people live theirs. Whatever your relationship journey is, make it fun and light and eat some Thai food.
Alig: It comes down to hoping that people will start to reevaluate their preconceived notions and not jump to judgment so quickly. We have judgments about polyamorous relationships, we have judgments about a gay relationship, whatever it may be. But to get to know people and you understand it, we’re all just human. Some people prefer one thing over the other, or maybe two things instead of one.
Neumark: Or three. I really want people who are in the polyamorous community to feel seen, like we’ve done justice to a three-way relationship on film. I also want people that are completely alien to that world, and people who are in forty-year monogamous marriages to also have things to relate to in this. I kind of want to get people stirred up and rethink their preconceived notions. Not just about poly relationships, but about their approach to relationships at large. And I want them to tell their friends to see the movie, too.
Alig: That would be awesome.
First Blush will be available on VOD platforms starting on February 2, 2021.
Author: Jessica Wolff
Jessica Wolff is a graduate of Drexel University with a BS in Film/Video. She has a passion for entertainment and representation in entertainment. She currently resides outside of Washington, DC.
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