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Alex Holdridge and Linnea Saasen, co-writers, co-directors and stars of Meet Me in Montenegro

The Orchard releases Meet Me in Montenegro at Cinema Village and VOD on July 10th, 2015.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How important is it to write about what you know?

Alex Holdridge: It is important because it makes it more specific. With specificity, it becomes in a way more universal.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think it's also important to have likable characters?

Linnea Saasen: Not all characters need to be likable because it's very effective to have a character that everyone hates. It is important to also have character who you really like and find out why you're liking that character.

AH: "Like" is a word that now has a lot of baggage to it. It's as though we say, "Oh, we're just pandering by making characters so likable." But the idea is that you want to be on the journey with somebody, so paying attention to that sometimes makes it go in the opposite direction. Sometimes you can relate to someone unlikable emotionally and want to be on the ride. It's important, but that word has many different definitions.

LS: A person doesn't need to be good to be likable. There must be something more that you can understand.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How would you cheer up the characters that you play in Meet Me in Montenegro? How would you define happiness?

LS: It's difficult to define happiness, but you just have to not have too high expectations. You have to look at the bigger picture in life sometimes, somehow have peace with yourself and take joy in small things like friends and family.

AH: I'd say "Go for it!" We have so many reasons to not act in a certain way that we think will make us happy. There are ambitions and how you perceive yourself, whether you're succeeding or failing and all the rediculous worry that comes with that. It seeps into your life, especially in the film world where there's so much guessing and having to take risks, you embody that same sense of fear. It's nice to go for it when you have nothing to lose, have the experience, and let the chips fall wherever they might.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think art is a form of therapy both for your characters and yourself as well?

LS: I don't see art as therapy. I always knew that I have to work with an artist because it's the only thing that gives me meaning. It rewards me, my soul and my being. It's the only way of life somehow for me.

AH: I don't think of art as therapy either. It's an unhealthy way to think about it. Sometimes when you go to film festivals, people can kind of joke around and say "it's that person's therapy lesson" and I understand what they're saying. I try to not let that cynicism preclude me. When it comes to things that are close to your heart, I think about it more as a conversation---an ongoing, long conversation that I'm having with an audience.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you decide how many self-referential moments to include in the film and how to include them?

AH: Trial and error. There's no map. We worked on it for 4 years every single day. We edited in hostels---it was a long editing process. There was a lot of re-shooting, and we put in pieces of our own lives in it. It's like we weaved together an Icelandic sweater. The flaws are part of the character, but that's our sweater.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you feel that the advancement of modern technology is affecting the quality of human relationships?

LS: It's hard to say. In a way, it scares me. I see my nephew who's almost 2 years old on the iPad, and that's the only way he can calm down. How is that going to affect human relationships? When you go to bars sitting together while on their phones, it scares me because they're not actually together in real life. In other ways, it's also good because you're able to connect with people from all the way in China. You're able to communicate with people that you would not be able to communicate with otherwise. From a really small town in the Arctic, you feel more connected to the world. So, I'm both optimistic and pessimistic about the technology. In this film, when we were working with our music supervisor in LA while living in Berlin, and our composer lives in London. This would never be possible without modern technology.

AH: It really depends on the day. Sometimes I'm painfully cynical, and other times I'm wildly optimistic.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How are summer blockbusters like Jurassic World not bread-and-circuses?

AH: It's identical. When I see those movies while sitting at bars it makes my eyes hurt.

NYC MOVIE GURU:To put it more bluntly, jow close are we to the Romans? Technology is advancing, but are human beings advancing with it?

AH: Hell no! We're regressing terribly. Technology makes everyone ADD.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think the characters you play in Meet Me in Montenegro will be able to sustain their romance for many years to come?

AH: The magic is the experience. Sometimes you close yourself off romantically and then you feel like "that's it for me!" Then something changes and it's like a fire has been turned on. Life is challenging and there are so many things that make you want to stop. When you keep going, it's healthy to remind yourself that you may have a dark day at times, but there's a day in the future that you're going to be somewhere experiencing something and be glad that you're there and part of it. So, I hope that people feel that way when they watch Meet Me in Montenegro.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What is so wrong with cliches? Isn't there some truth to cliches? It's become a cliche to complain about cliches.

AH: Frank Reynolds, my film editor for In Search of a Midnight Kiss, was telling me a story about working on Todd Field's film In the Bedroom and having a conversation about cliches. Todd Field said that sometimes cliches are good because you're coming in with the baggage and you can use that or choose to not use that. I thought that that was interesting.

NYC MOVIE GURU: If you were forced to turn Meet Me in Montenegro into a cliched Hollywood film with a catastrophic event, what kind of event would you choose?

AH: Putin attacks the US, the US retaliates, and the love affair would now be put on hold because he has to go to fallout fields and cross the borders.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How conscious are you when it comes to acheiving chemistry and charisma onscreen?

LS: It's something that you don't really think about.

AH: We're probably the grumpiest and don't care if we look good or bad--we were just like, "Is this boring? Do we like it? Is this cheesy? Does this reflect how we feel?"

NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think are the basic elements that turn a romantic dramedy into a classic?

LS: Time, I think. It has to be a story that people can really relate to even if it's on a different planet. It has to feel true.

AH: We watched old movies like Roy Andersson's first film, A Swedish Love Story, which Linnea introduced me to. It's a totally different style than his other films. You look at it and say "It's timeless. It's classic. People will look at it in 100 years." It's not about the clothes or topics.

LS: It's about the love story. It's so pure and well-captured---and it will always be like that.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What would make for a great double feature with Meet Me in Montenegro?

AH: An Affair to Remember. NYC MOVIE GURU: Would Meet Me in Montenegro work in black-and-white?

AH: It would really remove so much from it. We shot in 5 different countries. You want to see it and swim in the colors.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Is there any CGI in the film?

AH: There is a tremendous amount of special effects in Meet Me in Montenegro. Linnea did it all of it. NYC MOVIE GURU: Would something be lost for the audience if Meet Me in Montenegro were to be seen on the small screen instead of in theaters?

AH: Seeing it, I think, is what's really most important. We worked on every pixel and frame, so it's magic seeing it in a theater. If you can't see it on the big screen, VOD is still great.

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