Picked up by The Orchard for a fall release prior to its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, where it bowed to critical praise, indie drama Blue Jay opens in New York City tomorrow, rolling out in LA next week and on VOD October 11.
From first-time narrative feature director Alex Lehmann, the smartly-lensed, tightly constructed black-and-white drama stars indie auteur Mark Duplass and The People v. O.J. star Sarah Paulson as Jim and Amanda, high school sweethearts who run into each other by chance in their small California hometown, leading to an intimate, strange and emotionally layered encounter. As Duplass—who also wrote and produced the film— detailed in-studio at TIFF, the two-hander came to him with certain instinctive requirements. “When I came up with the story for Blue Jay, I knew I wanted it to be a lean and mean crew, and one of the things that was exciting to me was having a cinematographer that could also direct it, and operate the camera,” he shares.
Duplass and Lehmann found instant rapport on the set of FX comedy series The League, on which Lehmann operated camera, leading to a collaboration on the SXSW-premiering doc Asperger’s Are Us. Bearing this experience and Lehmann’s unique skill set in mind, Duplass knew he had his director, making Lehmann the latest fledgling indie director to benefit from the patronage of one of independent film’s most respected names. “We’re chasing a feeling more than anything with Blue Jay—it’s a feeling of nostalgia, and a feeling of melancholy,” Duplass elaborates. “I wanted the director to be literally holding the camera, and finding things on our faces, and moving around instinctually.”
Speaking to the learning curve of a feature debut, Lehmann offers, “There was stuff to learn, but like making documentaries, you just find the moments that speak to your heart, that you go, “Oh, wait a minute. Whatever just happened there is happening on a much bigger level, and there’s layers to explore.”
All else aside, Blue Jay will undoubtedly benefit from the presence of Sarah Paulson, who has become increasingly busy and prominent in the television arena following Emmy nominations for turns in American Horror Story and the aforementioned American Crime Story. Becoming acquainted with Paulson in social encounters, Duplass was struck by a side to Paulson’s persona that had not yet made it to screen. “I really loved the goofy, sweet side of her that I really hadn’t seen her do—obviously in roles like Marcia Clark in the O.J. series, and in Carol, she’s like this austere, incredibly strong performer, but there’s this very vulnerable, sweet girl in there,” Duplass explains. “So I was like, ‘Let’s put that girl on screen.'”
In a Deadline video exclusive above, Duplass and Lehmann discuss their “intensely collaborative process,” the genesis of the film’s concept, and more.