One thing Kevin Tent did not have to do to be considered a Hollywood success is direct a movie.
Tent, a 57-year-old native of Marilla, has been a top film editor in Hollywood for more than two decades. He has more than four dozen movies on his credit sheet, including several with the noted director Alexander Payne. (Tent was nominated for an Oscar for his work on Payne’s “The Descendents.”)
But about six years ago, Tent decided he wanted to direct a film. “Maybe it was a mid-life thing,” he said last week, a purple paper cup in his hand at Spot Coffee on Hertel Avenue. Tent was in town last week with his wife, Carole, to visit family and then head to Boston, where son Charlie is a sophomore at Tufts University.
Oh, and he was in town for the showing of the first movie he directed, a romantic comedy called “Crash Pad,” which was playing across the street at the North Park Theatre as part of the Buffalo International Film Festival.
“Crash Pad” is the story of a millennial named Stensland (played by Domhnall Gleeson) who ends up in bed with an older woman (Christina Applegate) who turns out to be married. When her husband (Thomas Haden Church) finds out, he befriends Stensland and tries to use him to hit the town and – let’s say connect – with younger women to make his wife jealous.
“Vampire Diaries” lead Nina Dobrev also stars in “Crash Pad,” which Tent developed over the course of five years with screenwriter Jeremy Catalino. The movie was filmed in July 2016 in Vancouver for $3.5 million — a tiny budget by Hollywood standards. It is available now on streaming services and will be shown nationally in some theaters beginning Oct. 27.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Tent, who briefly attended SUNY Oswego after graduating from Iroquois High School, then moved to Los Angeles and broke into Hollywood working for the storied indie-film director Roger Corman. “It’s wacky and crazy and intense and all those things, and you’re having a good time, but man, it’s a big ball to get rolling.”
Following is a condensed version of the interview:
Question: You’ve had a great career as a film editor. Why did you decide to direct a movie?
Answer: I had been wanting to try to direct something. I’m so grateful and thankful I’ve had this amazing editing career, but I was just looking for a challenge to try something new and different.
Q: Every successful person I know purposely looks for ways to push themselves and be a little uncomfortable.
A: It was absolutely that. Push me out of my comfort zone, challenge myself to do something I hadn’t done, that I knew would be hard to do. That is what was driving it. And to see if I could do it. To see if I could make something funny. To see if people would like it.
Q: Your “Crash Pad” cast was full of experienced actors. How was that helpful on set?
A: We had this whole big goodbye scene at the end of the movie, and it was raining like crazy. I was literally freaking out: “How are we going to do this? What is going to happen? I can’t believe it’s raining. This is a disaster.”
I love Nina Dobrev. She turned to me and she just was so sweet. She said, ‘“Don’t worry. It’s just going to make it more romantic.” It was the sweetest thing, and I am indebted to her forever, because I was just like, “Ah! She’s right. It’ll be fine.” She was so awesome.
Q: What did you learn about the filmmaking process?
A: I already knew it’s really hard to make a movie and direct a movie. And I am so empathetic to directors when they would come into the cutting room after shooting and be like, “Aw, man.” I could tell it was rough out there. I already knew all that, but now I really know it. It hits me emotionally on a much deeper level.
Q: I’m picturing you, as an editor, in a dark room full of computer screens. Do you spend much time on set?
A: No. They sometimes call you to the set to ask you questions, and it’s good to go get to know everybody. But usually as an editor, when you get to the set, you end up standing around for the afternoon not doing anything. Usually I’m like, “I have so much work I have to go back and get done.” So I don’t hang out too much on set.
Q: Will you direct again?
A: If I can find the great, perfect project I would do it again. I think I would. Someday.
Q: What is perfect project?
A: Having some more money and some time would be great. (Pause) No, really have a good script. Something I connect to. I’m pretty careful even in what I choose to work on editing-wise. I have an inner selection process where if I think it’ll be good and it’s got some value to it.
Q: What is your criteria?
A: For a few years, I’ve steered away from blatantly violent exploitation kind of things. That’s just something I don’t feel like having in my head. I steer away from anything too gross or too offensive.
Q: I can imagine why. You’re taking all of that in, for hours and weeks and months.
A: A good thing about movies is they don’t last forever. They take nine months to a year to do. You’re working intensely on it for that amount of time and then (Tent makes a boom sound) – it’s gone, and you’re on to another one. I guess it’s the same when you’re writing a story.
Q: Your first big break was working for Roger Corman. What was that like?
A: He was making a lot of movies and making them fast. You learned to be a really good editor down there in his place. You had to. It was so rock-and-roll and crazy. It was just such a fun (place). I look back on it now and it was so good, such a good building block for me. I kept doing those films and got better at them. You get better at your skillset.
Q: What has Alexander Payne meant to your career?
A: His first movie was “Citizen Ruth.” His next movie was “Election,” and pretty much anybody who had anything to do with that movie got a huge career bump from it. That’s what really got my career going. Then I had a really good, long string of interesting films after that.
One of the many lucky things about working with Alexander is that his films are funny and dramas at the same time, so you get to balance that. It’s allowed me to go into drama if I want to cut a drama, or into comedy if I want to cut a comedy. That’s been a lucky thing.