By CJ Powers -
I had the opportunity to interview producer Kevin Downes about his latest film, Moms' Night Out. It's a comedy due to release on May 9th.
The synopsis is as follows: All Allyson and her friends want is a peaceful, grown-up evening of dinner and conversation . . . a long-needed moms' night out. But in order to enjoy high heels, adult conversation and food not served in a paper bag, they need their husbands to watch the kids for three hours—what could go wrong? Moms' Night Out is an endearing true-to-life family comedy that celebrates the beautiful mess called parenting.
Here are the highlights from our conversation...
CJ: Most summer films seem to be aimed at men, but this film seems to be designed for women.
KEVIN: Most of my films in the past have been sort of geared toward men – Films I’ve acted in like Courageous, or films I’ve produced. And, I’ve just really felt like God has put it on my heart to make a film for women. That’s really where it started for me in wanting to produce Mom’s Night Out.
CJ: How have the reactions at the pre-screenings been?
KEVIN: It’s been a lot of fun to see the response and the affirmation. We’ve heard so many times, “Oh, finally a film for us.” It’s a laugh out loud comedy that women can enjoy and have a night out with their friends or their husbands. Or, even with their dad or their mom. They can have a fun evening and still be affirmed as they go through the journey in the story of Mom’s Night Out.
CJ: How did you get into the female psyche to find the humor?
KEVIN: As a producer you surround yourself with great talent. The screenplay was written by Andrea Nasfell, who wrote from experience. She has some young toddlers herself and wanted to really write from her experiences as a mom and the craziness of parenting. And, have it be in a comedic form. Jon Erwin co-wrote the funny male testosterone moments from his perspective. He also has toddlers at home, so it was a good combination.
CJ: There is definitely a lot of humor in the film. Would you say it’s more situational comedy, or so true to life that it’s funny, or…
KEVIN: It’s all of the above. A piece of it goes to the fact that its so true to life that… We heard many women say, “They had a camera inside of my home. That’s my story. That’s me.” That’s what makes really effective storytelling, when you can create scenarios and elements where the audience is so engaged that they’re able to laugh at some of the things that maybe weren’t that funny when they were going through them, but when they see it on the big screen it can be quite therapeutic and funny.
CJ: I know comedy can be a very serious business when shooting. How was the atmosphere on the set?
KEVIN: It was very important for myself and the Erwin brothers, they have young children too, to have it be a family atmosphere on set. Our families were present on set almost everyday, as much as they wanted to be. The filmmaking process is often one with long hours, as it takes a long time to shoot a movie. But, it was quite the family environment on the set. It was actually a lot of fun for me…and I hope to have the same type of atmosphere on other films even if they’re not family comedies.
CJ: Does having the family on set change your production process?
KEVIN: Not necessarily. All of my past films have been something families can watch. Our process didn’t necessarily change throughout the filmmaking. We wanted to make sure the byproduct and the enjoyable atmosphere match that of the actual film itself.
CJ: What would you say the target market is for the film?
KEVIN: This is a family comedy. Whether you go to church or not, there’s going to be elements in here that will make you laugh out loud. We’ve tested it for all types of audiences and we’ve had all different types of backgrounds affirm it. It’s a film for moms and a film for dads. It’s a film for parents. Even if you don’t have children, you’ve got a parent, and you’ve experienced some element or experience that we’ve outlined in this film. It’s an ensemble cast so there are multiple storylines that will affect multiple age groups. So, I think it’s a film for everybody.
CJ: Recently there has been a lot of family and faith-based films released. Do you think there’s an overload of this type of film?
KEVIN: I think we’re just beginning to see what the market can handle. Two years ago it was thought that the market could only handle one movie of this type a year, which obviously has been blown to shreds in the past couple of months. Mom’s Night Out is a family comedy and we haven’t had a comedy come out yet in this space, so I think that’s very unique to the film. One of the things that’s very interesting is that it takes so long to make a movie that all the films released to date have been in the production process for several years. The timing of all of them hitting at the same time isn’t planned per se, but I’m excited about the results from all of these films because I think it’s a very underserved audience. And the audience is making their voice heard by showing up at the theaters and letting them know that this is the type of film we want.
CJ: Does this film have anything Oscar worthy or is it designed for just having a good time out?
KEVIN: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a comedy get Oscar attention, so we’ll start there. The performances are wonderful. Our actors are really talented. From Sarah Drew (Allyson) to Sean Astin (Sean) to Patricia Heaton (Sondra) to Trace Adkins (Bones) and the rest of the cast, are just really, really good. The Erwin brothers did a wonderful job in hand selecting their cast. Audiences won’t be disappointed. As they walk out of the theater they’ll certainly tip their hats to the cast because the performances are spot on.
CJ: What was your favorite part in the making of this film?
KEVIN: First, as a producer, I enjoyed seeing the cast perform in their environment – In their element. The cast had such a good time everyday making the film. Secondly, as an actor, I have such wonderful scenes with Sean Astin and he’s such a brilliant actor – It was such a gift to be able to act with him. He is so good at comedy. I feel really fortunate and blessed working with such talent.
CJ: Were there some favorite outtakes that occurred?
KEVIN: Sean and I had a funny bit where we’re tied together with saran wrap and it took us two nights to actually film that. It was actually a lot of fun to be taped to Sean Astin while twirling around the living room. Some of my favorite outtakes are from Patricia Heaton who does a great job with comedy and does it so effortlessly. I can’t wait for people to see her performance because she is so good at what she does.
CJ: Is the comedy designed as a faith-based film?
KEVIN: Filmmakers often make films that reflect their worldview and you’ll see that played out in Mom’s Night Out. But it’s also a film for everyone. It’s not designed specifically for the faith audience.
CJ: Do feel kids can understand the humor?
KEVIN: There is definitely humor on the level that kids can understand. It was actually tested for ages 8-12 and they get a kick out of it. Even my five and six year olds like it. I don’t think its just adult humor.
CJ: The early success of the story suggests you might have a sequel in mind already. Is that the case?
KEVIN: Well, sure. I’d love to make five or six of them, but first we have to see if it actually performs. So we’ll see what happens May 9th. It’s a fun genre to create. I think clean comedies are completely underserved. We don’t see that in many of them -- And comedies that tip their hat at women, even more so.
CJ: Is there anyone thing you want the audience to get out of the film besides a lot of fun?
KEVIN: May 9th is your chance to be able to make your voice heard when Mom’s Night Out comes to theaters. Whenever we go and buy a movie ticket we’re basically casting our vote for the movie we want to see, and Hollywood listens to that. So you’ll specifically see more films like that come out in the future.
CJ: Kevin, thank you so much for your time.
KEVIN: I appreciate it.