Local film producer Tyler Davidson discusses Aubrey Plaza’s new film ‘Emily the Criminal’
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The dangerous, adrenaline-fueled intersection of quick money and black market capitalism often leads to rash decisions and unintended consequences.
That’s exactly the world explored in the new feature film “Emily the Criminal,” which debuts in theaters Friday.
Written and directed by John Patton Ford and starring Aubrey Plaza (“Parks and Recreation,” “Dirty Grandpa,” “Legion,” “Ingrid Goes West”), the drama, which has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is produced in 1993 Tyler Davidson, Chagrin Falls High School graduate, Low Spark Films.
The Cleveland and Los Angeles-based company has produced films “Take Shelter,” “The Kings of Summer,” “Compliance,” “My Blind Brother,” and “The Land.” The latter, which starred a young MGK, was filmed in northeast Ohio.
We recently caught up with Davidson to discuss the new film, Plaza’s performance, and the possibility of reuniting with MGK for another film project.
Hello, Tyler, congratulations on “Emily the Criminal.” How did you become involved in the project?
My company, Low Spark Films, got the script in early 2019. What really appealed to me from the start was that it had such a strong character while being an entertaining, well-paced story. It also had socio-economic relevance which I thought would be a topic of conversation for the public.
Although it’s a crime drama at heart, the film deftly enters unexpected territory as we watch the title character, weighed down by the burden of college debt, having to face tough moral decisions. .
Emily did what she felt she had to do. It’s interesting because you can tell unequivocally that she’s a criminal in this movie. She breaks the law. People may judge her harshly for this, but at the same time there is some underlying moral ambiguity when you look at her situation and the options she has in a modern economy. Audiences can relate to his plight, struggling with debt right out of school. And she had a stain on a criminal record for a domestic dispute with an ex-boyfriend. It really punished her in the job market. It’s not like she hasn’t tried legitimate avenues, but sometimes those aren’t available to everyone. And then it’s like, how do you survive?
Adding to that thought, a takeaway from “Emily the Criminal” This is how the movie would have a totally different feel and response if the main character was a person of color.
When I received the script, Aubrey was already attached. All of the conversations about this character were largely from the standpoint of the identity she brings to the table, but there’s no doubt that we live in a society that doesn’t have a level playing field. You can apply this fact to all aspects of it – culture, race, etc. Look, it’s hard to blame people for feeling like they have to go a certain way to make ends meet. There’s such a kind of moral relativity in the way you look at who the criminals are in this movie and in society.
Naturally, Plaza is beloved for her comedic role in “Parks and Recreation.” What does she bring to this project?
She gives an amazing performance. The audience will feel like they’re seeing something of her that they’ve never seen before. She completely immersed herself in this character. The commitment to the role was really unlike anything I had seen in other projects, and I worked with a lot of great actors. They often say that actors known for comedy – Jim Carrey to the late Robin Williams – also have the ability to deliver very strong dramatic performances. Not that Aubrey is an actress in her own right, but that’s what she’s known for and she’s taking on this dramatic role that she’s definitely made her own.
Finally, one of MGK’s earliest feature film appearances was “The Land”. What’s it going to take for you to get back together to shoot another movie in northeast Ohio?
(Laughs) I completely agree. We should start this conversation right away. I didn’t realize until he was on set of “The Land” that the guy was so natural on camera. It makes sense, he’s so comfortable as a musical performer on stage that you can see how he would bring that kind of natural talent to acting. He’s really exploding with movie credits now. It’s great to see he’s a special guy for the city, no doubt.