Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald interviews Colin Trevorrow, whose made-in-Seattle film "Safety Not Guaranteed" (which has its roots in a classified ad about time travel) begins its theatrical run here on June 8.
Colin Trevorrow’s made-in-Seattle film “Safety Not Guaranteed” has its roots in a classified ad. Originally appearing in Backwoods Home magazine, it read as follows: “WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed.”
“I have the original magazine that it was printed in,” said Trevorrow, in town last month for his movie’s local premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival. (“Safety Not Guaranteed” made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, where it was quickly acquired by a distributor for a nationwide release. Its theatrical run here begins Friday.) He said the wording in the film — in which three Seattle Magazine employees head to a seaside town to investigate the story behind the ad, placed by an eccentric named Kenneth — is exactly the same as what was originally published. Longtime friend Derek Connolly found the ad (which became an Internet sensation) and used it as the inspiration for a screenplay, and together he and Trevorrow tracked down its original writer, a man named John who lives in “the mountains of Oregon.”
“He’s very similar to the character of Kenneth in a lot of ways,” Trevorrow said of John. “He brings his own weapons wherever he goes. He’s always prepared. He’s been sort of a mascot for the movie — it’s been a good relationship that’s formed.” Asked whether he thinks John really did time-travel, Trevorrow smiled. “He keeps it all close to the vest. I’d say that he’s prepared for any and all scenarios. Whether it be time travel or the coming Armageddon, John’s the guy you want at your side.” John has seen the movie, Trevorrow said, and likes it — “he likes that the main character gets to fall in love.”
Though the story isn’t specific to Washington — and Trevorrow himself lives in Vermont — the first-time filmmaker decided to set the film here, and shoot it here, for two reasons. Mark Duplass, who plays Kenneth and has been in several Northwest films, knew and suggested Seattle-based cinematographer Ben Kasulke (“Your Sister’s Sister,” “Humpday,” “The Off Hours”) and his crew. And Trevorrow liked the idea of setting the film in a place that’s “a little bit larger than life.” He was looking, he said, for a small beach town that hadn’t changed much over the years, so that “you feel like you’re watching a movie from another time.”
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Ocean Shores proved to be just the right stand-in for the film’s scrappy seaside community of Ocean View. The editorial offices of Seattle Magazine played themselves, and numerous other locations (all, he said, within a 30-mile radius of Seattle) were utilized, sometimes with “some good seagull [sounds] laid in to make it sound like you’re by the ocean.”
Trevorrow felt welcomed by the Seattle filmmaking community, who immediately embraced him and “Safety Not Guaranteed” — Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton, he said, “would show up with cookies,” and ended up playing a small role in the film. “There’s a familial vibe about filmmaking here,” he said.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com