In Mini's First Time, a new film starring Nikki Reed, Alec Baldwin, Carrie-Anne Moss and Luke Wilson, a precocious high school girl with money to burn and a deep resentment towards her absent mother, lives to have new firsts. Whether it's the first time she acts as a call girl and seduces her stepdad or the first time she orders a menagerie of circus animals on Mom's credit card, Mini lives for the new. It's only fitting then that Mini's First would also be director and writer Nick Guthe's first—at the helm of a full length feature film that is. Gothamist sat down for a first chat with the LA-based director whose film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this year and is out in theaters now.
What were some of your childhood filmmaker influences?
I remember when I was about 14 seeing The Mosquito Coast, Peter Weir’s movie. That was probably the first moment of, “oh people actually do this for their lives, make a life out of it.” Then a couple of years later I saw a movie, Round Midnight, directed by a French director Bertrand Tavernier that was the first moment of “wow, I think I’d really like to do this.” I love Peter Weir films, love the Coen brothers. I love Kubrick’s Lolita, which definitely has an influence on this film.
So were you from a big movie watching family?
My parents were definitely culturally literate but I wouldn’t say they dragged me to the movies every week. I actually remember as a kid, I was friends with Noah Baumbach; our Moms were friends. I remember Noah’s mom, Georgia and he would go to a lot of French films. My parents took me to museums and etc, but they weren’t film nuts.
Did you grow up in the same part of Brooklyn?
He lived in Park Slope and I grew up in Carroll Gardens and then moved to Brooklyn Heights but we went to the same school. We both went to Saint Ann’s.
I noticed in the film that you cast both yourself and your wife in small roles. Was that something that you’d always intended to do?
My wife is also a screenwriter, talented, successful working screenwriter—she actually has a film with Paris Hilton released later this year called The Hottie and the Nottie. Guess which one Paris plays? It’s a great script though. I would’ve directed it, I loved it so much. Heidi was also an actress before she was a screenwriter and so I thought it would be really funny to cast my wife as a prostitute and I honestly just wanted one line. I thought it would be funny to play the jerk teacher, who’s a dick.
I had to loop my line 18 times because there was too much noise from the linoleum. I took the record in the cast for looping. It was just fun you know. Heidi did a great job. She did so many improvisations on that balcony with Jeff Goldblum, we couldn’t use all of it. They were some of the funniest outtakes in the film where they’re commenting on those animals being delivered.
This is something that a lot of directors do casting themselves, is this something you’d like to continue?
If it makes sense and is fun then, sure. If it’s something that will slow production down then, no; it’s not worth it. Only if it makes sense.
I noticed in the bio that you took a number of acting classes before you started directing.
I actually studied at one school for two years and a half, the Playhouse West.
Was there any particular advice you got from studying acting that helped you in making this film?
Absolutely. It was invaluable going to acting school because I learned about the craft and the process and how they do it. One of the things that you learn at acting school is that no two actors are the same that even though you might learn a certain method, everybody had different approaches as to how they use it. It allowed me to work with different actors who come at it from different points of view, different schools of technique. And to be flexible, don’t try to force an actor into working a certain way that they’re not comfortable with, because then they get stiff and the performance doesn’t work. It also improves your writing when you have to say other people’s words. You learn what sounds good to you. It teaches you a lot about dramatic structure because you read a lot of plays. To do the scene you have to read the whole play to get the context of the scene and the character’s context. So I ended up reading about a hundred and fifty plays and that really helped in screenwriting also. The most important thing I did as a director was to go to acting school.
To transition into some New York stuff, since Gothamist is a New York website. You told me about growing up in Brooklyn but is your family still here?
My Mom lives in Rhinebeck part of the year and just recently started coming out to California during the winters. My Dad lives in Brooklyn but I think is going to move full time to North Carolina where he’s been spending the winters. He’s almost 70 now and I think that New York isn’t as much fun when you’re a little bit older. Both of my parents lived here all of those years that I was out in LA, so I’d come back here at Christmas. I’ve been back three times so far this year and it’s been the most I’ve been here in years and it’s been wonderful. I’ve loved it.
I don’t know if you go to the movies a lot when you’re here but do you have a favorite place to go to movies in New York?
Well, let’s see. Every theater that showed my film at Tribeca is my favorite theater. It was a combination. We did the premiere down at the Pace Performing Art Center, which isn’t a real movie theater. But we did one down at the Regal Cinemas near the World Trade Center that was awesome—great sound and picture quality. Loew’s 34th St was nice. Then we did it uptown on 68th and Broadway. I love the Brooklyn Heights Cinema, which is in Brooklyn Heights and where I probably saw most of my films in my childhood. It was my neighborhood theater. It smelled funny.
Would it be still open?
No, it would be on Henry Street, on the corner of Henry and Orange. It was a two screen theater. That’s where I saw Round Midnight when I was in my teens. They showed artsy stuff but they also showed first run stuff. Cobble Hill Cinema I liked too.
Mets or Yankees?
In my early life I was a Mets fan and I became more of a Yankee fan. But I do wish the Mets well, and partially because Willie Randolph was my favorite Yankee of all time and was traded to the Yankees from the Pittsburgh Pirates on December 11th, 1976, my birthday. Not 1976 but December 11th. Willie Randolph was my favorite Yankee and so now that he’s the manager of the Mets I really hope they do well this year. I always thought he was the classiest guy. He’s also from Brooklyn and went to high school there. So I’d have to say Yankees but I do like the Mets too.
Downtown or Uptown? Do you have an opinion about that?
It’s Wednesday night, what are you doing?
To be honest with you if it’s a Wednesday night my wife and I are probably sitting at home watching the TV. If we’re here in New York, we really do try to go to the theater. The last time we were here, we saw Jeff Goldblum’s play The Pillowman, that was incredible. Great performances but a great, great play. We went to see Alec in Entertaining Mr. Sloan back at Tribeca, when we were here in May. I miss the theater the most about being in LA. LA theater is usually more of a vehicle for film actors, it’s just not the same. I would say if I’m in New York, theater. But if we’re in LA, you go out Friday or Saturday nights, go to a restaurant, do goofy stuff. Play mini golf, sometimes.
Was there ever a sad, sad moment in your career where you thought, I’m going to have to give this up and do something else entirely?
I’ll just say this. There are some bleak moments where you wonder if its ever going to happen, but luckily for me I never made a plan B. I didn’t have anything to fall back on, I didn’t have any other skills, other than just menial stuff. I actually took a lot of night jobs so I could write during the day that were really stupid like delivering pizza and selling dating service memberships; telemarketing; medical research studies. I just never made a plan B and thankfully it worked out.
Mini's First Time is in theaters now.