Cam Gigandet, Jena Malone: '5 Star Day' Q&A with Director Danny Buday

by Andre Soares
Cam Gigandet, Five Star Day
Cam Gigandet, 5 Star Day

Danny BudayDirected by Danny Buday (photo), and starring Twilight's Cam Gigandet and Sucker Punch's Jena Malone,the psychological drama 5 Star Day opened via Breaking Glass Pictures on Wednesday in select theaters (in the Los Angeles area: the Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood and the Playhouse 7 in Pasadena). (Official website.)

Writer-director Buday's first feature film, 5 Star Day tells the story of Jake Gibson (Gigandet), whose horoscope “forecasts a flawless day the morning of his birthday.” Instead, Jake's “entire world is about to be turned upside down as everything that could go wrong — does.”

Jake then sets out to disprove “the theory of Astrology.” During his journey, he meets three people born at the same time and place as himself: a single mother with a dark past (Jena Malone), an overworked nurse (Brooklyn Sudano) and an struggling jazz singer (Max Hartman).

Buday is a graduate student of the American Film Institute (AFI) masters directing program. His AFI thesis film, the short Dependency, was screened at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival, the Camerimage International Film Festival, and was a nominee for the A.S.C. Heritage Cinematography Award. He has kindly agreed to answer a few questions (via e-mail) about 5 Star Day for Alt Film Guide. See below and in the follow-up post.

5 Star Day is due out on DVD/Blu-ray on Feb. 7, '12. It can be pre-ordered here and here.

Danny Buday/5 Star Day photos courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures.

What inspired you to write 5 Star Day?

I wrote down the initial concept for 5 Star Day in a notebook a few years back, simply that it could be interesting to explore the idea of a guy who sets out on a journey to disprove the theory of astrology. The story really ran from there. As I did research during the writing process I found myself wondering about why so many people believe in astrology. The subject matter of astrology and horoscopes alone lent itself to examining themes relating to one's fate and destiny, two topics that I was interested in exploring through the story.

 

5 Star Day is your first feature. You wrote, directed, and produced it. What were the biggest challenges confronting you?

The shooting schedule was definitely ambitious for an indie film, taking production from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Atlantic City was pretty unusual for a small production of our size. Not to mention the fact that shooting on location is similar to a traveling circus. You're hopping from city to city with the cast, crew, and a ton of very bulky equipment. The sheer coordination required to pull off such organized chaos I credit to our line producer Aimee Flaherty and my first A.D. Richard Robinson, along with the tireless support of Joel Mendoza and Mike Robertson (the two other producers on the film).

In addition, you have to be on even more “on your toes” when you're shooting on location vs. in a secured studio-style interior location. By not having a controlled environment, [while having] a constantly changing shooting schedule, adjusting due to locations dropping out, delayed flights, weather issues, camera malfunctions, etc. you have to be prepared to improvise and adapt.

With 5 Star Day, those struggles really helped to bring together a cohesive camaraderie within the crew that grew as we traveled from city to city. The brutal weather in Chicago and New York, the L train scene in downtown Chicago, the rain in Atlantic City – I have so many fond memories of the struggles that actually brought the cast and crew together on this production. It was an amazing experience, especially being my first feature, and I feel extremely lucky to have had such an amazing cast and crew who not only trusted in me, but gave everything they could to the project.

writer-director Danny Buday
5 Star Day writer-director Danny Buday

The casting of Cam Gigandet and Jena Malone. How did that come about? What was it like working with actors whose resumes include some very well-known movie credits?

When I first met with [casting director] Shannon Makhanian, Joel Mendoza and Mike Robertson, Cam was at the top of her list. She had seen him in Never Back Down and after reading the script for 5 Star Day, she thought it'd be an interesting change for him to play a nice guy character as a dramatic lead.

I was really looking for an actor who could be vulnerable enough to dig into the subtext of the story and bring a heart to Jake's journey. We got Cam the script while he was in the UK promoting Twilight, and had lunch with him as soon as he got back into town.

I was immediately struck by how genuine and sincere Cam was – almost shy. For being such an attractive, clearly leading-man-type actor, he was extremely humble and even rode his bike to our first lunch meeting (bicycle, not motorcycle). When he pulled out his tattered and torn copy of the script for 5 Star Day, beaten and looking like it had traveled through a war zone, complete with dog-eared pages and scribbled margins, I was impressed. We chatted over lunch, and by the time we left it was clear that Cam was our Jake. We had breakfast again the next day to talk more about the project, and that was it. We started rehearsals the following day.

Shannon Makhanian was immensely helpful in getting the script to some amazing actors and assembling a really great cast. I loved the idea of Jena for the role of Sarah, but knew that we were still a small indie film and that she was very selective with her projects. Needless to say I was ecstatic when she responded to the material and agreed to have coffee with me in LA to talk more about the project.

She is a gracious actress and a rare talent. She had some amazingly insightful ideas about the character of Sarah and by the end of our meeting she was on board as well. It was exciting to see her play the role of a young single mother, and she was an improvisational joy to work with on set – even when filming outdoors in sub-zero weather in downtown Chicago.

Jena and all the other actors, including Will Yun Lee, Brooklyn Sudano, Julianna Guill, Max Hartman and Chris Johnson were all very giving and subtle. Again, I can't wait for everyone to see this film, if only to see all the hard work all these amazing actors put into their craft.

 

Astrology. Do the stars – or fate – have any impact on our lives, or is life all (or mostly all) about the choices we make?

I hope audiences leave 5 Star Day questioning how their own choices and decisions every day influence and affect their own destiny and their individual fate, including how their horoscope and astrology influence their lives.

I hope audiences take something away from the story and let the journey Jake went on in the film influence them and/or affect them in some positive way – which is what I hope people take away with respect to astrology: that while a horoscope can point you in the right direction, we must take responsibility for our own actions and take control of our own destiny as well.

 

Anything new in the works?

Yes, I'm developing a teen action/thriller called Kennedy High and a one-hour TV drama called Break on Through but currently – next up – I'm prepping to shoot an indie feature about a soldier coming home from Afghanistan, which starts filming next month.

5 Star Day trailer

Cam Gigandet, 5 Star DayBreaking Glass Pictures has acquired all U.S. rights to Danny Buday's debut feature film 5 Star Day, starring Twilight's Cam Gigandet (right) and Sucker Punch's Jena Malone. The film is slated to open through Check Entertainment in New York, Los Angeles (Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood and the Playhouse 7 in Pasadena), and a handful of other U.S. cities on November 2.

As per the press release, 5 Star Day features Cam Gigandet as Jake Gibson, whose horoscope “forecasts a flawless day the morning of his birthday. Little does he realize, his entire world is about to be turned upside down as everything that could go wrong – does.

“Now, determined to disprove the theory of Astrology, Jake embarks on a journey to find the three people born the same time and place as himself: a single mom haunted by her past (Jena Malone), an overworked nurse (Brooklyn Sudano) and an undiscovered jazz singer (Max Hartman). What Jake learns along the way is an important lesson about life, love, fate and destiny that will unexpectedly change his life forever.”

Cam Gigandet has recently joined the cast of TNT's upcoming Western series Gateway. In addition to Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight, in which he played opposite Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, Gigandet's movie credits include Easy A with Emma Stone, and Burlesque with Christina Aguilera and Cher. Besides Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch, with Abbie Cornish and Emily Browning, Jena Malone has been featured in Saved!, Into the Wild, Donnie Darko, and Pride & Prejudice.

Below is the 5 Star Day trailer. And here is the film's official website.

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