Since they are basically the only characters on screen the whole time, the two lead actors had to carry the film pretty much themselves. Hansen had discovered Matt Brumlow (who plays Will) in his prior film, ENDINGS. He says “when I came up with the idea for WHERE WE STARTED, it was with him in mind for the lead role. He happens to be married to a great actor as well – Cora Vander Broek – so the lead female part went to her.” So what we see on screen, a natural interaction like two people who really belong together, was already built in to the shoot. This is a great time-saving tactic of which few directors have the opportunity to take advantage. “I liked the idea of using a married couple in this role because of the comfort and chemistry they already had with one another,” Hansen acknowledges. Brumlow and Vander Broek were more than just actors on the film, though, as they became a large part of the creative progression. “Once I came up with the idea, I cast them almost immediately and involved them heavily in the scripting process,” says Hansen. “So, many of the ideas and details came from them, often from their own lives.” The actor’s ease in these roles and with each other is one of the best things about the film.
Of course Linklater’s films are filled with lush scenery and magical locations that exude romance. Will and Nora are basically trapped in a hotel, just like they are in their own lives. Here, the indie film standard of one location and minimal moves serves the story very well. There is nothing glorious for them back at home, nor is there anything here at the hotel, there is only each other – solitary lights at the end of long, dull tunnels. Surprisingly though, there was very little actual filming at the hotel. “We were supposed to shoot there for five or six days, and they decided on night two that they didn’t want us there anymore, in spite of our contract/agreement,” Hansen says. To get everything in, “we had to shoot five nights worth of scenes in a single night, before the sun came up. We had to simplify our shooting style of course, but we got most of it done.” The interiors were all done at a studio. “We built a set so that we would have ultimate control,” says Hansen, “that was part of the original plan.”
Another interesting sequence comes late in the film when Nora and Will imagine the next step in their relationship. The night has to end, and they have to go back to their lives… what do they say? As they talk about breaking up with their spouses and meeting again in the future, the scene shifts to being on the date, a pseudo-reality that leaves the audience wondering just exactly what is happening. Hansen enjoys the off-putting nature of the moment: “Some people don’t like that choice, and all of my films have choices like that, stuff that divides people. Should we do something like this if we haven’t established it as a motif earlier? But I like doing stuff that challenges you at some point. I like that people can’t decide if it’s a real date or a fantasy. I like that they are trying to play out their future together.” The interaction between the two characters changes somewhat, as they have come to this understanding together, even though they are still trying to figure out their prospects. Of course, the biggest difference is that we are once again out of the hotel. “Honestly, I felt like it was good to get out of there if we could,” says Hansen, “sometimes practical concerns lead you to creative ideas.”
WHERE WE STARTED ends somewhat like it begins, two people on separate journeys, with the next phase of their relationship left open-ended. “Without revealing too much, I think it’s up to the viewer to decide where things shake out for these two people,” Hansen confides. “Will the decisions they make at the end “stick” or not? It’s hard to say. I have my opinion, but what I like about the ending is that people can decide for themselves.”