Mercy: Not Your Average Buddy Film


Scott Caan and Patrick Hoelck are longtime friends whose budding collaboration has resulted in Mercy, the first feature-length film from Hoelck, who previously directed music videos (for Ben Harper, Alicia Keys) and photographed fashion and celebrity portraits (for Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, and Interview). But Mercy is no buddy film. In the contemporary love story set in lonely Los Angeles, Caan (Varsity Blues, Entourage) plays Johnny, a young novelist trying to understand matters of the heart. He shares the screen with Wendy Glenn, Dylan McDermott, and James Caan. The two pals sat down to talk about romance, portraying the city in their own style, and quality screen-time with your dad:

KELLEY HOFFMAN: The film is about a young romance novelist who doesn’t believe in love, but who, of course, ends up falling in love. How was this idea born?

SCOTT CAAN: [Romance] is a topic I’ve always been interested in, and I write about it all the time. There’s no science to it; people will be writing about it in a thousand years .

HOFFMAN: The irony of it is interesting.

CAAN: The irony of not being able to fall in love, and then it happens, and then it gets taken away?


CAAN: Life is messy, and that’s sort of the point. You can choose to dig in and live it, or you can just coast through and not have experiences. And that was the character, it was someone just coasting through life and choosing not to take part of things and be safe, and then he decides to take a chance and he gets destroyed and then, you know, he’s ready to maybe get destroyed again.

HOFFMAN: Scott you wrote the script, and Patrick always wanted to make a feature. Can you tell me about your friendship and your collaborative process?

CAAN: Patrick and I have been friends for more than 10 years. We’ve always been creative together, and we’ve always wanted to do something together. He taught me a lot of what I know about photography. I thought it was insane that Patrick had never directed a movie. He had turned down a couple things and he was waiting for the right thing to direct, and this project came at the perfect time—he had six months off. It just fit.

PATRICK HOELCK: I found it pretty sweet to collaborate. From the second he asked me if I would consider directing it, we went right into working together. He taught me a lot about the acting process. I had done a lot of commercials, but that process was insensitive to the performers.  I would just tell them, “Stand here! Do this! Go faster!” It was nice to un-train that robotic style by making the movie. 

HOFFMAN: Scott, this was the first time you spent a lot of time on-screen with your father, the actor James Caan. How did that feel?

CAAN: That was definitely the hardest part for me. In my approach to acting, I try to bring as much of what’s really going on in a relationship with someone into the scene. And with he and I, our relationship is so different from that of the characters. It felt like we were fighting against what really existed.
HOFFMAN:  Patrick, what tone and style you were trying to create in the film?

HOELCK: One of the things that I didn’t want to do, was to make something overly stylized and distracting. Because of the photography or other work I’ve done, I think some people were expecting me to do something really hyper- and ultra-slick, and I didn’t want to go into that. I wanted to create a realistic environment. I only like to come in when I feel like someone going the wrong direction. And with this cast, it was very rare that someone wasn’t on the beat.

HOFFMAN: You have a strong fashion photography background. What was your vision with the costume designer for the film?

HOELCK: The color palette was extremely important. We used color to play off of the production design. Also, we wanted to show a more sophisticated and fashionable side of Los Angeles. Negar Ali was such a pleasure to work with on this; she really brought all my mumbling into a visual reality.
HOFFMAN: How did you portray Los Angeles in the film?

HOELCK: I had seen the way it had been portrayed in so many movies and I never really loved it. It always seemed like a superficial portrayal of Los Angeles, with palm trees and all this bullshit. In Mercy I was referencing a lot of the film The Long Goodbye with Elliott Gould.  It was shot the way I see–our friends see–Los Angeles.