Going the distance with Nanette Burstein 

Nanette Burstein always loved movies, but she wanted to be both a filmmaker and a journalist. She compromised, and became a documentary filmmaker.

This path turned out to be right; her first released film, the boxing documentary “On the Ropes,” earned her an Oscar nomination.

Her next film was the acclaimed “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” about Hollywood producer Robert Evans and a tribute to her favorite era in movies. Her third was 2008’s “American Teen,” a story of four disparate high school seniors.

During a recent visit to San Francisco, the 40-year-old filmmaker acknowledges that the films are all movie-friendly titles, all made in recognizable genres.

So the leap to her first fiction feature, “Going the Distance” — a smart, funny romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore, Justin Long and Christina Applegate — really wasn’t drastic.

“I felt a bit nervous on the first day, but I got the hang of it,” she says.

She brought her documentary experience to the film, shooting with a small crew and allowing the cast to improvise.

She says, “The hardest part was trying to match. Sometimes actors would say some very funny stuff, but it wasn’t something their character would say, so we had to cut it out.”

The movie is about a long-distance love affair between a New York record company man (Long) and a journalist (Barrymore), who gets a job in San Francisco.

Burstein regrets not being able to actually film in the Bay Area — mostly due to lack of money — but in many other ways, her film came off without a hitch.

She was blessed in getting her chosen star, Barrymore, without a struggle. “When we met, I asked her if she had seen ‘Knocked Up,’ and she said, ‘That’s exactly what I was hoping for!’ Drew definitely embraced the opportunity to drop some f-bombs,” she says.

Burstein can’t believe how lucky this production was, from the start, including her relationship with the cast, producers and studio executives. “Everyone was on the same page here. Usually everyone is nice to each other at the start, and then when the shooting starts, everyone starts arguing.”


Going the Distance

Drew Barrymore, Christina Applegate, Justin Long
Written by Geoff LaTulippe
Directed by Nanette Burstein
Rated R
Running time 1 hour 43 minutes

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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