Tanya Wexler talks unapologetic female characters in ‘Buffaloed’

Director Tanya Wexler on the set of Buffaloed.
Director Tanya Wexler on the set of BUFFALOED, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Buffaloed director Tanya Wexler spoke with FF2 Media over the phone about her new film from writer Brian Sacca, starring Zoey Deutch, Judy Greer, Jermaine Fowler, Noah Reid and Jai Courtney. Magnolia Pictures released the film in theaters and VOD on Friday.

Buffaloed just opened in theaters and VOD this weekend. At what point in reading the script did you decide you had to direct the film?

Tanya Wexler: Probably the second I finished it. I just fell in love the script. I heard that Zoey was attached to produce and play Peg. I knew I had to make the movie. It was too good a script and too good a marriage of an actor in a role.

After you signed on, did you do any kind of research with regards to debt collecting to get a sense of how you wanted to direct the film?

Tanya Wexler: Absolutely. I spoke a lot with Brian Sacca, who wrote the script. He had done a ton of research and he also grew up in Buffalo. It was very much a love letter for him to his hometown. We spend a lot of time—I watched some documentaries and read a bunch of stuff. We scouted there a couple of times. It was pretty intensive. Even though it was a comedy and it was supposed to be fun, I wanted it to have some real connection to reality.

Zoey Deutch has become a growing star over the past few years. Was she already signed onto the film when you came on board to direct?

Tanya Wexler: It was awesome. First of all, she is incredibly talented. I would say that one of the biggest challenges was that I would laugh so much that sometimes I would mess up a take here and there. She’s just so funny. Sometimes, I would be holding in the laughter trying to get to cut and that was fun. The other challenge was really we’re spoiled for choices with Zoe because she always gives you options. She’ll give you a funny take, a sad take, a fast take, and a slow take. She really wants to be generous and gave the director all the choices. She explores the full range of the role every time.

How much improvisation was there on the film?

Tanya Wexler: It’s interesting; it’s kind of a balance. You’re going so fast that you want to make sure you get everything that’s on the page. Some actors feel much more comfortable improvising than others. For the ones who don’t feel comfortable, you want to do a couple of takes as written so they’re not feeling on the spot and they can do what they’ve prepared. I always love if we’re not to up against for time to give actors who like to improvise and have a fun line or something the opportunity to play a little bit. I’m going say by take three or four, there’s usually room for people to play but a lot of it was written and then some really brilliant addition by our cast.

What can you tell us about Peg?

Tanya Wexler: I love that she was an unapologetic female character. I think everybody’s been perfect and usually particularly women and particularly female characters are always apologizing for it and saying, I’m sorry, I’m ambitious or I’m sorry, I’m not this or I’m sorry, I’m so tough or I’m sorry. She didn’t at all. She was just like, I feel I want, I’m going for it, you’re gonna get it. It was really refreshing and fun. I wish I was that empowered. She isn’t perfect. She didn’t always make the most moral or ethical choices but she learned a lot by the end. She is just so damn fun to watch.

What was the most challenging part of the production?

Tanya Wexler: Just not having as much time as I would have liked to. We shot it in 22 days, which was crazy. You never want to leave anything on the table and you want to let your actors have a chance to explore everything because they’re pretty brilliant. More time would have been fantastic but I’m really proud of what we got.

What did you think of the reception following the premiere at Tribeca?

Tanya Wexler: It was great. People loved it. It went over really well. We were super happy. Tribeca has been a really wonderful supporter and a festival I love to work with. I’m just excited for more people to be able to see it because I’ve have a lot of people texting and emailing going “When’s it going to be out for everyone?”

I was one of those that would have loved to seen it last year but I didn’t actually make it to the festival. I kept hoping that there would be a screener available so I can cover remotely.

Tanya Wexler: Yeah, right. I know.  I’m glad Magnolia picked the film up. They really understand the film. They really are embracing their campaign on their social marketing. It’s got the rowdy spirit of the film, which has been great.

I was reading how you initially got the script. Do you think we’ll see the day when women will truly get a fair share to direct studio features?

Tanya Wexler: I sure hope so. I don’t know. I mean, they don’t have anywhere to go but up. I’ve got  think it can only get better.

What do you want viewers to take away from watching the film?

Tanya Wexler: I want viewers to have joyful, fun time. I want them to laugh their butts off. I want them to enjoy watching Zoey Deutch, who is gonna be like the biggest movie stars planet and going to watch part of that meteoric rise. I really believe it. I want them to also realize that we need to really look at particularly the healthcare situation in this country. People are having to do things they really shouldn’t have to do to pay their bills.

(C) Danielle Solzman (2/17/20) FF2 Media

Read FF2 Media’s review of Buffaloed.

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Danielle Solzman is a Chicago-based film critic and an aspiring filmmaker if she can ever put enough time aside to work on her feature-length trans-led political comedy script. When not in Chicago, she attends various film festivals such as Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, and Toronto. She graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a BA in Public Relations while earning a Masters in Media Communications from Webster University after writing a thesis paper on comic books against the backdrop of the American political culture.
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