‘Which Brings Me to You’ Interview with Director Peter Hutchings

Director Peter Hutchings turned heads (in the best way!) with his adaptation of the popular romance book The Hating Game, starring Lucy Hale and Austin Stowell. The indie rom-com was so successful it was even the number-one movie on the US charts for a bit of time. Hutchings is back with another exciting romance,  Which Brings Me to You, once more starring the mega-talented Lucy Hale and Natt Wolff from The Naked Brothers Band.

Which Brings Me to You is based on the popular book of the same name by Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott. The screenplay was done by Keith Budin, who also wrote Nimona and OnwardHale and Wolff play Jane and Will, “romantic burnouts” who meet at a wedding, have a sexy encounter in a coat closet (and well, elsewhere), and, over 24 hours, tell each other everything about their romantic history. It’s a road trip meets a super-long first date (think Before the Sunrise) and is just a ton of fun. Hale and Wolff have mega-chemistry. Radical honesty is a theme, but empathy really underpins the whole movie. Which Brings Me to You is refreshing, romantic as all get out, and takes you on a journey just like Jane and Will. 

Over Zoom, we sat down with Hutchings to talk all about Which Brings Me to You. 

The Interview with Peter Hutchings

Ayla Ruby: Well, hi, it’s nice to meet you.

Peter Hutchings: Hey, nice to meet you.

Ayla Ruby: I just finished watching the movie and I’m very excited to talk.

Peter Hutchings: Oh, thanks. Nice to talk with you too.

Ayla Ruby: I’m just going to jump right in. This is based on a novel. Can you talk about some of the differences between the novel and between the movie? I know the novel has letters, right, as the way they explain the past?

Peter Hutchings: Yeah, yeah. I mean that’s the big difference, right? Julianna Baggott and Steve Almond, they co-wrote the novel and Julianna took on the character of Jane. Steve took on the character of Will. They wrote these letters back and forth to each other. It was a really, I think, clever way of each of them getting into these characters and discovering. They were literally responding to each other, and that’s how the story evolved.

Nat Wolff and Lucy Hale in the theatrical poster for Which Brings Me to You. Image courtesy of Decal.
Nat Wolff and Lucy Hale in the theatrical poster for Which Brings Me to You. Image courtesy of Decal.

Peter Hutchings: And then Keith Bunin, the screenwriter, when he came on, he had this idea to make it a little bit more… Must have the vibe of a road trip movie. I know he was inspired by Two For the Road, this old Audrey Hepburn movie, really worth checking out. But this idea of a story that would take place in the present day all over one day and night, I thought that was a really smart choice that he made there. Then we just kind of built on that.

Ayla Ruby: It’s kind of really different in that way too, because we’re in the present, but we have these flashbacks and that’s kind of an interesting way to explore their characters.

Peter Hutchings: Yeah, obviously an inspiration for this movie, something that we had in mind while working on this was Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise series, which is really just a masterpiece of conversation of these two characters getting to know each other through talking. It also takes place over a day. I think one of the things that we pay homage to that and to lots of other movies, but one thing that makes this movie stand out is that we actually go into the past with these characters.

Peter Hutchings: I really loved that. I loved how Keith structured this story so that it feels like this one continuous journey, but we have so much texture and we get to see, not just hear about, but see these characters at all these different times in their lives and from all these different angles. It was really special.

Ayla Ruby: I thought it was really cool too, how you had… So if we were going into one character’s past, we had the other character commenting on their mistakes or what they had done, and that was kind of very different and interesting.

Peter Hutchings: Yeah, we had a lot of fun with that.

Nat Wolff as Will and Lucy Hale as Jane in the romantic comedy, WHICH BRINGS ME TO YOU, a DECAL release. Photo courtesy of DECAL Releasing.
Nat Wolff as Will and Lucy Hale as Jane in the romantic comedy, WHICH BRINGS ME TO YOU, a DECAL release. Photo courtesy of DECAL Releasing.

On what drew him to this movie

Ayla Ruby: You’ve done a bunch of rom-coms, you’ve done a bunch of romance movies. Can you talk about why this one was really… What drew you to this and what was really appealing about this?

Peter Hutchings: It was these two characters. I really just fell in love with them and I was so invested in the two of them as individuals and in them as their relationship. They’re just both so funny and witty and charming, but also very human, messy and just as imperfect as the rest of us. I loved that honesty. It was this real blend. I found the story just so charming and effortlessly entertaining, and at the same time, very real and grounded. It’s very specific, but then it opens up, people can find themselves in it in these characters and see themselves.

Peter Hutchings: Hopefully, it gives people a sense of a little window into their own past, an angle to see their own past relationships and maybe some things that they’ve been struggling to let go of and give them hope that they can drop some of that baggage and take a step into the future.

On Empathy as a central theme of Which Brings Me to You

Ayla Ruby: What’s really interesting is empathy comes through as a really big theme with these two characters.

Peter Hutchings: Yeah, absolutely.

Ayla Ruby: Can you talk about that? How does that play with the conversations? Was that an intentional thing?

Peter Hutchings: Absolutely. I’m really glad that you picked up on that because that was really foundational for me. I think it’s so rare that you see a movie that thematizes empathy and compassion and listening deeply to someone, and the transformative power of that. There’s a line in the movie where Matt says, “What do you do when you’ve told someone how messed up you are and they don’t run for the hills?

Peter Hutchings: That’s really what’s special about this relationship, is there’s this unconditional acceptance that the two of them have for each other. It’s almost like that’s what has been missing in their past relationships, and that’s what makes this different and that’s what makes it exciting. That was really wonderful to put that on film.

Ayla Ruby: They’re all in with each other. There are no secrets, and usually characters have secrets and stuff that they’re hiding, so that was really interesting.

Peter Hutchings: They’ve got their secrets. Not everything comes out right away.

Ayla Ruby: The engagement, there’s a lot of stuff in there.

Peter Hutchings: Yeah.

John Gallagher, Jr. as Wallace and Lucy Hale as Jane in the romantic comedy, WHICH BRINGS ME TO YOU, a DECAL release. Photo courtesy of DECAL Releasing.

On getting Lucy Hale and Nat Wolff as leads

Ayla Ruby: You’ve worked with Lucy Hale before, you worked on The Hating Game. Can you talk about finding both of your leads? How did that all work?

Peter Hutchings: We had just come off from The Hating Game and Lucy and I were hoping to find something that we could work together again on. The script, I had been following for years and it became available, so jumped on it. BCF Pictures, who produced The Hating Game, they optioned the screenplay, brought me on. I sent it to Lucy and she loved it just as much as I had. Then we brought Nat on, who I’ve known for years. Lucy knew him a little bit. We both love him as a performer and as a person. We knew that he was just the perfect Will. And then we got to work.

Ayla Ruby: So there was no auditions or anything like that. You just knew for him?

Peter Hutchings: Yeah, no auditions. But because of that, we spent a lot of time in pre-production, workshopping these characters, workshopping the dynamic with the two of them so that by the time we showed up on the first day of filming, there was an ease and a comfort. The two of them are just so wonderful to work with.

Nat Wolff as Will in the romantic comedy, WHICH BRINGS ME TO YOU, a DECAL release. Photo courtesy of DECAL Releasing.

Ayla Ruby: You mentioned that they had a lot of time in pre-production. Was there anything that came out and that was discovered about the characters that maybe wasn’t necessarily in the book, that wasn’t in the script originally? How did it evolve with the actors?

Peter Hutchings: Yeah, plenty. We spent a lot of time workshopping the dialogue. I wanted to make sure that both of them, as well as the other actors, were completely comfortable and at ease with every word that they were saying. Nat and Lucy were both committed to not having any false notes. That work I think really, really paid off by the time we started shooting. The two of them just knew these characters inside and out. Then it was just let the scenes run, which was great because we were running, as we were shooting this movie. We were constantly on the move. And so all that prep work really paid off.

On what filming was like

Ayla Ruby: I think I read that you shot in New Jersey for a little bit. Can you talk about how long did it take to shoot? Where all did you film? What was that like?

Peter Hutchings: Yeah, we shot the whole thing in New Jersey. We shot in 22 days, and with 38 locations.

Ayla Ruby: Wow.

Peter Hutchings: So yeah, we were constantly on the move, constantly running around. It was really important to me that the film had that scope because there is a lot of… A lot of the movie is these two characters, so I wanted to see them in different environments and give that kinetic energy. Then obviously, we’re seeing the two of them in 10+ years of their lives. And so that necessarily is going to show them in different environments at different times. There were a lot of challenges at that respect.

Ayla Ruby: My mind is blown on that because that’s like multiple locations and a single day. I’m in awe of that.

Peter Hutchings:  It was almost like the opposite of The Hating Game because The Hating Game we shot in December 2020. So we shot it during COVID pre-vaccine. One of the reasons why it was such a great movie to shoot during that time period is because there were half a dozen main locations.

Ayla Ruby: Yeah.

Peter Hutchings: We were there at the office for two weeks. Which Brings Me to You, we weren’t in a single location for more than a day. We were constantly on the move.

On challenges during filming Which Brings Me To You

Ayla Ruby: Besides being constantly on the move, was there anything that was really challenging or alternately really satisfying that you were able to pull off during actual filming itself?

Peter Hutchings: There are a few sequences in the movie that take place either at sunset or sunrise that are 10 plus minutes of the movie. Let’s say you’re averaging three, four minutes of the movie a day that you’re shooting. That means that you have to shoot those over multiple days. Sometimes we would shoot these three minutes over one day and then a week and a half later shoot another three minutes of that sequence.

Peter Hutchings: There was one spot where we literally… There’s a long scene and we shot part of it one day and then part of it two weeks later, and there’s a cut in the movie that nobody’s going to notice where suddenly we switched to a completely different day. Luckily, the Gods were with us and the weather cooperated. It was very satisfying to get through that stuff because imagine how quick a sunset is, that beautiful light. And so you have these 45 minute windows, and we’re trying to get a lot of work done.

Peter Hutchings: We were just everybody on the same page to just be running. There were some shots where we would get this shot and then the camera would run down the beach and set up and the actors would come and do it. It almost felt like we were back in high school making a movie or in film school.

Ayla Ruby: Oh, my gosh.

Peter Hutchings: But it was fun. We had a lot of fun doing it.

Nat Wolff as Will and Lucy Hale as Jane in the romantic comedy, WHICH BRINGS ME TO YOU, a DECAL release. Photo courtesy of DECAL Releasing.

On if his approach to book adaptations has changed over time

Ayla Ruby: That’s amazing. You’ve done a couple of book adaptations. Can you talk about how your approach has changed now from your other adaptations to this one? Is anything different or do you have the same way you approach the story?

Peter Hutchings: It really does change each time. Obviously, one difference for this, well and The Hating Game, is I didn’t write the screenplay. The script is so important, so I always collaborate closely with the screenwriters, but it obviously is different than if I’m doing an adaptation of a book myself. I love the adaptation process. It’s so interesting. It’s almost like a mix between screenwriting and editing. I think one of the keys to unlocking an adaptation is to finding the right structure for the story, for the screenplay. I think that Keith, the screenwriter on Which Brings Me to You, did such a good job of finding a really clever and cinematic approach to the structure.

On favorite romance tropes

Ayla Ruby: Awesome. I know we’re starting to get close to time, but so I’m curious, you’ve done a lot of romance movies. Do you have a favorite romance movie trope? Like The Hating Game Enemies to Lovers? Is there something that you really like to do, to have in there?

Peter Hutchings: Sure. I don’t know if I’ve done enough that it’s like, “Oh, I do this every time.” I do like a good slow burn, and that’s definitely at work in this and a couple of things that I’m working on right now that developing.

Ayla Ruby: It’s so interesting though that you say slow burn because this movie feels like a slow burn even though it’s 24 hours, but it’s like just this amazing scope and history.

Peter Hutchings: Right. Yeah, absolutely. And also, the fact that they hook up within the first five minutes of the movie.

Ayla Ruby: Exactly.

Peter Hutchings: So it’s as fast a burn as you can imagine, and then very slow.

On the message of Which Brings Me To You

Ayla Ruby: That’s a good point. What is one thing that, as we get to my final questions, what’s one thing you really want people to know, you want people to take away from this film? Is there a message? I mean, we talked a little bit about theme.

Peter Hutchings: Yeah, I mean, I think you hit the nail on the head with empathy. That’s so important to me. That’s so rare I think to have that thematized and be front and center in a movie. I really hope that the movie is first and foremost fun-

Ayla Ruby: It is.

Peter Hutchings: … and entertaining for people, that it’s a good time at the movies. That’s always the first order of business. And that when people leave the movie, they feel like they’ve been on a journey with these characters. As specific as we try to be with these characters, I think that that opens up a certain window into universality where people are going to be able to see their own lives and their own histories reflected in these characters. I hope that people enjoy the movie and also come out maybe with possibly a new perspective on their own past and a sense of hope that they can let go of some of the baggage that they’re carrying and take a step forward.

Ayla Ruby: That’s wonderful, and that’s so very refreshing too. I really appreciate you talking. Thank you.

Peter Hutchings:  Well, thanks so much for having me. It was really nice to chat with you and get to meet you.

Which Brings Me to You opens on Friday, January 19th in limited theaters.

You can view the trailer for it on YouTube.

Are you excited about the movie? Did you read the book? Leave a comment below and let us know, or drop us a line on X @MoviesWeTexted.

You can learn more about Hutchings by visiting his Instragram.

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