Tribeca 2024 Interview: Delaney Buffett and Katie Corwin on Remaining in Sync in “Adult Best Friends”

There have been many girls’ weekends for Delaney (Delaney Buffett) and Katie (Katie Corwin) by the time “Adult Best Friends” begins, but there’s a sense you’re watching what could be the last. The besties since middle school haven’t had one for a while since Katie has gotten more serious with her boyfriend John (Mason Gooding), and little does Delaney know that the reason he won’t be joining them on a trip to the beach is because Katie wants to be able to tell her friend that they’ve gotten engaged. If the news that they’ll surely be spending less time together was bad enough for Delaney, it gets even worse when reflecting on how Katie has reached this milestone before her, not necessarily wanting to get married or start a family herself, but still looking no further down the road than Friday nights where she can find the nearest party.

It’s no accident that Buffett and Corwin decided to name characters after themselves when co-writing what would become Buffett’s witty feature debut, drawing on a decades’ long friendship that like any has withstood its share of slings and arrows over the years as they came into their own as adults, but what that really means is having the perspective to look back at what could’ve happened had they not matured, leading to a wild comedy in which the two may not be able to look at each other again less out of anger over secrets kept than sheer embarrassment, given all that occurs. After renting an AirBnB from a creepy host that insists on keeping cameras on in the house during their stay, the two try to have a good time with Go-Karts and hitting the beach as Katie tries to butter up her friend for her big news, only for all the reasons that she’s reluctant to tell her crop up as Delaney proceeds to get wasted and any of the fun they could be having has a habit of spiraling out of control.

With a murderer’s row of comic supporting players from the film’s executive producer Zachary Quinto as Katie’s brother to Casey Wilson as Delaney’s co-worker, “Adult Best Friends” delights in being over-the-top, yet it also cleverly quantifies what’s become too much for its protagonists on the cusp of their thirties who realize they simply want different things from one another yet don’t want to give up one of the great constants in their life. The two on screen may have trouble finding their footing as they step to the future, but Buffett and Corwin are far more assured behind the scenes in the story they’re telling, delivering a comedy where the discomfort that they mine for laughs is bound to make others feel right at home. With the film premiering at Tribeca, Buffett and Corwin spoke about reflecting on their relationship for the screen, how they cooled off during some brutal summer heat during the shoot and the bifurcated experience of letting loose for the camera and taking responsibility behind it for such a massive undertaking as a feature.

How did this come about?

Delaney Buffett: Katie and I have been best friends since we were in fifth grade and we started writing together after college and not to sound cliche, but I think our friendship is super important to us, so we wanted to write something that was relatable but specific to our experience. It is a bit autobiographical, and the underlying emotion in the movie is based on our friendship, but the plot is made up…

Katie Corwin: And we intentionally didn’t want anything to be too close to home or too real because that would take the fun out of creating this world together. But we’ve definitely talked through the idea of a childhood friendship adapting to survive adulthood. And when we were going to make our first feature, write it together and have Delaney direct, we wanted it to be a really universal idea. Gender and age aside, when you’re at a stage in your life when you start to change and you’re worried about losing something that’s important to you, that’s something everyone can relate to.

Did you know from the start that you’d both be starring in it yourselves?

Delaney Buffett: There was a lot of back and forth. I had acted a bit — not as much as Katie — but I had asked a bunch of people because I’d been warned about the challenges of directing yourself, especially when you’re not a very, very seasoned professional, which I was not. We had been in things before — short sketch stuff — and ultimately, it came down to the fact that the heart of the story was us. I just wanted the authenticity of our friendship, and we wrote a hard comedy and then we got to set, and it got very emotional in certain parts, [which] I don’t know would have come up if it was not us together on screen. So as challenging as it was, it was great for the story to have us be in it because in the final scene, there was [this moment where I felt] “We feel that about each other” — Katie and our friendship, “but we’ve never really said it out loud,” so hearing it over and over again [as we did takes of the scene] really struck a chord for both of us and brought that scene more to life. In the end, I’m very happy we were in it, but at the start, it was a real back and forth.

Katie Corwin: There was no back and forth from my end. It was like I needed it. I [told Delaney], “You have to be in it. You can do it. No one can do it but you.” At the end of the day, acting is just connecting, and we’ve been connected for 20 years. If you just forget everything else that’s going on and we’re doing this together, it’ll be incredible. And I’m so glad that she did.

For the opening scene, you also have to cast younger versions of yourselves. Was that a surreal experience?

Delaney Buffett: In the end, it was basically trying to find just two younger girls who looked like us, and a lot of the casting was through personal connections, but we didn’t know 14-year-old girls who looked like us or even 14-year-old girls in general, so we saw a bunch of tapes, and it ended up being Keely [Karsten] and Jolie [Natalia Handler] were perfect. It was a funny scene, and both of them nailed it and I’m so grateful because they were so excellent in it.

Katie Corwin: And watching the girls on set, Delaney was really amazing at making them comfortable and just getting a lot of footage of them being 14-year-old girls, just hanging out. Watching them together made me a bit nostalgic. Like Delaney said, the last time I was around 14-year-old girls was when I was one, so it was just so great watching these little women, giggling and laughing, and it really made me think about how long we’ve known each other and how much love we’ve had over so many years.

Delaney Buffett: And Keely and Jolie took a camcorder around and their ability to just connect in the moment was so interesting because that opening scene, what we wanted to get across is what brings you together as a kid is very different than what you connect with as an adult. You like a trundle bed and someone else likes a trundle bed, you’re like, “Okay, we’re best friends,” so to watch Keely and Jolie bonding immediately was super helpful for once it came time to roll.

Delaney, the last time we spoke it was for your documentary short “The Spring” and you have a pretty extensive background in nonfiction. Did that contribute to how you wanted to shoot this?

Delaney Buffett: Ultimately, I love doing doc stuff because it’s so great to go out in the world and sit with people and get their story. It feels so real and authentic, and the biggest part of [“Adult Best Friends”] was to have an authentic feel, where I wanted it in the end to be a comedy where we could laugh, but I wanted it to feel as real as possible in those moments. [The nonfiction work] definitely had an influence because in the doc world, you’re not as constrained with setups and timing. That was a new experience for me [on narrative films]. I had done short narratives before, so the schedule and having to keep all the elements in mind with wardrobe and continuity I had done on a smaller level and on bigger sets, but once you’re at the center of it and you’re like, “Where’s the glass? Or that’s not the lipstick. Where’s the shirt?” This is stuff that does not matter in a doc whatsoever, but keeping that real feel while also making a [fictional] movie is a challenge that I had not come across yet.

Was there a particularly wild day on set?

Delaney Buffett: There were many because we had a 16-day shoot and we shot part of the movie Mississippi in August, so it was very, very hot. And there [was a scene with] seven actors — and their body heat, all of the crew, and Jessica [Pantoja], our DP, is holding a hot, hot camera and Rachel [Saldivar], our sound person, is holding another hot thing. It’s 105, we can’t have the AC on [for sound purposes]. It’s so sweaty, and there were nine or 10 of us [in this room] for a very emotional scene for Katie and I. And I was so amazed and grateful from the combination of Jessica and Tyler [John Young], our AD and Marie [Nikolova], our producer, that they all pulled it together and that we actually finished the scene. You can schedule a movie where you’re like, “Oh, we can do this,” and they’re like, “I’m telling you, we can’t do this,” but I was so thankful for everyone pulling together because it’s the climax of the movie and we beat the heat. We were so sweaty and we didn’t have backup costumes because of the low budget, so it’s a lot of blow drying…

Katie Corwin: It was touch and go there for a little. When we were shooting [scenes] at the bar, they would let us all go stand in their walk-in freezer between takes just to save the costumes and the makeup. It was like, “Listen, unless you want us to have pit stains in half the takes, then everyone’s going to have to go sit on a big block of ice.”

Katie, there’s a scene where you gulp down a beer in one take – I was impressed, but now realized you may have been that parched.

Katie Corwin: Thank you for noticing. It was one take. It, however, is apple juice, so it was a little easier than maybe real beer. And maybe the first two were refreshing, but then maybe the last 16 or 17, I was like, all right, not helping with the heat anymore. [laughs]

It does look like you had a lot of fun overall, which translates on screen, and the implications are fascinating because here you are having the responsibilities of running this serious production while having to act like kids in front of the camera. Was that interesting to process?

Delaney Buffett: I feel like as a kid, you’re not as aware of everything and I think Marie, myself and Katie having lead roles in this film in front and behind the camera, you just get so many questions all the time from different arenas and that’s something I think people don’t tell you. So [it was] having to balance being an adult and being mature to get this movie done and to make our days, but also [this feeling] I really want to have fun with my friends and I didn’t want people to feel like this was a super-strict environment because I wanted people to have fun. It was a comedy and improvised. But when you’re making something with your friends, there is that temptation and the AD many times had to be like, “Delaney, let’s get this going,” so it was so nice to have people who were like, “This is where you become professional in this moment and you step away from the fun side of things.” I learned a lot in terms of trying to strike a balance.

Katie Corwin: And for me Delaney’s always been such a security blanket. I’ve acted in the past, but this was definitely the biggest responsibility I’ve ever had as an actor, so I was really intimidated. I was excited, but nervous and Delaney and I were sharing a hotel room when we were down in Mississippi and it was really funny that when we’re out with everyone, you put on the facade of “Yes, I’m one of the lead actors. You’re in great hands. Don’t worry.” Then the second the doors closed, we’re both like, “Oh God, oh God, oh God.” [laughs] So that was really, really nice to have with each other, and then also [with our producer] Marie, who we both know so well now, although it’s a formal setting, you lose all pretense when you’re talking because it was also close that it was able to keep it refreshingly honest.

What’s it like to get this out into the world?

Delaney Buffett: We’re super excited. We’re also very nervous just because with a comedy, you’re waiting for a laugh, so I’m picturing myself in the theater, looking at Katie being like, “They didn’t laugh at that.” That’s nerve-wracking to actually sit in a theater with strangers, but also our friends and family, and gauge their reactions. But we’re really excited that we get the opportunity to do it in New York with Tribeca because our cast and crew are all coming and their friends and their families, so it’ll be like a nice communal button on the entire experience.

Katie Corwin: It’s finally “Pencils Down,” which I love having a line in the sand for like, “You can no longer tinker, so stop touching it.” I’m excited that it’s now time to just show everyone everything we put into it. This was a product of so much hard work and passion all around and and I’m really proud for everyone to see everything that we did together.

“Adult Best Friends” will screen at Tribeca Festival at Village East on June 8th at 5:30 pm, June 10th at 8 pm and June 12th at 3:15 pm and at SVA Theatre on June 16th at 8:30 pm.

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