Jack is an internet gambler living in NYC who becomes fixated on Scarlet – a cam girl from San Francisco. His obsession reaches a boiling point when fantasy materializes in reality and Jack sees Scarlet on a rainy Chinatown street—PVT CHAT.
I’m sure that if you follow me on social media, you have already got the message loud and clear that PVT CHAT is one of my absolute favorite movies of 2020 that is officially being released this year. It’s a weird witty commentary on love and loneliness in New York City. It was shot mostly in my neighborhood! One of the things that made the movie were the performances of the lead actors, Julia Fox as Scarlett and Peter Vack as Jack.
I was able to talk to Peter a few days ago via Zoom, and like an idiot, I pushed the record button too late, so we will only have part of the answer for the first question which was something to the effect of how do you think being a director informs your acting.
Vack: Actors, who are trying too hard to control the outcome of their performance, are often not doing so well and are actually cutting off impulses. When you’re making a film and you’re in the editing room, sometimes you’re using as a reaction, say this was the film. You might be using a reaction that had nothing to do with where you place it and it’s perfect. Seeing that first-hand and doing that made me sort of go, “Okay, there is so much of this that is out of my hands.” Then sometimes when I’m on set and I’m working with actors that are holding too much or trying too much to guide their performance, I do feel that it can backfire. Or you can just make the process less fun.
Did you have any idea what you brought to Ben (Hozie, director) while you were shooting that he picked up?
Not before shooting. Sometimes when I’m flippantly referring to myself as annoying, it might just be like I have an idea of blocking or a line that I don’t want to say and I’ll just be a little bit of a backseat director in moments, and maybe I didn’t do that as much before I made a film. This movie really is Ben’s vision through and through. I only just really responded to what I thought he was going for and wanted to be a part of it. I thought what he was going for made sense and was worth going for.
“Actors who are trying too hard…are actually cutting off impulses.”
He told me that he thinks that the way that you talk to Scarlett, Julia’s character, is how he thinks you would talk to someone that you were actually falling in love with, do you think that’s true?
He said that to you? Oh, that’s right, because you interviewed Ben before. I’m inclined to not disagree, but not fully agree. I think it’s interesting how much of yourself ends up in your character. Because on the one hand, I really do believe that the best performances are not like an outfit that you put on but something that blooms from within and you’re really using who you actually are. The good qualities, the bad qualities, the fixations—It’s all really you. It’s not really a trait that you’re developing outside yourself. Although, some actors do that and it’s very cool and convincing, but that’s not necessarily the way that I work. But, there is this quality of turning up internal dials to different levels. So, I think that with Jack, some of the dials were differently configured. I think the playfulness and the silliness, that is something I do identify in myself if I’m in a romantic situation. I like to think that I’m usually more honest in my real life. Because I did feel, as Jack, a huge amount of insecurity about who I really was and I knew that I…thank God, knock on wood, don’t actually feel that in life. So, I’m not using a script that’s not me, but with Jack, when he’s first courting Scarlett, he really inventing a whole persona out of whole cloth. He almost isn’t any of the things that he sees that he is to her. Except for the fact that I think he is a passionate, romantic, and somewhat loving guy. Which I do think he’s communicating that to her. And in a way, that’s relatable. I think people do think they’re not enough when they’re courting people that they’re very enamored with.