I caught up with filmmaker Archie Borders for a chat on the craft of character, influences, what makes a great film, Kentucky bourbon, film school, regional filmmaking and art in Kentucky, Missouri, and southern Illinois (a region I know well) and much more as it relates to his newest, the most unconventional romantic comedy Under the Eiffel Tower, out now on Digital and On Demand.

Stuart (Matt Walsh) is having a mid-life crisis. After losing his job, tagging along on his best friends' family vacation to Paris, and humiliating himself by proposing to their 24-year-old daughter, he teams up with Liam (Reid Scott), a self-proclaimed ladies’ man. The two head off to the French countryside where they soon cross paths with Louise (Judith Godrèche), a beautiful vineyard-owner. Love is on the horizon, but Stuart's going to have to get past a few hurdles – and out of his own way – in order to find it in this romantic coming-of-middle-age comedy.

Catch Under the Eiffel Tower on Digital and On Demand now and enjoy the interview below.

Hello, Archie. How are you?

I am good. I'm doing well. How about yourself?

Oh, a little sick, but that happens around winter.

My household is like a flu zone right now. We're all we're Hazmat suits here.

That sucks. Hope it's over soon for both of us.

Getting right into the movie, what was the initial inspiration on the picture for you?

Sure. The initial inspiration was I was working on a reality show about 10 or 12 years ago and the location manager, whose name was also Stuart, and I were setting up the office and we were swapping romantic stories and he told me about how he had invited himself along on his fiancée's family trip to Paris.

[Laughs] Interesting.

And they were kind of like hadn't meant to bring him, but he went and he talked his way on and once they got there, he kind of became overcome with the setting and the beauty and he literally proposed to his fiancée on day one under the Eiffel Tower. And she turned him down and it's one of those things you can't really take back, you know?

Absolutely.

It's like, "Okay. Why don't you just forget about it and go on with the vacation?" You know, he was kind of humiliated and had to end up going on this two week bender. So he told me that story and I remember thinking at the time, "Poor schmuck." But I was also thinking, "My God, that's a great setup for a romantic comedy." So fast forward years later, we turned him from a 30 something into a more pathetic middle-aged guy just grasping at something and that was really the beginning.

Well, there you go. What were the challenges like for you?

Challenges in terms of getting it made or shooting or-

Yeah.

Well, every film's a challenge, but I gotta be honest. You know, I've been working in independent film and making these movies for a while and usually there's a lot of scratching and clawing and fundraising and things like that. This one came together relatively easily once Matt [Walsh] and Judith [Godrèche] came on board. And then The Orchard, so it was a pretty fast process.

They green lit it. We went into production. We went into pre-pro. We jumped in. We had a short shooting schedule, but an efficient one. And got the film made and so, yeah, I wish ... There's really not a lot of negative I can point to. I mean, there's always a shot here or there that you didn't grab or a favorite scene that ends up getting chopped or whatever, but overall, it was pretty fantastic shoot.

Oh, that's great. I mean, you don't hear that too often from filmmakers, when I ask them that.

I know. I wish I had more horror stories. That's more provocative, but it's just not. It was a just a wonderful, you know, it's like I tell people when they're like, "Well, how was the shoot in France?" It's just like, "Well, you know, good food, amazing scenery, some of the funniest people in the world." Yeah, it's just horrible. It's a horrible thing.

(L-R) Judith Godrèche as Louise, Reid Scott as Liam and Matt Walsh as Stuart in the romantic comedy UNDER THE EIFFEL TOWER. Photo courtesy of The Orchard.

[Laughs] That's interesting you mentioned the funny people. The next question I had with that was sort of related. Any funny or memorable moments that stick out from that filming process?

Oh, my gosh. Well, yes. You know, there's one scene that's in the film where it's Reid [Scott] has just jumped in the cab with Michaela Watkins and David Wain and Dylan [Gelula] and you get those four kinds of actors, who are all fantastic comedic actors and great at improv and there was so much material that they would just go off on and you could've made a 10, 20 minute short film just out of that cab ride.

[Laughs] Nice.

And the biggest challenge was just what the hell to cut, because it was all ... You know, you watch some movies like you watch an Anchorman and you realize they're just going and they leave everything in. Obviously, in this film, you couldn't do that. We had a story we had to tell. So just figuring out how do we cut out all this great material and still preserve the narrative. That's probably the biggest challenge when you get that kind of group together.

Oh, absolutely. That made me think of William Faulkner's famous quote with writers about killing your darlings.

Oh, yeah.

You know, editing. Yeah.

And it's tough. In any kind of edit, you have to go through that process and it's never, never easy but that's why God created, you know, deleted scene with extras and things like that.

Very true.

(L-R) Reid Scott as Liam and Judith Godrèche as Louise in the romantic comedy UNDER THE EIFFEL TOWER. Photo courtesy of The Orchard.

I wish I had had more time to prepare for our interview today, 'cause usually I like to watch some other films that the filmmaker's done. But alas wasn't able to with the scheduling.

Sure.

So I understand a lot of your work had to do with Kentucky and the region.

Yeah. Absolutely.

Yeah, in fact all the films I've made were set in Kentucky. So this one was a very deliberate let's get out of Kentucky and so let's send somebody from Kentucky out into the world. And that was real important. That's the really important part, because any time you build up a body of work, you want it to kind of represent something and so I mean, William Faulkner, of course, he was Alabama, right? He did a lot of his writing.

Mississippi.

Mississippi. I'm sorry.

No worries.

So but I think that kind of voice is important. You know, those regional voices and that's the great thing about independent film is you can get voices ... Love movies from LA and New York, but it's nice to hear voices from other parts of the country, too, so-

Oh, absolutely.

... it was great to ... Yeah, it was great that The Orchard let us do that. The whole Bourbon Culture that's a part of that Stuart character is very much a part of the Kentucky thing. We're not just Mitch McConnell and things like that.

Oh, definitely. I mean, I actually went to school in Carbondale, Illinois so, pretty familiar with the region. Love a good bourbon too. [Laughs]

Oh cool! I went to SIU film school with Steve James, who did Hoop Dreams, yeah.

Interesting…

Carl Ellsworth. Yeah, there you go.

Jim Belushi, too.

Yeah. How 'bout that. Yeah. There is a definite viewpoint that comes from that region of the country, those areas. It's fun to see that represented a little bit.

Art from the region absolutely has a great and under-represented perspective. And I hope that they get more of that localized filmmaking in the national consciousness, too, also because it reminded me of Gone Girl being filmed down in Cape Girardeau, MO (see a driving tour of the locations here). Hopefully we'll see more of that.

Oh, sure. That's a really interesting area. Little Egypt. All that kind of stuff. It's fascinating.

Oh, it really is. Beautiful region.

(L-R) Morgan Walsh as Sharron, Judith Godrèche as Louise and Gary Cole as Gerard in the romantic comedy UNDER THE EIFFEL TOWER. Photo courtesy of The Orchard.

Switching gears just a little bit to a question I ask everybody.

Sure. Yep.

What makes a great film?

For me, it's always ... For me, it is great characters. It doesn't matter ... You can come up with the coolest plot device in the world, whatever that might be, but if you don't have the characters to bounce off of it or to be challenged by it or to interact with it, it's not gonna be compelling. So when you take great characters and find the right cast, too, and we were super looking to get Matt and Judith and Reid and those guys. And you watch those characters come alive. That's what makes a good film.

Absolutely.

So when you think back on any of your favorite films, mostly likely you'll remember the characters. You know, Casablanca, you're gonna remember Bogey and Ingrid Bergman, you know. Any ... Pick one and you can find a great character in that film. So to me it always starts with characters.

Fantastic criteria and definition there.

(L-R) Dylan Gelula as Rosalind, David Wain as Frank and Michaela Watkins as Tillie in the romantic comedy UNDER THE EIFFEL TOWER. Photo courtesy of The Orchard.

Another question that I like to ask everybody is about influences. What directors and films would you consider most molded you as an artist?

Sure. Well, when we were making this, from Dave [Henry] and I, to the initial draft when we would talk to Matt and Judith, the filmmaker I continually brought up was Preston Sturges.

I could definitely see that with the film.

I'm a huge Preston Sturges fan. So whether it was The Lady Eve or some of those kinds of things, where you put these characters in slightly, you know, it's not like door-slamming parts, but it's close, and then watch them bounce around.

So Preston Sturges. Robert Altman was a huge, huge influence. His real naturalistic quality with his films and they're very character-oriented usually. And well, currently, I love what Noah Baumbach's doing. I think his stuff is just wonderful. So there's a lot of...

There's just so many good filmmakers out there right now. Also, and I can never pronounce – I always massacre her last name – is Nicole Holofcener. Am I pronouncing it ... I hope I'm pronouncing it right.

You are. She co-wrote Can You Ever Forgive Me?.

Yeah. She directed Lovely & Amazing and Walking and Talking and Enough Said. Again, another director who just finds character and just really celebrates the character. I think she does great with that.

That's a great list. Most definitely. Noah Baumbach actually reminds me. Did you see Orson Welles' The Other Side of the Wind? He contributed to finishing that.

I did and I bought the book about the making of it and then I tried to watch it. And I got about ... It was the strangest film. Ahead of its time… but the performances and the acting style was so studio 1950's. It was a weird hybrid. I'm gonna try again. But I didn't quite make it through the first time and I'm kind of embarrassed by that.

It is a… dense film.

You know, the film student, sort of you got to, but yeah, I did see where he'd contributed to that. Alexander Payne, also, is another terrific kind of filmmaker for character.

Absolutely.

But yeah, definitely. Did you make it through the whole movie?

I did.

Do you see the whole thing?

I did. I liked it. Very meta. [Laughs]

How did ... Yeah. I'm gonna give it another shot. I really need to start lying about that one. Like, "It was amazing. It was ... " I need to do that. I just haven't gotten there yet.

I'm a big fan of John Houston as a director and an actor, too, so maybe that made it a little easier for me to watch. I also have a bit of a thing for weirder cinema. [Laughs]

Super. He was terrific. I mean, he was naturalistic and fun. I mean, he was Hemingway basically in that movie. It was wonderful.

He really was. I think he was the only one who could've played that part.

Yeah.

Besides maybe Welles himself-

Yeah.

Which was, of course, they thought it was gonna go that way, but-

Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Very cool.

Getting into actually the last question I have for you: what's next?

Well, like most filmmakers, I've got two or three other films that I'm working on.

Another comedy that I'm writing with Dave. We're finishing up the draft right now, so I'm hoping we'll roll right into that…

Right, with every film, you then start thinking cast and we already have some of the finances for the next one, so we'll start moving forward there. But right now, I'm focused on ... I really wanna just try to sit back and enjoy this, because as I've told a few people, it's kind of the perfect time of year for this type of movie. At least, here in Kentucky, it's the dead of winter. It's gray. It's nasty. It's great to be able to see this gorgeous, lush French countryside and just kind of perk yourself up in that.