Interview: Andrew Adams on his film American Meltdown, CFF, and more

Brittany Fernandez catches up with writer and director Andrew Adams after seeing Adams' film, American Meltdown, at the 2023 Chattanooga Film Festival.

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After catching American Meltdown at the 2023 Chattanooga Film Festival, I knew I had to snag an interview with writer and director, Andrew Adams. The film is a comedy drama about a woman who is financially and mentally ‘going through it’ when she ends up befriending a pickpocket that steers her life in a very different direction.

First and foremost, how was the Chatt Film Fest? I’ve still yet to attend in person
but I hear it’s a bit of a life changing event.

CFF WAS AMAZING! For one thing: they gave all the filmmakers a bottle of free
whiskey on arrival, but we’re all broke and none of us could afford to check a bag,
which meant those bottles had to be empty by the time we left…which upped the fun.
But it is also the warmest, most enthusiastic movie-going community I could imagine.
It’s only been two weeks and I’ve already hung out with new friends from Chattanooga
on three separate occasions. The programming staff is unbelievably passionate and
enthusiastic, but also transparent and flexible and supportive and grounded. The
movies that play there are genuinely fun to watch – there was a lack of pretension or
stuffiness that was so refreshing. I’m a fan for life, and can’t wait to go back.

I listened to your episode of Submissions and Slashers that was recorded at the
fest and learned a little about how you started making films. What has been the
one thing you’ve learned that you’ve kept with you since you started making art/
movies as a kid?

Everything gets better when you add dinosaurs.

You turned a frustrating, and at times scary, situation with the pandemic into
something tangible and cathartic for some people. Do you think American
Meltdown would be the same if it wasn’t your outlet during the Covid-19

Nope! Not even a little! I started writing the project in May 2020, and step one was to
brainstorm personal stories and see if there was anything worth mining on camera. I’ve
experienced at least five separate break-ins over my lifetime – because I seem to be
cursed – so I thought I’d be able to bring some emotional honesty to a traditional home
invasion thriller. That was my starting point.

But it was only two months into the COVID outbreak. I had lost a dream job and was
unemployed. I was panicking about rent. I had no idea what my future would entail. I
had way too much alone time to get reflective, and started drawing connections between the COVID quarantines and the Great Recession. Trump was running for re-election and every time he opened his mouth, my blood pressure would go haywire.

And then the George Floyd protests began, and I would attend marches and get all
riled up and furious… So I had a lot of anger circulating in my system, all day every day.
I couldn’t stop those emotions from seeping into the script. And that’s why American
went off in directions I did not see coming, and became what it actually is.

This movie has a lot to say about expectations. Has there been a time in your life
where you decided to “burn it all down” instead of doing what was expected of

I wish I had a wilder answer for you, but I’m a freelancer in the creative industries so my
life has never had a normal routine to burn down. Though I have walked off multiple
jobs with abysmal working conditions… And one time I saw an opportunity to work as
a travel videographer, so I gave up my lease and put everything into storage and spent
two and a half years backpacking the world with a camera in hand. Do those count?

I feel like we are all on the verge of our own American Meltdown. Any advice for
anyone going through it?

Like you said: it seems like we all are.

But on the bright side, that means there are plenty of people to team up with.
And it’s much easier to melt things down together!

Though it’s worth adding… I had a teacher once who did a cheesy Dead Poets Society
style soul-improvement exercise where everyone in class had to chart our happiest and
our saddest moments on a line graph, and then connect the dots.

Almost everybody’s line looked the same – up and down and up and down. The point
being that lives are always full of peaks and valleys. Low points are followed by high
points (and, unfortunately, vice versa). The period before the pandemic was a pretty
happy one for me. Then came a year-long-low-point, which is when I wrote American
. The act of making it has led me to another high. Up and down and up and

So if you’re in the valley right now, just hold on. Peaks are gonna come.

Everyone in this movie played their part so well and I fell in love with Nicolette
Sweeney’s Mari character. I need to find a Mari of my own. Do you relate with
Olivia or Mari more?

Both, unfortunately!

Not to get all Freudian, but he says everyone has three parts of their personality, right?
And if I could afford a therapist, then they’d probably say that Olivia represents my
superego and all the ways I was taught to be… But Mari is my pure unbridled id. And I love a good id.

Olivia’s far fancier than I am, but almost every bad decision she makes in the movie —
especially if it’s financial — is a bad decision that I’ve made before. And the anxieties
she feels, and the traps she falls into, are all pulled straight from my life.

But Mari’s attitudes are far closer to my own, if amplified to a large degree. I’ve lived in
vans, I’ve stolen food when I was hungry, I’ve had moments when the cataracts lifted
and life felt empty. Plus: yay property damage! So she was an absolute joy to craft
because she’s the mouthpiece that gets to say all the things I wanna say and do all the
things I wanna do. I love her very much.

You also mentioned on the Submissions and Slashers podcast that you were
interested in making a horror movie. Anything in the works at the moment?

Yes! I am actively trying to figure out what the next project is. But American Meltdown
was very independent and very DIY, with a deceptively small budget, and everybody
on set was stretched very thin because we were all wearing multiple hats (and shirts,
and shoes, and belts). And so my goal for the next project (whatever it is!) is to secure a
bit of extra industry support and financing. For the sake of the crew, we need it!

So I have multiple scripts that I am dying to make, spanning multiple genres and
budget ranges. Once the SAG/WGA strike ends, I’m going to start putting them out
into the world and see who bites! I have a horror script, a thriller, and a very personal
coming-of-age story that are all top of mind. I’m developing others, too. But I won’t
know which is next til I see which doors start to open.

Alright, last question. Any plans for a physical release?

This is, unfortunately, not entirely in my control! As an indie project, we’ll have to
partner with a distribution company to help get American Meltdown out into the
world… And some of the release strategy will be dictated by them. It seems like most
indie movies get streaming-only deals these days, but I love home media because I am
not 100% convinced that streaming-only movies won’t all mysteriously erase
themselves in a digital apocalypse some day. So if any of our potential distribution
avenues include options for a physical release, then I promise I’ll make it a priority! How
else is the world gonna hear our commentary?!

Brittany Fernandez is a Lifestyle Writer for SoBros Network. She’s a Nashville native covering events on the local scene, B-movie horror reviews, and everything in between. Her go-to karaoke song is “No Diggity.” Follow on Twitter: @brittbutspooky

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