Writer/Director Nicholaus Goossen Talks Drugstore June

Courtesy of Utopia Originals

Nicholaus Goossen’s upcoming feature, Drugstore June, is a wacky, timeless detective flick. Led by a hilarious performance by Esther Povitsky, the film follows June (Povitsky), a listless twenty-something wannabe influencer who finds herself at the center of a crime scene when the pharmacy she works at is robbed. Wanting to prove something to herself and her online “June Squad,” June sets out to solve the mystery of the pharmacy robbery which leads her on a journey across the city full of colorful supporting characters.

Film Obsessive sat down with Goossen to talk about how he began his career in film, his longtime collaboration with Povitsky, and how Drugstore June manages to tell a modern story without overly relying on technology. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.


Film Obsessive: My first question is how you got into film. You have a grandfather who’s an LAPD detective, your dad is involved in boxing, and you end up in film. How did that happen?

Nicholaus Goossen: Well, the family, even though they were full of police and athletes and stuff, they’re all big cinephiles and huge Godfather fans. My uncles and my dad would cut up highlights of The Godfather and share them with each other on VHS. I used to be so fascinated by that. So, definitely my dad, he introduced me to a lot of great films at a young age and then also in my family in the eighties when I was kind of growing up a lot, they had the kind of handy cams, home video cameras that they would make these kind of spoof videos. I remember one specifically called Bruisers instead of Hoosiers. They were like rough and tumble street hockey players and the family would just all gather around the TV. I think that was a big part of setting me on the course.

Then just boxing itself growing up, going to all the fights. In L.A. especially, they were full of Hollywood people and actors and celebrities who were kind of fascinated by the boxing. So it didn’t seem like it was a foreign made up thing to me. It felt very tangible kind of growing up here in L.A. And then the inspiration creatively, I do think it’s from wanting to kind of impress my family.

Nicholaus sits against a chalkboard

Drugstore June is your newest film, and the script’s a collaboration between you and Esther. So was The Story of Our Times where you guys first met? And then what made you guys interested in collaborating for this feature?

We met before that. I met her all the way back in like 2012 maybe. I had seen her on a podcast with the late great Brody Stevens called Brody and Esther. I just thought she was so funny, fascinating, captivating, and kind of mesmerizing. It was just so funny to watch her play off of Brody, who was very bombastic, and she just had this very soft delivery that it was it was soothing but funny. I made a call to my manager about her and it just as it happened that we were both represented by the same person, Lee Curtis.

We became friends and we had actually collaborated officially on a few other Comedy Central projects before The Story of Our Times, but that was certainly a really fun one. Her profile kept getting bigger, you know, it was, I think, just a natural thing that at first we wanted to do a television show for her, but then she got her own show with Benji. Then we kind of went, all right, well, maybe we’ll write a movie. And then we ended up doing a special for her called Hot for My Name for Comedy Central, which we built to essentially be a sizzle reel for a film project. It was engineered to  show people maybe what a tone for a film might be. All the while, we were writing the movie.

Her character in the movie is an aspiring influencer. Is influencer culture something that has intrigued the both of you? Like, how did you get to this kind of wacky detective story?

Well, that’s kind of two separate questions. The influencer culture is something Esther was doing a lot of. She’s been obviously really good at that. That’s part of her. I mean, again, I found her on a podcast on the Internet. She’s always been kind of cutting edge. She had the Esther squad and she was really funny at it. When we were writing the movie and we were talking about, okay, how do we make the Esther movie? You take all the things that we love about Esther, that I love about Esther, that I think a lot of other people love about Esther and the way that she speaks to people on on social media is really funny. She’s got a really funny delivery and she’s pretty fearless the way she speaks, right? So we knew that that we wanted to incorporate that somehow.

The whole mystery, robbery, and crime thing that came about because, just as movie lovers, we wanted this to have a throwback feel. We just didn’t want to just go, okay, how do we just transpose Esther’s standup bits into a movie. We wanted to kind of elevate it with a genre element to make it just a little bit more fun and to find an interesting way to kind of move. How do we move her through a story in a fun way that isn’t just kind of boring and it just elevated a little bit. Hopefully we achieve that.

June talks to her phone
Courtesy of Utopia Originals

Yeah, I was going to say definitely achieved all of that. I’m familiar with Esther from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but I haven’t seen the stand up yet..

Yeah! Check out Hot for My Name. It came out on Comedy Central. You can get it now on Paramount Plus and it’s got a lot of the themes from Drugstore June. We thought that it would be really funny to have Esther behind the counter doing customer service. And where have we not seen that? Maybe a pharmacy. So we thought about that and then we were thinking about the crime. But then we went and did this special and I was kind of embedded into Esther’s hometown with her mom and dad in Skokie, Illinois. I was like, my gosh, if we can just kind of figure out a way to create a fictional narrative that includes this type of banter between your mom and your dad. So that was all part of the ingredients of the dish that is Drugstore June.

I will say this very much reminded me of my sister and I. They were pitch perfect.

In real life, Esther is an only child. But I have three sisters, so I brought some of my own history to that, so I’m glad we connected there.

June and her boss stand behind the counter at the pharmacy
Courtesy of Utopia Originals

My last question, you kind of mentioned that you were going for this timeless feel. And even though it’s very present day because of the influencers and the technology, there was this timelessness that I felt from the furniture and the synth score that felt like eighties, but then it also felt like a nineties teen movie. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about like how you kind of brought that timeless feeling to the production design, to your song choices, to to the film itself.

You definitely noticed a lot of stuff there. Well, I think it is a variety of things that kind of give it that feel. I mean, everything from the, the lighting and the photography, but certainly things like the music might stick out is more overtly eighties or something, which that’s certainly intentional, even though none of that is actual retro score. It’s all brand new and new artists putting out new releases. It just so happens to have a throwback feel, but it is actually all new music, whether from our composer Alex Geringas or somebody like Ian Boddy or The Voidz.

We were inspired by everything. I mean, Ferris Bueller was a big influence. Adventures in Babysitting, too. The Big Lebowski, certainly Clerks was another one. I do think even though there is a lot of phone byplay with with June and the phone, you might notice that we only show the phone screen one time in the entire film and it’s when she’s writing the list of suspects. That’s only because it was for a very specific joke that  you had to see the phone. Every other time, you’re actually just seeing it from what we see when we walk around, seeing people do all the time nowadays, which is just holding their phone up at this awkward angle, talking to it, ignoring the world around them. And, you know, a lot of movies these days feel the need to put up screens and text messages and graphics and stuff. It was a very deliberate choice not to do that. The thought was people are looking at their phone screens all day long already. Why make them do that again in a movie?

We thought by her narrating to the phone, you don’t really have to see it. I think that had we cut to the phone a lot more, you might not be saying the same thing. I’m hoping, I’m hoping that’s the case because that would make that would prove my little theory right. But I also do think it’s yeah, sure, it’s about the music, the way we shot it, and trying to just not drop too many references that are only of the moment. You know, we assume TikTok is going to be around for a while. John Wick is a huge franchise, so I think those will stick around in the in the consciousness for a while so it doesn’t date us too quickly.

Thank you very much! This was great and I love the film. I’m thrilled for your theatrical run.

Thank you so much. Yeah. Hopefully we’re going to be out there in Pennsylvania where hopefully we can at least announce some theaters soon. I appreciate you saying that. I haven’t been able to see it not really with a crowd yet. I’m very excited about doing that, but we think it plays well on the big screen and we kind of always hoped it would be. So we shot it thinking that way. So hopefully you get to see that too, because we think it plays well.

Drugstore June opens exclusively in theaters February 23, 2024.

Written by Tina Kakadelis

News Editor for Film Obsessive. Movie and pop culture writer. Seen a lot of movies, got a lot of opinions. Let's get Carey Mulligan her Oscar.

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