Interviews

Below are interviews I've done for various outlets. I'm still trying to locate a lot I lost in the fire but here's what I've recovered: 

Philip Seymour Hoffman
Harrison Ford
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Guillermo del Toro
Nicholas Winding Refn
Danny Boyle
Michael Shannon
Simon Pegg
Ice Cube and Lamorne Morris
Davis Guggenheim
Mark Wahlberg
Mike Judge
Paul Schneider
Jesse Eisenberg
Richard Ayoade
Gareth Evans
Tim and Eric
Rian Johnson
Rainn Wilson
Richard Jenkins and Tom McCarthy
Dolph Lundgren
Ludacris
Jessie Eisenberg
Cary Fukunaga
Jim Sturgess
Neill Blomkamp and Sharlto Copley
Rose Byrne and Hugh Dancy
Bruce Campbell
Peter Jackson
Bill Hader and Greg Mottola
Jay and Mark Duplass
Jeff Nichols
Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan
Mike Mills
Joe Wright
Saoirse Ronan
Eric Bana
Joan Rivers
Bobcat Goldthwait
Kal Penn, John Cho, and Neil Patrick Harris
Rob Zombie
Woody Harrelson and Oren Moverman
Nick Frost
Noah Baumbach
Tom Six
Donald Glover
Jorma Taccone, Will Forte, and Kristen Wiig
Josh Radnor
Academy Award® Nominee Quvenzhané Wallis
Shane Carruth
Charlie Day and Ron Perlman
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Robert Duvall
Josh Hartnett

Alex Garland
Oren Peli
Colin Hanks
William H. Macy
Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart
David Gordon Green
John Boyega and Joe Cornish
Michael Rapaport
Mike Shinoda and Joseph Trapanese
Juliano Salgado 
Karyn Kusama
Craig Roberts
Todd Strauss-Schulson
John Landis
Larry Fassenden
Jason Lee
Sam Rockwell and David Gordon Green
Harmony Korine
Bill Murray, Robert Duvall, and Sissy Spacek
Crispin Glover and John C. Reilly
Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner
Dolph Lundgren
Ashton Kutcher
Rose Byrne and Hugh Dancy
Chan-wook Park 
Jamie Kennedy
James Toback
Cary Fukunaga
Key and Peele
Arthur Redcloud (The Revenant)
Whit Stillman
Ben Mendelsohn
James Ponsoldt
Joel Edgerton
Sebastian Schipper
Kyle Alvarez
Rick Alverson
Gregg Turkington
Andrew Bujalski
Juliano Salgado 
Todd Strauss-Schulson

Interview: WHIT STILLMAN VISITS DALLAS WEDNESDAY FOR METROPOLITAN'S 25TH ANNIVERSARY

Oscar-nominated, acclaimed cult filmmaker Whit Stillman is coming to the Texas Theatre in celebration for the 25th anniversary of his first feature, Metropolitan.

Metropolitan wasn’t the immediate success that I — and perhaps you, too — might've assumed. It premiered at Sundance, garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay, and won an Independent Spirit Award (the Oscars for indie film) for Best First Feature. But it took a few Sundance rejections before getting accepted. 

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Interview: MEET ARTHUR REDCLOUD, THE ROOKIE DALLAS ACTOR WHO ATE RAW BISON WITH LEO IN THE REVENANT

Do you know Arthur Redcloud? He lives in Colleyville and works as a fuel delivery driver. Oh, another tidbit about him is he’s in the biggest movie of the year, The Revenant, which just racked up 12 Oscar nominations for the upcoming Academy Awards. Yeah, you know Arthur Redcloud, and even better, you now know he lives in our town. Score for us.

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Interview: James Ponsoldt On THE END OF THE TOUR And Why He Needed To Make It

In the cinematic universe, James Ponsoldt is the Johnny Storm of emerging directors -- he's on fire. (That is a nerdy -- and perhaps, awful -- comic book reference. If you don't read comic books, just ignore me and know what I mean is Ponsoldt is now a go-to director for cinema.) His first film to premiere at Sundance was tender and touching movie called Smashed, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (whose career is flourishing fast and furious) and Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul. This film was the catalyst that set his career as a prominent filmmaker in motion. 

Every film Ponsoldt directs now turns into gold. He's puts all the heart and soul he has into every film. Currently in theaters is his latest, The End of the Tour (our review here), about the late author David Foster Wallace's brief relationship with journalist and author David Lipsky. 

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Interview: Bobcat Goldthwait Talks CALL ME LUCKY And His Animated Friendships With Robin Williams And Barry Crimmins

"I wouldn't have made the movie if it wasn't for Robin [William's] encouragement."

-- Director Bobcat Goldthwait on Call Me Lucky.

The first time I interviewed actor-turned-director Bobcat Goldthwait, it was for the weird and wonderful World's Greatest Dad, starring the late, irreplaceable Robin Williams. (You can read that interview here). The film was an unexpected wallop and is even more important to me now.

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Interview: Actor/Writer/Director Joel Edgerton

Joel Edgerton is a real delight and just an all around good guy. 

He was in Dallas, near where I live, about a month ago to promote his directorial debut The Gift (now in theaters). I was supposed to moderate the Q&A after a screening of the film and interview him the next day but I had some health issues and had to drop out. He emailed me to make sure I was OK and let me know that when I'm on my feet, to give him a call and we'll do an interview. The Gift opened two days ago and Edgerton took time out of his busy schedule today to talk to me...for 45 minutes. What a guy.

We cover a lot of ground here: directorial influences, playing weirdos and characters with tough moral dilemmas, building tension, the intensity of writing a screenplay, the importance of independent film, and why he needed to direct The Gift, among a lot of other elements in his booming career. 

Twitch Film: Congrats on the opening, man. I can't imagine how pumped you are, especially with all the acclaim and excitement that everyone is giving it. Much deserved.

Joel Edgerton: Thank you man. Yeah, it feels really good. I can't say it doesn't feel good to have people appreciate the work once you get it out there. I think there's always that feeling leading up to releasing anything that you've worked on. That you just start to feel, "Have I lost perspective with what it actually is?" I always felt like it was shaping up well.

It's more like going and hearing that people are reflecting the meaning, the sense, and the thematics. Certain things in the story, that we've covered, we left slightly obscure. They really get that, and then they're arguing with each other about it. People are sort of stroking it, and defending it, and getting it, you know?

Yeah, it's opened up a topic of debate in the blog, film critic world, about meanings and everything like that. I saw it yesterday morning, and I've been thinking about it ever since, and trying to ... I feel like it's a movie that, the more you watch, the more you're going to pick up on things. I think that's brilliant writing, so bravo, congratulations.

Thanks!

Well, let's jump into this. I'm sure you're super busy with opening weekend. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Sorry we couldn't do when you're in Dallas. My health has been pretty fucked up, but it's getting back on track.

Are you okay?

I'm good. We had a scare. I had to have surgery and couldn't walk or sit for a while. I appreciate you taking the time now to talk to me.

Pleasure.

A lot of these questions you've probably been asked a million times, but hopefully I can throw something fresh in there.

Yeah.

To start off, you wrote, directed, and co starred in the THE GIFT. What was the biggest challenge of balancing being in front of and behind the camera at the same time?

I think the biggest thing for me was the fact that I hadn't really counted on where ... It sort of made me examine where my thought process comes from when I'm just being an actor. I don't like to over think it too much. Not that I think I've it worked out, by any stretch. I have my ways, and those ways, I don't really consider too much analytically. It sort of forced me to look at that, because I was like, "Holy shit, I can't sit around and just get ready for a scene. I've got to actually deal with all this other stuff, directing stuff." That was quite tricky. I think I realized acting is more parts instinct, and a few parts intellect, and directing felt like it was more engineered from my brain, with a small pinch of instinct. Like free wheeling. They're opposite balances of a similar mix.

The solution for me was, my brother [stuntman, actor, and director Nash Edgerton], he was someone I really trust and had already planned ahead of time to be there on set, on the days when I was trying to do both jobs. I could not have to look at the monitor. I didn't have to psych of that extra time by going through the ego. You know, good rift with the ego, looking at the monitor and freaking out about it. He could just look at me and go, "Oh that was great." You know, "What else you want to try?"

I think that's great. Everything both of you have collaborated on together is solid gold. It's kind of funny, I have a game with Nash that I started doing years ago. When I watch older movies and catch him in a movie as a stunt double, I'll take a photo of my TV and Tweet it to him. I saw he plays one of the smaller characters in the film. I thought his "cameo" was brilliant ...

Yeah. 

Being the writer/director, you could have played any character in the film. What made you decide on playing Gordo?

It was kind of ... The reason I wrote the script in the first place was to play that character. It was a two fold thing. I was like, "I really love the idea of playing a bully story 25 years after the fact." It dealt so much with, time deals so much with consequence. It felt like a valid story to tell as a writer. Then, as I started writing, I was like, "This is a great character for me to play. Someone who is overbearing, misunderstood, a little bit dangerous, and a little mysterious and awkward." I've never really felt like I've done that before. Often times, as a writer, it's about, "What do I want to create as an opportunity for me to play." It was after I started writing it, I was like, "This is probably a good starting project for me." I had been thinking about it for a long time, and needed a contained enough idea. It just ... I just felt that good about the story, that it just felt like the right thing to do. 

Then, I just couldn't let go of playing the character, which is the struggle I had in the financing stage: "Do I play the character and try and direct the movie, or should I just try and direct the movie without any clutter of extra tasks," you know?

Yeah. I think that was a great character for you to play, because it seems like it's very different from what I've seen you in before. It was great.

I think also, my obsession ... There's a bunch of other actors out there too, who I feel are of a similar mind. I think part of my obsession is, "How far is the spectrum of what you can play?" Looking for the edges of that spectrum. Not to be stuck playing a hero all the time. I don't feel comfortable in that role, so much. Looking for those weirder, quirkier, edgier parts. They just become more fun. Often times, they're not the leading role. I think it's good to be able to not be the star of the movie. The upside of that is getting to play really interesting questions.

I have a few questions about some of your characters that I'm going to ask in a minute, so I'm glad you brought that up. You know, back to your directorial debut, the film reminded me of an early Brian De Palma film -- very edge of your seat, intense and shocking. It's very chilling and vicious. It also made me think of Adrian Lyne's excellent film, FATAL ATTRACTION. Who are some of the directors that influenced you to want to make movies?

Definitely my real education about movie making, acting, and I guess essentially movie making came when I went to drama school. Up until that point, it had been a lot of horror, and a lot of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone movies. A lot of martial arts and a lot of action movies. 

I guess [Steven] Spielberg was the first person that really got me excited about movies. I remember being so fascinated by Indiana Jones, and the last section of the Star Wars trilogy really grabbed me as a kid too, so I guess George Lucas is a bit responsible. Once I started going to university, I was so in to the whole 70s vibe of movies. I really ate up Hitchcock. 

For The Gift, I really dove back into those movies that I really like. Movies that I thought had a really weird, interesting tension to them, like Strangers on a TrainDial M for Murder was an interesting one I'd seen against recently. 

Particularly, some that are close in reference, and some that are not so close. You know, Michael Haneke for sure, who I think just creates a really unsettling tension, without the usual tropes and tricks. Rosemary's Baby was a big movie I watched and loved because of the female-centric character, and obviously other resonances of stuff. The Shining I just kept watching because it's one of those movies that had a really weird structure that just builds and builds. 

In fact, the first draft of my script Weirdo [initial title of The Gift], something I've never told anybody, had chapters much like The Shining, as in, just the time in a day for each new, I guess, chapter, or each sequence. It felt to me like this is the building blocks of something terrible, as if a policeman had recorded it or something. Which was interesting for those things, that ultimately I broke the rhythm and momentum in the movie.

That's pretty fascinating. The movie itself feels like a gift. The protagonist, his true self is peeled away like wrapping paper as the film progresses. What were some of the challenges of nailing down that idea and making it work?

I think the do-si-do of the male characters in this film, the typical hero becoming potentially the villain, and the villain eliciting empathy, is probably symptomatic of the way I approach my work as an actor. I think, I always figure it's maybe the cheap road to take if your hero is just super shiny, morally, and if your villain is just super dark and edgy, morally. Looking for the lightness in dark, and darkness in light in terms of character, I think is essential to selecting out the dimensions of a character. 

I think when I was writing it, knowing that one of the big themes was how well do we know the people that we think we know? The idea that ... It is a big of a nasty trick on the audience, too. "Let's build sympathy for the bad guy and assume Jason [Bateman's] character is the person we're meant to hate." Then of course, other stuff happens that throws that in to question again.

It's amazing how I think characters just can shift by the action of one scene simply by the things they say or do, the things they divulge or the things that they hide. In this particular case, what's hidden or what's divulged is the important ingredient. At the same time, as much as I want to push Jason's character over the edge, I also want to hold on to him with one hand. He has valid arguments, and I think that when two characters butt heads, and you can see both of their point of view, that's the goal to reach as a writer. 

As much as Rebecca's character's probably more right to say, "Wouldn't it be good for you to look back in your past, and at least acknowledge your part in his downfall," for him to say, "I had a tough obstacle in my life. I got out of it." Everybody has their own power to overcome ... That's also right. He doesn't have an absolute obligation.

Playing with points of view of argument is such a fascinating thing too, and you can really start feeling the audience start to hate him.

For sure.

That's also the artfulness of Jason. His intelligence as an actor, knowing how well to lie, how much of the truth to let seep through the cracks. Then how to tune that final quarter of the movie. That's a lot of him.

I think it was brilliant casting him. Jason is mostly known for comedy, and he really breaks that mold and separates himself and is very convincing as ... His character is kind of a son of a bitch. He's not doing any dry, witty humor. That was great casting on that part. 

Yeah. It's exciting, isn't it. I think it's exciting when you watch. Again, that's a by product of my intentions as an actor. I would never want to get stuck in a mold. It's so exciting when people allow an actor to prove they have another dimension. It's always been there with Jason. He's proved it in smaller doses in other movies. Even in his comedy, his darkness and jerkiness is there, and he even kind of emphasized it. 

Baz Luhrmann gave me a gift in getting to play Tom Buchanan [in The Great Gatsby]. No one else would have done that. Then, that opens a road that other people, safe to travel down. They kind of go, "I see that side of you now." It opens up a world. Having Jason show his darkness, and somewhat tune down his comedy. I just think it's great. The history of comedians being so wonderful in dramas. Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, and Steve Carell. They do the transition to serious better than serious people do the transition to funny, I think.

Exactly, I agree. I think one of the best comedic to dramatic transitions is Adam Sandler in Paul Thomas Anderson's PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE. Even though you're laughing at his character's expense, and there is comedy there, it was a marvelous performance from him. He proved he can act when he wants to.

Yeah.

You've written and co written scripts before -- FELONY, THE ROVER, FELONY, Nash's THE SQUARE being the three that I've seen -- and you've directed and also written short films. What made you want THE GIFT to be your feature film directorial debut?

I think it just really got under my skin in a way that felt like it was mine. Whenever I thought of either letting someone else play Gordo, I felt so possessive of it. Then when I thought about directing it, every time I got close to thinking, "Maybe I'll just get someone good to direct it," I felt incredibly possessive of that as well. 

In fact, in my weakest moments, which are when I was really tempted to hand over the rein, Rebecca Yeldham, my producer, was instrumental in going, "What are you, fucking crazy? No one should do this better than you can at this point." I made the whole idea of it, and the concept of it, and I talked about it and ruminated on it for so long. She thought it was a travesty for me to just hand it over.

I guess passion and interest, and on a production, practical level, the contained nature of it, and that it was relatively cheap, all pointed to the fact that I should it a try. I was nervous as shit and I was very terrified.

I bet.

Even after the first day, walking up the driveway, just thinking, "I suspect I could be good at this, and I suspect I've done all this thorough planning, and I suspect I might enjoy myself, but what if I turn into a bloody asshole out of stress? Or what if I buckle under the pressure? What if I'm one of the few who can't cope with the stress?" It's stressful.

I can imagine. Especially since you're now a triple threat on this film. I can imagine the intimidation and the stress.

Joel:    There's definitely an expectation, too ... I think in the world we don't allow people to do more than one thing sometimes. It's tough. I could understand people's reticence to work on a first time director's project. I understand the reticence of people to read an actor's script, or to work with an actor who is deciding to direct. I was very sensitive to that, because I've also felt that coming in to other people's projects. "Can I trust this person? How much am I going to have to look after myself? Should I even do it?" 

I totally got the reticence of people around me. I think I was sensitive to wanting to prove myself, and sort of almost trip over myself, to let people know, "I can handle this, and I'm responsible, and I'm not just an actor who is going to wait around, I'm proactive." In planning and production, I want everybody know I'm not a flake. I'm here, and I'm going to support everything, you know?

Yeah. I think that's why you're all over the map right now. It seems like, when I was watching the movie yesterday morning, there was a trailer forBLACK MASS, and I was just like, "Man, Joel's all over the place." It's great, you're doing something right. 

One more question about the writing. Your writing, specifically. You're really good at writing moments of shock. I'm thinking about the last person who gets shot in THE SQUARE, and pretty much every twist and turn in THE GIFT. In the writing process, what makes you confident that these tense moments you're scribbling down are going to work?

I knew that there's a particular situation with a dog in the movie that I knew was going to work, because the expectation is so in a different direction. Just by convention of having people in a dark house at night, and noises, and taking the sound away, I just had a feeling that was going to work. You get to experiment on a wide release film with test audiences. That sort of just worked from the beginning. 

In fact, it was the first scene my editor Luke Doolan cut. Blue Tone Luke. It was the first one he cut as sort of a test to see how we could create that sort of genre element of the movie, that genre tone of the ... It's funny, just showing people on an iPhone, they would almost drop the phone. "That's going to work."

The film definitely made me jump quite a few times, and there was a few moments when I had to squint when I was watching. It's super tense.

(Laughs.) The other one, the one that comes afterwards was the real shock. I suspected that would work. I often think, I had to really think, "What's been scary for me in my life?" The idea of feeling like you're not alone in your own house has ... Two occasions in my life has literally stopped my heart. Then I added to the fact of, where that scene is set in the bathroom, and considering what's come before it, and the fact that she's alone, and she's a woman. I just had a suspicion that could work. 

I was just so amazed at how, I think a couple people at Blumhouse [Productions], you know Blumhouse basically have a corner store where they buy and sell shocks, that's their business you know? There's a couple people at Blumhouse who said, "I think you actually just created maybe the biggest jump scare in Blumhouse history." I don't know if that's even true, but if it's even close it's pretty good.

Yeah, and that's a huge compliment.

But it's got to come out of character and story. It's got to be part of the fabric of character and story. If it's just a scare for the sake of a scare, it's like eating a fast food meal. It's like you're nourished at first, but then you're like, "That's a bit hollow."

That's a great answer. Let's talk about your acting career, which is on fire. You have a really healthy career as an actor, and you're still supporting smaller, independent films. My heart beats for indie movies and I have my reasons why. For you, what about independent cinema separates itself from big blockbusters.

The struggle we have is usually we are telling fresh stories. The movie business seems to have evolved into a place where we're not really telling that many new stories anymore. It's an easier road to make a tempo movie with pre-existing audience built in material, prequel sequel world. Buckling under the weight of all of that are these people who actually got a voice where they're trying to tell a new story. We need those new stories as resources for the next wave of regurgitating other stories.

Yeah.

Don't have new stories, where's the next regurgitation going to come from? It's not going to be a regurgitation of regurgitation. Reboot of a reboot. I love people who are gutsy enough to tell new stories. Usually, you're doing them on a small budget. The excitement of momentum, problem solving with brain rather than coin is exciting. The momentum with which you shoot a movie is exciting. It's like running on rocks. 

It's like, any minute you think you're going to fall over, but your adrenaline will save you. That to me is exciting. Now it's tough to be able to participate in both. It would be a shame to only do the big stuff and not have access to those other things. That's just I think where interesting talent comes from. I think that's where really smart people come from. The resourcefulness of people is very exciting, and the resilience. It is tough.

Sadly, a lot of these people, myself included, you start getting beat up by the word business, and disheartened by it. I remember when Felony came out in Australia, and it was received well, it just didn't gather an audience. I was like, "What a shame." You put all this effort in, and then all the American movies that come out that week or two in Australia just swamped us. 

I don't want people to pity Australian movies and go see them just out of national pride or something. But there was definitely a disheartening element to that, where it was like, "I just put a year and a half of energy into this thing, and I'd rather share that with as many people as possible, and it's a bit of a fucking shame."

I get it. It kills me when I go to a film festival and I see a small movie that I'm head over heels for and I'm super loud about online, it gets picked up, and it eventually releases, and then either the distributor pulls it within a week and a half or it's just not doing well and it gets pulled. It's just like, "Man, there's brilliant cinema like BLUE RUIN." 

Blue Ruin! How good was that!?

Yeah. BLUE RUIN is a brilliant film, and it was only in Dallas in theaters for a week. Then you have shit like SAW 12making more because they rake in millions. Like you were saying, regurgitation of unoriginal ideas. I'm hoping the VOD date helps with sales. I'm not sure, right now, since it's still something kind of new for everyone. Hopefully that will help too.

It feels like we're doing a little better than the forecast was, which ... It's been sort of a good weekend. It was a good gamble I think for them to release it on this weekend. Yeah, we were coming at the end of the summer programming or whatever. But I think just the weight of good word and good will towards the movie has helped it. I think people are going, "I'm just too curious now. Maybe I should see it."

Yeah. When I posted online that I was seeing it yesterday on Twitter and Facebook, a lot of people were like, "I'm really interested in seeing this." I posted my reaction. It was like, "Joel Edgerton's THE GIFT: chilling and vicious. See it." All these people were like, "Done. I'm going to see it right now." I was like, "Good. Go support this film." A lot of influential critics really love it, and hopefully that helps too.

That's so great to hear.

Earlier, you were talking about quirky characters. I'm curious. What are some of your favorite roles that you've played? My pick: I love is Hugo Croop, from Joe Carnahan's SMOKIN' ACES. 

(Laughs.) Yeah. Man, I've had a handful of stuff ... One of my favorite early ones that really sent me on that path was playing Aaron Sherritt in Ned Kelly. You know, playing the traitor, and then going, "Rather than just use traitor as the major heading, who is the person?" You know, that was really an interesting thing for me. "This was cool, small characters have really complicated moral dilemmas." Hugo Croop was definitely fun. 

Basically, Joe Carnahan created this weird dude by just having one conversation. He's like, "I thought it could be this." I'm like, "What about if he had that? Can I have a mole on my face? What if he's just a lazy Russian, instead of ..." If I was going to be a bodyguard, I said to Joe, "The character's written like a 300 pound bodyguard. I'm 5'11 and I weigh 175. I've got to be sort of something interesting about me ... Maybe I've got a cage-fighter haircut." I said, "Look, I think I'd love to be really apathetic and lazy." He's like, "Yeah." 

The next thing I know, I've got the worst haircut in the world, a mole on my face, a little tracksuit, and I'm on set with a fanny pack. I've got this terrible Russian accent. "This is fun." 

I loved doing Gatsby, because Baz had this instinct and a fear that was like, the movie has this fantastical element, and it's somewhat tuned up to at least 10 and a half, maybe 11, in that it allowed me to grow the mustache in a safe environment, you know? Again, trying to root it in honesty. But to be big, and puff my chest out, and really kind of steamroll through sets in a way that I've never done before, because I'm always striving for subtlety. Usually, I don't always get it.

Warrior, because it was just the hardest I've ever worked. It really challenged me in so many ways. Physically. You know. John Connolly in Black Mass is definitely a fucking treat of a character. We haven't shared it with the world yet. It felt like I was allowed to push my limits again in a different direction. That was very special.

That's funny. I have a question about BLACK MASS. I'll ask this other question first. You've starred and co-starred in huge films from Hollywood. Some of Hollywood's most prolific directors and finest actors. Have you gotten to the point where you can turn off that intimidation filter, or does it still linger from time to time?

I'm sure, especially with a big cast,  BLACK MASS has a huge cast of all these amazing actors, yourself included. Just curious if there's an intimidation there, or if you've been able to turn off that intimidation filter.

It's sort of weird. Years ago, I got the job of doing A Streetcar Named Desire with Cate Blanchett. I remember it wasn't until after I finished the whole thing, I was in some health farm because that was the year I did Animal KingdomWarrior, and Streetcar all in the same year, and it fucking destroyed me. I was at some health farm, and some person who worked in it and I were sitting together eating a mango. 

It was really weird. I went up there to get healthy again because I'd had a tough year. I was eating a mango, and this person who had nothing to do with the film business was like, "Did you ever feeling intimidated working with Cate?" I remember thinking, "Fuck, it's like my brain is not wired to get nervous about the matchup." Instead, it's the old theory, if you can play a game of tennis with somebody, or a game of chess, why not play against someone who is better than you? They can up your game. I think my brain is wired that way.

I got to work with Christian Bale. Fucking awesome. Leo, fucking awesome. Johnny Depp, fucking awesome. They're just the headliners. Of course, peppered through all of those movies are incredible actors who deserve to be mega stars themselves. It makes me excited. Then it's afterwards that I'm like, "That could have gone really wrong if I'd have gone in there with fear." 

That's an excellent answer. That's a great way of thinking. 

Also, the weird thing, that all those people who are at the top of their game, they experience intimidation and fear as well. Their intimidation is probably like, "Everybody is expecting me to be the greatest actor in the world. What if I don't get it right?" You know? I think, acknowledging that everybody feels nervous on the first day of school, everybody is worried that they'll be called out as being a phony. Then, you got the even playing ground. It's the similar version of pretending that everybody is not wearing pants when you're getting up to make a speech.

Interesting. So, speaking of Johnny Depp, how whacked out is he in the film? I'm pretty sure this is the most insane role for him. He just seems bonkers.

What it is is that he's done an incredible character study of all the things you read about, and hear stories about why it is that he's like a cobra. What's interesting is that there is sort of a mask at play there, and you see it, because he's transformed physically, visually into Whitey. Yet it's more on the spectrum of a contained nature of other performances that he's had, like in Donnie Brasco, where it's more human and of the real world. 

He's not spinning out of control physically, but all of that energy is contained in a kind of viper ready to strike way. It's fueled with this incredible energy, but it's so still and silent. The stillness and the silence were the two terrifying elements that I kept reading about in Whitey, and I think Johnny has been very astute to harness a power, but not unleash it in a way that is too showy, or too vibrant for the person that he's playing. There's a contained sort of danger that suits what the movie needs.

Interesting. Well, I have one more question about acting, then switching gears to one more thing, then I'll let you go continue to be super busy. You're starring in an upcoming two of one of my favorite director's next features, Jeff Nichols' LOVING and MIDNIGHT SPECIAL. 

Mm-hmm.

How did you get both of these films? I think that's interesting that Jeff is shooting them so close together and you're the star of both.

We shot Midnight Special last year in New Orleans. I met him when I was on the set of Jane got a Gun. Jeff came to see me. I think there's something about the character that is in Midnight Special that he saw in me. Jeff is very particular. What's great for me at the time is that Jeff is not into stunt casting. He's just looking for the accuracy of what's in his head. I think that once I got to know Jeff, I realized that he has got that world so clear in his head. 

What he's looking for is to the right human beings and sets to match the picture he already had painted. I obviously fit that bill for him when it came to Midnight Special. Then ironically and thankfully, after having such a great time working together on that, he had been brewing this script for Loving. I just happened to be an actor who looks a lot like, or could look a lot like Richard Loving. Again, he's striving for authenticity. Because that world's already been painted, because it's a true story, he's looking for people that fit that bill. Saw myself and Ruth Negga were lucky recipients of that genetic pool that landed us in the right place.

I love Jeff. I think he's one of the real true young stars like Scott Cooper [director, Black Mass] who know what they're doing. I'm actually in Virginia right now. I just came here to get away from thinking about the release of The Gift, because that's inevitable, and just dive into prep for Loving which we start mid-September. Going to go for a drive with my dad in about an hour, up to north state and go look at the countryside.

That's awesome. Good for you! That's a smart way to do it. Just relax and all that. I can assure you that people are going crazy about it online, and are really in love with it. That, you don't have to worry about. 

I'm so happy. I got to say, I got a pretty good job and a pretty good life. But directing a movie made me even happier than most experiences I've ever had. I feel very blessed having the whole thing roll on the way it has. We shot the movie only in February, and it's come out so quick, and it's moved so fast. 

Yet, I haven't really got a right to complain about anything. I didn't feel like the rush jeopardized what's on the screen. The way it's been received, it's just like, I'm brimming with excitement, and thrilled that it's come along that way. If hordes of people go and see it, I'd safely say it's been like a perfect experience for me.

I'm taking a few friends tomorrow to see it. I'm looking forward to ... I'm going to try and look at their faces when the twists happen. I don't want to give anything away for people that are going to read this article, but when the twists twist, I want to see their faces. They're all probably going to be slack-jawed, jaws dropping to the floors.

I have two more questions for you. As Nash will tell you, I'm a huge fan of all the Blue-Tongue Films' shorts and features. This is a two part question. Do you have a favorite of them all, and are there any shorts that you've either written or directed that you'd like to see as a feature?

That's a good question. I guess in many ways, my favorite film of the whole Blue-Tongues' film canon, is I've got a massive place in my heart for The Square. It was like, for so many reasons, Nash and I are doing something together, which I think he did such an incredible job of. Really watching the movie again recently. Also, not to have sour grapes, but very underrated film, and a real delight for anyone who discovers it. It was my first screenplay. All wrapped up in that was such an exciting and difficult challenge, but exciting time.

I think Nash is ... There's so many great shorts. Crossbow is amazing. I think, I always marveled at Lucky

LUCKY is great.

I know a lot of people talk about Spider, and I love the shocks and thrills of that. Just as a piece of filmmaking, considering the budget and the production, what he achieved. Just as a little sequence, it's kind of an extraordinary short film. For some of the people interested in how to make movies, and how to solve problems with, like I said before, with your brain over coin. The 360 degree tracking shot around that car with no one driving the car. There's two techniques used in that that cost nothing, yet create what seemed like a very expensive shot. That to me is like film school in one shot.

For sure.

I'm really proud of that. I think that I would really love to turn The List into a longer film. I actually have four stories, three stories, that are all kind of interlinked, interwoven, and The List was actually just one of those stories. We shot it very cheaply and in a very quick fashion. I think it was 25,00 dollars in four days, and the script had been written like two weeks before we started shooting. That was a real rush job. But there are four other pieces to that puzzle, and I've been really thinking about re-crafting all of that.

I remember when I was in Cannes, I interviewed Nash for Bear. He talked about Lucky. I remember him telling me that he was hoping he could someday make that into a feature, which I can't wrap my head around. But I would be first in line to see it if he did, because that's such an amazing short. You guys do great work -- Blue-Tongue is gold. Nice work again, man. And thanks so much for taking some time out to talk to me about the film. I really appreciate it.

I appreciate you even wanting to. Thanks for this call and enthusiasm. I'm thrilled that you liked the movie.

I definitely did. Take care Joel.

You too buddy. See you.

[Note: This review was originally published on Twitch Film.]

Interview: Writer-Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez on THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT

When I saw writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez's first feature Easier with Practice, based on a short story, I knew to keep this guy on my radar. For a first film on a shoestring budget, the film looks something born out of Hollywood. 

Smart move. Alvarez's next film, C.O.G., was also based on a short story, this one by David Sedaris. A fun and large fact about Alvarez: this young filmmaker is the first and only to get Sedaris' full blessing to adapt one of his stories into a feature film. Sedaris has given the green light to other filmmakers a few times before but changed his mind. Not for Alvarez. C.O.G. had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. I was there -- not important but I wanted to brag -- and the film left the festival to critical acclaim. Sedaris was there and I can't imagine how excited / terrified Alvarez was. 

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Interview: Writer/Director Rick Alverson

(Entertainment had its world premiere at Sundance, then went on to play at SXSW and was finally snatched up by a distributor, Magnolia Pictures. It’s set for a November 13th release date but is still making festival rounds. Since it’s screening at Sundance’s Next Fest on August 8th, we thought it would be a good idea to talk to co-wrier/director Rick Alverson about his latest deranged masterpiece)

One of the best movies of the year is Rick Alverson’s Entertainment. Echoing his previous film The ComedyEntertainment is a polarizing, dark look inside a broken man’s broken spirit. There are moments of laughter peppered throughout, but those moments of hilarity are at someone else’s expense. It’s awkward every time but Alverson is a real pro at showing the harsh realities, oddities, and disappointments of American life.

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Oak Cliff Film Festival Interview: ENTERTAINMENT's Gregg Turkington (Neil Hamburger)

Gregg Turkington is one of the greatest comedians of our time and you probably haven’t heard of him. If we're being honest, it's likely he'll stay pretty far off your radar. He’s best known for his alter-ego/character Neil Hamburger, whom the ghost of Andy Kaufman would adore. 

Hamburger’s comedy is polarizing. It’s really filthy, often ugly comedy, but if you like his punchlines, you’ll quickly join Team Hamburger. 

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Interview: Andrew Bujalski On How 'Results' Is Like 'Persona,' Guy Pearce's Accent, And Much More

Writer/director Andrew Bujalski ("Computer Chess”) is making his bones quickly. He's only made four independently financed feature films, and his fourth is his biggest and best yet. A dynamite cast helps, but Bujalski's tentative move towards the mainstream doesn't tamp down his funny and observational sensibilities. His latest, "Results," stars the criminally underused Kevin Corrigan ("Pineapple Express"), Guy Pearce("Memento"), Cobie Smulders “(“The Avengers"), Giovanni Ribisi and Anthony Michael Hall in the weirdest role you will ever see him in. 

“Results” is centered on the culture of self-improvement. The comedy focuses on two mismatched personal trainers, self-styled guru/owner Trevor (Pearce) and irresistibly acerbic trainer Kat (Smulders), whose lives are upended by the actions of a wealthy client (Corrigan). As their three lives become inextricably knotted, the plot go from complicated to super messy, and as our review says it's "funny and well observed."

During SXSW, we talked to the filmmaker about casting the main characters, the challenges of building a bigger movie with a bigger story and cast, and his film's charming end-credits scene. There are some mind spoilers near the end of this interview, so here's your soft warning. "Results" lands in select theaters and VOD via Magnolia Pictures this weekend.

I want to thank “you” for putting Kevin Corrigan in the movie and giving him one of the greatest roles he's ever played. 
I hope so.

You're supposed to sit down and think, "What can I do with Brad Pitt?"

I wish he had more work —he’s insanely underused considering his talent— and now this movie is a favorite of mine because of his character.
Thank you. I feel the same way. I've been a Corrigan fan for 20 years, at least since "Walking and Talking." That was the one that really knocked my socks off. I remember watching that movie and sitting there as the credits started to roll and thinking, "I've got to find out the name of the video store guy, because that's my favorite actor." I've followed him ever since, and got to know him a little bit a few years ago. I think it was just one of my bucket list things —"I want to work with Kevin someday"— and just selfishly, just as a fan, I wanted to let him do more than he usually gets to do.

This is the first time you've worked with some pretty big name actors. What was the process of getting everyone on board? 
Before I really knew what I was doing, I was thinking about actors I'd like to work with. So I thought about Kevin, which shows you how commercial my brain is. You're supposed to sit down and think, "What can I do with Brad Pitt?" Then I thought of Guy, who I'd had breakfast with years earlier, and had found just fascinating. As soon as I pictured Guy Pearce and Kevin Corrigan in a room together, I started to laugh. 

That was kind of the spark, which is not a very wise way to try to do a project like this, because the chances that you're going to actually get those two guys' schedules to line up and do this thing was pretty low. So it was a great blessing that I actually got the two guys who I wrote it for. And I then started to figure out what am I going to do with Guy Pearce and Kevin Corrigan, and gradually and pretty organically and intuitively, it did not start with high concept and work its way down. It was the opposite. It started with just images and ideas and built up. 

Pretty early in that process, it was evident I've got these two guys who are such a funny pairing because they're so dissimilar, yet in other ways, do have some kind of odd, maybe unexpected commonalities. First and foremost, for both a lot of their power as actors comes from the fact that they're both inscrutable. So I started to think that if I'm going to tell a story about two inscrutable guys, I need a woman in between them who is going to bring a whole different energy, somebody who can bring a warmth but can also bring an explosiveness. Then I've got something. 

Smulders is particularly terrific in this film.
I agree. So I started to conceive of that character, but I didn't know who was going to play her. It was a great blessing to find Cobie and complete that puzzle. 

So the film is set in Austin, Texas but Guy uses his native accent. Was that pre-planned?
I think he was assuming he would do [an] American [accent]. It doesn't say in the script, but I liked [that he used his own accent] for a couple of reasons. One was because I liked the idea of him not having to think about doing an accent.

The film is sent in Austin, Texas, but in 2015, this is a city of transplants. I'm not from here and my wife's not from here, but my kids are from here. It made a certain kind of sense to have somebody from very far way —there's something about the kind of immigrant's optimism that made sense to me for the character. So I talked to him about doing an accent, which I think was counter-intuitive at first, although I did not really put this together until Sundance. Guy is such a consummate actor's actor that even though he was doing an Australian accent, I don't think that's actually his accent. I think he still did a character accent.

Now that you've made a film with some bigger actors and a little bit bigger of a scale than your previous work, what were some of the hiccups or challenges that you faced that you haven't before, if there were any?
Every movie brings it's own hiccups and challenges. It's a different atmosphere on set, and there are more people around. By professional standards, this would still be considered a very scrappy indie production. Still, when it rained, you would go, "oh fuck!"

You've just got to soldier on, regardless.
"What the fuck are we going to do? We don't have a budget!" There's not a contingency day, and it was still quite indie in that sense. But it was bigger. The military analogy has always seemed very apt to me. There's a reason why they call working with a tiny crew "guerrilla filmmaking." That's how a guerrilla army operates: it's like there's a few of you, and you go out and you rush in and you work fast with the element of surprise. Then you get bigger, and my job becomes less like the fucking guy in the jungle, and more like the general sitting at the table having people bring coffee to him, which is a hard thing to adapt to. Frankly, I'm more comfortable and probably more constitutionally suited to be the guerrilla guy. I mean, I'm getting older. 

That happens to people. Getting older.
It was funny on this shoot  —it was a big enough crew that when we started shooting, there were a lot of young people around and I didn't know all their names yet. They were all treating me respectfully, and it freaked me out. That takes some getting used to. Then the trick becomes "if I don't have a hand in absolutely everything that's happening and if there are people whose jobs that are to do certain things, then how do I make sure that that doesn't [get out of control]. Because at worst, what can happen is that the process directs itself. A director can become obsolete when a shoot gets big enough and everybody's good at their jobs. There were certainly times in this movie where I felt obsolete, or probably was obsolete. 

The trick is that you don't want to over-compensate. You don't want to get in there and say, "I have to put my stamp on everything, so I'm moving this piece of furniture over here, and Guy, in this scene, I want you to do it with an Irish accent." You can start to fuck with things just because you feel that you need to, but the director's job always really is to watch what's happening, and if something is not right, then to be the guy who is aware of that and tries to figure something out. But when things are right, you are just supposed to fucking sit there and let them happen. A lot of the times, that is the job.

A director can become obsolete when a shoot gets big enough and everybody's good at their jobs.

The end credit scene reminded me of the final scene in Paul Mazursky’s “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.” Is this scene supposed to be connected to the plot, or is it just a giant celebration of completing the film?
Well, it's both. It's funny, I got interviewed last week, and the interviewer said, "was that an homage to 'Inland Empire'?" I said, "No, not consciously."

To me, when I make a movie like this, I needed that ending. I was doing a very weird romantic comedy, but it is a romantic comedy. I had to go to a happy place, but because of what we were doing to stay true to everything in the story and everything that I was trying to do thematically, it couldn't not be a strange funny place. I would laugh about the ending with Robin Schwartz, who was the editor on the movie. Robin actually acted in my previous movie “Computer Chess.” That movie has quite a strange ending. I'm convinced that this one is actually ten times stranger, but it may or may not seem so on first glance.

In the end, who do you think the real heart of the movie is about? Kevin Corrigan's Danny, or the connection between Trevor and Kat, or both?
Oh boy. All of the above and like five other things. I couldn't choose between those two, but we've got this oddball structure where it's not obvious who the protagonist is, and that's something that as I wrote the movie, I kind of do choose. I was like, "This is a tough structure to do." It's certainly going to be a tough structure to sell, but the movie needed to be that.

You have Kat and then you have Trevor and Danny, which to me is like this one weird organism. So those are the two leads, the girl and the two guys who may be one guy. It's a remake of “Persona.” 

[Note: This review was originally posted on Indiewire's The Playlist.]

Interview: Tim and Eric

I interviewed Tim and Eric for their movie TIM AND ERIC'S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE over three years ago and I am still asked to this very day if this interview was staged. This interview ended up on MTV's "The 10 Best Junket Interviews Ever" and the author of this article gets it. I will never tell if this was pre-planned or if I went in there hoping to God that they would go along with my unhinged stupidity and they did. What I will tell you is this: If you are familiar with Tim and Eric's humor or have watched any interviews they've done with other journalists, you'll know the answer. If  you haven't done the latter, Google "tim and eric i am rogue interview" and watch. 

I do my homework and always come prepared. 


Interview: WORLD GREATEST DAD Writer/Director Bobcat Goldthwait

Back in 2009, during the GordonandtheWhale.com days, I interviewed Bobcat Goldthwait for his then new film, World’s Greatest Dad, starring the late, irreplaceable Robin Williams. I thought I lost this interview when the site went down in a blaze of glory but just recently unearthed it, transcribed, and what you read below is that interview.

I remember us talking about Williams a lot, but forgot he mentions that he wanted the late, equally irreplaceable Philip Seymour Hoffman to play the lead. Little did Bobcat or I know two of the greatest actors of our time would pass away way too soon a few years later. Life is strange. But this interview is now a treasure.

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Video Interview: Actor Zach Galifianakis

Another great interview I thought I lost forever when GATW sunk with Captain Ahab of the Internet was this one, with funnymanguy Zach Galifianakis. It took place at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and Zachy was there to promote his part in Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden's film adaptation of Ned Vizzini's memoir, IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY. (The book is quite inspiring and great; the movie, unfortunately, is not.) 

Zach is great. You can tell he could tell I was slightly nervous and when they were setting up before telling me to start the interview, he wanted to have a time with me. Doing interviews with comedians is tough because you never know what's going to happen -- they are fast, quippy sonofabitches. Sometimes you're lucky and you can bounce off their jokes, sometimes they laugh at yours, but often you just give an odd laugh at their comments and carry on to the next question. The latter is boring. You get a few minutes with a comedian or two, make it count.

This interview is uncut, so you get to see where we start off talking about how much we believe in one another, and he answers the most important question about his career: why he didn't win an Oscar for his brilliant performance in OUT COLD.

Bonus! I've also uploaded the interview with subtitles because this interview has funny stories and now you can read them as we speak. Neat, huh? Technology. 

[Note: This interview was originally published on GordonandtheWhale.com at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.] 

Interview: Actor Ben Mendelsohn

"Don’t look into his eyes because he’s just looking where he’s going to fucking bite you.”

-Ben Mendelsohn (on his character "Pope" in ANIMAL KINGDOM)

The first words spoken to Ben prior to our interview was, "It's very surreal sitting in front of you. Two days ago I watched you spike heroine into a girl's arm and suffocate her and now I'm five feet in front of you having a conversation." He laughed, as any man with a pinch of humor would, and then said "that's fucking great." Ben plays the villain "Pope" in David Michôd's ANIMAL KINGDOM.  He's not just your average bad guy you'll see in a DIE HARD flick, he's the guy that'll scare the piss out of you just by looking at you (I was five feet in front of that above stare). At the end of the film, you will hate this man. With that, you can imagine the level of difficulty it was holding composure while speaking to him.

That uneasy composure vanished within a few seconds after he started speaking. Like David, he's just happy to be here. In our interview we spoke about how he got into the intensity of his character. I don't want to write anything about that conversation here because I want you to just watch and listen. And here me roar, this man will get a heavy number of nominations for his performance, of that I have zero doubt in my mind.

[Note: This was originally published on GordonandtheWhale.com on August 13th, 2010.]

Interview: Alex Garland Talks Lo-Fi Approach To 'Ex Machina,' Auteur Theory, And Much More

If you ask Alex Garland, writer and director of "Ex Machina," if his goal was to make the film a "game changer" for the genre, he would probably say, "Hell, no." What he's likely to say is that he wanted to make a think piece, a solid science fiction film. And that's exactly what "Ex Machina" is.

"Ex Machina" screened at SXSW last month (read our review) and we caught up with Garland after the premiere to talk about the film. There’s a lot of moving parts to "Ex Machina" but it all comes together when it needs to. When talking to him, we learned some kind of charming facts about him that happen to be polar opposites from each other: he knows all about movie robots and the films with artificial intelligence, but in the real world, his world, he’s very out of touch with technology. This accidentally worked in his favor for the film.

Read on to learn how Garland made a micro-budget project visually match a studio release, as well as carefully constructing his A.I. robot to separate itself from others you’ve seen before.

You did a really terrific job with the visuals. When designing the compound facility and all the technology involved in the film, how much planning went into it so this movie in 20 years will stay relevant to science fiction, or was that even a goal you were thinking about when making the movie? It’s fascinating when watching films like "Terminator" how the technology is now dated.
With these questions, or more specifically with the answers, there's a danger you can rationalize stuff. 'Cause it's so, so easy to get pat and rationalize things, retrospectively. And often kid yourself that it's actually true, that the rationalization is what happened. But the real thing is, say in this film, there's no holistic vision in that sense. It's piecemeal.

So for example, the design of Ava is not in a broader context of the of the historical place that this film might exist, either within the internal universe of the film, or the external thing of it being watched in 20 years time in our world. You know, it's got nothing to do with either of those things. It's really got to do with film history, which is that the first time she walks on the screen, I didn't want people to start thinking about other movies with other robots. I want them to be attached to her, this robot.

"The first part of the design of Ava, was finding out what she could not look like, rather than what she could look like."

So, in a weird way, the first part of the design of Ava was finding out what she could not look like, rather than what she could look like. And there were some specifics. I found it quite interesting. Gold metal made you think of C3P0. A metallic chest, which had a sort of metal structure to the breast immediately made you think of "Metropolis," and you couldn't get away from it. It was just there. White plastic made you think of either [Bjork's “All is Full of Love" robot music video from] Chris Cunningham or more "I, Robot."

So that's her, right? So then there's the house. Well, the house thing is just really a simple, practical problem. We're a low budget film, and we're making a film about a low budget millionaire who does not have a low budget; he's got a lot of money. So how does a low budget film create something or find something that's got the vibe of someone who has a lot of money when we don't have that money. So that's really kind of like a domestic, almost banal problem.

That's about old-fashioned filmmaking graft of location hunting and looking through millions of photos and, you know, it's sort of as simple as that. And then, more broadly ... I'm gonna give you two more and then you can get bored with this answer. (Laughs)

No, you actually just answered another question, so keep going! (Laughs)
Okay. (Laughs) When someone would ask me, "When is this taking place," I'd say it's 10 minutes in the future.

You just answered the 3rd question! (Laughs)
All right, so there you go!

Keep going!
(Laughs) Okay, so, there's a ton of stuff you do not need to invent. I don't need to get anyone to redesign what a glass looks like or a mug, or a kettle, because you just buy one, and that's cool. You know, he's got a nice kettle, that's it, and so when he makes tea or whatever it is, there's a tap, it's just a tap. Certain kind of sci-fi, "Aeon Flux" or something, you have to redesign everything, but this is the opposite of that, it's our world.

And then the fourth strand of this incredibly convoluted design answer is key cards. Now, I'm really interested in science. I'm interested in A.I.s. I'm interested in human consciousness and a bunch of different things, but I'm also 44 and I'm out of touch in a lot of ways. And there's all sorts of stuff my kids know about to do with technology that I don't know. I'm not very tech-savvy about a lot of gadgets. I thought when I was writing it, the key cards was like a cool futuristic way of getting around this fucking house, right? Retrospectively, you're laughing because it's so stupid, and retrospectively, it's been pointed out to me, this is like the most lo-fi thing you could possibly do. You could have retinal scanners and you can buy a fucking phone which checks your fingerprint, and what, he's using a key card — it’s preposterous.

It's pretty clever how you brought old school into new school.
Yeah, but it's an accident. I actually got that because probably like 15-20 years ago I read something about Bill Gates, who had a key card system in his house and I thought, "Well, that's futuristic." So then 20 years later, I'm writing this script and I'm putting in what was the future 20 years ago. It's ridiculous. I mean, it's like I'm my grandmother. (Laughs)

I want to talk about Ava's design. It’s fascinating that you chose hands, feet, and face to be the only flesh for her. What made you choose those three parts of the body? Obviously the face, but why the hands and the feet for flesh?
So, okay, the face is — I just wanted the range of subtle expression, for that human-like interaction. The truth about the hands and the feet were, we were not able at our budget range swap them out because to create a midriff, shoulders, breasts... Often all these things are swapped out in the film. Legs are very durable.

But the hands can become incredibly complicated and expensive. And, so then we tried her wearing gloves, and the thing about Ava's body is she's wearing a suit. The actress is wearing a suit, which packs her out. She's actually a very delicate girl, you know.

But the suit just beefs her up slightly and you get away with that, actually, because she's so slender and delicate, on her torso and legs. But on her hands, it was like she was gonna thump you, like she had big sort of fists, like she was gonna take a swing.

And I took one look at the gloves and said, "We just can't do that." So then me and Andrew Whitehurst, the VFX guy had a quick, sort of like thing of like, "What the fuck are we gonna do?"

And this was like a few days before we start shooting, and basically Andrew's methodology which he came up with was to use black bands. Because if there was gonna be a hand over between VFX and practical, the mesh would be incredibly hard to match up, but a black band gives you all this tolerance, and... Look, the thing about particularly low budget filmmaking is to be told the practical parameters and then to be as inventive as you can within them, and to try to find ways of making them into a virtue where possible. Even if you're just doing it to kid yourself and everyone around you to feel like it's a virtue, rather than an impediment, is important.

Something else I found fascinating and rather noble. At the Q&A last night, you spoke about this being your directorial debut, and you talked about how Hollywood shouldn’t deify directors and that it's a complete process from the whole crew working on the film and that you're a writer first and foremost, and that everyone involved in the film is the filmmaker. I thought that was a really amazing statement — will you elaborate on it? 
It doesn't seem to me like a surprising observation. It just seems to me to be clearly true. I think that film does allow for the existence of auteurs. I wouldn't need a lot of convincing if somebody made a case to me that Woody Allen is an auteur. It feels like yes, he is. But I've been working in film for a long time and what I have observed a lot is that they're quite hard to find. However, the way the film is presented to the world is that they're not hard to find. The vision of the director, it's a marketing tool, and it's a way of kind of dignifying the process.

"The vision of the director, it's a marketing tool, and it's a way of kind of dignifying the process."

And there is a lot of myth around it, and there's a lot of bullshit around it, and I find it boring. But I also think it's actually, it's not to the advantage of cinema, because what I think happens sometimes is that people are given too much power that actually shouldn't have that much power. Some of the supporting team in that pyramid structure are trained to be deferential at times, when they shouldn't be deferential, they should be assertive, and they should say, "I think this is a better way of doing it." And it's somewhere in my head, it's something like a kind of anarchy. It's like the right kind of anarchy where everyone is working semi-autonomously but doing the right thing, 'cause they're pulling in the same direction or something like that. All right, now that answer actually has an element of the rationalization that I was trying to avoid earlier embedded within in it I would say, but I don't know. It's very, very hard to answer this question. I've tried to answer these questions honestly. This is a particularly difficult question to answer, honestly.

Understandable.
One of the things is, all those names that appear at the end of a film, they're not there by chance, you know? And when people talk about how a director mounted a camera, or what the fuck do they think a DP does, you know? Why does this guy get so valued within the filmmaking community, but so ignored outside it. Does that imply a deception somewhere?

And actually with that DP, why do filmmakers value production designers so much? You know, if all these people are doing is adhering to their vision, why do they value these people so much? Why do productions fight over production designers, you know? If it's all this one guy's vision? And I would say it's not one guy's vision. It's a collaborative exercise that gets sold as one guy's vision; seems to me a reasonable answer to that question.

That's a great answer and I want the readers to see that and hopefully more people will understand that films are more than the director. It's about the collaborative process.
I think it would be fair to say that the collaboration would be something you could celebrate, rather than try and deny.

[Note: This interview was originally published on Indiewire's The Playlist.]

Interview: Mary Elizabeth Winstead On ALEX OF VENICE, Her Admiration For Indie Film, And More

I really admire Mary Elizabeth Winstead's career choices. She started out as a Scream Queen and then dabbled with big, bad studio movies. Lately her focus has been on roles in smaller films that really make an impact. 

 

Winstead still does those big, bad studio roles, but who wouldn't? Many of those movies are fun to watch, so I imagine it's just the same making them. 

Last week we spoke on the phone and discussed a variety of topics. Among them: her latest role in the eye-opening Alex of Venice (my review from last year's Tribeca Film Festival -- please excuse my ridiculously cool headline), the challenges of tackling the horror genre, our mutual love for independent cinema, and how she balances her fans on social media. The latter point is something that's not as easy as it may sound. 

This interview is a favorite of mine and I hope you enjoy it. 

Mary Elizabeth Winstead: Hey, Chase!

TwitchFilm: Hey, Mary, how are you?

I'm good, how's it going?

It's great, it's nice to finally talk to you. I feel like we've been Internet friends forever.

I know! Yeah, we haven't, I didn't even realize we haven't talked before, that's so funny.

Yeah, this is the first time!

Going back to Twitter, earlier I tweeted that I was interviewing you and my feed went crazy with all of your fans asking me questions and re-tweeting. I'm curious how you handle so much fan conversation coming your way all at once on social media, because back in my day, if I wanted to say hello to an actor, I had to hand write them a letter, mail it through the postal service, and hope for a reply.

Yeah, absolutely, that's my day too, so I know what you mean. It's interesting, I'm a little bit old-school in that I do think there's a certain ... I love everyone who likes my films and wants to tweet me, I love all of them, but, in terms of interacting with people, I do expect something. I expect them to come with an interesting question or something interesting that will start a dialogue, because I think when people are doing a lot of, like, "Tweet me." "Follow me." Or "Re-tweet me." Or just, sort of, demanding things, that scares me a little bit. 

I don't like this instant gratification culture of Twitter, so much. I like to really get to know fans when they come to me because, I really sense, they have something sincere to say to me beyond just a demand for me to respond to them. Those kinds of conversations I really enjoy. I actually have two fans that any time they tweet I always respond because I know that they're really sincere about what they're saying to me.

Oh, that's great. Let's go ahead and hop into ALEX OF VENICE One thing I really admire about your career is some of the tough roles that you've tackled. You've played some broken characters dealing with real issues people face every day, Alex in ALEX OF VENICE is a perfect example of one of these characters. Why are these roles important for you to play and why do you think stories like ALEX OF VENICE are important to cinema?

Man. In terms of the roles that I'm drawn to, I demand a certain complexity. Just for myself, I feel like the older I get and the further down my career I get, I just want to have roles that are exciting to me and challenging to me. I want there to be a level of complexity that, um, makes me a better actor at the end of the day. I don't want to be bored by the characters that I play. Those are all really important things for me, in finding a role. 

I think, in terms of why a film like this is needed, it's really rare to get to see this full life represented, particularly for a female and particularly for my age-range and things like that. We get to see her as a mother and a wife and a sister and a daughter and a lawyer. We get to see how she behaves in all of these relationship and how she can be, sort of, different people within this one person. 

I feel like that's not really reflected very often, at lease not in terms of the type of roles that I see and the scripts that I read. It's, kind of, a rarity. I know for me as an actor it's exciting but it's also exciting for me as an audience member, too, to get to see those kinds of things displayed on the screen.

Oh, yeah, absolutely. The film shines a light on a lot of important adult issues. After the credits roll, what do you hope people take away from the film?

I really hope it resonates with people in their own lives. I feel like it's one of those films where, no matter who you are, there's something for you to relate to it. In one of the characters, or hopefully in Alex, you can see yourself and you can reflect on yourself, in your own life, as a result of that. I hope that they're entertained by it, but then I hope it also makes them think about their life and ways that they relate to it, and makes them feel, maybe, less alone with whatever they're struggling with. 

I think that, for me, one of the things I was most attracted to about this role and about other roles, in general, characters who are just trying to be good people and trying to figure out what it takes to be a good person and to be a whole person. I think that that's part of Alex's struggle in this film, and that's something that I really am drawn to and can relate to.

The great Don Johnson plays your dad in the film. How intimidating was it working with one of TV and cinema's greats?

It was pretty awesome, but it was a little intimidating. I think we all went and met with him and I don't think he was officially signed-on yet, to the movie, so we were all afraid of scaring him away. We were like "Everybody be nice to Don Johnson!" "Make sure he still wants to do the movie after this." We all went and hung out with him for a little bit and talked about the script with him and talked about the characters. 

He was such a real actor's, actor in the way that we spoke with him. He has such a great sense of humor and is certainly a charmer and all those things you would expect him to be as well but I think the surprising thing about him is that he is such a serious actor and he really brings so much to the table, in terms of his craft. So much experience and history of works and of things that he's learned and people that he's worked with and teachers that he's worked with. To me, he was a really inspiring person, and yes, intimidating person to be around.

You've starred in so many wonderful indie films over the last few years, FAULTS, SMASHED (my review from Sundance), and ALEX OF VENICE being some of my favorites. I'm a huge champion of independent cinema because of how much heart goes, in front of and behind the camera, but there's more to independent film than just heart. What draws you to taking more risk in indie cinema versus mostly going after major studio roles?

I think, for me, I'm desperate to be inspired by the work that I do. It's just really important for me to be fulfilled and excited by going to work every day. I've done a lot of great movies. I've done a lot of great big movies and great small movies and I've also done some big movies and some small movies that weren't as great. 

I've learned from those experiences. I've learned how soul-crushing it can be when you've got this great job, which is to be an actor and how lucky I am to have that job, it hurts to go to work and not be enjoying what you're doing. And it doesn't make sense if you have a job that's so much fun, then why wouldn't you seek out parts and projects that bring out that side of it for you and really make you understand why it is that you wanted to do it in the first place? It's just really important for me that I keep that fear alive and I don't do things that dampen it down.

You act in a wide variety of films, sometimes they premiere at festivals and sometimes they release wide in theaters. Which is more nerve-jangling, the festival premier or opening day of a big studio movie?

That's interesting. I think, in my personal experience, I get more nervous about the smaller movies because there's so much riding on them doing well. It's kind of like the David and Goliath thing. If our little film does well it's such a big deal. If it doesn't do well it's heartbreaking for everyone involved. 

I think the only reason why I'm not as invested, in terms of opening day on the big films, is because there's so many people involved in that. The money is coming from such a big corporate place that, even though I know it's a big deal, it's not as big a deal on a personal level. It still sucks if your in a big movie and it doesn't do well. It's like "Man, that's not a good feeling." But I don't think it feels as personal as the smaller films.

You've starred in, pretty much, all genres of film. What's the most challenging for you?

The most challenging, man ... I would say probably horror films, they're the most challenging because they're so taxing emotionally and physically, trying to keep yourself in a state of being scared all the time. Fear is one of the most difficult things to manufacture as an actor. It's so hard to happen to ... When were you scared for your life? 

There's not a lot of us who have a memory that's really that vivid of being that terrified. It does feel like your having to figure out how to put yourself in that situation. I think horror movies get a bad rap, because I think they actually require some pretty good acting jobs to make it even a little bit real.

Yeah, I love horror movies. That's an amazing answer. Okay, I'll just do one more question and then we can wrap it up. You've been doing film for a while now and now you're breaking into having starring roles on TV. Do you find one demands more of your focus, now that you've dabbled in both?

Not really. When you sign up for a TV show, there's a bit more of an obligation, contractually, so, potentially, it could take up a lot more of my time, depending on how many seasons the show goes for and stuff like that. 

So far, I've just done one season and I've also managed to do several films, in the off time. It's really worked out to be quite even and it's afforded me the ability to do both. I love that, that's the great thing about cable television is that it just takes up a few months of your time and there's so much great writing there and so much great material that it does feel like it's all the same. It's fast-paced kind of like an indie movie, so you get that indie movie feel, just on a TV set, so it feels seamless going from one to the other.

That's amazing. Awesome. Thanks so much for your time. It's lovely to finally chat with you. Continue kicking ass!

Thanks so much, it was so nice to talk to you.

Alex of Venice opens in select theaters on Friday, April 17, and will also be available to watch on various Video On Demand platforms.

[Note: This interview was originally published on TwitchFilm.]

Interview: Co-Director Juliano Salgado Talks Trials And Tribulations Of Making THE SALT OF THE EARTH

Making The Salt of the Earth was a labor of love for co-director Juliano Salgado. If you've seen the film, then you know the subject, Sebastião Salgado, is his father. 

Interviewing Juliano was one of the most surreal experiences I've had as a journalist -- you could, at moments, see the pain in his eyes and how much he wears his heart on his sleeve when talking about his father -- who's known for his amazing work as a humanitarian photographer -- and the struggles of making the film. 

This is a very long interview, but folks who've seen this film will surely finish to the last word. There's a lot discussed here: from the difficulties of working with his estranged father, to bringing acclaimed filmmaker Wim Wenders on board, to their clashing and finally figuring out how to make this film work. The Salt of the Earth is a tough movie to watch but well worth the jolting moments once it's over. 

Here's what Juliano had to say about the The Salt of the Earth

TwitchFilm: First of all, I want to say thanks for making me cry during an entire movie, I don't think I have cried that much during a movie. It was great. The hard-to-watch parts, those were tears of sadness but there was so much joy and inspiration in the movie as well. I can talk to you the entire day about the film but I don't have enough time, so I'm going to go ahead and start with my questions. I also want to say, you're a brave, brave man making this because of your history with your father and his legacy -- I can't imagine how difficult it was.

Juliano Salgado: Thank you, Chase.

Okay, so to start off, the film is really well-structured, most notably, the photographs as they appear with your father's story telling about that time during his life. What was the process of going through the photos, because I'm sure there was hundreds and narrowing them down, picking the most important as well as figuring out how to piece it together with his story as he was talking about it wasn't easy to do.

When we set out to make this film with him, we realized what we had. Wim was friend of Sebastião that I had met a few times and Sebastião was with him. They shared a common passion for soccer. Two great artists, what do they do when they meet each other? They speak about soccer, actually. 

What happened is that at some point, I realized that it was going to be possible to make a theme about Sebastião. I always ran away from the idea. I have been doing documentary for ages but at some point, we traveled together to Amazonia filming there and when he saw the pictures that I had taken of him, we had a very difficult relationship, Sebastião and I. 

Before travelling there, I felt, "Oh my God. We are going to be amongst people that barely speak Portuguese. It was just the two of us. When I came back from this trip, I edited those images and I sold them to Sebastião, and actually, as you know, when you film someone, what you do, the film says a lot more about you than about the person that you film. 

Of course, that's for a person that can read an image and Sebastião can read images. When he saw that, he was very, very touched by those pictures and somehow it was the first time he was saying that. We had a very intense family moment but that opened the door for a film to happen. From there, I started thinking what could be a film about Sebastião. 

Sebastião was doing his last great project, Genesis. It was a good moment to make a film about him but my intuition was that the film couldn't be about the photos. It couldn't be about the trip. It had to be about something else and that something was the amazing experiences, the unique experiences Sebastião has had in the world. For the last four years, he's been travelling all around the world, photographing places and moments. 

I mean, people leaving things that were going to become historical things, very important moments, but in a way that he is the only one doing it. He has learned so much about humanity, how to grow up so much, there is so much there that we had to share, so that was my intuition. Sebastião's unique experiences could be great film material, sorry for my English, and I opened up to Wim, with this guy. He was around, he was a friend of the family who could actually speak to Sebastião in a much more neutral way than I would. 

At this point, we realized, Wim and I, we had the same intuition, the same idea and we set out to do this movie together. When we started, the one thing we knew was that we wanted to use Sebastião's experience as the core of what the movie had to be. The second theme is that we realized at some point, a year and half after we had started chatting, that Sebastião's life as an artist had a very strong dramatic shape. 

We're saying how the young man becomes a photographer, how he learns how to travel, how his camera becomes this thing that mediates his relation with the people that he's meeting. People came to him as if it were a microphone and then he finds a role for his camera, for his photography, trying to create a lot of awareness.

Most of us have seen those photographs, if we don't know who it belongs to when we see them, a lot of those photos still enter the subconscious, the larger audience subconscious. At some point, he has to reinvent himself. His way of going too far is that he's confronted with what's really bad and hard about the work. What he learns from it is actually positive and carries a lot of hope. That's what we knew. We knew we had a dramatic arc, we had something we wanted to tell, we didn't know how to tell it, and that was very difficult.

The main arc of the film was composed of those interviews that Wim was going to do. Wim has marked the history of cinema, of course, with Alice in the Cities, The American Friend, Wings of Desires and so on and so forth. He's a great filmmaker for documentaries as well, he had done Buena Vista Social Club and Pina, and so for our film, he invented something again. He is not only the guy who's part of film history, he's a guy who's actually one of the most creative directors of all time.

Absolutely, well respected, yes. How did you get Wim involved? PARIS, TEXAS is one of my favorite movies of all time.

I forgot to mention Paris, Texas absolutely, so beautiful.

That movie gets me every time. I'm glad you're talking about the interviews that you're doing, they are so visually striking when he's talking, and that goes into my next question. One of the many visually remarkable elements in the film is when he is telling the stories. There are shots of him staring at the photo that he's talking about and we're watching him as he looks at the photo and is talking about it. I'm just curious what was the process of getting that shot, the visuals for it?

Yeah, at first when we started filming those interviews that Wim was going to do about Sebastião, we were in the set up that was pretty similar to the one we are now. Two guys sitting around the table with photos between them and being filmed by three cameras, plus one over the shoulder to show the photos they were looking at, and Sebastião explaining those situations to me. At some point, we realized that those were pretty dull, actually. Sebastião, as a photographer, is really aware of what the camera is doing. Sometimes he could feel he wasn't natural at all and that it wasn't working, it wasn't very powerful. 

Wim, and that's amazing, Wim invented something. He used a technique that is close to techniques that had been used twice before for a Picasso film and another film, I think it's the [Frederick] Wiseman film with the mirror technique. None of them had been used in such a powerful way as Wim used it. He brought Sebastião into the old studio. We let Sebastião be isolated with black wraps, he couldn't see lights or crew or on anyone. He went into this still dark room and in between two of those black wraps, the camera lens was filming, and in front of the camera lens, there was a stainless glass, that's what we call a teleprompter. 

Usually, you use those tools to project text and that's what Obama uses when he's doing his speech, or the news television guy. In this case, that's the beauty of it, Sebastião wasn't looking at text, he was looking at his own pictures. Wim was just switching from picture to picture. 

The crazy thing about it is that after two or three pictures, suddenly Sebastião was completely projected back into time and space. He was there, living those things again, and that's amazing how powerful those interviews got how emotional. Some of those interviews, we had to stop. Sebastião, he would break down, he couldn't go on any more. 

Some of the stories there are the hardest stories, they are live. We couldn't edit them, they were too short. Sebastião couldn't cope with more than five minutes. It was a very, very, very intense interview but it also was utterly creative. No one has ever done it before and that is the greatness of working with such an artist as Wim Wenders. He will come up with ideas that will just be spot on.

Absolutely, keeping with the emotions and everything, the movie, like I said, wrecked me. I was just crying and sad. How did you keep your composure whenever you're shooting all of this, with your history? How do you, as the filmmaker, keep your composure when you're there shooting all of it?

It was very difficult for me. There were many, many difficulties, one of them was the fact that the photos are very hard, the stories are essential. Sometimes they are so touching that it's difficult to cope with it. Sometimes we had to stop editing and have a walk through the park to just be able to cope with them because it was too hard. The other difficulty was that this is a film about my father, about my family; my grandfather is in there, my mom is in there. 

I appear there as a baby, as a boy. Pretty much I had to overcome a lot of my issues with my dad, which I did. Luckily, I've managed to do that. The other thing that was really difficult was to actually collaborate with such a, I'd say a mountain, a cliff as Wim, 

There was a trick for that I used, the trick was considering Wim as a mate from film school nothing more. He's not used to that. It's been very difficult. When we got together in the editing room, it was a hard time. We were both very, very stubborn, believing that each of our gut feelings was the gut feeling and that we had to follow it.

Of course, we had different visions of what the film had to be, common intuition sometimes, but different visions. The first thing we did when we started editing was that each one of us edited his own footage. Then we had to put them together, because that's what it was meant to be, right? 

I took over the material and started editing Wim's footage. Wim saw it. Wim is a great guy, is funny, is calm and is composed. When he saw those pictures, he started shouting in the editing room. It was ... I was so scared, really, really scared. Takes over the editing, comes back two months later and what he did was, I'd say not so good. 

He edited nice pictures and things started changing. We had to accept each other. We are touching each other's material in a film way and that wasn't working, actually. We never managed to get to a result there. After a year of working ,we realized that we have to change, there are only two solutions. One, we can go our separate ways. That was a solution but it was, I think, a bad solution.

The other solution was that we try to do this film together but differently. This time we're going to sit in the editing room together. Believe it or not, in two months, we finished the film and I am so happy because what we did is much better than the individual editions of our two movies. We managed to get to the core of Sebastião's story, to get the best out of it, to find a way of telling the story that is so complex, so rich but you don't feel it's rich and it's complex, it's just that the film flows. 

There is so much to learn from Sebastião's experiences. There is so much to learn from the way that he managed to balance out of all those pessimistic things that he saw. There is so much hope to share. It's such a hopeful film. We really managed to get to the core of it together. It's a great thing when you have two filmmakers to actually manage to do a film together. Usually you have to be brothers or wife and husband. We barely knew each other when we started off and now we're friends.

How did you get paired together? How did he even just come into the picture at all?

Wim knew about Sebastião's photography, he wanted to meet with Sebastião for a long time. They happened to meet. They realized they both love soccer. In their first meeting, Sebastião at some point looked really, really nervous and he had something else to do. He wanted Wim to cut it short and Wim too wanted to leave. You know how it is in soccer, when you really want to part, at this point, that's when you know you can't really manage to. 

Then they realized they both wanted to finish the appointment because they have to watch Chelsea versus Barcelona on the TV, the champions' league game. They're so happy, they come watch it together and they realize that they are two massive soccer fans, they know everything about football, and they start having this friendship happening. 

When I realized that I could do a film about my father and that this thing that was so important to share, those stories they have to be told to somebody else because of the very nature of our relationship, the first person I thought I had to share this with was Wim, who knows, and luckily Wim liked the idea. He believed the same as I did that we had to share the stories, and that is how we started, this intuition.

That's amazing.

Am I being too long with my answers?

No, no, no, only whenever they come in and kick me out. No, this is great. You are the best kind of subject because sometimes people will answer a question in 30 seconds. 

To wrap this up before I get the boot: this won at Cannes, the César Awards, it was an Oscar nominee...

The most amazing award we won actually was the Public Audience Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival, one of the most important in Europe. We were there competing with the best feature length dramas and documentaries and actually they picked us as best film, the audience, that's great.

That is amazing. Where I'm getting at is like you've, this film has won all these prestigious awards, has been nominated for a high honor award. This film was a labor of love and obviously, but do you feel pressured or, even better do you feel that with moving forward with your career, that your next film is going to need to be bigger and better than this one, just because of all praise that it's gotten?

I ask that because I watched the documentary on Nicolas Winding Refn and it was all about him making his next film after DRIVE, he was just ... the pressure and the anxiety of him feeling like he needed to make a bigger and better movie, that's what completely ruined him. I'm just curious if you feel the same way. Do you feel that, moving forward, you need to top what you've done or how do you feel about it?

No. I feel really relaxed about it, I think, when you're sitting in my ... I forgot the expression. As a young filmmaker, when this happens to you, first it's an amazing light that's shining on a film that has a message, a very powerful message. It's great that this film is turning out and that people might actually get to see it because of all those recognition things. 

As a filmmaker, it puts you in a very comfortable situation where you actually are going to be able to do your next project.... Your next shot is pretty much, it's not free, of course, but it's going to be easier to put the next film together.

It's a real struggle normally but it's great, I don't feel pressure at all. The real thing is I want to do a film that touches me, at least a subject. I want to have pleasure doing this. Listen, if it's a great film, then great. If it's not a great film, then whatever. The important thing is to be doing something that matters for you...

Absolutely.

... that brings you satisfaction. We're lucky enough to do jobs and I think you do a job as well like that. We're doing jobs that brings us that, that's enough. Success comes or doesn't come, it doesn't matter.

Awesome, man, that's great, great answers for everything.

Thank you, Chase, this is really cool, man.

[Note: This interview was originally conducted for and posted on TwitchFilm.]

SXSW 2015: A Conversation with Colin Hanks (All Things Must Pass)

(Colin Hanks has been defining himself as a solid character actor over the years and his feature directorial debut All Things Must Pass, a documentary about the lifespan of the iconic Tower Records franchise, made it’s debut atSXSW 2015)

Colin Hanks is really started to ramp up his career. He’s a Golden Globe and Emmy Prime Time nominee for his solid performance as Gus Grimly in the Fargo TV mini-series. He’s still in movies, and stars in one of the smartest comedies of all time, Orange County.

Hanks now has another successful move in his career: documentary filmmaker. His first feature directing effort, entitled All Things Must Pass, covers the rise and fall of Tower Records. It’s a funny, heartfelt, sincere, and inspiring film that reminds you that no matter what, if you tried something and it didn’t work out, it’s not a failure.

This film hit me hard because the story brought back memories of the site I built (GordonandtheWhale.com) that was ultimately shuttered. It’s not easy to close down a business you poured your heart and soul into. But All Things Must Pass will hit you hard because it’s a great doc on one of the pioneering businesses, if not the pioneering business, that made vinyl records so successful.

All Things Must Pass had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival and I spoke to Hanks about the doc and we dive into the process of making it. We also touch on which song perfectly captures Tower Records and its legacy. Enjoy.

HTNFirst of I want to say, thanks for making me cry a lot.

Colin Hanks: Oh good. I’m glad. Did you hear that?

Darrin Roberts: No. What?

CH: He said, thanks for making me cry. Darrin Roberts is our editor.

HTN: Thank you for making me cry, Darrin.

DR: I’m sorry, but I’m not. (laughs)

CH: Now, did you just see it or had you …

HTNI couldn’t make any of the screenings so I had to watch an online screener. I hate watching movies for the first time on a screener. Movies should be seen the first time in a theater obviously, but sometimes when it’s just not possible and you got to do what you got to do. I’m just glad I was able to watch it and able to discuss it. I love Tower Records, and the doc did the company justice.

CH: That’s right, man. Thank you.

HTNTo start it off, there’s a really great moment in filming when Russ [the owner of Tower Records] tells us his very first record that he got. Do you remember the first vinyl that you got?

CH: Well, I always referred to everything as records [CDs, eight tracks, vinyl, etc.]. I remember the first CD that I purchased, but I had been buying stuff on cassettes for much longer years before I was getting around to CDs. Because I really grew up with cassettes and then they made the jump to CDs. We didn’t have a lot of vinyl in my house, growing up. It was really mostly cassettes. The first CD was Squeeze Babylon and On. Which is a random one for a CD. I remember going and buying Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet. I remember buying that on cassette at Tower Broadway in Sacramento.

 

Tower Records owner Russ Solomon

HTNHow old were you then? Because I…

CH: I was probably 13, 14?

HTNBecause I tried to get a Snoop Dogg CD at 12 and they were like, “You’re not old enough.”

CH: Yeah. I remember trying to- I got turned away from buying the 2 Live Crew tape. I bought a lot- I remember buying all sorts of stuff.

HTNYour passion for Tower Records and sympathy for the people in front of the camera who helped bring the company to life glows throughout the film even though you’re behind the camera. One thing that comes to mind is when you corrected Elton John when he’s talking about an employee and you said, “That’s Stan!” I really love that scene a lot because it shows you truly care about all of the employees and not just Russ. I jotted in my notes, “This made me smile.” This also showed you spent a lot of time with each person and did a lot of extensive research which really shows in the documentary. How long did it take to gather all the proper materials that you needed before shooting?

CH: Well it was never…we didn’t do it like we’ve gathered everything and then we show up. We shot that movie piecemeal over the course of about, really about seven years. I’m trying to remember the difference between the idea and when we started shooting. Roughly six, seven years. We would secure a little financing, shoot a little bit and then try and get more financing and then shoot a little bit, try and get more financing and shoot a little bit. We did that repeatedly, quite a bit. Basically, what we did is we would just collect as much information as we could online and conversations that we have with Russ and with the people he told us to speak with

We would do pre-interviews in some cases with those people just so that we got a better understanding of how they fit into Tower and what it was that they did and the context. Then pretty much we said, “Anyone who’s got photos or video just…we’ll digitize it, we’ll put it on the DVD, we’ll do whatever and when the process is all over, we’ll give you all the stuff digitally so that it could live forever and ever.” It wasn’t until we really started editing in August that everything started to actually really come together. We were pretty good in terms of knowing what we wanted when we were there for the interviews for sure. We definitely done our homework for all of that.

HTN: It’s really well pieced together film and you’ve touched upon the structuring. Following up on that, you had all the material you needed — everything you needed and you started shooting. When did you know you were done filming and it was time to start putting it together?

CH: Once we had started the editing process, we had a few more interviews that we needed to get. We did the Bruce [Springsteen] interview, we did the David Geffen interview and we did the Elton John interview and then we shot the end of the film. Once we had that ending, which was always the ending that we had hoped we could get, once we had that, I remember distinctly looking at my producer Shaun [Stuart] and said, “Okay we have a movie here.”

We have our ending that we’ve always wanted. Everything else worked pretty well up to that point, where it’s just always how are we going to end this? How are we going to do it? What’s the thing that doesn’t end this on a downer, but lifts everybody up a little bit. Once we got that ending I said, “Okay. We’re good. I don’t think we need anymore.”

 

Whale and Hanks (Photo credit Ed Steele)

HTN: There are a few scenes in the film that discuss the hard truths of Tower Records that you could easily cut out to hide some of that. One …

CH: We wouldn’t be making a good production of the film if we hid that.

HTNExactly. One comes to mind is all the bad blood once things start to decline and go downhill. You can tell that everyone on camera had a lot of faith in and trust in you. My question is, how did you gain the trust of everyone in front of the camera, most importantly Russ, that you would tell all their stories raw, honest, and real?

CH: When we first met with Russ, he said two things. He said, “Okay. First, you’re crazy. Second, it’s really not just my story. You got to talk with these other people that started this [like] clerks and really helped build Tower up and made Tower what it was.” When we got that, we understood that. It was good for us to here because it just widens our tail a little bit, so to speak. Not tail, like cat tail. Once we did that, I think we didn’t really have to convince Russ. I think he was just like, “Yeah all right. You’re crazy, but let’s do it.” It’s like he is in the movie.

We were just very open and honest in him. Saying, “Look, we want to be able to celebrate the company. We want to be able to properly tell its story, its history, because there’s a lot about the company’s history that they don’t know.” I want to explain why it’s really gone because I didn’t really understand why it was gone. Russ was very kind enough to tell, introduce us to everybody else and he told them just to tell the truth. They don’t have anything to hide. They didn’t do anything bad and I mean that in good versus evil.

Ultimately, Russ is very open about it. It’s not a sore subject for him. All of the people that we interviewed, they love Russ so much I think once we got that blessing from Russ then they were open to talking to us. Then it’s just about connecting with them, speaking with them before the interview, talking to them and putting them at ease because it is nerve wracking. If you’ve never been interviewed before, you have these two cameras and these big lights, that’s a big deal.

HTN: The film focused at one point on how one medium kills another. With all the mom-and-pop stores still selling vinyl to keep it alive, do you think there’s a great chance that records will continue to survive?

CH: I think the records will survive, but it’s always this question of, in what capacity?

 

HTNAnd how long?

CH: Well, I don’t necessarily look at it as long. I look at it as there are still record stores. They still exist. They’re still out there. They’re not what they once were and that there’s never going to be another Tower Records that has 192 stores around the world. You don’t need 192, you’d have 1 that’s pretty awesome. You got 1 Sunset Store, that’s pretty rad. You look at records store now, they’re not chains. A majority of them are not chains, but there still are some. Really, what you’re talking about is a Waterloo. An Amoeba in L.A., Rough Trade in Brooklyn, and those kinds of things.

They still exist. They still do very well. They had to evolve, they had to start selling used CDs. The vinyl resurgence is up, obviously pretty big. They sell DVDs and stuff like that too. Those are still big stores. Those are big stores that are still around, still able to do it because they really represent their city. That’s the big thing.

HTNOkay. Last question. If you could pick one song that describes Tower Records and its legacy, what would it be? Mine is Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place”.

CH: That’s a good one. I like that one. I like that one a lot. Oh God, that’s a Sophie’s choice. That’s so hard to do. I’m going to cheat and tell a story here to avoid answering the question. The bit about the reason why the film was called All Things Must Pass is because of the billboard. That was initially just a theme that we were working on within the film, that all things got to … Great parties got to end. That was put up by an employee and that really seemed to sum up a lot about that, all things. Even the things that you love the most have to go away. In my brain, Tower represents that.

That I think was funny. It’s funny because on Sunset location, on their marquee, they put “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It. RIP Tower.” The next line of that song is, “And I feel fine.” No, I don’t. I don’t. I don’t know if I could pick a song, but I like your suggestion a lot, by Talking Heads, “This Must Be the Place.” That was good. I like that a lot.

HTNThanks, man. Glad you like my pick. We’ll go ahead and end there.

CH: All right, brother.

HTNThanks for your time.


SXSW 2015 Interview: THE FINAL GIRLS, Director Todd Strauss-Schulson Talks About His Killer New Film

SXSW really kicked ass this year. We're still rolling out a lot more coverage and lucky for us (and you, I think), most of the films we are writing about we loved and believe you will too.This brings me to Todd Strauss-Schulson. He's a man who makes movies (I checked. Online. Twice.) and his latest played at SXSW.

 

Strauss-Schulson (the guy who made the only good Harold and Kumar movie, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas) teamed up with 80s child star Joshua John Miller (After Dark) to make the epic send-up horror comedy of epic send-up horror comedies called The Final Girls

 

Taissa Farmiga (The Bling Ring) stars as a young girl whose mother (Malin Akerman) was an 80s slasher scream queen. While watching the cult hit movie inside of a movie at a repertory arthouse with a group of her dreamy friends (Nina Dobrev, Alexander Ludwig, Alia Shawkat), they magically get sucked into the slasher flick her mom starred in and must figure out how to get the fuck out of the movie before the Jason Voorhees-like killer cuts them up to pieces. It's meta, it's clever, at times it's heartfelt, and it's awesome. 

 

I saw it on opening night and after leaving the theater, my first reaction was, "This is one hell of a film. Godspeed to the rest of the movies here to try and top this firecracker." 

 

I really hate to use this term but shut up this is my article and I'm going to do it anyway -- The Final Girls is a crowd-pleaser. It's is the most fun I've ever had at a festival screening and I want to see it again and again. It was so hard to hear the dialogue at times from everyone laughed so loud, so hard. This is movie is pop madness. 

 

That said, I met up with him after the screening so we could talk about the movie. I'm pretty sure we could have talked for 13 hours, but we ran out of time. Thankfully for you and me, Todd was kind enough to meet up with me again so we could bang out more questions and answers. This young, indie filmmaker knows what the hell he's doing and his endless knowledge of film left me slack-jawed.

 

Chase Whale: What I really like about this movie: Everything that Tarantino and Rodriguez wanted to do with GRINDHOUSE but failed is what you nailed with THE FINAL GIRLS. 

Todd Strauss-Schulson: Whoa, that's a big compliment!

You nailed it, dude. One of the (many) things that came to my mind while watching the film is what GRINDHOUSE failed and how this achieved what they were trying to do. THE FINAL GIRLS is super clever and one of the reasons why GRINDHOUSE failed is because it thought it was too clever and it's not. 

I really liked Grindhouse. I saw it opening night when it was all together, before it was split into two... 

Yeah I did too! I like DEATH PROOF, but Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR is a travesty. 

I don't know, Rodriguez had a real effect on me when I was in high school. I read Rebel Without a Crew like maybe five times a year and bought a vest with lots of pockets just like he said! He's so full of imagination and ideas and confidence building aphorisms... he's got a special place in my heart. He was like my first film professor. 

I love Rodriguez as well, DESPERADO and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN are still two of my favorite films, he's just gone soft and weird over the last decade. No matter how much I have tried, PLANET TERROR just doesn't do it for me. 

Let's talk about THE FINAL GIRLS. So the film blends and bends genres the brakes every rule known to film which gives the film an advantage and the upper hand that no matter what happens in the movie you have to go with it. So the question is what was the process of finding the right balance of parody and homage without going too overboard and just like beating it in the audience's head?

I really try to avoid parody. We never wanted to make a spoof or parody. I mean, I always sort of modeled it on stuff like Back to the Future, or Purple Rose of Cairo, or Pleasantville... even Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr.  Mark, Josh and I, the people that were creating it, were thinking in those terms... I was really trying to tell a mother daughter story... a story about grief and letting go. Which was personal to me... I thought it was a really smart idea to tell a story about the significance of a death and its ripple effects, in the midst of a genre that trivializes death, where the bigger the death count the more fun it is. 

The whole high concept of getting trapped in your mom's most famous movie and that being the way to see her again... I just thought that was a great fun movie idea, but inside of it is all this tender personal stuff I was trying to exorcise. 

Did you not look at it as a horror movie then?

I remember just feeling when I read it that this is Back to the Future. How Back to the Future is a sci-fi movie... Final Girls is a horror movie. What Back to the Future does so great is that it plays this game with the audience. Repeated lines, repeating scenes, repeated camera movements, it builds this biosphere and internal language so well that you can start to dismantle and monkey with it-- It's very clever, but in the most sincere heartfelt and earnest way. 

So I wanted that. It wasn't so much about which horror movies there were to parody (even though we're obviously paying homage to Friday the 13th and The Burning), it's more of how much of that clever stuff should there be before it becomes too irreverent. Because for me, it was important that people cry at the end. That was a big part. I just wanted to make sure that that emotional story was really functioning. I felt that the comedy and all the fun clever stuff would actually serve that. If I could make you laugh for an hour you would open your heart enough to let me make you cry in the end...that was sort of the plan. 

You found the healthy balance. Because to me, a lot of movies like this get to where it is draining: "Alright, we get it, we know what you're doing." This has the perfect balance.

I look for movies where the telling of the story is as integral as the story itself. People have been saying to me for years that Final Girls has a tough tone to pull of... but I just never saw it that way... I think if you're doing your job, and telling your story, and telling it in your own voice, you can kinda go anywhere and do anything. The movies that I love the most are the ones that are tonally all over the place. And that's true to life... 

The best stories a friend can tell are the ones that start off where a happy thing happened, and then a horrible thing happened; then this person saw someone get their purse stolen, but then you ate a delicious scone at a new coffee shop and saw an old family friend out of the blue who is really beautiful... but then they told you their cat has diabetes...and then you wonder if dating them is gonna be too intense cause you're gonna have to deal with that cat all the time so you get anxiety... It's what any random day in your life is like, it's tonally and emotionally all over the place. Its funny, its sad, its scary, its beautiful, its lonely... 

I remember being a kid and my mom took me to see Spaulding Grey do a live monologue at Lincoln Center, and he talked for three hours. Just sat and talked on an empty stage and it was as riveting as any movie. He did the craziest tonal shifts, I felt every emotion, I went with it, I was connected, because he was so assured, he was so sure and steady about what he was saying and how he was saying it, he would go fast, then slow, he would go on a weird tangent that seemed to meander, then race back to the point...it all held together. One of the reasons why Final Girls is so flamboyantly visually stylish, the colors, the set design...

Oh it's beautiful..

...and what the camera is doing... it's not subtle,  But a lot of that is in service to hold these disparate tones together, the horror, comedy, heart, magic, weirdness... To feel that strong hand of a storyteller, to have the specific cadence to the storytelling, of me telling the story and pushing you ahead. It's what my favorite movies do: What Kill Bill does, what Magnolia does, what After HoursHudsucker Proxy, and Obsession do...

MAGNOLIA is the most important movie of my life. You just opened the floodgates with me by mentioning this film.

It was at New Beverly last week and on I saw it on the big screen for the first time in a decade.

I'm so fucking jealous.

It blew me away. It's so bold. it's like Paul Thomas Anderson was 29 when he made it and at his most confident and really kind of flexing, showing off a bit, grieving his father, you're watching a filmmaker really, really, really going for something and that's so exciting. Those are my kind of movies.

And one day we should have a two hour talk about that movie.

I know everything about that Magnolia.

The movie really hit me because, growing older, I've learned about regret and forgiving yourself for the mistakes that you can't... yada yada yada. So second question: there are a lot of brilliant jokes about the future when they're stuck in the 80s slasher that work because the audience understands it but of course the characters don't. What was the process of selecting the jokes  and narrowing it down to which ones would work best.

The jokes are definitely something I tried to get into the script in a more significant way. When I first read it it wasn't nearly this fun or funny. But the concept of the movie felt like it lent itself to lots of comedy, this movie plays a game, its fun, its funny, the idea of modern kids stuck with Reagan era sex bomb idiot counselors was just too funny to not plum... 

There was a lot of work done, I had a gaggle of comedy writers helping me. I was going through it myself or with a bunch of others just trying write jokes, and then also, punching dialogue for all the real-world kids. The people in my life are very funny people. My family, my friends, it's hard for me to watch drama's where no one is funny... people are actually FUNNIEST when things are most dramatic... its just not reflective of what my real life looks like. 

So I wanted to make sure the characters in Final Girls were funny. Not cracking schticky one liners that felt crammed in... but just were funny, charming people... 

Alia [Shawkat] and Thomas [Middleditch] as a bickering brother and sister, who clearly love each other but get on each others nerves is a delightful. There was a lot of conversation about how funny it should be. There were some adults around me who were trying to make it less funny. They thought too many jokes would undermine the heart I think... and I thought the exact opposite. The laughing is the key to unlocking the heart. 

Have you ever seen Ghost? Whoopi Goldberg is straight up doing hard jokes in that movie and you die crying at the end of that film... crying so so so so so so so much! Don't forget, a Zucker (Airplane!) made Ghost... and in terms of what is funny, I think it's personal preference. 

But I tried to fill the movie with really funny comedy people. Having Thomas and Adam [Devine] and Alia and Angela [Trimbur] and Malin [Ackerman] on set, and giving them freedom to bring their own sensibilities and taste to it was wonderful to sit back and watch. I created a format for where the jokes would happen and what they would be about, and the cast would often times beat whatever it was that was written, and that's what's in the movie. 

 

It's such a diverse cast and every actor is absolutely perfect for their role. And to me, Adam (WORKAHOLICS) stole the movie. I was dying every scene he's in. 

He's the best.

So tell me about bringing him on board and all of that. Because I think that it's interesting. And usually I hate asking that type of question because it's so generic, but I think this cast is so great, the whole ensemble, so I'm really curious how me they all got on board. Because they come from different backgrounds, some of them.

It was about putting together a group of young and talented actors who could all be friends. Who I wanted to go to camp with. and they would be campers and I was head counselor. And they all ended up almost perfectly falling into their dynamics as we were shooting, we became a family out there. 

As we were working on the script, Adam was a no brainer. I knew we were writing for Adam. He and I had met previously for something else I was working on and I thought he was great. He was so funny, and such a nice guy, and he just got it. It was always him. There was no back up. And when he read it he was like... yeah, I know this guy, give me a crop top and the tightest jeans you can find and ill see you at camp. And then Thomas, we had done that short together called All's Fair.

So we were friends. I just sent him the script and I said, "Who do you wanna be? Anyone? Who do you pick?" He said, "Duncan." And that was the end of that. Angela I was also friends with, I knew her, her dance videos, her personality, Tina started off like a blond bimbo, but I just thought, that's so obvious and lame, I've seen that a million times, let's cast Angela and let her make it her own. She'll kill that dance, it'll be a tour de force, and she'll turn it into something great and specific--and she did. 

Alia was another person I always knew should be in this movie, there is something so unique and weird and cool about her, so grounded and charming and funny--from the start I was saying "Gotta be Alia. Gotta be Alia." I ended up finding her email address and reaching out directly and just telling her why I loved her and how cool this movie was going to be and she took a chance and said yes! 

I didn't know Nina [Dobrev] and Alexander [Ludwig] personally but they both read it and got it, so many actors had read the script over the years and didn't get it... they thought it was a slasher film or something... so it was always refreshing when young actors would read it and see what I saw. And Nina and Alexander did. And they are great in the movie. 

For Malin and Taissa [Vermiga] it took a long time trying to find who those two women were going to be. It took forever. Taissa, we met really late in the game. We had a different actress attached for a while that dropped out last minute. Then we met Taissa and she was so great because... Taissa is not a comedian. But she's an amazing actress, she's so fragile, and so ethereal--and when I met her it just clicked. 

Here is what the movie is, you can feel the tone in the casting. Because you have this big funny stuff but then you have this real fragile, young, grounded, sweet girl in the middle of it. and that's the movie. Her and Malin.

Malin is the M.V.P. here, she arguably has the toughest role in the movie, she's two characters, she's gotta be funny, and sweet, a fictional who slowly becomes aware of her mortality, that was a very hard thing to do and she made it seem effortless... she's such a great actor... have you seenHappythankyoumoreplease... she's heartbreaking in it!

Absolutely. It's funny because you don't see them that much together as the mother and the daughter but it feels really authentic. And it got me. I am a man not afraid to admit when I cry in a movie.

(Laughs.)

So here's something that I'm jazzed to get your answer on. You've already briefed on it but I want to go a little deeper. So the film is very smart and strategic at cutting away at the right moments for the death scenes. It's smart about toning down the bloodshed and the gore. Was that pre-planned?

It was mandated, actually. It wasn't how it was originally conceived. It was originally conceived to be more of what people are used to: really gory, like Dead Alive. More early Peter Jackson. That was really the first idea. But we were told it had to be PG-13. And I got really upset and I fought for a while.

That's what I was afraid of.

But I have to say ultimately once we started shooting it, I didn't mind. I didn't mind because if you saw a bunch of breasts, like when Angela was dancing. If you saw breasts and it was really aggressively racy, if you saw someone's spine get ripped out, and had a splatter fest with this mercenary violence and hyper sexuality. It would have broken the tone. It would have hurt the stuff about the movie that is really sweet and funny. 

Because I want it to be sweet, and I want it to be sentimental. And I want it to feel like a Douglas Sirk movie sometimes. I like that. I think the truth is, that even if we shot all the blood and guts and sex, in editing I would have taken most of it out. Restraining that stuff in service of the heart of the movie is what I would have ended up doing... I think I just didn't like being told what to do. 

Well and in the film's defense too, it could play off that it's a homage, and if you have to fight it you can say that was on purpose because you're avoiding tropes.

I think it would've been really hard to be emotionally invested in those two if you're coming out of a scene that is basking in the glory of how disgusting it is in terms of gore. And trust me, I love gore; I used to want to be a make up FX guy when I was a kid, I had correspondences with Dick Smith and my closets were full of fake blood and liquid latex, I had a Bad Taste poster on my bedroom wall for years! I thought that shit was the best. But I think that it would've made it so you didn't cry at the end. Or you would've been getting the wrong kind of lift out of the audience. That hyper violence is fun and everything but it takes you in a different direction, it pushes different buttons, it...

It takes you out of the movie?

It just shuts you down instead of opens you up.

Cool, so. The film is co-written by Josh Miller who, when I looked him up, my mind was blown. He starred in AFTER DARK, RIVER'S EDGE, DEATH WARRANT (one of my favorite movies), and of course the classic TEEN WITCH. How did you pair up with him and Mark?

I went to Emerson College with Mark. And we became fast friends. And he and Josh are a couple and we all end up in Los Angeles together and were friends! We would hang out and I was always trying to come up with movies to write, and we would just bullshit around pitching things back and forth, and nearly seven years ago, Mark pitched me this idea: Kids get sucked into Friday the 13th and the girls dead mom is the star of the movie. And I was like, well, that's a great idea. And then I didn't hear anything else from them for a long long time. Then I went off and I made Harold and Kumar Christmas.

Which is the best one in the franchise.

Thank you very much! My father passed away a few weeks before I booked HK3... so that whole experience was very hard. He was my best friend and so supportive of my filmmaking... and for him to pass away just inches before I got my first opportunity... it was hard, he just missed it. While I was editing HK3, Mark and Josh sent me the script... and it touched me. 

Yes it was cool, and I loved what I could do with the meta stuff, and for a cinephile like me it was so fun to tell a story where kids get sucked into a movie. BUT... it was the mother daughter story that just touched my heart, I understood it, that feeling of wishing you could spend one more day with a dead parent. That they could see where you were now--so I got involved. 

This was really tremendously personal for them too. Josh's father played the priest in The Exorcist, he was this amazing actor in horror movies; and when his father passed away it was really tough for him. His relationship with his father for years was through watching his father's movies. So that's how the germ of the idea was seeded with them. 

And then I came in and I had my own personal attachment to the story. And for us, it's hilarious and stylish; but it was paramount that the story between the mother and daughter be central. It was a bunch of sad broken boys making a movie about missing their fathers. 

That would be a great pull quote.

There were a lot of broken boys making this movie.

It's sad and heartbreaking, but I really like that Miller got to know his father in films.

I think for him it was that he spent all of these years watching his dad on screen and mourning a bit. And then for me when I read the script, I still to this day have dreams about my father a few times a week. They're not sad dreams, they're just like we're having a slice of pizza and walking around. He visits me while I'm sleeping. It's nice like he's still alive in my dreams. 

It's a little bit of the impulse of this movie. She's in this sort of weird dream world; that's the wish of the movie is that she gets to hang out with her mom one more time. You know we both had our different ways into it. We both tried to exercise some of the same grief. That's what makes it a little different than The Cabin in the Woods. That's what makes it different than those other meta movies.

It will be compared to THE CABIN IN THE WOODS as the reviews come out but that's a huge compliment.

Yeah, that movie is awesome!  I love it...but I also wanted Final Girls to be ethereal, I wanted there to be some poetry in it. some beauty, some mystery, I wanted it to feel like a dream in some parts...

Just know that when you see that, know that it is a major compliment.

I wish it was compared to All That Jazz. It's a personal story about grief told with a lot of pizazz!

God bless Roy Schneider. So obviously you know a lot of horror films influenced or inspired this, FRIDAY THE 13TH being the most prominent. But I noticed some nods, to me they felt like nods, to other genres of film. One, in my heart, was to the great THE LAST ACTION HERO. How they got inside the theatre.

You know what else that's from? How they got inside of the movie. That's from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, the Renny Harlin one. How she gets sucked through the screen.

That's right!

That was hugely influential on me. That's my favorite Nightmare. The Nightmares, for me were the best, better than Fridays

Yeah, same here.

I didn't even watch the Fridays. I couldn't even take it! The Nightmares, I loved those. Three, four and five. So so so full of visual imagination. 

Yeah, DREAM WARRIORS is the third, right?

 

Yeah!

I think I've just seen THE LAT ACTION HERO way too much and am still going to tell myself it's a nod to that, even though the director in front of me telling me it's inspired from another movie.

Haha, I used to have a poster of that movie on the wall too, the golden ticket one. 

It's out of print on Blu-ray so I had to have a bidding war on E-Bay. I had to pay like $50 for it. I had to have this movie. I fucking love THE LAST ACTION HERO. It is a tragedy that it was so underseen and kind of brushed under the rug. C'est la vie, I guess. But what are some movies outside of the horror genre that had some inspiration on this movie. If there were any. What were the inspirations?

I really wanted it to feel like the films I saw when I was 13, wandering around West Coast Video and finding Delicatessen or Army of Darkness, or One From the Heart, or El Mariachi, or Holy Mountain... just one of those films I saw and was like WHAT IS THIS! WHO MADE THIS! HOW DOES THIS EXIST!

I always wanted to a be a director, from when I was 4 years old... I loved movies and thats what I wanted to be, and so I gravitated towards the movies where you could feel a director in it. So many of those older movies had this joy of cinema. Max Ophuls, Powell/Pressburger, Hitchcock, Busby Berkeley... The movies where you could feel the love of making movies. 

And there is a deficit of that, I think now. It's all pretty homogenous... something like Whiplash or Birdman kicks your ass cause its doing what I'm talking about. I like really expressive personal filmmaking that is also super entertaining. But so many movies now feel very neutral in terms of their cinematic and tonal ambition. 

But that's always the kind of stuff I wanted to make and so this story, Final Girls really allowed and lent itself to that kind of filmmaking. Because it's a movie about movies. It's a love letter to movies. What's a better idea for a person that loves movies to make a movie about someone that gets sucked into a movie?

There is one sequence in the movie that blew me away... that boobytrap scene--how did you do that!?

I'm always looking for unprocessed imagery... Herzog talks about it a lot... things you've never seen on screen. Original images are hard to find  Booby trap is a three minute set piece made up essentially of four long takes where the camera is simulating the experience of the whirlwind panic the characters are feeling. 

We shot it with a motion control camera... so the camera could barrel roll and push and pull and do all kinds of calisthenics a human operator would never be able to do. So much happens in these long complex takes, the camera flies up to a second story, then comes down, reveals a knife, shoots up, spins as a guy gets stabbed, flies across the room, pans back, booms down, spins above someone, then down again... etc... it feels like you're on a rollercoaster, and I had never seen anything like that before in a movie and wanted to throw my hat in the ring. 

 

 

I want you to talk about the credits. Because in HAROLD AND KUMAR, didn't you do something similarly clever? You're really clever with credits and all of that. And clever is the only word I know how to use a lot, currently. 

Haha, the opening credits are like a big pot smoke ring in 3D. A lot of my shorts are playful in that way... I really like when the filmmaking can get laughs, I always feel like, when you watch a stand up, the delivery of the joke is as important as the material... if you have a great joke and get up there and can't deliver it... it wont get the laughs... and I think of myself... using the grammar and language of film... to be the delivery mechanism of the jokes... so I always like when a shot, or something like the credits, can get a laugh... you go back and watch Jacques Tati movies... and he's the master of it. 

I don't really have a question, but I want you to talk about using the text, whenever they step over in the credits.

I mean those are old idea's of mine. I made a music video my junior year in college for a thesis film that was called "Subtitles" and it was a guy walking down the street and the lyrics of the song were subtitled below him and they were 3D and he would step over them. It's a really old idea. There are a lot of things in Final Girls that if you have known me or my work for over a decade, you would know that I am just ripping myself off. 

Hey, whatever works. To finish off the interview, I have one question for ya. This was an independent movie so I'm assuming you didn't have a lot of resources and a small budget but it looks and feels like a giant move. How did you pull that off? 

First of all it was amazing to shoot it, and I wish i were back there with everyone doing it all over again. The cast, the crew, we were all like under 35, let loose at camp, trying to get away with something... the DP, the production designer, the art dept, the editor, the composer, the camera dept... that said, every day was a marathon. 

This movie was kinda edited in my head before we started shooting. Every camera move, every shot, every cut was shot listed... some we even did pre viz on...There was no other way to do it with so little time. Everyone had to know exactly what we were doing cause we were just fighting time every day. 

So we would show up and have to get 51 shots in a day. That's what this sequence, as designed, will require for the cut to come together the way I have it in my mind... That's an insane amount of set ups. And we'd know it. Most movies do like 20-25 a day... we were a smaller crew and trying to double those numbers... We gotta race in order to get all the shots. All the cuts. The sequences. Everyday was a race. By lunch we'd have 18 shots..  

After lunch we gotta make up the deficit. Everyday was like that. A race for time. And we never dropped anything. It was insane... We'd drop shots and punt them to our last day. 

Our last day was a 19 hour day. They tried to shut me down over and over. I had to fight. No. We're getting all the shots I need to tell this story! We wrapped and drove right to the airport... that's how down to the wire and ambitious we all were... 

Well, job well done, dude. Great work. 

Thanks Chase, glad you liked it!

Loved.