Friday, May 22, 2015

Cosima Spender and Valerio Bonelli talk about their film PALIO at Tribeca 2015

Cosima Spender


A couple weeks back Hubert and I sat down with director Cosima Spender and her husband and editor Valerio Bonelli to talk about their film PALIO . PALIO tells the story of the centuries old Sienese horse race that is held in the city's main square. Its 90 seconds of  excitement preceeded by three days of rituals. The filmis one of the most breathtaking things you’ll ever see. Trust me, when it's done you'll feel who needs CGI car chases or giant robots when you can have PALIO’s horses  in a life or death race where the losing jockey can end up beaten half to death? PALIO is one of my favorite films of the year and you must see it. (My review is here. Hubert's review at Ruby Hornet is here)

When Hubert and I saw the film we were both blown away. We both wanted to know more about the race and how it was made. When the chance to do an interview with Cosima came up we jumped. The interview was one of the coolest things I did at Tribeca this year. I’m in heaven whenever I can talk to someone who is well versed and deeply passionate about a subject and as both Cosima and her husband are about the Palio and its history. They also know and love film as Hubert and I found out after the interview when we were comparing notes on the various films at Tribeca. I could have talked with them for several more hours. (Cosima and Valeria if you are reading this and want to do another extended interview let me know I will be happy to sit down with you again)

While I understand that publishing the interview now, with the film still on the festival circuit is not ideal, you may not understand some of the references, I somehow think the passion with which they speak and the subjects that we cover will make you want to see the film and keep it on your radar. You need to be aware that this film is coming because you really do want to see it. And when the film finally gets its wide release you can come back and revisit this interview and get even more out of it.

I want to thank Hubert for  helping do the interview and in editing the transcript. And I have to thank Cosima and Valerio for taking the time to talk to us about their really kick ass movie.





STEVE: How did you get interested in doing The Palio?

COSIMA: I was born outside Siena. I grew up there. My mother was half-Armenian/half-American and my father was English. They still live there. I went to the public schools there. I grew up in the countryside outside Siena and then I went to Siena proper to go to school when I was 14. So all my friends were deeply Sienese. They were members of districts. I felt very much an outsider because I wasn't born and raised inside the district. I never really understood it until I wanted to do this as my graduation film from film school, but I was young and inexperienced. I needed a big production behind me to tackle it. It’s a beast of a subject. It’s gargantuan, so I didn't do it as my graduation film

Then I made lots of films for the BBC and here and there. And then after my last film, on my grandfather who was this Armenian painter, I was going "what’s going to be my next project?" I have two children so I can't-- I used to do a lot of films in Africa and around the world but because my life has to be more stable I started to look on my doorstep on a subject. I always wanted to make a film about it and that's how I said "it's time to do Palio."

I started researching. There had been a film that had cinematic release made about ten years ago  called the LAST VICTORY which really focused on the districts. I said let’s make a film about the jockeys because no one really looks at the jockeys. I find the whole love hate relationship interesting because I come from anthropology so the whole relationship between the jockeys and the citizens and the city---they need them and they love them if they win but if they lose they are meat to be butchered. I've always been fascinated by this relationship.

STEVE: In the film you see them beating the jockeys, has anyone been killed?

COSIMA: No, no but beaten up a lot. And between the districts it comes from this medieval tradition called Pungna. I went to dinner in one of the districts when I was doing my research and the young men come in and kind of punch each other as a kind of greeting-play fighting. There is a lot of tradition, the fighting is in the DNA. The beating up, its Italy, It’s passionate. You have to express your emotions otherwise you might get cancer or something.

HUBERT: It’s true. When the young guy wins there is a kind of gladiatorial look to him, the great conquering-hero look on camera with everyone around him. There is that sense of battle.

COSIMA: Yea there is the sense of battle--it is battle. Its origins are in battle. Traditionally in medieval times the districts were headed by the captains who were like soldiers of fortune or mercenaries who lead the battle.

The whole of the Palio, if you want to get anthropological, was meant to commemorate the Battle of Monteperti in 1260 when the  Sienese with few men managed to beat the Florentines who were a big army. Dante writes how the local river was red because there was so much blood shed. The origins of it were this medieval battle ground and it was a way to sublimate the peoples nature which was very violent--take this emotion and turn it into this game, so they wouldn't go around killing each other. “Let’s find a way to try and put people's aggression and passion into a game which will distract the  Sienese”--who are by nature fiery- that’s the origin.

But I didn't want to get anthropological in the film. It had to be entertaining because it’s all so entertaining. You can enjoy the aesthetic spectacle or you can enjoy it as an anthropologist or you can enjoy it as a tourist. There are many levels to enjoy the Palio.

STEVE: When you're watching the film it’s so exciting, like a car race. Hubert turned to me at the end and said "I didn't think it would be that exciting to the end"

COSIMA: That's because Valerio is my editor and he does fiction films.

HUBERT: Its feels like a narrative feature

VALERIO: It’s BEN HUR in a way

COSIMA: I didn't go about it with a team of people who make documentaries for television- which is how documentaries have gone since the 80's. We always wanted to make it cinematic. Stuart Bentley, the cinematographer comes from cinema, wants to do cinema. He came from the same film school as us-The National Film School. The National Film School is a good school. It really teaches you the craft of filmmaking. Valeria cut PHILOMENA and  action films. He did a couple of really bad action films, no offense....

VALERIO: No problem. It was a good stomping ground for me for the races. The races are televised...

COSIMA: They are soo boring

VALERIO: They are so boring, because it's all wide shots. She really went straight on in. She was the first person ever allowed to have a zoom- really long lens, telephoto lens right at the starting line so they could get this at least close up. That’s what makes it exciting- It’s LIKE IN THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY- the standoff moment between jockeys that makes the whole film I think.

COSIMA: We always though Sergio Leone between the ropes. THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY. That moment before he shoots, the eye line, the close ups. We really looked at references which came from narratives rather than documentaries.

STEVE: Which explains the Ennio Morricone music.

VALERIO: And it’s a way to condense as well. Sometimes it can last.... In the July Palio that year, before the start, they went out something like seven times and it lasted 45 minutes.There was 45 minutes in and out . Sometimes it's boring, but if you're  Sienese...(editor note: the race starts when one of the jockeys outside of a starting corral crosses a line and signals the start of the race. Before that, the jockeys inside the corral try to gain an advantageous starting position. It's like a chess match. If the jockeys are too aggressive in the corral, all of the horses must vacate their spots, exit the corral, and repeat this line-up process again) .

COSIMA: It’s boring if you don't know what’s going on-but if you know....

By the time we have the second race in August, we were thinking can people take another race after July- we have to condense and get to the first race earlier and not actually indulge in his victory. We had a lot of amazing shots we had to cut because it felt too much like a finale and it was only the July Palio.

Or the music...we had incredible epic music there which we took off in the mix and just put a simple guitar that our composer had scored-otherwise it felt like the climax of the film coming too soon.

What I love about the August Palio is you're like the  Sienese, you don't need much explanation, you can just sit there and enjoy it and know what the intrigue and looks mean. The July Palio was training you to really look at it as an insider, even more than most insiders because unless you were born or grew up in Siena you just don't understand it.

STEVE: Since you were born there that helped you place the cameras?

COSIMA: I'd been to the Palio since I was a child. My father used to take me into the square on his shoulders. I have seen the Palio many times. I researched it in the previous year. I bought my self a little ticket to go just in front of the ropes so I knew where I wanted to be because already in my research there was a very good angle I could get- in fact in my research there was an even better angle, it was lower but it was a tiny seat. We rented a room with a window. But again a lot of red tape because your lens can not come out of the window for safety reasons because it might drop. You're not going to see the Palio like that.

So I knew where to put the camera. We had a plan of the city and we really really thought about it. We had five cameras on the first race...

But four days before the race there are a lot of rituals so you know that every day at 6 o'clock the jockeys are coming down the street. It’s like theater. There's a natural choreography that’s always been there since medieval times. All the citizens, every year, the same time walking down the street. And we'd just sit there so we'd get the jockeys coming out or them looking at the muffled chaos--it not chaotic to them. We'd just sit in the square and we knew they would come out...

VALERIO: Because they would do six rehearsals.

COSIMA: Yea, 6 rehearsals, 2 a day for 3 days before. And we'd condense all of that. You don't get a sense of that because we had to condense heading into the first race otherwise you were so worn out as a viewer. So you don't get a sense of those four days which exhausted you-by the time you got to the Palio you’ve been drunk for three days running-you stayed up until 2 and woke up to get to the trial at 9am. The  Sienese are mad by the time of the Palio-they are espresso'd up, hung over--passion and emotions-it’s all really raw.

And the race is over in 90 seconds. It’s really weird.

Then you go up to the cathedral-and if you win you keep on partying and if you lose it kind of deflates like a kind of balloon--there’s a sense of desolation. If you go around the city go around to the district that won it’s a big party time, drumming and everyone's drunk and singing-they go around parading ,showing off to the districts going "we won, you're just losers. We're the best!" The other districts are all quiet like someone died. The shops are closed. It’s pretty weird.

STEVE: What do they do with the food if they lose?

COSIMA: I don't know, I never thought of that. I guess they have to buy food in case they win....no I think it’s just wine. The winner put tables out --now I remember because I went around--

Even then we have these great shots of the districts partying, but you can't put it all in- and it’s not about the districts but about the jockeys.

The  Sienese when I showed them the film were like “It’s not about us! It’s about the jockeys-those mercenaries!” They were like “where are we?!”And I was like “you’re not as interesting as them.”

But they have simple tables and everyone is standing and drinking out of these big vats of local wine and there is no eating.

HUBERT: You could repurpose the wine for misery drinking.

COSIMA: No, if you lose there is no wine. You just go home and go to bed. It’s this weird come down.

STEVE: I wanted to ask you are horses killed in the race? You see them crash---

COSIMA: But you see them get up. You know there are far more horses dying in the Grand National than in the Palio even though it looks so wild. There are some horses that might get injured but they don't necessarily die, they could race again but they go on holiday It’s like [the horse] Guess, who you saw in the first race. He's retired because his ankle was damaged so he's in a field having a good time, eating.

Some horses die, and it’s really sad. We have a very difficult contract with the city of Siena which is guarding the tradition. They are very aware of animal rights and they were paranoid about us showing too much. We were not allowed contractually and it was difficult because I was like, “I'm not making a propaganda film. I had to have final cut” but we had to respect a bit

We were lucky because no horses were injured on those two Palios

One jockey got seriously beaten up but we were contractually not allowed to show the beating. We got away with the archive [footage of the jockeys being beaten] because it was qualified by the mayor and it was archive- but that summer there was a very bad beating and we could not show that. It was frustrating as a director, as a filmmaker but on the other hand the film we wanted to tell was the jockey.

You can't do everything in life- you can't make a film about the districts and the animals and this and that- but the story we wanted to tell was about the jockeys.

VALERIO: In the Grand National 15 horses die every year, In the Palio there have been 3 horse that died in 20 years. They take care of the horses. They have vet visits very month and a real kind of care that really surprised me.

STEVE: If the horses win they can't race again?

VALERIO: They can

COSIMA: They can depending on the strategy.

VALERIO: It depends on the age. That white horse in the film was old. He won the Palio at the end of his career.

COSIMA: It was always going to be his last race because he was 9 or 10 years old. To start they have to be 6.

VALERIO: They used to have to be a thoroughbred...

COSIMA: Now half because they are too fast and they have delicate ankles. Half-thoroughbred means they have thicker ankles. They are carefully measured. There are protocols.

VALERIO: The vets are very strict in selecting the right horse physically because the track has 90 degree turns

COSIMA: Downhill...

VALERIA: Downhill. They have foam padding. In the 70's they literally had mattresses from beds and that was dangerous.

COSIMA: And at that time they were wearing caps-tin caps and when the jockey fell it became like a knife. One jockey's nose was cut off by the visor of his tin cap.

VALERIO: And they didn't change it because they were like "This is the way we've done it since 1470. We have to keep going like that"

COSIMA: They care more about the horses than the jockeys

STEVE: They don't beat the horses when they lose.

VALERIO: The horses are pure they are the only things that can't be corrupted.
Cosima Spender and Valerio Bonelli

Thursday, May 21, 2015

LADIES OF THE HOUSE: The John Wildman and Justina Walford Interview Part 3

This is the third and final part of my interview with John Wildman and Justina Walford about their film LADIES OF THE HOUSE.

If  you missed either of the previous parts Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

Steve: How much did you take into account if the...one of the actors would go, "Let's do it this way, let's do it that way."

John: Well, here's the thing. You know I started out as an actor. I feel beyond comfortable talking to actors about acting. But if you you had four or five people in the scene, each of them would reach that peak performance that you wanted at different times. One of the things I found interesting in directing was balancing each one and trying to orchestrate each one to get there in a different way.

Giving a little hint to one person or giving more of a direct stage direction to another person or having emotional talk with some...everybody who needed something else different. And that was a fascinating process to learn what everybody needed to get there.

But there weren't very specific conversations because of that, because everybody's process was different. Some, had a big need to have a full back history discussion. You know and, um, I saw this, it's somebody...It was like the Louis CK routine where he's talking to his daughter and it's like, "Why?" And he answers it and she goes, "Why?"

And he answers that and she goes, "Why?" And it keeps going. And there were some conversations with a couple of our actors where it was like that.

And you go, "Jesus, how, you know, how much further back do we have to go in your character to get to do this?" All right. And then there were time where in the moment of a scene, an emotional scene, like you know uh one of the actors would go, "I'm just not, I just don't get it. I'm just not there. That doesn't make sense to me."

I think there's one scene in particular, I took three different tacts and it was like, "Well, I'm gonna see if this works on you." And we do that, and we shoot. It is like, "No." And then we talk to, you know, to one of the actresses, again I'd say, "OK, well let's talk about this."

And we'd have this other discussion, and then we shoot it again. They're like, "No, not quite." And then we would do something else. And it was all in an effort of getting that person in the right head space to do that. And yes, you know, those discussions sometimes you know, then took a direction of, "Well, wouldn't we do this instead?"

And you know, and a couple times, we absolutely applied that and it works.

Justina:  I come from theater, so, so theater is a a different process actually even in in pre-production. So for me when I would have a play, I would cast, and then we spend two or three months rewriting together. So actors are actually part of my rewriting process when I do theater.

So it's, it's interesting because I saw that in film actors just go, "I guess this is the Bible." And that's good, because most of the time that it should be the Bible. I think that if we had all the budget in the world, it would be like, uh, we would have like a month long retreat where the actors and the editors and everyone just hung out and talked about it and rewrote the script together.

I thought that will be the most amazing process. No one ever can afford that.

John: Conversations happen before you start shooting, and then a day or two before, or the morning before, or or what have you.

But more often than not, it's happening on the set as you're blocking, and as lighting is being set following that initial blocking. The discussions are really happening there, that you're then applying to you know, pull off that scene.

We shot the film in 18 days. So you're shooting a lot of pages every single day. And in this case we were also combating the deadly Texas heat. I mean, we shot night shoots the entire film, and shot in a studio, and it still was unforgivably hot.

So you're shooting scenes, and in the back of you're mind you're thinking I need to get this scene done, because I need to get these actors off this set and into an air-conditioned room, so then we can set up the next scene, and they won't collapse on you.

So you're not in a perfect situation on a film like this, where you're shooting one scene a day, and you're you know, and you're really, you know, like you know, you know having these these summit meetings of how you can perfectly execute this this one scene or this one moment. You're like going, "You know, I've got nine of these, and that's before lunch."

And as you're watching, you know you're on these headphones watching a monitor and you're going, "Oh, OK great, I got it." Let's do one more just to make sure, but I got it and we can move on. And and you and everything is moving that quickly.

Steve: Did you do a lot of takes, or you just did like you know one, two, onto the next?

John: We do not do a lot of them. I think the most takes we did on one shot was like maybe six. More often than not we were in a happy place of like three or four takes, we weren't doing one take wonders anything.  I certainly did not have the confidence that I was gonna nail it on the first one, and then I was gonna be secure in that.

So there was, there was always an insurance take. And what's also interesting and you say you're fine, a lot of amazing moments that you utilize in the editing process are not even in your filming.

You know, you know people are relaxing or they're just at the beginning of of of a take, or they're just at the end of a take, and sometimes that's where where you find these like little moments that you can work in that you know are are brilliant, and they are very, very happy you know, accidents.

So that's another thing is that you know, you, you adapt to knowing that everything's on the table. Everything could be used at any time. And if you're an actor, then you go "well then I'm not gonna stray to far from what I'm doing performance wise", because who knows what they're gonna capture on camera and you're not able to use it.

And as a director you have your eye on every specific moment, but you're also very, very aware of everything in the background, and everything beforehand or whatever. You should just take it all in and go, "That might be useful. That might be useful. That you know, that works, and this take I'm good. Let's move on."

Steve: Are you in the film? Because if you are I didn't see it.

Justina: Wrong. He's actually in it. He has a Hitchcockian  moment.

John: Yeah.  I'm in the, uh, Crystal's notebooks of her victims if you look closely you can see I make I make it cameo as one of those victims.

Justina: And I, I wrote Lin for myself, but something that I've learned is that you can't be very direct with a spouse if you want to be cast. So, so Farah got Lin.

John: Yeah, so Farah got Lin.

Steve: Are you in the next one?

John: She is, she actually is in my short.

Justina: You're now my manager.

John: Yeah. [laughs] Justina actually plays in the short film I did and I am also in the short film I did. And in fact, that project, one of the, um, one of the goals of it as the experiment was to see how well the shooting process would work if I was actually acting as well.

And, uh, and it turned to off famously. So, so likely either or both of us could make appearances in the next project or the next project after that, yeah.

Steve: Is this going to be, uh, the next one's going to be "Ladies of the House Bounty Hunters?"

[laughter]

Justina: Yes, yes, I, I would like that, too. But I haven't finished the script, so I shouldn't say, but "Ladies of the House Bounty Hunters."

John: [laughs] The next one, the next couple will not be a sequel. Um, but you know, you never know. You know, we could always come back to that world, but, um, but no, we, we have a few ideas, scripts that have already been done that we are anxious to, uh, to take a shot at first.

Steve: Genre?

John: Genre, yes.

Justina: Yeah, I think, I think we've found a home.

John: You know, my thought on getting the chance to make films, is that it's, it's so difficult to get financing, on these for film makers working on the level and the kind of budget that we're doing and what have you, so, the idea is if you do get that money, if you do get someone  who has faith in you, you know, it's a financed film, then, don't just make your version of some film. Don't just go, "Well, this is my romantic comedy" or "This is my message," or...

Go make a film that when you talk about it, when I tell you about it and you go, "I can't wait to see that. I've never seen anything like that," like you're describing it. Make that kind of film because who knows if you're going to get another shot at it. Every chance you get, every opportunity, just seize that and make something that at least nobody can say, "Oh, it's another one of those. Oh, you know. Yeah, it's another cannibal lesbian movie. It's like the fifth one we've seen this year."

Justina: Although actually, as...I was writing this morning. And I actually, as I'm like writing like a tree and like my first, my first skeleton of it, at some point I'm like, "And then they eat the guy...Oh, I already did that once."

Steve: How long does it take to write...

Justina: How lon-, oh, you know, LADIES OF THE HOUSE took quite a bit because we had rewriting and doing table reads and rewriting. I'm the kind of person that when I worked at the theater, I wrote a play like in a weekend, like. So, I'd be writing the first draft usually in about three days. Um, but the rewriting is actually the...

John: Justina can churn them out. When she, when she locks into something, then she becomes very maniacal and jealous over time and, and she's just like nonstop falling asleep with the laptop on her lap. And, and you know, and then waking up and writing more, you know, every moment.

Then I will come in and add my portion to it afterwards. When we tag team, sometimes we can get into rhythm and work very, very quickly. But the time, the extended time, does come in the rewriting process and, and the development process.

Justina: Like the fights and, you know, that type. We need time to fight...

John: Yes. [laughs]

Steve: I can't see you guys fighting.

Justina: Oh!

John: Only on creative stuff.

Justina: I, yeah, I once locked myself in the bathroom. I'm not that kind of person, but there's one time where  I locked myself in the bathroom or the bedroom. So it must have been before I went to New York, where we had a bathroom and a bedroom that had doors. And I just said, "I'm not talking to you."

But I think it's because you said something about how you were Scorsese and I was a newbie or something. So...

John: This makes me sound terrible.

Justina: ...I had, I had to a right.

John: This is...this is, this is a terrible way to present our story...

Justina: ...something about... [laughs] Something about the writing, something about the first draft I did, like...

John:  You know, again  in real life, as I make the quote signs, we never, hardly ever, argue,  but creatively we do. Colors of wardrobes, ... arguments that would, would go to like two in the morning ...

Justina: Our fight, our writing fight is actually"the wizard did it". The wizard-did-it fights are where I'll say, "That doesn't make any sense. Why would that character do that?" and, and he will look at me like, "Well, because it's cool.Because it looks cool, it's going to look cool when I direct it. That's why it's in there."

I'm like, "Well, a character doesn't care about being cool, blah, blah, blah, blah," and basically then we both scream, "The wizard did it," and we, we table it until later.

John: , Justina is unforgiving when it comes to suspension of disbeliefs.

Steve: At the risk of getting punched in the nose or getting your drink thrown at me...

Justina: [laughs]

Steve: I'm going to side with him on one thing. Raymond Chandler...Do you mind if I call up Raymond Chandler on you? They were doing a movie based on a Chandler novel, it was um, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, uh, murder, um...

John: MALTESE FALCON

Steve: No, uh, (remembering) BIG SLEEP. At some point in the book one of the characters is shot and when they were adapting the book they didn't know who shot him,  They were trying to figure out who it was when they were doing this script, and they called Chandler up and he goes, he goes, "Why did it happen? Because, because I needed it to happen to make the story go."

Justina: [laughs]

Steve:  That was his story. You had to...like, out of left field. It doesn't have to make sense if it was a good story.

Justina: That is true. However, when you're low budget and you, and you can only do it once...

Steve: Oh, no, no, Only once.

Justina: No more than once!

John: [laughs]

Justina: Now, now, now that's going to be added to our conversation, like this is your Raymond Chandler moment.

John: Yeah, we'll, we'll be talking about this now.

Justina: This is your Chandler moment.

John: Thank, you, Steve. Thank you.

Justina: You get one unexplainable gunshot.

John: We do go through that debate on things where you create a world...Oftentimes with genre films you're creating a world, and you have your own rules and regulations in that world.

And sometimes those rules and regulations stretch the imagination or, you know beg that kind of,  thing. But, as much as possible, you want to at least go, "Well, it's because of this," then you go, "Well, science doesn't really bear that out," and we go, "The science in this movie does!"

You know, you at least have to do that, and Justina is very fiercely protective of that. I'm a little but looser on it because, again, I am looking at it as a movie viewer, as a film fan, like, going, "I'll forgive that."You know, oftentimes, you can do some, some wild stuff and I go, "Alright, I'm fine with that. I'm enjoying the movie. I'm fine with that."

Justina: I think it is...The reason I'm fierce, is before I write the script,  I have an Excel spreadsheet, thats, color coordinated. It has,every beat that has to happen and every emotional thing.

And the reason  is I know that when I make this exceptionally detailed chart of an emotional arc and and character development, and I use "Dungeons and Dragons" alignments to, like, you know, decide how a character reacts to things, I know that as we go down development lane, it disintegrates...

I think it's actually just a way productions work is that, you know, your budget, some things fall away, and then you're shooting and you lose the whole days footage because, you know, lighting didn't work out... It falls away so that by the time you get to the end result, you really only have. this much to work with at the end of the day or the end of the film, and that's why it feels so...

And now that we've done our first film I feel even more protective of it, of, like, no, we have to have everything at the start because we're going to lose half of it and...

John: Right, right.

Steve: Well, I would think if you, if you...If you at least build a strong backbone for the film for everything to hang off, you can do a moment. You know, the one, the one Raymond Chandler moment where, you know, where you can go outside of it as long as it's not too far outside of, you know...

John: Or...You know, and a big lesson we learned on this film also, there's a moment in, in the film where someone escapes, in a situation, and, and because of the way it's set up some people in the audiences go, "Well, he could not have, you know, done that because of this," and you go, "Well, actually, if you think about it, no, that is, that is set up to be, uh, you know, a, a very reasonable thing of how that happened."

And there's an immediate explanation, but, visually, because of the way it's presented, some people are still confused by that even after we explain it. You go, "Well, this person is here. This happened here. That's how that was, that was OK."

And so even when you take great pains to make sure that everything has an explanation or everything has a reasonable science behind it the optics also need to fall in line with that.

Justina: Right.

John: James Brooks talking to Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson, while they were editing together, BOTTLE ROCKET and, apparently there was, there was a shot of  being poured in a cup, and James Brooks told told Wes Anderson  and Owen Wilson, "There better be poison in that coffee. Otherwise, I don't see why you're showing me that damn coffee cup." You know?

And it's, it's that kind of thing where you go, "Everything has to be there for a reason," because, as an audience member, you're going, "Why am I, why am I looking at that?" or, you know, "Why didn't I see that?"

Justina: Until, until you become iconic and then everyone will put whatever meaning onto it that you want.

John: Yeah, we've got, we've got several films before that happens.

Justina: Yeah. That, that'll be exciting.

John: Yeah.

Justina: I just read a whole thing about...

Steve: I always thought that all youneed is a big enough and you're iconic. That's all. You know, that's all. Give THE LADIES a little bit of time, OK, to get some traction.

Justina: Yeah, that's right.

John: Yeah, cult classic.

Justina: Cult classic.

Steve: [laughs] Hopefully that's this.

Do you have something planned where you go much darker?'Cause you balance the humor and the lightness, a lightness and a darkness. Is there a point where you would just throw all the lightness away and just go balls to the wall hard?

Because I'm sitting, I'm watching the film, and that was the one thing where I'm going like, "If this didn't have the humor, if this was played straight I'd walk..." If you did wash out the color, the color scheme and stuff, and you did this straight this would be almost unbearable at times.

Would you want to do something like that?

John: Well, I mean, I...I think the situation would dictate that. Justina and I have a specific sense of humor,  each of us do, that just kinds of comes out of our pores.

So  it would take an effort in what we write, let alone what we, what we shoot, to excise that. Now, in some specific instances, yes, I think, you know, there are moments of dread, there are moments of relentless terror, that, you would want to do that, and I would want to do that, but there would be specific moments.

I don't know what the idea would be where we would just put an audience through that, you know, just keep hammering at them.

Justina: In drama writing when you go into a dark place or a sad, or a very sad place. And you create characters that will react in a human way, at some point, the character needs a joke. The character will say a joke.

But even as a writer,writing the dark scenes I get too  depressed or too scared and I need a joke. So I think I couldn't help but put something in there that would I would say in that, at that moment if I were in that moment.

John: Yeah, I think a couple of the, a couple of the likely suspects that will become our next film, are  filled with characters that entertain us...um, and, you know, and some are badasses, some are cruel, uh, you know, terrible characters and some are cocky bullshit artists.

They're personalities that we want to see on screen, and they're personalities where parts of them come out of both of us in, different characters. And that, that's why I think it, it's natural for us to write either a funny thing that comes out of somebody's mouth or write a situation that has an absurdist humor to it because that's inherent in us.

We have a friend, who is also a filmmaker and  she doesn't have this about her, and, and we kind of, we kind of chuckle to ourselves sometimes. When we're visiting her or vice versa or seeing her at a film festival, you know, we're always amused when we have conversations with this woman because she does not see the humor in that way.

And so when she talks her projects or the themes, you know, our natural inclination is to make a quip or say something, and it'll either go completely over her head or there will be a complete lack of appreciation for the funny that we've just made, because she is deadly serious about what she's talking about. And we talk about it afterwards where we go, "Holy crap! I was just kidding!" You know? [laughs] And, but, but that's the thing is, you know, for us, it's just a natural thing.

Justina: Yeah.

I feel like just we're bombarded with serious horror and, and dark...like, like...

Was it THE BUTCHER that we saw? That I was like, I was just like, "I can't. I can't keep watching," 'cause it was just like, it's just like butcher scene after butcher scene after butcher scene.

Steve: I didn't like it.

Justina: I can't, i can't keep going with it because I'm kind of like, "Can I take a break for just one, one scene?" [laughs]

John: You're an audience member. We can place you or you can be placed in a terrible, terrible, unforgiving world. But, at least for me, I want some kind of hope. Now, I may be thwarted, but I want some kind of hope that I can get out of this thing, you know, because, otherwise, yeah, you're signing... You go, "OK, so let me understand. So I'm signing up for two hours of unrelenting misery and unforgiving torture and, terrible things, and I'm going to pay you for this. What's going on here?" You know, I don't know how many people want to take that.

Justina: Well...I wouldn't mind if they're like MARTYRS. Like, I guess that kind of underlines I kind of would enjoy.

Steve: 'Cause to me, MARTYRS to me is I different...I hate movies where it's essentially torture porn, but there's a point at which MARTYRS flips and you suddenly go, "There's a point to this!"

Justina: Yes.

John: Exactly, there's your difference.

Justina: That I could get into, yeah.

John: There's your difference where you go, "OK, all of this does have a rhyme or reason." I think that is your clear difference. Even FRONTIER(S) which is just a batshit crazy movie, [laughs] even that one, you have moments where it's a terrible, horrible, horrible thing that's happened, but it's so absurdly gross and so absurdly terrible that, that there's almost a humor to it.

Steve: Oh, yeah.

John: You know, INSIDE is, is like that where you go, "Really?" Like, you know, you go, "You had to do that?!" You know? And, and, again, you know, it's, it's a, a monstrous, destructive, overwhelmingly bad thing, but it's so monstrous and so destructive and so overwhelming that there's actually a humor to it. You go, "Oh for heaven's sakes! Well, what are we going to do now?"

Steve: Yeah, it's like, "Alright,"...The ridiculousness of over the top, you know, where are you going with it? [laughs]

John: So, you know, again we've got lots of ideas, we got a lot of stuff that,we want to follow this one up with and like I said, LADIES is a very good introduction into what is in Justina's head and what is in my head. But that's just the introduction, you know, so...

Steve: And I'm still talking to you!

[laughter]

Justina: Just stay in public places.

Steve: Yeah, that's just where I'm going. When we were setting this up I was  was like, "Where,  am I going to meet them and what's going to happen? Will I ever be seen again?"

Justina: [laughs]

Steve: Oh no.

John: That's right. Keep it public places. Keep people around.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

We're doing some renovations


As you can see the look of Unseen Films is going through some changes- twice in the last 24 hours- as a matter of fact.

Apologies to everyone who liked the old black background with white letter style, but the time for change has come.

The sudden change was the result of a moment of extreme frustration,  I had been having trouble with the width of the columns handling the images. The images are getting cut off unless they were really small. Also the text was so narrow it was stretching into infinity, especially with some of the recent longer pieces It all came to a head when I was trying to get something concerning the HR Giger Film festival to work and found it wouldn’t. In desperation I just found a style that would allow me to do what I wanted and just changed it.

Feelings for the first change ranged from “I hate it and by the way WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!!!!!” to “I really like it, it’s easier to read, but you have to change the tie dye background”.  Worse Randi informed me that there was now a problem with the way the site was coming up on mobile devices.

Because no one has been completely happy with the first change, including myself,  Randi seized the reigns and did a second change to something less “colorful”but much more functional (and I think works on mobile devices). This is only temporary – sometime in the next week to ten days I’m supposed to be sitting down with John and Randi and we’re going to find something that works for the next five and half years or more

Bear with us, this may get bumpy---and please-please let us know what you think of the look. We want your feedback. We can’t make it reader friendly if you, the readers, don’t tell us.

The Mammoth Lakes Film Festival is next week

This is a heads up on what looks to be a great little festival to start your summer- The Mammoth Lakes Film Festival. While not as expansive as something like Sundance or Tribeca, it does have some great films including a new Alex Gibney and Cartel Land which is going to get a huge amount of attention when it opens in a few weeks.

I will not be attending, the day job prevents that, but I wish I was. Based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard about the other films this is a going to be a hopping festival. If you’re in or around Mammoth Lakes in California I suggest you go. In order to help push you toward going I’ve included the press release below.


MAMMOTH LAKES FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES INAUGURAL
LINE-UP MAY 27th - 31st, 2015

NEW FESTIVAL UNVEILS LINEUP OF SIXTEEN INNOVATIVE FILMS AND SPECIAL EVENTS, SET AMIDST THE BEAUTIFUL NATURAL LANDSCAPE OF MAMMOTH LAKES

EVENTS INCLUDE OPENING NIGHT OF ALEX GIBNEY'S DOC STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE

Los Angeles, CA - April 30, 2015: The Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, held in the scenic and majestic setting of Mammoth Lakes, California, has announced its line-up of screenings for the festival's inaugural year. The five-day festival will take place May 27-31, 2015, and will open with acclaimed Academy Award winning filmmaker Alex Gibney's new documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine.

The festival will present sixteen films in Narrative and Documentary Competition, as well as special events and screenings, and an industry panel discussion on women in the filmmaking world, with producer Allison Amon (The Queen of Versailles), actress Kristanna Loken actress (Terminator 3) and other guests.

Taking place five hours north of Los Angeles by car and thirty minutes south of the entrance to Yosemite National Park, the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival will deliver an intimate and unique experience for festivalgoers, filmmakers, and industry guests, with the opportunity to experience screenings and events in a beautiful mountain setting. The festival will present a diverse collection of feature films - from world premieres to film festival favorites, short film screenings and Q&As over five days. The festival will also include nightly gala events that celebrate the excitement and discovery of visionary filmmaking.

Festival passes are available now, and individual tickets are on sale now.

Ticket sales and additional festival information can be found at:
www.MammothLakesFilmFestival.com

Discounted lodging through the festival's lodging partner Sierra Nevada Resort & Spa can be purchased at http://thesierranevadaresort.com/


All screenings and special events will take place in a variety of venues in Mammoth Lakes, including Edison Theatre and the Forest Service Visitor's Center Theater.

Mammoth Lakes Film Festival Founder Shira Dubrovner and veteran film festival programmer Paul Sbrizzi, Director of Programming, for the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, have selected an impressive debut program including nature-focused films and events, world premieres.

"Like Sundance and Telluride, our goal is to be a world-class destination film festival known for showcasing the best of cinema and providing audiences with an unparalleled opportunity to experience cinema amidst the inspiring natural beauty of Mammoth Lakes," said Dubrovner.

Narrative and Competition films will be eligible for multiple awards: RED DIGITAL CINEMA, the festival's title sponsor, will present the winning Documentary Feature with a $20,000 USD camera package. Sponsor Panavision will provide the winning Narrative Feature with a $10,000 USD camera grant for their next project, and each feature category jury award winner will receive $1,000 USD cash prize.

Jury Awards will be presented to narrative and documentary feature films as well as short films. An Audience Favorite Award will also be presented to feature films in both narrative and documentary categories. The Jury will be comprised of select film industry members, including Academy-Award nominated producer Andrew Lazar (American Sniper), and producer Allison Amon (The Queen of Versailles).

CURRENT FILM SLATE BELOW

OPENING NIGHT FILM

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (USA) - Director: Alex Gibney

Steve Jobs' image was ubiquitous, but who was the man on the stage? From Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney, 'Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine' is a critical examination of Jobs who was at once revered as an iconoclastic genius and a barbed-tongued tyrant. A candid look at his legacy, the film is evocative and nuanced.

NARRATIVE FEATURES PROGRAM

Asco (Brazil) - Director: Ale Paschoalini


Utilizing limited dialogue and unique camera work, this accessible film explores themes of love and revenge in a fantastical and surreal manner. Arty, it has an intense, surreal and comic emotional thrust that engages the viewer as together we experience the poisonous destruction of a broken heart.

Birds of Neptune (USA) - Director: Steven Richter

A sexy drama around two vulnerable sisters, living in their deceased parents' home in Portland (shot on location). A smooth-talking young man begins an affair with one of the sisters, only to then move in on the other sister. A teenage neighbor feels he has to step in to protect the two beautiful sisters from the interloper and themselves.

Diamond Tongues (Canada) - Director: Brian Robertson, Pavan Moondi

Edith Welland is an actress. Things haven't been going very well. When her ex-boyfriend becomes an actor on a whim and almost immediately books a leading role, Edith decides if she's going to get ahead, she'll need to get ruthless.

Fantasticherie di un Passeggiatore Solitario - Reveries of a Solitary Stroller (Italy) - Director: Paolo Gaudio

A combination live-action and animation tale of a 20ish pair of friends, who discover a mysterious manuscript in a library. Together the couple head out on a fantastical and magical adventure to discover its origin, and find they are more than friends in the process. The amazing visuals, in the vein of Terry Gilliam, dazzle the eye.

Female Pervert (USA) - Director: Jiyoung Lee


In this quirky, slightly perverted tragi-comic tale, one attractive young woman's perverse sexual fantasies interfere with her ability to have a real relationship. (Mature)

The Incredible Adventure of Jojo (and his annoying sister Avila) (USA) - Director: Brian Schmidt;

When young Jojo is thrown into the woods and forced save his little sister, he also learns to get along with her in this adventure tale filled with ravenous wolves, raging rivers, and a crafty old hobo. It's about life and love being a grand adventure, and how you can squeeze one more person into it, even if it's your annoying little baby sister.

Proud Citizen (USA)- Director: Thomas Southerland

After winning second place in a play writing contest, a Bulgarian woman travels to small town Kentucky for the premiere of her play. Expecting southern hospitality, she instead finds an America full of dichotomy in this funny, heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking meditation on the comfort (and discomfort) of strangers. (B/W)


They Look Like People (USA) - Director: Perry Blackshear
Suspecting that those around him are actually malevolent shape-shifters, a troubled young man questions whether to protect his only friend from an impending war, or from himself.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURES PROGRAM

20 Years of Madness (USA) - Director: Jeremy Royce

When the eccentric cast of a mid-90s Public Access show in Detroit reunite after 20 years to make a new episode, they are forced to take a hard look at their lives and reconcile their teenage dreams with the realities of adulthood.

Autism in Love (USA) -Director: Matt Fuller

The story of four adults with autism spectrum disorders as they search for and manage love and relationships. Their stories, heartbreaking and brave, take audiences on a journey that urges them to question and reevaluate their own ideals of what it means to love and be loved.

Cartel Land (USA) - Director: Matthew Heineman

With unprecedented access, This riveting, on-the-ground look at the journeys of two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy - the murderous Mexican drug cartels. CARTEL LAND is a chilling, visceral meditation on the breakdown of order and the blurry line between good and evil.


The Chinese Mayor (China) - Director: Hao Zhou

Granted remarkable access to the daily business of a high-ranking mainland Chinese official, Hao Zhou's "The Chinese Mayor" offers a fascinating verite portrait of the collision between progress, politics, corruption and citizens' rights in a rapidly changing People's Republic. This is the China that the authorities there don't want you to see.

The Cult of J. T. Leroy (USA) -Director: Marjorie Sturm

JT's life and death sprang open a Pandora's box of powerful questions about literature and culture, identity and celebrity, and the reality of the society we live in. A teen prostitute, addicted to heroin and infected with HIV, J.T. was encouraged by a therapist to write his life story--a bizarre tale that perplexes to this day.

Omo Child: The River and the Bush (USA) - Director: John Rowe

For generations people in the Omo Valley (southwest Ethiopia) believed some children are cursed and that these 'mingi' children must be killed. Lale Labuko, a young educated man decided one day he would stop this horrific practice. This beautiful film shot over a five year period follows Lale's journey to change an ancient practice.

Dying to Know (USA) - Director: Gay Dillingham

This intimate portrait celebrates two complex, controversial characters that shaped a generation. Two 1960's Harvard psychology professors began probing the edges of consciousness through experiments with psychedelics-Timothy Leary, the LSD guru and Richard Alpert. The film invites us into the future and the biggest mystery of all: death.

About Mammoth Lakes Film Festival

The Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, held in the scenic and majestic setting of Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra of California, brings together world-class cinema, new filmmaking talent, industry veterans, and audiences from around the world to celebrate films amidst the inspiring natural beauty of Mammoth Lakes. Our intent is to unlock the creative mind of the public by providing unique movie-going experiences and also support emerging filmmakers with the opportunity to be inspired by our natural environment.

Mammoth Lakes Film Festival is proud to partner with sponsors who support the arts and emerging artists.
2015 Mammoth Lakes Film Festival Sponsors include, RED DIGITAL CINEMA (title sponsor), Panavision, Town of Mammoth Lakes, Mono County, Paul and Kathleen Rudder, Sierra Nevada Resort & Spa (preferred lodging partner), Mineral Wines, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Blue Moon, and Black Tie Ski Rentals.


The Mammoth Lakes Film Festival is a DBA under Mammoth Lakes Foundation-the nonprofit Dave McCoy founded in 1987 (also founded Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in 1953). Dave McCoy, known affectionaly as 'the original mountain man', turns 100 year old this August.

Additional Information about Mammoth Lakes Film Festival is available at www.MammothLakesFilmFestival.com


Connect with Mammoth Lakes Film Festival:

http://Twitter.com/ML_Film_Fest
http://facebook.com/MammothLakesFilmFestival

LADIES OF THE HOUSE: The John WIldman and Justina Walford Interview Part 2


This is the second of the interview I did with John WIldman and Justina Walford concerning their film LADIES OF THE HOUSE.  (The first part is here

We pick up here after John explained how the effects people walking off with their weapons forced a change in a fight scene.

John: But, you know, you have to make those choices.

Justina: But also, you know, I come...My big influence is Tarantino as far as dialogue. Like, I love Tarantino-style dialogue and I come from theater. So theater is always dialogue and monologues in many of the first, scripts...And we wrote a lot. There's tons of versions of it.

Buteven after editing that script down and making it through pacing, after we shot, we realized there was even more to trim. So there's things on the cutting room floor that were  really funny or more character-driven. That we, we took out because we needed to actually get  to the depth.

John:  So we had to edit out speeches. We had to edit things,Our editing process, our post-production process took like a year and a half. It took a while because we had edited together version and it just didn't work.

The ending we had just didn't work because it was a traditional ending. It was a much more of... if a studio had done this and what have you, it was the ending that they would have had.

But it just didn't work for us and, um, Justina and I and Farah White, the producer, who also stars as well in the movie, and James Taylor, our editor, and he did an amazing work as far as helping us come up with something that was actually more honest to what we wanted originally.

Um, but not something we ever intended in writing as far as what the ending was. And, you know, and it, it saved the movie, frankly.

Steve: Are you happy, are you happy with the...I'm assuming when you put it out, you were happy. So, are you, you know, you know, you...

John: I'm, I'm very happy with it. I mean,  on a debut feature you have so many things you could just go horribly, horribly wrong. And you also have so many ambitions for the, the magnificence that, that's all going to be. And you know, if you had any kind of practical self awareness at all,  you know you're going to fall somewhere in the middle.

And you hope you're going to fall on the high end of the middle as opposed to the low end of the middle. And I'm very, very happy with the movie. I'm, I'm thrilled to death that this is our first entry and that this is like the introduction for people to what Justina and I...what's in our heads, you know...

Justina: And, and we learned so much from it that the next one, we'll like take that with us as a, it was such a learn...it was such a learning experience. I'm just, I'm just really happy we didn't kill anybody, um, that no, that no one, no one died and, um...

John: Yeah, no one died on set, yes.

Justina: And no...yeah, no one's career was ruined. That's all, that's...I was happy about that.

[laughter]

Steve: Did you know the actors before?

Justina: Some.

John: Yeah, some,  they came from all different places.  Farah, of course, I had known for a while, I literally met her on my red carpet at the Dallas Film Festival. And,  and, befriended her and  we became friends. So I knew her.

Brina Palencia, who plays Crystal, ...early on, when we're going to make the film,  we were going to cast her and I was very excited. Uh, Samrat Chakrabarti, I knew from being the publicist for the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles and so I was friends with him and had wanted to do something with him.

Gabriel Horn, also met from the Dallas Film Festival,  Reallythe only two people that were kind of late to it, to additions, um, was Michelle Sinclair, um, or Belladonna. Uh, and we met her through a friend of mine, Don Lewis, who is a, writer, journalist, and producer.

I was at South by Southwest with him, waiting for a movie to start. And he goes, "Guess what I'm doing." And I go, "I don't know." He was, "I'm playing Words with Friends with Belladonna's husband. That's weird, huh?" And I go, "What?" And like a week later, Justina and I were in Michelle's living room talking with her and her husband about her being in the movie.

That happened that quickly. She was onboard immediately. We love her to death. She is just the best thing ever.

Steve: She's fantastic.

John: She, she's...

Steve: I mean, she breaks your heart, you know, just it's like, "Wow!"

John: Oh and easily, easily, no debates, the most popular person on the set. Just the sweetest, most wonderful person ever.

Justina: Yeah, so sweet, we had actually written the character to be quite, like evil. And, like as soon as we saw her like perform, like I was like, "No, she's the that character and not evil. She's just like she exhibits too much."

Steve: She's just so sweet, just whatever, it just...

John: And then, the last addition was Melodie Sisk. And we had originally another actress in the role of Getty. And, and that actress had to drop out, uh, very late. And Farah knew Melodie. They'd become friends at the Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham. And Farah got in touch with her.  Melodie, like within a day sent us a video of her doing lines from the movie.

And like maybe two days later, we were sitting opposite her at dinner basically saying, "You're hired. Next week, you're on the set." And she's amazing. She was also a lifesaver. Mel-, Melodie Sisk, I mean she's getting notices and deserves like the great great rave review she's getting for her  performance.

Steve: How fast did it come togeth-, how fast did it...once you started, when did you said, "Let's do this?" I mean getting done the whole thing done

John: The whole thing?

Justina: We had some false starts with financing.

John: We...started to make the movie and we're in pre-production and we hit a roadblock at half of our financing. Because we got half of the budget, we just could not score the other half. And I did not want to do that situation where, you know, you're on the set and you're talking to your producer. You go, "We have to shoot this scene, but we can't pay anybody tonight."

You know, and that nightmare. And it always sounds romantic and exciting after the fact,  I didn't want to be in that situation. You know, nobo-, you know, nobody wants to do that, so we shelved it. We shelved the entire thing. And we're back to the drawing board.

A year later, we had another script. We were now...we got the money to make that film. And we were in pre-production and discovered that we needed some additional money. Like we're having...we had our budget, but we weren't going to be able to pull off the movie we were hoping to do.

So, I, we were talking to Farah about going back to our executive producer, Ruth Mutch. And, asking her if she could finance more of the film. And Farah said, "You know, Ruth likes this script, but she loves the other script." And so we immediately, like within moments changed.

And with like a month to go, we changed the film we were going to make, went back to the original film which then was LADIES OF THE HOUSE

Justina: Yeah, so if, if Ruth had not said, "I really like that LADIES script," it would probably never have been made. It would have been something totally different. For which I'm glad because I really like the script a lot.

John: Yeah, yeah. So,then we shot the film. And then it was about, like I said, about a year and a half editing process. And I would say all total is about maybe five or six years from when we, when we went into pre-production originally to now. So...

Steve: You had the screening at the Film Society [of Lincoln Center] like a year ago, two years ago?

John: Two years ago, yeah.

Steve: How was that? I didn't get to go because it was too late at night. I wanted to. Was that a different...

John: That's a different go. Yeah, we, we did, we did a handful of test screenings and, you know, and made adjustments along the way based on those...and some were like literally six people in our living room.

Some were like that, where we actually put a screening together and had about 25 to 30 people. And you know, and every time people filling out forms and questioning, and reanalyzed that stuff.

And it really did help us...it really did help us shape it. And you know, and it was, it was also, it helped us find how people were emotionally invested in various characters or what things confused them, you know, that, that type of thing. I remember at one point, um...and it was just one person, but it was, it was, it was hilarious.

They basically said that...it was like in these gold like letters on the sheet, "This person must die. You must kill him. And he can't just die off-screen. You must kill him on screen." You know. [laughs] And we're going, "Holy crap!" [laughs]

Justina: That's an unlikeable character.

John: Yeah, that person really does not like this character. But that's...you need that becauseyou're living with something for so long as you're developing it and you're shooting it and you're editing it that, that you, you can forget,...

What can make somebody else walk out of the room or what somebody can read into another character, in the film and go, "I really like that guy." Or you know, "I was totally digging that, that woman." You know, and those are the things that tip you off to go, "Oh, I see where this is playing now." And you know,  that really did educate us quite a bit.

Steve: (to Justina) I know you John is listed as director] . Were you there like every moment co-directing, or did you let him alone?

Justina: I'm a spouse, so I have to stay away sometimes. I was only there for, uh, I think a week and a half. And there was actually one day, where it's like, I'm too neurotic. I was going to leave today. Because there're certain times where like certain scenes are shot, where I was too like, "Don't do this, don't...make sure this happens,"  , I had annoyed my own self, so I left.

Steve: Could you, could, do you think you could direct it for him or is it...because I know you've done theater...

Justina: Yeah.

Steve: Which is so, which is so, which is...I know how does it feel, it's different.

Justina: It is. I just started a short film that I wrote, uh, so, yeah, and that's when I learned like, "Oh, this is really like different from theater." Because I love directing theater, but it's such a different beast. So, uh, I'm definitely learning from my short films .

John: Yeah, last year...we were hoping to shoot our second feature last year and things didn't come together. And you know, and we had vacation days saved up. We had, a little money saved up, you know. And so I shot a short film and Justina AD-ed for me. And then Justina shot a short film and I AD-ed for her.

Andthe idea for Justina really was, "OK, we're going to do a couple of these to warm you up so you can direct your feature."

And  we specifically  put her in a place where, you know, there was every support that she could possibly have between myself and the DP and, the other people there.

She could relax into, "OK, this is how, you know, this is how I direct my script and this is how I do this." You know to...and, and we want to do another one of those also. But I would say, you know, as we go on, you know, I could easily see a scenario when I'll do one and she'll do one and I'll do one and she'll, and she'll do one like that.

But I will also say that on this film I was the director, but every aspect of the film is partnership between the two of us, and it would be ridiculous to think  that her influence wasn't in every scene.

And you know, what I mean, you know, from, from wardrobe to the editing process, to decisions on color schemes, like all of that stuff.  I've said this before, but  I romantically like look at this as like maybe, you know, in the future, if we, if we've done enough films, to have that kind of thing of like Bogdanovich and Polly Platt, you know?

Justina: I'm Bogdanovich.

John: Yeah,  she would be Bogdanovich. I'll be Polly Platt. But I've always wanted to make it very, very clear to everybody that the two of us are doing this. And, and how the roles or, or I'd say how the titles, you know, fall is not really that important to me.

When you're on the set sometimes it's easier for everybody to have one person to focus on as far as,  whose lead do we take. But, you know, the truth is I would also put Farah, our producing partner in this, as well, that, you know, every...the decision that we make production wise, we're each weighing in.

And, you know, and it's not a thing of  Justina or Farah are giving me ideas and I'll go, well, "That was OK. Maybe I'll do this." You know, jettison it. It's actually a conversation. And, and oftentimes, knockdown, drag out debates between us of like going casting wise, it has to be this person. Or hiring this production person or you know, this DP, or what have you.

Justina: Yeah, there's actually a strange overlap between director and producer, right? So like Farah and I very consciously wanted to make sure that John was the director. For something that's low budget, directors are often distracted with producing. And so we were trying to pull that from so he could focus on directing. And, there's times where that is the focus. Like casting, is that producing or directing? Like at some point, like, you know, we go, "OK, we're going to go this far what we believe is best."

And then, but John gets, you know, the final say on cast and crew and vision and you know, do we need yellow towels or red towels on the set.

But  I think, for me,I love producing much more. So I love getting the, this stuff done.

John: I got a very good example of this. Um, early on, in the editing process, I was not going to include nearly as much nudity as is in the film. And, and I had, early on, this idea of, um, it, the majority of the nudity would actually come from the guys because it's a women's world and, and I wanted to flip the script.

And Justina and Farah and actually Melodie as well, all three basically ridiculed and made fun of me, and, and, you know, for being a boy scout and said, um, "No, you know, if you have women that look like this, then goddamn it, use them." You know.

Justina: Well, it was Farah and Mel- "If you have a woman like me," you know, like, Farah's like, "If I'm looking like this, you can use that." Um, but I think...yeah, but for me was more like, "I understand the philosophy behind that and the metaphor and the whole, the man naked and the woman clothed."

But here's a thing, the men don't want to get naked, and the women do, so, what are we going to do with that? And that's, yeah, those...

John: And so, and so what you get in the movie, uh, you, you can, you can thank Justina and you can thank Farah and you can thank Melodie.

Justina: You get one boy butt.

John: You get one boy butt. [laughs]

Steve: You know what the terrible thing is? I don't remember any of the nudity. I really don't because it just it's like...it's not...it's like fortuitous. It's not...

Justina: It's not like someone talking on the phone and behind them it's like boobs coming by.

Steve:  I remember the movie. I remember the story. I don't remember..

John: You know, I talked to each of the actresses beforehand. And, and I put it this way. I said that, "Nothing aggravates me more as a film goer that when you have that scene where like a married couple or, or a couple, they have sex, and immediately afterwards, the woman is pulling the sheets up to cover her."

Because I go, "Because I know, yeah, that happens all the time between married couples." Wives are constantly covering themselves up after sex with their husband." And it just, it just...

Justina: I used to take the whole bed with me.

John: Yeah. [laughs] It infuriates me. And I said, "So, I wanted to, you know, to approach it as if...you know, if you would be naked, you know, in that situation, you'd be naked." I said, "But that doesn't mean I'm going to put a key light on your breast. You know, I'm not going to be doing that."

The other thing is I think oftentimes, um, American produced films, there's almost like as scoring card or like a checklist of like topless shot, bottomless shot, full frontal. And they're really checking things off, as opposed to, well, that would happen or that would not happen in the context of the film.

And I said, "That, I definitely did not want to do." And I think, uh, you know, another very, very good, good example is the scene between Crystal and, um, and Jacob, where we'd actually originally written it to have more nudity. And as I was staging it, I, you know, I came to an idea that actually we didn't need to do that.

And it would be very cool to do it a different way. And Brina, I believe, was actually surprised because it was my idea, not...It wasn't her idea, you know, to, you know, to, to take that kind of turn with it. Um, but yeah, that, again, thank Justina, thank Farah, thank Melodie. [laughs]

Justina: For the few seconds that...

John: For the few seconds you get. [laughs]

(The final part of the interview is here)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My take on the review-proof Human Centipede 3:Final Sequence (2015)

Please sir, think of the outrageous medical costs - flunky to psychotic Bill Boss warden of the prison in Human Centipede 3

This film is review proof.

What ever I say will mean nothing because anyone who wants to see it will do so purely based on the title. No one is going to care about the reviews because the film was doomed to get bad reviews.

The film begins with a met-moment like the second film with Bill Boss, warden at a prison in the American Southwest turning off the end of the second film. From there we get Boss screaming and yelling obscene and very politically incorrect things while torturing the inmates ending up with the title made out of most of the surviving ones.

I could say a great many snarky things, but what's the point, everyone will be saying them. I'm just going to tell you why its a bad film and leave it at that.Maybe that way you'll listen to me.

The first thing I have to do is ask 1 hour 43 minutes? This film is 1 hour and 43 minutes? Why? Why is this film so long? Its not like the film is inventing the wheel, its simply rehashing nonsense from the first two films and adding in more torture porn tropes. There is no reason for this film to be as long as it is since it runs out of steam early on, picks up momentarily in the second half when the centipede is revealed only to crash again when we realize it was done better before in both of the earlier films.

Yes that is a kind word about the first film. Shit happens and when you're comparing the films in this series you have to say when things work.

Sadly the film isn't really that offensive. yes some vulgar things are said about  women, ethnic groups and anything you can think of; and the film also has some offensive things happen especially against women, but it's so knowingly done  that while it will offend the offense is lessened because its so calculating that only a moron would denounce it because only a moron would believe the film makers were serious. Ultimately this film sucks and if they didn't make it offensive no one would talk about it.

Worse still is what passes for humor, its not funny, it's just stupid. Its a bold attempt at making humor of the lowest kind, but some how in droppin a rock off the comedy cliff into the chasm of stupid jokes they missed it completely. How that happened is beyond me, I mean all they had to do was drop it straight down, but somehow they did.

The biggest problem with the film is Dieter Laser, the mad doctor from the first film, and who plays Bill Boss in this one. In a word he sucks. All he does is scream and yell and act like an ass. If he wasn't so over the top the film might have worked, but he's just so balls to to the wall nuts as to be completely unbelievable even in this films own twisted world. Five minutes in I wanted to tell him to shut up. Ten minutes in I was done since he was so one note that there was no point.

I really dislike the first film. I begrudgingly like the second. This film isn't even worth the time to consider.

Watching the film I was reminded of other torture porn that I both liked and disliked and pretty much anything that was like this, where the humor mixes with the horror, say BLOOD SUCKING FREAKS, was light years better. I mean even the worst of those films had something that made me want to rant about them and say why they shouldn't be seen. This film is so calculating and so one note that had I not agreed to review this film I would have walked away and said nothing..(actually I should have just said forget it and left it at that).

Take my advice, save your money. Don't see the film, its not worth it.

(And to the small group of you who will like the film- good for you. I'm happy. But before you tell me I'm missing the point, tat I don't get what it's doing or trying to do. I do get it, I just think it does it badly. Feel free to go binge watch this repeatedly as often as you like. I say that in the hope that that way you'll remain in your parents basement forever and never reproduce.- oops sorry I said I wasn't going to get snarky)

The film hits VOD and theaters Friday

The Unseen Cinema of HR Giger at The Museum of Art and Design this weekend


If you are a fan of the work of HR Giger and living in or around the New York City/Tristate area you are living in truly wondrous times. Last week the documentary DARK STAR HR GIGER’S WORLD opened in theaters. Now this weekend The Museum of Art and Design is running , "The Unseen Cinema of HR Giger" and it’s an absolute must attend for anyone who loves Giger and his work. (And trust me the stuff here is infinitely better than DARK STAR, so you really should go)

In 2012, as part of the film Music Festival in Krakow, Poland Leslie Barany, Giger's agent, organized the first HR Giger Documentary Film Festival. After Giger's death, he decided to revisit the idea and with the help of the filmmakers involved, put together the second HR Giger Documentary Film Festival "The Unseen Cinema of HR Giger", as a commemoration of the first anniversary of Giger's death, as well as a celebration of his life and works.

This is really cool. There are tons of great films and on opening night the festival will be introduced by Giger's good friends, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of BLONDIE. The evening will start off with a screening of A New Face of Debbie Harry, documenting Chris and Debbie's collaboration in 1981.

The Festival consists of three distinctly different programs of either never before, or very rarely, seen films about, or made with the creative participation of  Giger over the last 40 years. The older films in the program have been digitized and carefully restored from the original reels of film.

Friday Night is THE COLLABORATIONS OF HR GIGER and its a collection collection showcasing the work he did with other artists, including Debbie Harry.

Saturday's INSIDE HR GIGER'S SANCTUARIES showcases films about the enviorments he worked in and created.

Thats's followed by BEHIND THE SCENES OF HR GIGER'S STUDIO. This is a great great collection that includes a half hour film on ALIEN and HR GIGER'S NECRONOMICON which is awesome and which I traveled a great distance to see many many years ago.

In all seriousness Unless you are true obsessive compulsive collector the odds are you have never seen the vast majority of  the films before. Even I haven't seen most of these and I was once crazy obsessed with tracking all of the films down. I'm going Friday because I've never seen any of the films showing.

Mr Barany has informed me that he hopes the festival will be a yearly event that will travel to other countries around the world, allowing the films to be seen on the big screen  as a shared event enjoyed in the company of other Giger fans.

Detailed information about the festival can be found here on the MAD website http://madmuseum.org/series/unseen-cinema-hr-giger, and here, on Mr. Barany's Facebook page 

The last Studio Ghibli (for a while) - When Marnie was There (2014)- opens Friday in the US

The last Studio Ghibli film for a bit opens in US theaters on Friday and its a must see. The story of a young girl who goes to the country and what she finds there is a great little  film that gets better the more you think about it. I saw it back on February 28 on the Opening Night of the New York International Children's Film Festival and I posted this review:

The last Studio Ghibli film for a couple of years (they have no film in production and according to Eric Beckman of GKids Ghibli’s American distributor, they are taking a hiatus but will be back in production soon) WHEN MARNIE AS THERE is a film that moved many in the audience Friday night screening to audible sobs. It’s a very good little film that gets better once you get to it’s end and can look back at exactly what it had been doing for its two hour run time.

The film is the story of Anna a twelve year old girl with asthma. She feels out of place, partly because she is at the age many kids feel out of sorts and partly because she’s the adopted daughter of a couple who are having trouble making ends meet. When she has a particularly bad asthma attack the doctor suggests she get out of the city and is sent to stay with her “aunt” and “uncle” in the country for the summer. While there she becomes haunted by a seemingly abandoned mansion across the bay. Its abandoned but it also seems to be the home to a beautiful young girl about her age named Marnie. I’ll leave what happens for you to find out.

A charming, and dare I say moving film this is a story that is going to resonate more with young women then it is with men and boys. There is something about its themes of family and friends forever that moved many of the young women around me. When I offered a tissue to one of the young ladies next to me and asked if she was okay she mumbled something but being okay and I wouldn’t understand I was a guy. That isn’t to say that guys won’t be moved, I and several other guys started to tear up with one of the film’s final shots.

Thinking about the film and it’s twists and turns I’m finding myself hard pressed as to what to say about the film. It’s not that there is nothing to discuss, rather it’s that my desire to talk about some of the themes and twists would give a great deal away before most of you see it. The film has only played once in North America so only those of us at the New York International Children’s Film festival have seen it. And while I know it has played elsewhere around the world I still think most people have not had a chance to see it. The reasoning behind this is not frivolity on my part it’s that Anna’s journey through the story is such that the story flips and flops several times over the course of the film and knowing some things about the ending will alter what you think early on (I will say flat out that it is not a proto-lesbian tale even though for a chunk of the film it feels like it might be going that way)

If I can find any flaw, I would have to agree with Joe Bendel who said as we were leaving the NYICFF screening that perhaps the first section was a bit too leisurely paced.

While not the top of the Ghibli pile, I would have to say its near the top. This is definitely one to keep an eye out for when GKids has this hit theaters later this year.

LADIES OF THE HOUSE: The John WIldman and Justina Walford Interview Part 1


Here begins a report of my talk with Justina Walford and John Wildman about their film LADIES OF THE HOUSE. The film is a horror/comedy about lesbian stripper cannibals. It’s very good and highly recommended (my review is here).

I went into the talk uncertain of what would happen. This was the first time I was talking to someone I know, I know John, but I hadn’t met his partner in crime film and life Justina so I wasn’t sure how this was going to play out. This was also the first time I was going in without a time limit. They didn’t ask for one and I didn’t suggest one. I was willing to see where it went… And went it did, the better part of two hours as John and I started talking before I turned on the recorder and then for twenty minutes after. Somewhere in there I recorded 80 minutes of material before I realized it was getting late.

What follows here and in two more installments is pretty much the entire talk. I have been trying for over a week to chop it down but I couldn’t do it in a way that left me happy, so I’m giving pretty much everything to you. That the interview works is entirely the doing of John and Justina who are just fantastic people to sit and listen to. They nailed it. I on the other hand just asked an occasional question and listened to what they said. I wish all interviews were this easy and enjoyable.

While there were some deletions, mostly having to do with things people and things that would mean nothing to you out of context, nothing of value was lost. (Strike that- I had to remove the talk John and I had about the difficulty reviewing a friend’s book/film/art because when I started the recording we were winding down the talk so a large portion of it was lost to the wind)

As I turn you over to the talk I want to ask you to ponder how such sweet and lovely people could make such a horrifying film.

I also want to thank John and Justina for taking the time to do this.


Steve: I have to start with Joe Bendel's question. 'Cause I asked everybody, I said, "I'm talking to you. What was the thing?" And Joe being a smartass, goes... how did he phrase it? "Is the film based on personal experience, and do you have any recipes you want to share?"

[laughter]

John: You had to ask. I know. I do.

Justina: I can give it to you, a TMI answer. One of the ladies is based on my mother, Lynn. My mother's a wonderful person, and she doesn't eat people, but...

[laughter]

Justina: ...but, uh, let's just say a therapist would have a field day with the, uh, Lynn character and my mom stories, um, and, uh...

John: So there's a little bit of tiger mom.

Justina: And, and, at first...A full tiger mom in my mom and in Lynn, and, uh, and then I think, uh, I have known quite a few Crystals.

John: Yeah.

Justina: , I'm hoping you guys don't 'cause that would because, if so, I'm sorry.

John: I think I may have dated a few Crystals in my day,  but, that, all that being, being said the idea for the movie was Justina's. We were trying to come up with something to do together. Because we had both done a lot of theater before we met one another, and we wanted to do a film together, because, you know, we just couldn't get enough of spending time with each other. We wanted to do that, too.

And the stuff that we had written before, screenplays, it just didn't quite work, and Justina, kind of half kidding, a lot out of frustration, said to me, "OK, cannibal strippers," and I said, "That's it. [hits table] That's what we'll do. "

"If you write that, I will figure out a way to get it made." And, after a certain point, she started the script and, and took the lead on it and, after a certain point, I joined in with her to, to work on the script, but that's how it all began.

Steve: Because of...

Justina: As a frustrated joke, frustrated with life.

Steve: You know that's, that's how a lot of stuff starts.  I'm going to  bounce all over the place with this.

How did you decide, how did you decide to just use physical effects?...Because I don't think you used any CGI.

John: None at all.

Steve: How did you decide? Because everybody goes to CGI now. Why? Was that, was it a cost thing?

John: You know I have no experience with, with CGI, and I also greatly respect practical effects. And, budget-wise, we wanted to keep it very, very simple,very specific. I mean, in the original draft of the script, we had some more adventurous things that we were going to do that we cut out or adapted because of, of the lack of funds. But, effects-wise, you know I early on, uh, spoke with, um,  Marcus Koch , from AUTOPSY, who I knew from genre conventions  and was a friend. And  I showed him the script and, one, wanted him to do it, and then asked him, like, "You know, well, practically, what can we do?"

And we went through every single thing and he said, "We can do each one of these, you know, in this way, and it would cost this much."

And I said, "Well, OK then," and I just felt much more comfortable having it right in front of me, being able to direct it and not in my head go, "I hope that we'll be able to make that look like something." You know, that just worries me.

In fact, we have a script right now that, that Justina's working on, that's a brilliant script, but it will involve CGI, and I kind of want to get another movie under my belt...before I hit the CGI. Yeah, I want to do one more movie with practical effects.

Justina: He listens to CDs, so CGI is very high-tech for him.

John: I'm the grandpa when it comes to technology.

Steve: [laughs] Can, can I ask you how old you are? Because it's like the weirdest thing is when I sat, when I realized who you were in SORORITY BABES [In the Slimbeball Bowl-a-rama] and I'm going like, "How old were you, five?"

[laughter]

Steve: You know, because  I managed a video store and that film was like a perpetual renter.

Justina: So we're rich.

Steve: It was the title, and it was just...Everybody's like, "I have to see what this is. I have to see what this is." I'm, I'm sorry to make you feel old.

John: [laughs] Yeah, yeah, that...SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-A-RAMA" will haunt me till the day I die. Um, uh, I, I am 51.

Steve: OK, you're my age.

John: So...And, and, I, yeah, I...That was one of the very first things I did when I came out to Hollywood, um, as an actor, and I instantly did a handful of films like that, uh, DEADLY WEAPON, LEATHAL PURSUIT um, SORORITY BABES,  FINAL CURTAIN I mean, it's sort of like 80s action or horror movie Mad Libs, where you would put one word with another and you'd make a movie out of it.

But I did that. I had like a year and a half where I thought life pretty much was you acted in a movie, and then you went and played some basketball or went to the beach, and then the writer of that movie directed a movie, and he hired you for that. And I thought pretty much that's how everything's going to work out.

They all came out at once, and some of them became cult favorites, but most of them...

Steve: I've seen a lot of those.

John: ...most of them, like, got thrashed critically and, I got work elsewhere. I stopped acting because of that. But, um, but, yeah. SORORITY BABES has, has a following.

Steve: (to Justina) Have you seen it?

Justina: Oh yes. Yeah, actually, when we started dating, I, I Googled him, obviously, and so I was like, "OK, so either he's actually Canadian and he's done these like, ..."

John: Humongous.

Justina: Yeah.

John: Yeah, that was a Canadian.

Justina: .."or he did some really bad B movies," and then of course I had to watch them all.

Steve: You still talk to him. [laughs]

Justina: I still talk, yeah.

John: And, yeah, and she still called me back.

Justina: Something about that was appealing to me, yeah.

John: Says a lot about us.

Steve: John makes a big deal out of saying that your date movie is OLD BOY

Justina: Yes. At least it's not AUDITION'cause that...

John: Yeah, yeah, exactly. At least it's not AUDITION

Steve: Yeah, that, that I would be worried about.

[laughter]

John: Yes, yes. OLD BOY is our couples movie. Yes.

Justina: I think...I mean, when we started dating, like, he, he's, he's not a big book person and I'm a, I'm a huge reader. So I have tons of books, and he had, like, only like five books on his shelf, and, uh, one of them was "Geek Love."

And I remember being like, "I have to date him if one of his favorite books is 'Geek Love!'" And then I think the next time was, uh, you had a poster of SECRETARY on your wall and I went, "Oh, this guy's perfect for me!" So that...And then OLD BOY was pretty much, like, after we started dating.

John: Yeah, there you go. That was the trifecta.

Justina: That was a romantic thing.

John: Geek Love ,SECRETARY, and OLD BOY

Justina: Yeah.

Steve: I don't know where to go with that.

[laughter]

Justina: And we seem so sweet. Like, we don't, I mean, we don't, you know...Look at us.

Steve: Wellthat was what he said ...It was, it was, it was at a screening, and I remember him saying that and just, like, every head, like, snapped!

Justina: [laughs]

Steve: It was like, "John? OLD BOY?"

John: Yeah we did the different presentation of the way that we look versus the movie, and hopefully movies, that we'll be making..

 I love it...We've gone to a few genre conventions, not, not as guests but just, just, you know, as, as fans or whatever, and, you know, and, and, we dress the way that dress, you know. You know we're not in the, uh, you know, the black thrash metal t-shirts and, uh, you know, and, and, and things like that...

Justina: Not always.

John: Well, not always. I, I don't, yeah. Um, but, you know...And yet that...We just love genre films. We just love 'em.

Steve: Well, that, that's what I love about, "Ladies of the House," is it so much like other genre, you know...It's, it's, it's a throwback to a lot of the stuff that was like currency in the 80s this stuff.

John: Well, you know...

Steve: Was that intentional?

John: Absolutely. Absolutely intentional.  I mean we wanted. to make a loving homage to that style and because we also knew that doing that would give us a, a, a surreal kind of home and platform to do the, the kind of stuff that we do in the film.

You know so, oftentimes horror films have this kind of brownish, uh, grungy, gritty, you know. kind of dirty look to it because there's a horrific aspect of that, of thinking that you're, you're in that kind of world and, and, you know, and it's just dirty and,bloody and, gross. And that's  certainly is effective, but I really and, and we really did not want to stylistically go there 'cause, because people do that very, very well. Plenty of people do that just fine. You know, they don't need another one of those.

But what we want to do is do this thing that is, that is candy colored, you know, kind of '50s, '60s, you know, kind of thing. And, in that, in the strangeness of it, set in our world, that would be horrific on its own, and hopefully that, that, you know, that works.

Justina: And I think my fandom is really '70s horror films, like I was raised on Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. And so what I know is actually that decade, like, you know, basically like the '60s, '70s horror films, and then I...There's some, for some reason a gap for me, so I don't really have a lot of late '80s and '90s stuff in my head, and then it goes straight to Asian, Korean and Japanese, horror.

So, really, I am actually more accustomed to, uh, a certain style or a certain look, you know.

Steve: Was that just because you just didn't watch...like, you know...

Justina: Yeah,  I started, working more and missing out on movies. Like, I mean like, the '90s mainly is what I missed out on. And my movie tastes kind of changed, moved away from horror.

I don't know what turned me off because when I was a child, I was, I dragged mom to Romero films. Like, the first director I became consciously aware of was Romero, so I loved horror as a child and then something happened for a decade where I just went, "Ah, I'll watch romcoms." I don't know what happened. But now I'm back, so...

Steve: My turnoff once you got in the '80s was you had these mad slasher films, which were just endless. Like, that's where it's like...I drifted away for a while for myself.

Justina: Yeah

Steve: But it was the sameness thing.

John: And you also, and you also got to a, a trust where your franchises became the primary direction of horror. Your "Friday the 13th" franchise, your "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise, your "Scream" franchise, and those really took over as the bulk  of the horror  and genre as far as mainstream films, as far as studios were concerned.

So, yeah, there was a period where occasionally you would get, you know, THE FLY  You'd get some, some kind of thing that would blow your mind, but, more often than not, you were still stuck in, well, here's the next film of this series. Here's the next film of that series.

I think because of the,Japanese and Korean films... and  that wonderful series of films from France, that you had with INSIDE and FRONTIER(S), MARTYRS and, uh, HIGH TENSION...  that kind of opened the door up quite a bit for more adventurous filmmaking here.

And I think we still will see more in the way of the films in the last few years, BABADOOK ,  now IT FOLLOWS last year's THE GIRL WHO WALKS HOME ALONE You know, with horror and genre being used in different ways.

I've been really enjoying the, the fact that a lot of people have been getting a lot of different things out of LADIES. You know, that it hasn't just been one set interpretation of what were trying to do, and many influences cited, um, some of them are absolutely correct. And some of them I'm going, "Well, that wasn't exactly our influence, but I'm happy to, you know, have that in a hopper now."

Steve: Oh, so, so you get the whole thing with the unconscious. If you were willfully aware of it before, you're going to pull it in. You're not going to know where you pulled it from.

John: Absolutely. Absolutely.

But I'm thrilled by that because the one thing that we really, really wanted to accomplish is to create a film that you couldn't just jettison from your subconscious immediately after seeing it. We wanted a film that, when you left the theater, you were still, it was still working on you.

You were still thinking about it. Either you had to debated with it, about it with the person you came to the theater with...You know, you had to talk about it over drinks or, or the next day you were still thinking about specific scenes.

We wanted that kind of film because that's what we like. Those are the films that, that really get to us, those films that, a week later, we're still going, "That thing! What was that?" You know, that. That's what we want.

Steve: I feel bad because it's like I saw the film...The first time I saw it was weeks ago, before Tribeca, when you sent me the link. It was that night. It was like, "I'm watching this movie. I have to watch this movie." And I watched it. But no one else had seen it, everyone else I know who saw it did so in the weeks after that... And I feel like I missed all this time to be able to talk to anybody about it.

John: [laughs]

Steve: There's nobody to show this to. It's like, "Ah!"

Justina: [laughs]

John: Well, that's the thing, you know when you have  a film that, you know, has a VOD release as, as opposed to a theatrical release, you know, you hope that that kind of network develops between people like yourself.

And, you know, whether it be journalists or whether they just be film fans or what have you, where that, that does circulate and where it does become part of the conversation.

And I think it takes a little additional work on,the part of the filmmaker to help to it to live  and to help push that,in those areas where the access is such that that can develop.

You want you and, Alec Kubas Mayer or Joe Bendel. You want you guys, you know, at a screening going, "I love this thing," or, "What the hell was he thinking there?" You know? You want that kind of discussion, but you also want fans to do it because then you know, if you do, then it does live and, and it does continue beyond just that initial release weekend. And then people, you know, a few months later, a year later, they're still referring it to people, and then it does become this thing that goes on and isn't just, like, shelved away and, you know, done, on to the next one.

Justina: And the difference in what you are saying, there's, like, Third Screen is calling it a comedy and there is some who call it, one who's called it a drama and more people call it a comedy.

Is it a revenge film or is it people-stumbling-into-a-bad-place film? And I really think that it's almost a Rorschach test for the audience member, 'cause it's like if you call it a revenge film, why are you calling it a revenge film? Because there's not really any revenge. Those guys would end up those guys no matter what  they did while they were in the house. So, like, if, yeah...Oh, piglet, you know, somebody asked, "What does piglet mean?" and, uh, I was like, "Well," I was like, "Whatever you think piglet means is a lot more about you..."

Steve: [laughs]

Justina: ...and even we don't agree on what piglet means, so...

John: Yeah.

Steve: It just is something that came out of...

Justina: It was something that came out of our, our brain.

Steve: [laughs]  Jumping backwards to the thing about what is the film is, it's like  Is this a feminist film? Is this pure exploitation? Or are you just throwing it out there and just, you know, which is what it seems like you're doing. It's like, "We, we made this film. You decide."

John: Well, I...Ultimately, yes, the audience, the audience member has to decide what they think the meaning of the ending was, who they were supposed root for, what piglet means, you know, or those, those kinds of things. Ultimately that's in the hands of the audience.

We definitely had a specific intention and a specific intellectual idea between every single thing that we did and the choices we made in the writing, in shooting it, in editing as far as what we wanted. But, with that, you still, I, I mean, it, it still delights us to no end.

You know, when one person says, "Well, you know, this clearly is a throwback to the British,films of, the late 60s and the 70s," and then somebody else says, "Well, this is clearly an application of the Dionysian, uh, you know, Gree-, Greek legend," you know, and then someone el-

Justina: That's giving a lot of credit.

John: Yeah, exactly, and you have all these different things and...It makes us giddy to read each one of those different takes 'cause you go, "I'm fine with that. You know, if that works for you, I'm fine with that."

Justina: Yet specifically is a feminist, is it exploitative, I would say, "Is it feminist? Yes. Is it exploitative? Yes," and there are plenty of women who will say no to the first one and plenty of, of people who would say no to the second one. It's not exploitative enough. There's not enough gore, there's not enough boobs, there's not whatever.

I am noticing that my female friends are introducing me now as a feminist filmmaker, as if that's something really unique, and I think, you know, I'm just a feminist who made a film, made a horror movie, um, but you can't help but get that in there.

Like, I can't help but give, my point of view in the script,or my experience with the script,...

Steve: How, how, how much did you change from, like, what you wrote to what you, to what you filmed to what it ended up cut as?

John: Quite a bit of changed.

Justina: Yeah.

John: Our original script was [written as] if we had not unlimited money. But we had plenty of money to do some very, very cool flourishes and effects and, and then that changed with, with budget and, and we had to make decisions and say, "Well, listen, we, you know, we can't afford to build this elaborate set or this kind of thing."

"If, let's just say we happened to be cannibals and we had to do it in our home, you know, how would we do it?" And, and you go, "Well, we, you know, the DIY method would be this," and we go, "Well, that's actually more horrific anyway, so that's what we'll do." And so you make those choices.

Then, during filming,you find out, like, limitations of, of actors. You find limitations ofsets. You know, things happen...

I remember we were shooting one scene and it was a precursor to a big fight scene and, and I'm preparing to, to, to, uh, uh, to stage the scene and somebody came up to me and they said, "The effects guys have left and they took all the weapons," and I go, "What does that mean?"

And he wouldn't even answer me. He said, "I'll show you," and he took me out, and on table were some bungee cords and, uh, uh, like, a machete, and an axe.

Justina: None of which are written in this.

John: And I turned to him and I said, "There's not even an axe in the script!" And he said...He goes, "I know, but I found it on the set."

So I had to go back...Now, mind you, everything had been storyboarded. Everything had been choreographed specifically when it came to those fight scenes and everything, and I had to change everything because we still have to shoot this scene. We didn't have the weapon that was going to appear later, so I said, "Well, I'll take this and I'll take that."

And, the next day, Justina and I got to the set early. That's where the office is, next to the set. And the two of us were in the office basically fighting each other with the weapons that we had, figuring out how we would do this fight scene.

Apparently one one of the gaffers came by with one of the PAs and they passed by us, and they're,  watching us, and, and I was told this afterwards.  the PA said, "What are they doing?" and the gaffer said, "Well, they're married."

Steve : [laughs]

Part two of the talk can be found here and Part three can be found here.

Photos courtesy Wildworks Productions