THE FILM YAP » 2010 Indy Int’l Film Festival We Never Shut Up About Movies Wed, 19 Nov 2014 14:40:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 IIFF winners announced Sun, 25 Jul 2010 21:18:40 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

“A Little Help” was crowned the top winner at the 2010 Indianapolis International Film Festival, winning the award for best narrative feature film.

The comedy/drama from writer/director Michael J. Weithorn stars Jenna Fischer as a woman who has trouble getting her life together.

“A Little Help” also won the first-ever Grand Jury Award — an overall prize awarded by festival officials from the winners in three categories selected by independent panels of jurors. The American Spectrum jury (which included Christopher Lloyd and Joe Shearer of The Film Yap) also selected “God of Love” as best short film.

For documentaries, “Ballhawks” won the best feature prize, while “The Poodle Trainer” took best short.

In World Cinema, “Twisted Roots” won the feature award and “Encuentro” won best short.

For audience awards, selected by festival-goers, “When I Rise” won best feature and “Diplomacy” received the nod for shorts.

Among the special awards, “LaPorte, Indiana” won the Hoosier Lens award for features, while “Dynamic Tom” took the short film award given to movies with an Indiana connection.

“When I Rise” received the Black Expressions Award, and “Born Sweet” took the Eric Parker Social Justice Award.

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Director Nancy Carlson, “Movers and Stakers” Fri, 23 Jul 2010 04:02:21 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Get Indy Film showtimes for this film by clicking here.

Movers and Stakers: Stories along the Indiana National Road was one of the delightful documentaries from this year’s Indianapolis International Film Festival. In just one short hour, director Nancy Carlson was able to paint a portrait of U.S. 40 that is rich with history and appreciation. We’re thrilled Nancy was able to talk to us about the making this film.

The Film Yap: What made you interested in the Indiana National Road?

Nancy Carlson: I’ve lived in Indiana over 30 years and didn’t know the history of the National Road. When I saw the grant offering from the National Scenic Byway Program, I decided to apply for it and make a film about the Road.

Q: What surprised you the most while making this movie?

Nancy: History is, in part, what people remember, and sometimes they are wrong. I found three communities that claim to have upset former President Martin Van Buren in his buggy (to protest his stance against funding the National Road).  I doubt if the buggy accident happened in three towns.

Q: The film does a good job about creating this lively tone about Indiana and its history. How important do you think it is to have this sense of history about where you live?

Nancy: Knowing the history of your area makes your life richer. When I hear a Louis Armstrong song, I can appreciate that he first recorded his jazz in Richmond. Or I can argue with folks that “Back Home Again in Indiana” is NOT the state song.

Q: How long did it take to prepare, film and edit this movie?

Nancy: I first applied for the NSBP grant in 2004 and didn’t get it.  I nursed my wounds for a couple years, added the word “digital” to my application in 2006 and was funded.  The money arrived in 2007 when I started pre-production. I shot it in 2008 and edited it in the Spring of 2009.  That’s five years to make the film – wow.

Q: What was the research process like?

Nancy: Research is fun. We have to keep good records and a logical labeling system, or we’d get lost. I talked to so many Hoosiers about the bridges, pavement and layout of the road that my head was spinning.  I had to keep track of all who helped me because later they were listed in the REALLY LONG CREDITS.

Q: What was the hardest thing for you to cut out of this movie?

Nancy: I had to cut some really good stories because of time…the roses of Richmond…the leader of the KKK….the Van Buren Elm…bridge architecture…century old farms. Sigh.

Q: What was it like working with Ball State students?

Nancy: I couldn’t have made this film for my grant amount if I didn’t have student help. They are eager to get credits on a film and happy to work in the field. While I can get grants, research and write, I have limited production skills, so the students did that kind of work. Thank heaven.

Q: What was different in making Movers and Stakers as opposed to your other previous documentaries?

Nancy: My other two docs were biopics. The first was on author Gene Stratton-Porter who died in 1924. She grew up poor and there were hardly any pictures of her, which makes it tough for the filmmaker.  My second was on the industrialist and leading   citizen of   Muncie, Edmund F. Ball (of Ball jar fame).  He grew up rich, so there were 1000’s of pictures of him to choose from. I had to capture the essence of the subjects in those films.  In this film, I wanted to find stories along the road and not just talk about a highway (yawn).

Q: Do you know what you are going to work on next?

Nancy: I’m researching a great (and shocking) story on the Osage Indian murders of the 1920’s in Oklahoma.  I won’t make it if I don’t get funding.  On the other hand, I don’t do films I’m not interested in, even if there’s funding. I’m picky that way.  It has to be my passion, not someone else’s project.

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Director/Co-Writer Seth W. Owen, “Peepers” Mon, 19 Jul 2010 04:02:30 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Seth W. Owen really made a mark with his first feature film. Peepers is a comedy about a group of peeping toms that has to deal with a college professor who becomes fascinated by the peeper lifestyle. It’s an original tale and a tricky one to pull off.

Owen spoke to The Film Yap talking about the balance of this type of comedy and what it takes to make a film like this in Canada.

The Film Yap: The first obvious question has to be asking about the origin of the story. Telling the endearing story of peeping toms is definitely an unusual concept. How did it come to be?

Seth Owen: Montreal rooftop is a pretty pleasant place to be, in the summertime, and way back when, when I had a place with roof access, a friend named Eric Hart and got to joking about a community of Peeping Toms… And it was one of those ideas that just never went away.  When Dan, Mark and I were thinking about making another film, it was the one that seemed to really captivate the three of us.  Especially since it seemed like a novel way to illustrate some things that were happening with voyeurism and society without being too literal.  I don’t like to see people in online chat rooms in movies.  I would prefer to see them on rooftops, with a little derring-do.

TFY: One of the most impressive things about the movie is that it never feels creepy, even when they are successful with their voyeurism. How did you create this atmosphere?

Seth: I’m glad you didn’t find it creepy!  I’m sure some still might.  I like things a little creepy, but you’re right, it’s an unsavory topic to many, and tone was definitely a big concern from the beginning.  We just really tried to focus in on these guys as very vulnerable, very lonely human beings.  But of course, at the same time, everyone making the film felt pretty strongly that if you make a film called Peepers, about Peeping Toms, you have to have a little flesh on the screen. Or else people would rip up the seats in the cinema! I know I would!  So that was a dilemma, how to reference all these exploitation films without making an out and out exploitation film ourselves.  Ultimately, I think we may have just pulled it off, and I think that’s due in large part to the performances, and Max Henry’s score, both of which put one in a more sympathetic frame of mind.

TFY: Although Peepers primarily follows Steve Sherman, the film does a good job about have developed subplots with some of the other peepers. How important was this balance of focus?

Seth: It was very important.  And in the editing room, it was something that went through many, many variations.  We knew we were locked onto Steve, but weaving in the other threads and knowing just how much we needed was an ongoing dialogue.  With the Paul Spence character, Peter, he’s a more reserved family man who finds himself drawn into the world of the Peepers, and that was particularly tough, as it’s a less overtly comic thread than the others, but one I think is crucial to the film’s underlying meaning and intent.  I still am hemming and hawing over whether we have enough of that in there.  I hope so.  But yeah, trial and error, that’s how we finessed it.

TFY: I’m almost afraid to ask, but did you do any research for this movie? (Primary or otherwise)

Seth: Well, funny you ask…  We didn’t initially do any research – it was a world that we just kind of cooked up… though of course, if you’re a filmmaker, you don’t have to dig too deep to find some latently voyeuristic tendencies.  Then, funnily (or disturbingly) enough, after we had finished a draft, we came upon a local college newspaper article that had a profile of a Peeping Tom, and it was pretty much to the letter of what we had come up with. So that was encouraging.  The other “research” we did came out of a very fortuitous circumstance when we were writing the script.  Our studio at the time was in a loft building that had these big, wraparound windows.  And directly across from us was this apartment building, with all of the bathroom windows facing us.  So we’d be writing, and then all of a sudden, there’d be, like, a cinemax movie playing itself out right before our eyes. We saw some pretty spectacular things.  A lot of lathering.  You couldn’t not look.  But it may have slowed our writing down a touch.

TFY: You’ve worked with Daniel Perlmutter and Mark Slutsky before on The Recommendations and again on the script for Peepers. How does your creative collaboration work? Do you all write in the same room? Do you email drafts back and forth? How do you settle disagreements?

Seth: We tend to talk things out, endlessly, in the same room, cook up a bunch of gags, and then we divvy stuff up and pass it around, rinse and repeat.  Disagreements tend to be settled by a winning combination of endurance and passive aggression.  And when it became clear that I would be directing this one,  I played the director card as much as humanly possible.

TFY: What was the most difficult part either writing or directing this movie?

Seth: It was a hard shoot.  A wonderful, wonderful experience, but hard.  We had 14 days to get it in the bag,  and not a lot of dough, and a lot of that was shooting at night, outside, on Montreal rooftops in November. With the wind and the rain, and sometimes even the snow howling around us.  And our budget – well, it was huge compared to what we were used to working with, which was literally peanuts! – but for a “real movie” it was limiting, especially for something this ambitious in scope.  Editing had its own set of challenges, and frustrations, but none that are as interesting, or as cinematic as rain smacking you around on a roof.

TFY: What were some of the films that influenced you for Peepers?

Seth: It’s a real rogue’s gallery for this one.  Porky’s was an obvious touchstone. All those 80s sex comedies.  We really wanted to make a sad, grown up version of one of those.  Ghostbusters.  That’s always an influence.  Rear Window is kind of unavoidable when you’re making a film about voyeurism.  You kind of have to tip your hat to that.  Visually, Bobby Shore (the DP) and I talked a lot about Klute, of all films.  And there’s a great Israeli film about peeping called Metzitzim that we discovered late in the day, that has a really similar combination of melancholy and um, horniness.

TFY: What has the film festival circuit experience been like for you?

Seth: Well, it would figure that we’ve been doing the festival circuit just in time for a huge economic downturn.  So not enough free flights and hotels!  It’s been great, though, getting to see it with an audience, and making connections with other filmmakers. That’s always nice.  But honestly, we seem to just be hitting our stride now, so I hope we can hit a few more.  Drink tickets and free hors d’oeuvres – I’m a still-struggling filmmaker, so these things mean a lot!

TFY: Can you speak a little bit about making an independent feature in Canada? What are some of the up-sides and down-sides?

Seth: The up-side of making an independent feature in Canada is that if you’re lucky, the government will give you money to make one!  The downside is that once it is made it may disappear into a pit of Northern oblivion and never be heard from again.  Nobody in Canada really wants to see Canadian movies, for whatever reason – at least not English Canadian movies. The French have it figured out a little better.  But all things considered, we’re pretty lucky here.  Though ask me that again if I’m still trying to get the second one made a couple decades from now.

TFY: Now the big question. What are you going to work on next?

Seth: I’m working on a film called Motorway Lodge.  Writing that now.  It’s about a timid man at an international mineral processing conference.  This one will be even more creepy – that’s my hope, anyway!  So another easy sell!  Not obscure enough? I’m also finishing up an experimental music documentary on a composer named Osama Shalabi, who is kind of a genius, as far as I’m concerned, even if he hasn’t yet hit Justin Bieber levels of stardom. But I haven’t completely forsaken the mainstream –  I’m ready to make Marmaduke 2, or whatever… maybe get a piece of this Smurfs action. I am ready to whore it out for the highest bidder at the earliest possible convenience. So if you know any one, please don’t hesitate to pass along my digits…!

Peepers will play on Tuesday July 20th and once more on Friday July 23rd. You can find more about the film and buy tickets by clicking here.

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Dynamic Tom Sun, 18 Jul 2010 15:47:25 +0000 Continue reading ]]> At first, “Dynamic Tom” seems like the kind of seedy documentary you’d stumble upon late at night on Skinemax. It follows a 68-year-old bachelor as he hops from bar to bar looking for women. He even tries to pick one up at a car wash!

Dynamic Tom (a nickname he gave himself for his fun personality) dresses in sleazy white suits and sleeps with as many women as he can (the count is up to about 1,600, he says).

It would be easy to antagonize or satirize this man. Instead, as any great documentarian would do, director Andrew Cohn steps back and tries to understand his behavior. He lets Tom speak for himself.

Cohn stumbles when he asks Tom the same tired questions. “What is love?” “Do you believe in love?” “Have you ever been in love?”

However, the film is effective nonetheless. It’s a poignant portrait of a lonely-rogue charmer. It’s also a quaint vision of a man searching for flesh-and-blood women in the age of the internet.

Get tickets and showtimes for the Indy Film Fest short film here:

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Director Conor Horgan, “One Hundred Mornings” Sat, 17 Jul 2010 15:02:40 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

For his first feature, Conor Horgan wanted to tackle a film involving societal breakdown. That the final result was the quiet, understated film “One Hundred Mornings” is amazing given the massive number films under the umbrella of social anarchy.

Horgan spoke to The  Yap about “Mornings,” discussing the film, not telling the audience what has happened, and creating a film that is both universal and specific to a certain culture.

“One Hundred Mornings” plays the Indianapolis International Film Festival Thursday, July 22 at 8:30 p.m.

Check out our review of “One Hundred Mornings.”

The Yap: Where did the idea come for this film? What drew you to this idea?

The old saying goes that it’s good to write about what you know – I also think it’s good to write about what scares you, and the world we’ve created in One Hundred Mornings scares the hell out of me.  I’d been thinking about doing something about societal breakdown for some time, and when the opportunity arose to make my first feature film, this was what  I most wanted to do.  I’d read a lot about how the fabric of civilization is much more tenuous than we realize, which was shown very well by what happened in New Orleans after the hurricane.  I wrote the first draft of the script in a bit of a frenzy over four and a half months, and it didn’t substantially change after that.

The Yap: There’s a lingering sense of dread and despair throughout the film, but the characters really speak very little about it. How were you able to keep up this tension in this way?

A lot of what the film is about is the unsaid–what we all understand is going on, but for our own reasons don’t openly acknowledge. I wanted to use only as much dialogue as was absolutely necessary, and having so little helped the characters feel quite guarded with each other at times. As the film progresses it almost feels like they’re conserving energy by not talking too much. I worked a lot with the actors, always identifying tensions between the characters, and asked them not to try and be heroes or villains but to react as though they were themselves in the world of the film. They all lived together up in the mountains during the shoot, which also helped them feel that the world of the film was real and  helped to maintain the tension.

The Yap: Speaking of not talking about things, we get the sense that some kind of catastrophic event has taken place, but we never learn exactly what, though we get clues. What was this big event?

What leads to the societal breakdown in the film isn’t as important as the character’s responses to it. Any number of factors, or combination of factors, could very easily cause a similar breakdown. I also didn’t want to offer up some kind of implausible scenario that would reassure the audience  that such a thing could never happen – we set out to make a very realistic portrayal of how many of us would attempt to deal with a societal breakdown.

The Yap: Morality is a major theme in this film. There’s a definite attempt by the characters to maintain their civility and stick together, and they’re desperately clinging to their morals, but the world around them is collapsing and they seem to be fighting a losing battle.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that morality is relative. Another way of putting this is through the old Irish saying “When poverty comes in the door, love goes out the window” I’m also interested in the dynamics between the couples.

The Yap: Can you talk about their relationship in the house, in that it belongs to one of the couples, but the other lives there with them?

The different characters have very different attitudes and responses to what’s going on, which are played out in the group dynamics. I’m also interested in what happens when
very self-sufficient individuals are forced by circumstances to become part of a bigger
community, which they may not be that used to – the rules are different.

While the themes in the film are rather universal–this film really could have been made in any rural setting and been almost exactly the same way–there’s still a distinct Irish flavor. Can you discuss how you did that?

I’m glad to hear it seems universal. I didn’t set out to make a specifically Irish story. We could have made the film anywhere, but  I suppose since we are Irish all our inflections and ways of speaking to each other will give it a particular flavor.

For a story that may or may not be postapocalyptic, the photography is beautiful, with lush greenery all around. Can you discuss the film’s visual style as a storytelling technique? These characters are in the midst of great dispair, yet they live in this incredibly gorgeous environment.

That’s what Ireland looks like, we just pointed the camera at it and let it roll. Seriously though, we chose to make the film in the Wicklow Mountains, just south of Dublin,  because it’s a very beautiful part of the country and remote enough to create the world of the film–we needed somewhere away from traffic, streetlights etc. to make it work.  Most of the film is shot in and around a wooden house on the shores of a mountain lake called Lough Dan, and we also shot in a tiny Wicklow village which is actually called Hollywood,
It was important for a film with such dark material to have a lot of beauty in it, and the surroundings help to serve as a counterpoint to the character’s experience. I worked
very closely with Suzie Lavelle, our hugely talented DoP, and we gave ourselves some rules ( no unmotivated camera movement etc. ) that helped give rigour to the storytelling. She also had her work cut out lighting night interiors in a world without electricity, and she did a terrific job.

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Stephanie Wang-Breal, “Wo Ai Ni Mommy” Fri, 16 Jul 2010 07:12:12 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Over the last 18 years, tens of thousands of Chinese orphans have found homes in the United States. “Wo Ai Ni Mommy” (I love you Mommy) is the account of one 8-year-old girl as she leaves behind her homeland, her foster family and even her language as she is adopted by a loving but imperfect family from Long Island.

“Wo Ai Ni Mommy” plays at Indy Film Fest on Sunday, July 18 at 8:30 p.m. and Wednesday, July 21 at 6:45 p.m. Buy tickets at the festival’s web site.

You can read The Film Yap’s review of the film by clicking here.

Director Stephanie Wang-Breal was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about her filmmaking journey:

Where did you get the idea for this documentary? Is there any history of international adoption in your own family?

I’ve wanted to do this documentary since 1999. I had just graduated from college and moved to NYC, where I started meeting all these beautiful adopted girls, ages 5 and up, learning Mandarin. Upon meeting them, I became fascinated with their stories and lives and immediately wanted to follow them and do a documentary on Chinese adoption.

There is no history of international adoption in my family. I was interested mainly from a cultural/ racial perspective.

How did you find the Sadowskys, and how did you convince them to allow you such intimate access?

I met the Sadowskys through the Families with Children from China (FCC) New York chapter. I had interviewed over 100 adoptive families to learn why people are adopting from China, and from those interviews I realized I wanted to follow a family that was about to adopt an older child, so we could hear the child’s perspective on the entire international adoption process.

I met the Sadowsky’s numerous times over a five month time span, letting them get to know me as an individual so that they could decide whether or not to trust me to follow and tell their story. this film, though, is a real testament to their strength and courage for allowing their everyday lives to be shown to audiences, who have both never experienced and experienced, what it is like to adopt a child from China.

How did Chinese authorities react to your presence as a filmmaker?

They did not react. Because I was a one person crew, I did the sound, camera myself, so I don’t think they took me seriously as a filmmaker. I think they viewed me more as a personal friend who was filming an adoption story.

At what point during your filming process did you feel Sui Yong/Faith was starting to open up to her new family?

Every day Faith showed/told us something new. Every day was a new day for her and her family.

There’s a brief discussion in the film about having Chinese speakers around acting as a “crutch” for Faith’s language skills. Did you worry much about your role of filmmaker intruding on her integration process?

Since I do end up acting as a translator in the film, I did have some initial concern. But those concerns were quickly brushed away by the fact that I took brushed aside my role as a filmmaker and just did what I felt, at the moment, necessary to help faith feel more comfortable with her jarring new environment/ situation. I knew she was already having difficulty coping with what was transpiring in front of her eyes, so whatever I could do on my end, which was to translate, I was going to do.

What role do you think groups like Families with Children from China? Is there a struggle over how much contact with their native culture and language these Americanized kids should have?

I think they do their best to offer Chinese cultural opportunities to their adopted children. I also think the parents are trying to educate themselves about the potential racial/ cultural bumps that may be in their future as their girls/sons get older and start to ask them bigger questions about their identity. It’s a constant struggle trying to figure out how much is enough and how much is not enough.

The Sadowskys come across as loving but imperfect parents. What’s your take on their less flattering moments — such as when Donna refuses to help Faith carry books that she can’t on her own, or Jeff talks about his admiration for Chinese culture based on Bruce Lee movies, etc.

I think it was very courageous of Donna and Jeff to let me into their lives and let me follow their experience adopting faith. I captured every day moments, where not everyone comes off as the most flattering. If someone filmed my life on a daily basis, I’m sure words, ideas and actions would show that I would not represent me in my entirety. I think all parents have the best intentions, and in the road of parenting, we are stumbling along trying to make sure we give our children the best opportunities while also maintaining our role as parent

Is there anything you personally took away from the years-long journey to make this documentary?

I learned a lot from making this documentary about adoption, family, parenting, race, etc.

Any update on how Faith is doing now?

Faith is doing great.

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Geoff Edgers, “Do It Again” Fri, 16 Jul 2010 04:01:59 +0000 Continue reading ]]>  

Geoff Edgers is a newspaper man by trade, writing for the beleaguered Boston Globe. But his passion has always been music, and he has always held a special torch for The Kinks, whose principals, brothers Ray and Dave Davies, dissolved the band after years of internal strife, bickering, and constant power struggles.

In his documentary “Do It Again,” Edgers makes an attempt to bring his beloved band back together, but finds himself frustrated by Ray’s reluctance to participate in the film at all, as well as financial issues and contract talks between his union and paper ownership that threatens to shut down the Globe altogether, leaving him unemployed.

Edgers chatted with The Yap about his film, his love for The Kinks and shifting his film’s focus.

“Do It Again” plays at the Indianapolis International Film Festival Friday, July 16 at 9:30 p.m. and Friday, July 23 at 3:15 p.m.

Get Indy Film Fest showtimes for this film by clicking here.

Read Christopher Lloyd’s review of “Do It Again.”

The Yap: I found it interesting that as much as your film is about getting The Kinks back together, it’s also a movie about a guy making a movie about getting The Kinks back together. Did you always intend on going outside of your film’s “thesis,” and if so, why? If not, how did it come about that it did?

GE: I think I always wanted to make a great film about The Kinks. My director, Robert Patton-Spruill, wanted to make a great movie. So when The Kinks were not cooperative, we just kept pushing ahead, determined that our story was perhaps not the story we at first envisioned. Failure, if done well, can be far more entertaining than success.

The Yap: Why did you pick The Kinks as your focus? What was it about them that affected your life enough to want to a) try to get them back together, and b) to make a film about it?

GE: I love The Kinks. There’s something really compelling about telling people about a group you believe in that you don’t think enough people appreciate. What’s the point of telling people how great The Beatles or Stones are? Everybody already knows that. But do enough people understand the brilliance of “Arthur” or how influential a song like “David Watts” was? I think not. As a teenager, The Kinks – the version that played arenas in the early 80s and produced “Come Dancing” – was one of my favorite bands. I remember listening to “One for the Road” over and over again with my buddies during a long, hot summer on a boombox.

The Yap: What is it about the Kinks music that draws you to them so much?

GE: I love the kinks because they sound great but also because Ray writes about things most rockers don’t write about. A digestible theme record about the British empire? Sibling and class rivalry—Two Sisters? David Watts? And a nostalgic longing for a place that may or may not exist in Village Green. But again, the music sounds so good, which is why we’re first drawn to music, and it’s so varied.

The Yap: At what point did you realize you weren’t going to get Ray Davies’ cooperation, and what specifically did you decide to do?

GE: I always thought there was a chance Ray might jump on board. I officially gave up when we finished filming. But you never know when it comes to one human being deciding what he wants to do. My general plan was never to stop just because it was hard to see success.

The Yap: I gotta ask: so what was it Dave Davies told you (Interviewer’s Note: Dave Davies agreed to divulge a secret to Edgers during the film, but only off-camera)?

GE: I can’t tell you about Dave’s statement. It seemed to me he didn’t want me to tell anyone.

The Yap: I’m really interested in the way you portrayed journalism as a career during the course of the film, and in many ways I think your film is as much about journalism as it is music or anything else. How did the troubles you were going through with your job, the contract negotiations, and the pay cut affect filming?

GE: For one thing, the challenges at the paper made things tense. Imagine you’re doing something you’ve never done before that could be an incredible waste of money and suddenly, you have a massive salary cut. Cosmically, I tend to think the paper’s problems were poetically aligned with my journey. I think of the ray’s work as being so much about the factory, whether the literal factory or the record business, that somehow I can imagine him identifying with the collapsing journalism front.

The Yap: How did your journalistic skills serve you in running down these old band members and get them talking? There were times you seemed to struggle with it, but you were still successful.

GE: I think I understand what it is to ask for something and get rejected, and then ask for that thing again. I don’t shy away. I also don’t want to be a jerk. I want these guys – The Kinks – to like me, but I’m not going to turn on them just because they turn me down. I’m not Michael Moore. I mean, I admire Michael Moore but he’s fighting injustice. What am I fighting? The challenge of getting an interview.

The Yap: I was blown away by how you got Zooey Deschanel and Sting to sing with you. It was interesting that with the guy who didn’t want to sing the song with you, he out refused when you asked (which of course was by necessity), but with the two of them, it really just seemed to grow out of the interview naturally. How did you do that, and what were you feeling performing a song with some of these people?

GE: When I was playing with Sting or Zooey, I wasn’t feeling anything. I was just trying to hit my chords and move forward without collapsing. I think what happened was that they love The Kinks and are actually very down to earth and found their love for the music turned them into teenagers, not unapproachable stars.

The Yap: Ultimately, what did this film teach you about the band, the business, and yourself?

GE: I learned that, perhaps, it is wrong for me to want to reunite these guys. They need to do it on their own terms. As far as myself, I learned that I should never give up, even when I think I have no idea what I’m doing or no sense of whether I’ll succeed. This can be applied to so much: marathon training, writing a book, et cetera. It is about doing a little bit every day until you’re done.

The Yap: One more thing about Zooey Deschanel—what was the deal with the bit at the end of the film, where she asked you the question about the Red Sox and you completely ducked it? And why did you include that at the end of the film?

GE: I just thought it was funny. I’m not sure it would have made sense in the regular part of the film, though. I didn’t think I ducked the question. I don’t remember the moment much but I assume I was a little jumpy and nervous and thinking about my Kinks questions.

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Fish Out of Water Fri, 16 Jul 2010 03:19:01 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Get Indy Film Fest showtimes for this film by clicking here.

I like to think we are in a world of progression and acceptance. In the recent years, there has been progress towards legalizing gay marriage. To many people it’s too slow of a process but at least there are more platforms for public discussion over the issues. Making documentaries about the topic is a great tool and Fish Out of Water is a very effective entry.

Fish has a very smart directive by not just preaching to the choir. It has a very specific audience in mind and is hoping to make an intelligent dialog through its film. Writer-director Ky Dickens started this project after being chastised after she came out to her sorority sisters. They used religion as an attacking force saying that she is an abomination and she will be going to hell.

So Dickens travels around the country speaking to different experts to examine the passages of the Bible that are used against the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Queer (GLBTQ) community. There are seven main passages that people ignorantly quote and through religious figures Dickens is able to point out the absurdity of them.

It is never an attack against religion and that is a very important part. Majority of the GLBTQ who are interviewed in this film are very spiritual and still want to be considered Christians. The film is used as a guide to look for acceptance into the community. All of the points are well made. They also look towards the philosophies of Jesus and make educated assumptions on His position.

Once the structure is used up, the film falls back on familiar material, but Dickens still makes everything interesting as she juxtaposes facts, pictures, and animated recreations to add a new emotional level. The most jarring footage is the material she captured of the hateful homophobic individuals. There are reverends that are saying the cruelest things directly towards Dickens and the rest of the GLBTQ community.

The film works because it isn’t a political film or even a religious one, but the focus is strongly on people as people. The community is seen as hurt group of people who just want to be able to be loved and seen as equal. It may still take a long time, but I think movies like this will hopefully lessen the length.

4 Yaps

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Greg Luna, “MWM” Thu, 15 Jul 2010 18:46:28 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Photo by Colin Dodgson

 “MWM” explores the fears of homosexual men and the one place they’re able to safely come out of the closet — the internet.

Told in documentary style, this short film follows a “married white male” and his double life spent crusing online “men seeking men” ads.
“MWM” plays at Indy Film Fest on Friday, July 23 at 9 p.m. You can buy tickets at
Director Greg Luna, a Brooklyn-based filmmaker, spoke with me about the inspiration behind this haunting film, the internet’s place in society, and the evolution of gay cinema.
First, how did this film, “MWM” come about?
I stumbled upon “MWM” when I was working at Killer Films. I was doing research in New York Magazine for another project and came across David Amsden’s article, “Married Man Seeks Same For Discreet Play.” The premise alone was captivating to me. The article was a vivid reminder that not every gay experience is the same gay experience. The story is an honest representation of what it’s like for a lot of men out there — especially in regards to the sort of gravitational pull that being stuck in the closet can have. The article really resonated, so I decided to adapt it into a short film. The protagonist, the MWM, was what initially drew me to the material, and what convinced me it would make a strong narrative film. I thought his sense of self-awareness and self-deceit was really compelling.
We live in an age in which everything is communicated through the seductive detachment of technology. “MWM” reflects that in its exploration of men who seek other men online. Seeking intimacy through a cold medium like the internet seems ironic, but then again, it’s a place where some closeted gay people feel safe. It’s also a place where people can express themselves freely and anonymously, thus making us question whether the web is really a cold, detached medium if it connects us with so many people. What are your thoughts regarding online communication?

Our access to information is so immediate now. The Internet is unique because it facilitates the process of expressing desires that may have previously been hidden. And people can connect in very specific ways, often times anonymously. It’s very democratic. But I think it can be very isolating as well. There certainly is a level of detachment, and I think people often crave a more human connection. Because the Internet, and online communication, tends to fulfill needs in very particular ways — especially regarding sex.

Why do you think there haven’t been more gay-themed films in mainstream cinema lately? They didn’t seem to experience the expected boost in interest after “Brokeback Mountain.”

Gay films aren’t going to suddenly pop up at multiplexes but I think the definition of “mainstream” is beginning to shift. And a lot of this has to do with the audiences. Younger audiences are much more comfortable with gay-themed topics than their parents are. But it all comes down to story, I think. Part of the appeal to a film like “Brokeback Mountain” was its universality —  it presented a very classic love story that was as “Casablanca” as it was modern. It provided an entry point to mainstream audiences that was genuine and engaging. Lisa Cholodenko’s new film, “The Kids Are All Right” is in a very similar position — it has major mainstream appeal. A lot of people, parents especially, will relate to it because it’s a film about marriage and family. They’ll see their own families in it. And that’s huge. I think the moment a straight audience member is able to share an affinity with a gay character is the break-through moment.

How do you think gay cinema has evolved over the years?

Gay cinema is still seen as very “niche” and kind of fringe. The trajectory of gay cinema is interesting though — some of the most successful gay filmmakers like Gus Van Sant and Todd Haynes often work outside of their avant garde roots. But that’s part of the evolution, I think. There’s no one type of “gay” film. There’s a huge amount of storytelling diversity.

What are your expectations for the “MWM” screening at the Indy Film Fest?

I’m excited for “MWM” to find a new audience. Indy Film Fest is the film’s first screening outside of New York and Los Angeles, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I hope the film is able to reach people who might normally be quick to judge men in these situations. The film certainly doesn’t prohibit judgment. But it doesn’t deny empathy either. It’s a huge challenge to try to understand something that seems scary or unknown, but that’s part of the goal of storytelling and documentary-form — to step inside a different experience.

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When I Rise Thu, 15 Jul 2010 17:16:05 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

A well-done documentary on Barbara Smith Conrad, who overcame a firestorm of racial controversy to become a successful opera singer, “When I Rise” is wonderful but feels like another drop in the bucket for racial injustice films.

I hope that doesn’t in any way minimize the power this film should have, or the poignance of the story, because  it’s as powerful a story as any.

Barbara Smith was a student at the University of Texas in 1956 when she was cast as the lead in the musical “Dido and Aeneas,” opposite a white male romantic lead. This, as you might imagine, upset the establishment’s apple cart something fierce, and before long Smith found herself without a job, bullied out by a congressman who pulled strings with UT’s administrators.

But Smith held her ground and fought the decision, and “Rise” is the story of that fight, told in documentary perspective from Smith Conrad herself as well as others who lived through the experience.

Later Smith Conrad became a world-renowned opera singer and became good friends with singer Harry Belafonte, who is featured in this film.  Their friendship is instantly recognizable when one speaks of the other, and the look on Belafonte’s face when he talks about her betrays his fondness for her.

The story itself is also interesting and at times fascinating, and there’s a detachment upon listening to Smith Conrad discuss it, like an aunt or grandmother relating a story of her youth.

The interesting part to me is that given the racial climate at the time, she managed to be cast at all, and the fact that the production’s director had the foresight to cast her grants just a small glimmer of hope into the thoughts at the time that not all of our grandparents were raging racist pigs.

From a filmic perspective, though “Rise” is well-shot and well-told, but there’s not a lot of new ground being broken. Yes, her story deserves to be heard, and this film will be and should be played in theaters and on television around the country and around the world for years to come. But how does this story distinguish itself from the dozens of other great documentaries telling similar stories?

The film’s high point is its climax, where Smith Conrad shows off her final triumph, that she continued to fight after this incident by singing a showstopping number that my miserable words here can’t hope to adequately describe.

In that sense “Rise” doesn’t tell a new story, or even tell it in a new way. My recommendation it’s certainly worth seeing, tells a worthwhile story of overcoming prejudicial injustice. It certainly should take its rightful, deserved place in line of incredible stories of hope, rebellion and triumph in its genre, but in the end it’s another in the line of dozens of those stories.

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