Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Close Up: Director Todd Berger (It's a Disaster, Coming to DVD June 4th)

With It's a Disaster's DVD release closely approaching (one week from today), I thought we would revisit our talk with director Todd Berger from SXSW this year. After seeing Good Night, a film Berger acted in, I sat down with him outside of the Alamo Slaughter to discuss how Good Night influenced It's a Disaster, the Texas filmmaking community, the plus sides to making independent film and so much more.

Check out a portion below and for the complete interview, head on over to Film.com

It's a Disaster will be available for home ownership forever and ever on June 4th

Was there anything you learned from [Good Night] that you then brought to “It’s a Disaster”?
Berger: Oh absolutely, just giving characters relationship backstories so they know how to relate to each other, I just thought was vital, and when we did “It’s a Disaster”, I would sit with Julia and be like, okay you know everyone *this* way, you’re old friends with Hedy, America’s character, you guys met in college, this will never been on screen you know, you’re never gonna talk about this, but it’s important to know how you guys know each other. Because you wouldn’t want someone to read a script and be like “We’re all good friends, we’re all eight of us best friends and we all treat each other the same!” cause that’s not how real friendships work, when you go to a party with your friends, you end up talking to the same people, and you talk to people differently depending on how you know each other, so I thought that was great and it totally was inspired by [the exercises we did for "Good Night"].
Ultimately this stemmed from UT – are there other filmmakers you went to school with that are making movies now and do you keep in touch?
Berger: Oh yeah absolutely, we call it the Burnt Orange Mafia, and I was so busy here at SXSW because my friends are all directing movies! Bryan Poyser did “The Bounceback”, PJ Raval did “Before You Know It”, Kat Chandler did a couple shorts, Johnny didn’t go to UT but he’s Austin guy, he’s in seven things. Geoff Marslett did “Loves Her Gun”, there’s a bunch and actors and actresses, I don’t know if you saw, the Austin Chronicle had busy actor bingo, you should look for it, it’s a bingo card with all these Austin actors and basically it’s like, if you see a movie, cross them off and see if you can make bingo! And Johnny’s on it, and Jason Newman, it’s all these actors that are in two or more movies at SXSW. So it’s cool, it’s like all of your friends are making movies! And you’re like, I gotta go see my friends movie! It’s great and everybody is still supportive, Austin is a great, supportive film community.
The whole indie film community but especially here seems to cool and supportive, it seems like it would be better to start in independent film, making your own work for the community alone, rather than hope to jump immediately to studio pictures out of school.
You kind of have to make your own movie cause it never happens, people who wait for someone to give them a million dollars do go back a movie, you’re gonna be waiting a long time. And we all come to the realization eventually that if you want to do something, you have to do it yourself, so you might as well do it now. Those few who have had the opportunity out of the gate who directed one like killer short in college then handed the keys to a franchise, those are few and far between, but still you’re probably gonna be under heavy supervision of a studio or a financing company, but if you really want to use your first feature film as a business card to show this is who I am, this is what I do, if you it independently, you don’t have to answer to anybody and that’s crucial.
In “It’s A Disaster”, was there anything you think you wouldn’t have been able to do in it had it not been independent?
Yeah, without giving away the ending, I think our ending is something a studio probably would never let us do. Even if we would have ended up with the ending we have I think they would have made us shoot five different endings and then tested the endings and gone with the ending that people like the best and for me the ending of a movie and how the story and characters wrap up is kind of important. I think the title of the movie might be different, we even met with distributors who wanted to change our title because they didn’t get that the title is a commentary, it’s part of the satire, they were like, what if we changed it to Brunch Disaster or something? But I’m like, there’s a point to the title and a point to the ending. So absolutely it would have been a different movie.
See full post

Monday, May 20, 2013

Indie Watch: May 2013

For our complete list of movies to see (and one to avoid) for the month of May, head to Film.com. For just the most important indie flicks of the month, read on!

“Frances Ha” (May 17)
“The Squid and the Whale” and “Greenberg” helmer Noah Baumbach is back, reunited with “Greenberg” break out Greta Gerwig in this comedy, who stars and co-writes. The film played to solid reviews out of Telluride, Toronto, New York and more and also stars beloved Girls boy Adam Driver. In a month chock full of major studio movies, “Frances Ha”, described as a “modern fable exploring New York, friendship, class, ambition, failure and redemption” is a much needed alternative, currently rocking 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Before Midnight” (May 24)
Ultimately whichever film wins the box office over Memorial Day is irrelevant, because the only movie that actually matters that weekend is “Before Midnight.” The third movie in this most unusual of trilogies, following 1995′s “Before Sunrise” and 2004′s “Before Sunset,” the latest chapter again follows one day in the relationship between Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke), this time finding them in their early 40s … and that’s all you need to know. A must see for any human, be prepared to experience sensations in your soul you did not know existed. Go go go go go go go go go.

“The East” (May 30)
Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling collaborate once again after beginning to build a fanbase with last year’s “Sound of my Voice”. Eco Espionage Thriller is the name of the game this time around, with a healthy dose of Stockholm Syndrome for good measure. In “The East,” Brit Marling stars as a rookie FBI agent who infiltrates an anarchist group and starts to connect with its charismatic leader played by Alexander Skarsgard. It’s been called captivating and inventive, and apparently features a fantastic performance from Ellen Page. If you make a point to see one Indie this month, make sure it’s “Before Midnight.” But if you see two, “The East” should definitely be on your list.

See full post

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Crashbox Scores with its Intimate but Powerful Production of The Liddy Plays

The subjectivity of sanity and the endurance of memory, and the ways in which both shape selfhood, are examined in Brooke Berman's The Liddy Plays. Last night, I had the pleasure of watching Crashbox Theater Company's production of The Liddy Plays at Manhattan's Access Theater. The 90-minute production was well-paced, finely acted, and an overall totally enjoyable show.

The Liddy Plays is a collection of four plays about the often-tempestuous Liddy and her calmness-obsessed brother Em, as they deal with the ripple effects of their emotionally unstable Mother's suicide. Crashbox's production is a treat to watch, filled with perfectly sparse movement and song and raw performances from the cast. The show explores that often fine line in mental health between subtly giving in and loudly breaking down. The lead actress Keilly McQuaill especially shines in her fantastic portrayal of Liddy's attempt at balancing popular notions of sensibility with her desire to be true to her personal emotionality.

cast members Keilly McQuaill & Tom Muccioli

I highly recommend going to see The Liddy Plays this week. For tickets and more information, please go here. See full post

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

PEN Festival Reading List

The 9th Annual PEN World Voices Festival wrapped last week and left me longing to learn more about many of its featured writers. The festival's focus was on works that possessed bravery--either in form or content. Some of the writers in attendance displayed a valiant political spirit while others showed boldness in their writing style. All the writers I was lucky enough to see proved to be courageous in their ability to openly share their thoughts and communicate their creativity to an audience.

There were so many wonderful speakers at this year's PEN festival and I'm excited to learn more about them and their literary works. Here's a short but punchy list of recommended readings from writers who attended the festival:

-Adania Shibli's Touch

-Joy Harjo's Crazy Brave

-Shahrnush Parsipur's Kissing the Sword

-Shane Bauer's Mother Jones article "Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America's Prisons."

-Earl Lovelace's Is Just a Movie

See full post