Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Interviews with Cinephile Directors

Matt Johnson

DD: How did you get into cinema?

MJ: My mom rented old movies for me from Rogers video when I was young and I got into the habit of watching 3 or 4 movies a week. Then a guy named Will Camponovo got me deeply into American auteur filmmakers at about 15 and shortly after that I was in film school.

DD: You have a pretty awesome poster collection (you can see part of in The Dirties). When did you start collecting? What are your favorites?

MJ: 95% of the posters in the Dirties are actually the childhood posters of Evan Morgan, and compared to him my character is barely a movie buff. My new movie is set in 1968 and so I got to put up lots of really amazing original posters that I would never be able to afford otherwise, like The Fearless Vampire Killers and The Manchurian Candidate. My favorite posters in our office are probably TMNT 1, Empire Strikes Back, and Days of Heaven.

DD: More so than other up-and-coming Toronto directors, I feel like there’s a strong connection between your work and that of Steven Spielberg. The most direct connection is your audio-commentary on The Dirties DVD where you guys talk about Hook. What do you like about Spielberg?

MJ: Again, Evan Morgan was the guy who really got me into Spielberg, but what I love about his movies is how he cuts action against close up reaction shots without caring what the audiences misses in between.  The films I make can't do that, but if I could I would steal it wholesale.

DD: Was making The Dirties and now Operation Avalanche easy? And was it worth it?

MJ: Both films cost me dear friendships and took over a year to edit. If you're serious about doing anything it shouldn't be easy. 

DD: What can we expect from Operation Avalanche? You’ve told me that you literally shake hands with Stanley Kubrick in it. What other cool film references do you include in it?

MJ: There's a reference to every Kubrick movie ever made, but I doubt people will find them all. The characters are also posing as a Maysles-esque doc crew at NASA, so there are lots of verite doc references and of course the same F for Fake references I had in The Dirties.
Matías Piñeiro
DD: In The Princess of France, the opening scene with the Schumann music and the soccer match reminded me of Robert Wise’s West Side Story. Did any classical Hollywood musicals inspire the rhythm, pacing and color of this scene? It seems new in your cinema.

MP: That scene is a response to Viola, which is much around close-ups. I wanted to start the film with a theme I enjoyed, dreams, and wanted to see myself directing a scene I wouldn't be used to. I didn't though about any classical film. I wanted to put many things I tend not to do, and do them: shoot a sport, do a long shot, use music that it's not performed live, tend towards a more contemplative approach, etc. However, there is a film. When I finished the script and was heading towards shooting I was surprise to see a film by Lois Patiño called Landscape-Distance that work around similar themes. It is different from my film but there is a certain kinship I enjoy. Now it is funny that we will do Lois and me a film together. 

DD: I’m constantly amazed by your Facebook posts of screen-grabs of films. The films themselves come from all of film history as they go from classics, to world cinema, to Show Girls all of the way to contemporary films. How do you decide on what to watch, and what software do you use to extract the pictures?

MP: It's my viewing diary, so as every diary, a balance between randomness and decisions. With this I found an use to fb. It reminds me of what´ve seen and also shares. I like when people show me films I haven't seen and I become aware of this or other film or filmmaker. There is always more films to watch. The images are from Google, but I like choosing frames that are not the more usual ones and also, that somehow mean something special to me in reference to it, as if those images would be the images for which I will be remembering the film. 

DD: In one of your short films there’s a character whose reading a book of Rohmer’s collected film criticism in Spanish. I see your Facebook post as a kind of film criticism that further connects you to the author of Celluloid and Marble. What do you think cinephilia is today in the 21st Century? I feel like the Fritz Lang M symbol on the burnt DVDs in Viola captures something regarding this.

MP: January 1st 2010, I re-watched Les amours d'Astrée et Celadon. Shooting of Rosalinda started January 15th. Rohmer died January 11th. I was moved and wanted to make an homage, something that wouldn't be too obvious nor reductionist, something even hidden. So I included that book and also, in that same scene, I got the characters  talking about a girl named Delphine and her sociability problems, they were referring to Marie Rivière in Le rayon vert. I really don't know what to say about cinephilia on 21st century but that it expanded thanks to the digital era. I am not original here: there is much more circulation and formats; new communities have been created, sharing files, writing blogs, doing films. It is somehow interesting how the experience of watching in our computer have taken us back to something close to the kinetoscope experience. But I do think that far from burying the movie theater experience, it has strengthened it, highlighting the peculiarities in the ritual of moving going.  

DD: In the new issue of Film Comment it’s announced that you’ll have a new column, In the Moment. What do you plan to do with it?

MP: I was invited to write about actresses I like. So I am focusing on a series of women detailing aspects of their performances that are not the obvious or general recognitions of their craft but a depicting of a punctum that makes them special to me.  

DD: How often do you go to the cinema to see new films? Do you try to be comprehensive or do you feel no responsibility to see everything – or anything – that’s current?

MP: I try to see everything that attracts my attention. And I try be comprehensive so as to broaden this attention of mine. The time period in which a film was made is not a filter nor a limitation to my viewings. I see many old films because there are far more in number than the one's being made in the present. The present is against the history of film and becoming part of it at the same time. The issue is that there is a lot to catch up with, everytime. It is impossible to be exact on the number of contemporary films I see weekly. If I am in a festival I see four or three a day and if I am shooting I see none. If there is a need to know, I post my viewings in my facebook page.
Dan Sallitt
DD: When I ran into you at the Anthology Film Archives you were telling me that you could only imagine yourself living in New York because there is such a rich film culture there. Can you tell me about it, and how many films do you regularly see in a week? Your Twitter account is great as a way to keep up with what you are watching.  

DS: I hope I at least mentioned Paris when I was talking about film cities... These are the days when one can actually live anywhere and immerse in film history, thanks to downloads and streaming. But I can't seem to give up my lifetime habit of making the theatrical rounds. In the current period of my life, which began when I dove into the film Internet around the year 2000, I'm seeing something like 350 films a year, almost all in theaters. That's nothing compared to my teens and twenties, but it's a bit of a second childhood for me: I was in maintenance mode in my middle years, not exploring nearly as much as I do now. Since this interview is intrinsically geeky, I'm attaching a chart of my film watching history from 1975 to 2014, for your readers' amusement. The Twitter reports were originally intended as a social announcement for the New York film crowd, so I don't tweet about films seen at home, or in other cities.

DD: What made you become a filmmaker, and how has your filmmaking practice evolved over the years?  

DS: I became a cinephile at age 17, when I saw To Have and Have Not in a Boston theater; and I decided to try to make films when I was 19. My cinephilia and my desire to make films are strongly linked. I don't like to think of my filmmaking as self-expression - I prefer to think of it as participation in film history, which has meant so much to me. My filmmaking has evolved, but not dramatically. I'd like to think that age has loosened me up a bit, and so I think I'm more open to different subjects and ways of doing things. But really you have to be a little bit of a fanatic to make films, a little arbitrary and imperious, a little stuck in your childlike self. So I don't try to discard all my prejudices.       

DD: Do you have a dream project that you wished that you could realize or any actors or actresses that you would love to work with?  

DS: I do have a dream project: it's not an outrageous dream, but it would be more expensive than I can afford as a self-financing filmmaker. It's the story of a 70-year-old businessman, not a people person or very self-aware, who early in the film learns that an illness that was supposed to kill him has mysteriously subsided. So this guy, who is not philosophical, has philosophy thrust upon him: he has his life back, but it's almost over anyway - what should he do with the rest of it? His wife leaves him after he recovers, his children refuse to reconcile with him, and he accepts it all; finally he decides to go to medical school, because nothing else feels right to him. I always wanted to make a film about death, and I like that I thought up a way to do it without anyone dying. Funny that I always make films about women, and yet my dream project is centered on a weird old guy. So so many actors I'd love to work with - I couldn't choose.       

DD: On your blog you made a list of your all-time Canadian films – I was happy to see C.R.A.Z.Y. and Tower on it. Can you tell me what you like about Canadian cinema?  

DS: I'm kind of with you on Vallée in general, by the way: not sure every film has been a success, but I always like the feel of what he's trying to do. (Well, almost always: I couldn't deal with The Young Victoria.) I'm so director-oriented that I have trouble thinking about Canadian cinema as an entity, but I like the way an art-film tradition lurks in Canada, always ready to emerge from beneath any project. Unrelated to this, I'm fascinated with the Quebecois film industry: I don't keep up with it well, but I have the sense that there is, or used to be, a homegrown audience for entertainment films that don't easily travel, and that that situation gave rise to a distinctive set of craft conventions. I used to feel that Quebecois film had its own look, with a lot of grays in the art direction and lighting, and a somewhat more composed, distant framing than in US or French entertainment film. Wonder if the globalization of film culture in this millennium has eaten away at that craft tradition.
Mark Rappaport
DD: How did you get into cinema, and was Andrew Sarris’ brand of American auteurism an influence? What is it about Classical Hollywood that you like so much, for you to return to it throughout your numerous video essays? This includes dealing with, among others, Rock Hudson, Jean Seberg, Douglas Sirk, Anita Ekberg, Marcel Dalio, and Max Ophuls. 

MR: I was always crazy about movies, even as a little kid. I have no idea what I thought about them, probably nothing. I never had any opinions about them (like I do now). I neither liked them or disliked them. I just watched them. There were three movies theaters in the neighborhood I grew up in and I went a lot. There was also Million Dollar Movie on TV which showed the same movies night after night—so, I would watch and re-watch films like Notorious and King Kong over and over again. That included dreck like Miracle of the Bells, which for some unfathomable reason, I loved. We’re all children of our times and when I grow up, movies were the most important form of popular entertainment. And also a window on the world for a sort of poor kid from Brooklyn who didn’t have many advantages or even middle-class aspirations.  It was an escape and a comfort and also a peek into how other people lived. So, in that sense, maybe I’m stuck in the past. 

As for Andrew Sarris, maybe it’s heresy on my part (get the stake ready, boys!) but I never thought very much of him. Or of Pauline Kael, either. Although less of her than of him. 

DD: What do you think makes a good video essay? And what’s your strategy in regards to including visual tricks like casting, frontal projection, and superimpositions? How much research goes into making them? Like, for example, where is the Dalio source text from? And how long does it usually take to make one of them? 

MR: A good essay? Hmm, here’s where I step on a lot of toes. I think you have to have something to say, a point of view, not belabor the obvious, or tell in words what’s being shown on the screen. In other words, I think there has to be a reason for doing it, not just doing it because it can be done. As for the casting, in Rock Hudson’s Home Movies, From the Journals of Jean Seberg, and The Silver Screen/Color Me Lavender, I wanted someone who could, in the first two certainly, “pass” for the people they’re impersonating without having to actually resemble them. I couldn’t believe the reviews that trashed Eric Farr for not being Rock Hudson. He’s-not-this-enough, he’s-not-that-enough. He was tall, dark-haired, and handsome enough to suggest Rock Hudson. And that was good enough for me. As far as I’m concerned, his performance was just fine. It was what I wanted and even re-seeing it recently, I think he did a really excellent job. Obviously, the legion of complainers never saw the TV movies of Jennifer Love Hewitt as (you gotta be kidding!) Audrey Hepburn or Jill Clayburgh as (WTF?) Carole Lonbard. Or anyone attempting to play Marilyn Monroe. Ever. The point, for me, was not to spend the rest of my life auditioning people who might have been his double. Same goes for Mary Beth Hurt as Jean Seberg. I couldn’t have been happier. As for the projections—they’re not front projections but compositing with blue screen (now green screen)—I wanted the supposedly now-dead actors to interact with their live (but filmed) counterparts to present this double vision—what we saw on the screen and, really, all we know about the actors and the possibility of the person who might have been them, or like them, commenting on their lives thirty years ago. It’s not for nothing that I refer to both films as “fictional autobiographies.”
The research is really in watching the movies. The construct that these actors became through their accumulated roles is more resonant and powerful than the actual facts of their lives, although I did read a biography of Seberg and several of Hudson and gleaned little tidbits of information that I was able to use. Dalio, too, has an autobiography—very delightful— but his films were really as historians say, the primary documents. 

The gathering of the films and selecting the clips is really the most time-consuming part. I’m a very, very fast editor—I started out as a film editor—and once I get moving on the actual editing, it happens fairly quickly. I also write very quickly. And then there’s the very boring work of cleaning everything up, tightening, making the sound as clean as one can, etc. To be truthful about it though, I very often get good ideas in that aspect of the work as well. In fact, it’s all very improvisatory. I find it all a great deal of fun.  

DD: What was the catalyst for making Rock Hudson's Home Movies and From the Journals of Jean Seberg? How did you go about filming them, what kind of film stock did you use, and how did you edit it? Was this form of cinematographic film criticism new for the period?  

MR: I started making videos in the early 90s because I had been quite ill for a long time and thought I would never have the strength again to make features. Little did I realize how much energy was required to make the videos! They were edited on a ¾” u-matic, which even then was a virtually obsolete warhorse. And it was linear editing. The process, at that time was very complicated. No DVDs, no blu-rays, no nuthin’. And a lot of movies I needed, or thought I needed were not available on VHS, either. For example, one movie that I really wanted for Rock Hudson’s Home Movies was a film called A Very Special Favor, in which Charles Boyer asks Rock Hudson to seduce his, Boyer’s daughter, Leslie Caron, a very frosty shrink. Rock becomes a patient of hers, pretending that he’s gay and… well, you get the idea. Maybe I’ll remake RHHM now that that film is available on DVD. Nor was there a large pirate underground. Or if there was, I certainly didn’t know about it. And, worst of all, no internet. So I would have to rent or buy commercial VHSs of the films I needed, if they existed, transfer the extracts I needed to BetaSP, then dump them to ¾” and finally have an on-line session in BetaSP. In addition to which, I used a lot of movies that I taped off TV. It was all that was available at that time. People today complain about the quality of the images, without realizing that, at the time, it was pretty much guerrilla filmmaking. Or videomaking, if you like.

DD: Did you have any reference points or models for this new form of audio-visual film criticism when you started making Rock Hudson's Home Movies and From the Journals of Jean Seberg in the Nineties? And what are your thoughts on the new trend of digitally edited video essays (which yourself you are now making, and which are available on Fandor)? Are there video essays by others that you really like? 

MR: Not really. Although I had seen Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinéma Parts 1A and 1B at the Berlin Film Festival in 1990 and was practically bathed in cold sweat by the time they were over. I think that was a very important influence on me and pointed to a direction in which one could work. Around the same time, I saw Matthias Müller’s Home Stories, which got me very excited, and also a film by a friend of mine whom no one ever heard of, Ron Robboy, a musician, a music historian, and a historian of Yiddish theater, who made an absolutely wild, free-form conjectural essay about a Yiddisher cowboy acting in silent Hollywood Westerns. One tangent would lead to another to another…  It was the ultimate in speculative essay-making, one idea leap-frogging over another to another. We spent hours talking about his research and methods of working and I think that had an impact on me. Unfortunately, I doubt that his movie even exists any longer. 
I think the trend of making digital whatever-you-want-to call-them is a very healthy one, if not always especially useful. It’s a way of vomiting back the detritus of pop culture that has practically drowned us in its excesses and force-feeding it back some of its own medicine. When everyone and his uncle was making his or her own version of the Brokeback Mountain, I thought that was absolutely great. Ditto for everyone who added their own subtitles to that clip of Downfall, in which, in the most widely seen version, Hitler is spluttering with rage that he hasn’t been invited to Michael Jackson’s birthday party! On the other hand, I feel there is a lot of uninteresting work out there which is being just because it can be done. Let’s do a (s)mash-up of Hiroshima Mon Amour and Godzilla!. Japan/Japan—get it? Got it! Or a mash-up of Psycho and Last Year at Marienbad. Hotel/hotel, right? Yeah, but why? And what does it mean? Because It Can Be Done is not a good enough reason, at least, not for me. But this is all brand new practice and I think it will change. There’ll be some long-distance runners and then the others who are attracted to the novelty and the possibility that it can be done, whether it’s worth doing or not. 

DD: How has your method of filming and editing these video essays changed over the years? For example, for your new digital work, what kind of video extracting and editing software do you use? Are copyright issues still a problem?

MR: Well, I don’t film anymore, or, least, haven’t so far and don’t have any immediate plans to do so. I think these newer essays are much freer in the way the subjects are approached. Basically, you can do anything you can think of. You’re a prisoner only of the limits of your imagination and your knowledge. Those are the only things that can hold you back. For one thing, I’m doing non-linear editing on Final Cut Pro X. In the 90s, I was working on what even then was an obsolete, outmoded war horse—a ¾” u-matic. In the old days, you would have to rent DVDs, if they existed, or take stuff off TV (there was real problem with quality), then transfer the scenes you wanted to BetaSP, then download to u-matic, then do an on-line on BetaSP. And then, if you wanted people to actually see it, transfer it to film so it could be played in theaters. So, it was very complicated and expensive. Now I just download DVDs and/or blu-rays into my computer and start editing. With Final Cut there are no intermediary stages and when you’re finished you can download something that can be shown on internet. That’s another huge plus that makes this new technology so exciting. You can have audiences on the internet. With the digital revolution, anything can be seen anywhere. Very different from the old days. 

And copyright is not an issue. Since everyone, everywhere is doing it, I don’t think the Keepers of the Gate can or are able or even want to pay attention to everything that’s happening everywhere. You probably still can’t play at the multiplex (not that you could or would anyway) or on NBC. But the sluicegates are open and I doubt that there’s going to be any way to shut them any time soon. 

DD: What are your thoughts on the French television shows, Cinéastes de notre temps and Cinema Cinema? And what do you think of Jean-Luc Godard’s video essays?

MR: Cinéma Cinéma no longer exists. And Cinéastes de notre temp is pretty much feeding on whoever is still left. There’s actually talk about doing one on me—that’s what things have come to! As for Godard, even though he probably hates hearing stuff like this, he is the daddy of us all. Without Godard, who knows what direction all this video stuff might have gone in?

DD: Can you tell me more about the e-books that you’ve written (and which are available on Amazon)? And do you have any upcoming projects in the works? Are there any contemporary actors, actresses or directors that you feel like would be worth exploring?

MR: I’ve been writing essays on film and/or fictions about film for about 25 years now. It all started with people actually asking me to write for their magazines or books or catalogues and I just kept on going. They’re probably idiosyncratic pieces and are not for everyone. I’m neither an academic nor a historian or a reviewer or a film critic. So, they don’t for the most part, fit into the usual categories. In a way, they’re an extension of my essay films of the 90s And I’m also adapting parts of some of my essays into my current videos. For example, Becoming Anita Ekberg was based on a piece I wrote called “anita/ANITA.” Now I no longer write essays but, of course, the writing I do for the video essays is also “writing.” 

When you say actors “worth exploring,” I kind of cringe a little. People have been suggesting to me why don’t you do so-and-so or this one or that one. For me, it has to be an actor or actress who’s been caught up in some kind of political upheaval beyond their control which changed their lives and what was available to them as actors, very drastically. Like World War II or the blacklist. I actually am thinking about doing one on Conrad Veidt, one on Paul Henreid (based on an article I wrote about his double life on screen). And maybe someday, something about Marsha Hunt, a blacklisted Hollywood actress, and Hildegard Neff. That said, I’m ready to start a video about Debra Paget, a Hollywood starlet from the 50s who never quite made it but has a fair claim to be called Princess of Kitsch as a result of the many trashy movies she was ensnared in…

Rodney Ascher
DD: What made you want to make Room 237?

RA: It's as simple as a fascination with the proliferation of deep interpretive theories about The Shining. My producer, Tim Kirk, and I were astounded to find out how many were out there - and how detailed they were. And once the ball started rolling it became clear the project had something to say about subjects bigger than The Shining (if that can be imagined!)
I had recently finished a similarly-styled documentary short and this subject looked like a great way to push that approach further. Luckily I loved Kubrick in general and The Shining in particular since I had to live with it almost everyday for 2+ years. There's not a lot of films I could've have done that with. 

DD: Did you need to clear copyright material, and was that expensive? And what editing software did you use?

RA: Everything needed to be cleared one way or another though a lot of it was considered Fair Use. There was also some material that needed to be licensed. Expensive? Depends on how you measure it, it was more money than we had lying around but it cost less than re-shooting The Shining.
I cut it in FinalCut 7 with a little After Effects.

DD: Adam Nayman wanted to know if any really famous directors, like Scorsese or Spielberg, saw Room 237 and got back to you on what they thought about it? He was sure that they must have.

RA: Not a ton actually. John Landis grilled Tim about the American Werewolf scene after a festival screening and I've talked about it with a few of the Masters of Horror (Mick Garris, Stuart Gordon, and Don Coscarelli). Never heard from Spielberg or Scorsese, not even second hand. Certainly I'd be curious (though intimidated!) to hear what they thought.

DD: How do you see Room 237 as an object of a new participatory film culture which has been fostered by the internet and social media?

RA: I recognize that it looks like a lot of video essays and supercuts and things, but that's not really where I'm coming from. The substance of it drew from a lot of online resources, but the style was more inspired by my affection for (and earlier experiments with) older forms of film remixes, work by people like Bruce Connor, Craig Baldwin, The Emergency Broadcast Network etc. I'm happy for it to be part of a newer wave of film/video though, and I've seen some really interesting stuff that feels like it would be put on the same shelf of the video store as 237 (to use a metaphor that shows my age). 

DD: Are you familiar with the other intense Kubrick fan pages? Like the one's on Facebook, Stanley Kubrick Appreciation Society and alt.movies.kubrick? They're really good, some really in depth interpretations, behind the scenes photos, and family and collaborators sometime participating. The Tumblr Welcome to Somerton is really good too.

RA: Sure - there were fewer when we started and some of them informed the film (and even appear in some of the graphics) but more and more have appeared since. Just because the film is finished doesn't mean people have stopped investigating this stuff. I had hoped the film would make it clear that any effort to be comprehensive would be doomed to failure and that what I included was just the tip of an ever-growing iceberg.

DD: I can't but help but think of Kubrick when I watch your films. In Room 237 when the interpretations start to get so wild that someone sees Kubrick in the clouds, I'm almost under a hypnotic spell like during the psychedelic trip at the end of 2001. Or in The Nightmare, the scene when the camera pulls out of the room and you see how it's all being done, this reminded me of the BBC Kubrick commercial where they recreated in long-take the set and filming of The Shining. What's your next project, and do you think they'll be a Kubrick influence on it?

RA: Well thanks, that's a pretty serious compliment. Truth is I'm developing a handful of things right now and I'm not sure which (if any) will become my next full-time, long-term obsession. Certainly my aspiration is to learn from my deep immersion into his world as I continue to figure out what the hell I'm doing.

DD: Just out of curiosity, have you seen Raiders! or It Follows? They kinda reminded me of your films in some ways.

RA: Missed Raiders!, but I've seen It Follows and I liked it an awful lot. I made sure not to watch it (or Babadook) until I finished since I was afraid they were covering similar ground. They're both pretty great, full of interesting ideas, vivid images, and real emotions, right?

DD: How did you go about making Love Sounds? What sparked the idea? And how long did it take?

MT: Love Sounds is the final installment in an immaterial trilogy that began with LACONIA: 1,200 Tweets on Film, a book of aphoristic film criticism written on Twitter from 2009-2010 and published in print in 2011. Love Dog, a multi-media love manifesto written on Tumblr from 2012-2013, followed LACONIA. Eventually I realized that the project was a trilogy developing around recurring themes and formal questions, but each time the form was a total revelation. I originally thought Love Sounds would be a series of transcribed interviews with people about love, a kind of oral case study. But I decided against that because I was more interested in looking at how shared beliefs are shaped by cultural narratives. It took a while to figure out what form Love Sounds would take and what the actual source material would be. Once I realized that I wanted to sample and montage found footage, specifically an audio history of dialogue events in cinema, I had to figure out how to organize the sections. One of the formal deliberations I had to resolve was how to arrange the 8.5 decades of cinema. I wasn’t sure whether each decade should be independently organized or whether the 8 sections should be consolidated within a single time phase, making time work synchronously in each section. That is, having all the times (eras of cinema) intermingle and cross-cut. A chronology in non-chronological order. I decided on the latter because time works affectively, sonically, simultaneously. It took 15 months to make Love Sounds—about 8 months to collect roughly 3000 thousand clips (from the 1930s until 2014) and about 7 months to make both the 4-hour edit and the 24-hour edit.

DD: I experienced Love Sounds at Videofag recently and thought it was so rich and engrossing. It was divided into two two-hour sections spread over two evenings. How does this version condense the twenty-four hour version of Love Sounds? And what were its different iterations and methods of presentations?

MT: I made the 4-hour cut first—last August—for film screenings essentially. The 4-hour version you saw is the “short,” summarized edit of Love Sounds. I call it the theater-friendly version. The 4-hour cut cycles through the same sections the 24 hours does, but does so in an abridged way. Also the edits are almost completely different. It might be hard to imagine that an intense 4-hour video can be considered short, but to me it feels light in comparison. The 24-hr version consists of 2-4 hour videos of 8 relationship stages, so the ruminations are much more elaborate and cumulative. Each long section is comprised of sub-sections. So they’re essentially micro-epics—long essayistic structures made up of 1500+ audio granules in order to build a single narrative made up of fragments. What I like about Love Sounds is it can be experienced and presented in a number of forms and contexts. It’s been played on the radio without any visuals (the film’s only visuals are 8 white titles against a black screen), presented in galleries and museum installations as separate videos, and in movie theaters as a 4 -hour sound film.

DD: It’s a fascinating work of collage. First off, as a cinephile, I’m paying attention to what audio clips and films that you’ve included. I’m asking myself what films have you’ve seen. It’s a fascinating object of film criticism, on par with Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself and Christian Marclay’s The Clock. What do you think a work like Love Sounds or even your book of your film-related Tweets LACONIA speak to a 21st Century cinephilia?

MT: Yes, all my work, especially the immaterial trilogy, is concerned with exploring new forms—of film criticism, new forms of writing and reading. For every project, I first have to establish the form. I don’t know how to engage with content otherwise. Form is the way into something, just as listening is the way into love. The form is the lens and also the way, as Trinh T Minh-ha says about the digital. Listening and love require endurance and commitment, while also being immersive, interstitial, and resonant. So I had to employ a structure that reproduced this ethic. As someone who started off writing and moved into other practices and mediums, writing for me has always been about waiting for another form to (de)materialize. Each project in the trilogy is form and site specific, which means it uses one form or idea and tries it (reconstitutes it) out in a different medium, sort of like moving furniture around in a room. So I use film to look at sound, the voice to look at desire and relation, and love to look at endurance and precarity. Love Sounds is the book I can't write, or the epic novel I want to write using a different media; consisting of words but not writing. Why write a book as an actual book? Why think of a movie as something you look at rather than listen to? Love Sounds is a re-imagining of the book, the film, and the epic love poem. It’s book as post-writing, post-representation, post-cinema.

DD: Love Sounds creates a brand new dispotif for the film experience. The cinema space/art gallery becomes a place where viewers get together in a public space just to listen. It’s this auditory aspect which really stands out. Can you speak about this?

MT: Image production and spectatorship no longer happen collectively or in shared spaces. Both the space and source of viewing has become fractured and virtual. And time (the time of spectatorship, the time of listening) isn’t really being shared either. Everything is constantly disrupted, put on hold. Everything is suspended in the present. There’s no temporal arc anymore. I think this idea of shared and collective listening replacing shared and collective viewing is really crucial, as we need to take our focus off seeing visually in order to think and feel and see in new ways. I’m less concerned with people identifying the movies they’re hearing in Love Sounds and more concerned with them listening carefully and critically to the ethic of what they’re hearing, as if for the first time. I don’t think we’ve ever really heard anything we’ve seen, especially when it comes to love, which is why I strip everything down to language in this film.

DD: Listening to Love Sounds one starts to think of why Hollywood films are so popular world wide. The actors and voices just by themselves are really compelling and can instill such powerful emotions just from their dialogue and how they convey it. Was this emphasis on script-writers and actors part of its initial concept?

MT: Beginning with my first book, Beauty Talk and Monsters, a collection of film-based stories, I was already very interested in the myths and psychosocial structures of fame, persona, and acting in a culture of increasing performativity and affect. Much of my work has also focused on the relationship between on-screen and off-screen, which I think is what Love Sounds is partly interested in. Specifically: what are we hearing that we are used to seeing? And: what have we not heard by seeing? As it relates to love, I think we need to start investing in an audio-vision and a politics of listening. In Love Dog, a book that was written online, and incorporates sound, image, and text simultaneously in order to create an experience of a text, I was interested in questions of sonic language, the ontology of the voice as source of meaning, and love as a practice of listening. Much of our modern discourse of love comes from 20th century cinema, which takes shape via the excessive surplus of stars. So love has been heavily mediated and sublimated by that filtering system, which we know as Hollywood. But, as we know, Hollywood has become a much bigger, more fluid, more holistically disseminated network. It’s not cinema anymore, nor is it simply actors. It’s a social system. It happens everywhere, all the time. So I wanted to strip all of that from the face and history of cinema-as-we-know it, and assemble only the auditory dialogues of love for the post-cinematic era. Like a long goodbye.

DD: There’s also the different use of film scores that come out – it goes from all over the spectrum from classical compositions to rap to modern music. The four-hour version felt almost like a musical composition in its assemblage where it crescendos in the last chapter Love. I’m wondering if you think that that’s a productive way to look at it?

MT: I’m glad you noticed that. I wanted Love Sounds to be an auditory landscape and that includes all kinds of sound—talking, music, breathing, sex, crying, rain, cars, silence, etc. The sonic is how I arrange, construct, and conjure affective meaning in the film. Much of the music is diegetic—meaning it intrinsically belongs to a particular film. But I also mixed and matched a lot of the scores, laying different tracks (that are not from the films being sampled) over various clips; sometimes dragging one score from a clip into another scene, using it to bridge or comment on the proceeding or preceding clips. Other times, I cut a song off abruptly, prohibiting its intended emotional effect/affect. But since I didn’t want to follow a formula, every section uses a different approach, mood, tone. Just as all the clips are in dialogue, so is the music. Sometimes the musical exchanges clash and sometimes they harmonize and crescendo in some revelatory way. It’s all in the composition and cut. Love Sounds was also a chance for me to return to my musical roots as a classical pianist.
Mark Peranson
DD: Did your previous work in video and documentary – the one for the Toronto Film Critics Association, and then Waiting for Sancho – prepare you for making La última película? Aside from these, have you made any other videos or films, and would you return to filmmaking?    

MP: Well, let’s not get into the TFCA video. Of course, working on a film impacts the way you approach the next film, but Waiting for Sancho obviously came about under different circumstances. The crew and the cast were already there, all I did was take a camera and shoot them; maybe there were one or two instances of “direction” of actors. Being on a film set for an extended period, however unorthodox, did help me understand how films can be made, and I’ll admit to drawing on some experiences in the Birdsong shoot when both conceptualizing and executing La última película. More to the point, editing Waiting for Sancho was certainly good preparation for working on La última película, as I don’t think you can really get into what it means to make a film without talking about editing and actually getting into the nitty gritty of figuring out how the shots work together, when to cut, basic stuff like that. Even if there was far less material to work with than in La última película.    

No other hidden masterpieces in my background, sorry. And sure, I’d make a film again if the opportunity arose, the time was right, and there was a project that made sense. I would also be open to collaborations, so if anyone wants to offer up ideas, I’m ready to listen.    

DD: When did you first get the idea of making a feature-length narrative film, and was it easy to finance and make? Did the mythology of the Fifties Cahiers film critics that went on to become directors partly inspire you?    

MP: The film came out of the CPH: DOX lab program, which gave us a small amount of money that we shot the film with (plus some of my own money, never do that, aspiring filmmakers). So they approached Raya and me to make a film together. It was Raya’s idea to shoot something in Mexico at the time of the Mayan apocalypse, and together we developed the idea for what became the film. The post-production was paid for with a combination of a cash prize from the Riviera Maya Film Festival works in progress, and then private investment, which was necessary when we decided to finish the film on 35mm (we probably could have got away with a more limited budget if we didn’t want to finish on film). Regarding the Cahiers “mythology,” not really, but I suppose all critics and filmmakers who are knowledgeable about what was going on in France in the 60s have it in the back of their mind, somewhere. The idea of extending film criticism to something beyond writing was certainly there, with both films, so maybe you could say it was an “inspiration” if you want. There are definitely elements in La última película that are Godardian.    

DD: Being the chief editor of one of the best film magazines, Cinema Scope, and a programmer at Locarno, was there a desire to cross over sides and to experience the film festival platform from the perspective of a filmmaker?    

MP: I’ve always believed that one of the benefits of cinema is that it offers the constant opportunity of knowledge expansion. That is to say, even if one confines him or herself to criticism, there are so many kinds of movies being made in so many parts of the world in such radically different fashions, that you could watch and study films every day in your life and still discover something new. This is a wonderful yet daunting prospect, yet, at the same time, the world of cinema proper cannot solely be confined to the production of cinema. In this I mean that one must consider how films are produced, exhibited, and received, which adds another level of understanding, which is equally daunting. On a practical level this means that to truly understand cinema, as far as I’m concerned, one should approach it from all of the angles—so, to get to your question, from the perspective of a programmer, making a film and taking it on a festival circuit can only help my job in understanding the concerns and desires of filmmakers as they start exhibiting their film, as during a festival one of the main jobs of a programmer is providing the best atmosphere for the reception of a film and helping filmmakers through the process (especially with regards to young filmmakers). Regarding the magazine, before I started making films I was in contact with filmmakers who respect and appreciate good reviews, so I already was aware of the crucial role that criticism has with respect to the reception of the film—but then having to go through the process of being both savaged and praised for our film didn’t really have any impact when it comes to the magazine.    

DD: Now a few years later, what do you remember about the whole experience?    

MP: Well, for a number of reasons, it’s still going on—when you make a film, unless you’re a real filmmaker and move onto the next one rather soon, it’s going to hang over your head. Especially if it’s an intense shoot. The one thing I would recommend to any aspiring filmmaker is to get a producer (I ended up producing the film myself, and production is a different skill set, shall we say). I still think that the film hasn’t found a wide enough audience, but, at the same time, I’m at ease having a product that isn’t accessible with a click of the mousepad. Ask me again in 20 years or so.    

DD: Do you think that it’s reasonable to expect that working directors are also cinephiles? If not, why not? If so, do you think it’s more important for filmmakers to keep up with new films or go back and fill in blind spots?    

MP: Of course it doesn’t hurt, but I don’t think you need to be a cinephile to be a good filmmaker. (Maybe to be a great filmmaker it’s different…) Being a cinephile is a lifestyle choice—if you really want to dive into cinema, to make film an ineluctable part of your being, it’s going to take a lot of time and energy. When I have a few spare hours, I would really rather get some exercise, go to the beach, take a walk, read a book, but no, I end up watching a movie. And I feel guilty that most of these films are contemporary and that I don’t have the chance to catch up on my blind spots, or rewatch the classics, which is a complete luxury that might have to wait until retirement. So maybe I’m not even a cinephile, come to think of it. By this point I’ve probably shaved years off my life expectancy thanks to cinema.
Blake Williams
DD: Can you tell me more about your website, R and G and B? What’s its purpose for you, and what’s the best way to navigate it as a viewer? 

BW: I started R and G and B in 2008, a couple of months after moving to Toronto and participating in my first TIFF. I was beginning to watch a lot of movies and I wanted to take notes on them, so I’d write 200-500 words about every film I saw on there, which eventually amounted to a post per day. At some point I got burnt out on that and decided to only write capsule reviews during film festivals, which also eventually petered out so that now I mostly only write elsewhere (for Cinema Scope, Ioncinema, and others). Thus the blog has become more of a public place for stating my taste; I only really use it now to note down all the films I see (with numeric ratings expressing my level of enthusiasm), make top ten lists, post my festival schedules, etc. I don’t imagine there’s much reason for anyone to spend much time on the site anymore, much less “navigate” it. If you find that you agree with my overall taste in movies, I’d just bookmark the film log page to occasionally check in to see what I’ve watched lately and liked for casual, non-spoilery recommendations. Or just eschew it altogether and follow me on Letterboxd.

DD: Is there any crossover from being a cinephile and your filmmaking practice?

BW: Almost certainly, though it might be better to ask an outsider about that. I was making video art, installations, and experimental shorts before I became a cinephile, and I have no doubt that the two are related. But I don’t see much overlap between the films I love and the ones I make except, save for the avant-garde filmmakers I’m fond of—Michael Snow, Lewis Klahr, James Benning. I tried to avoid watching bad movies, but when I do see one I find it’s more generative for my own practice than a “good” movie is, since I start thinking of ways to fix it while I’m watching it or thinking about it after. But mostly my filmmaking is influenced by listening to music.

DD: You have an impressive DVD collection. From the European edition of Rameau’s Nephew, to the Austrian film museum James Benning California trilogy, and to that rare Lewis Klahr boxset. What are your personal favorites from your collection, and what are some of your rarest DVDs?

BW: Thanks! You’ve already named my favourites, but to that I’d add the José Luis Guerín boxset from Versus, the Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film set, Re:voir’s DVD of Philippe Garrel’s La cicatrice intérieure, and CDMDC’s new blu-ray box of Jack Chamber’s films (not to mention Criterion’s Frampton and Brakhage sets). I have a number of my favourite films on Blu-ray that I should name, many released in beautiful Criterion or Masters of Cinema packages, but it’s the experimental films I value most, especially since in most cases I still can’t believe anyone was willing to fund such a thing.

DD: How long have you been going to Cannes for, and how much does it usually cost and how do you afford it? And how has your coverage of the festival, from Ioncinema to Cinema Scope, evolved throughout this period?

BW: I first went to Cannes in 2006 as part of their Cinephile program, which is open to locals and film students and grants (extremely) low priority access to screenings. I’d heard the new Lynch was tipped to play there, so decided to make the trip several months prior at the end of the school year (INLAND EMPIRE, of course, wasn’t ready in time and didn’t premiere until Venice; Southland Tales was a fair enough substitute). I didn’t see much that year (about 15 films), but it was a more or less fine experience and I felt like I wouldn’t mind going back again one day.

Two years later (2008), a short film I made for my BFA thesis project got into the Short Film Corner and I decided to go and support it. In terms of watching movies while I was there, at this point I would say I still wasn’t really doing the festival properly—I avoided the Fortnight and Critic’s Week, held up placards all day long begging for invitations to big premieres—but I moved to Toronto later that summer and had my first TIFF experience, which was when I got more of an idea of what the interesting films playing the festival circuit were, and noticing, by reading various blogs, that most of the interesting films had played in Cannes, but had been off my radar.

That was also about when I first heard of and read Cinema Scope magazine, and shortly after I found out about Ioncinema, probably through one of their Cannes predictions pieces. I got really addicted to the major Euro festival circuit—Cannes, as well as Venice, Berlin, Locarno—and since 2010 I’ve made a point to go to Cannes every year, mostly because it clears my TIFF slate and allows me to see everything coming in from Locarno, Venice, et al. It’s my only real hobby that requires money (my films are made basically for free, so far), so a lot of my penny saving goes toward my trip there. As years passed I started meeting people who write for Cinema Scope and Ioncinema, who knew me either from Twitter, my blog, or through my posts on BlogTO. One thing led to another, and I’ve been writing pieces for them since 2012.

DD: You attend a lot film festivals around the world and your stories of experimental film curation have stood out. Has your knowledge of what’s cutting-edge in experimental cinema and what’s being curated at these prestigious festivals influenced your own filmmaking practice?

BW: I still think of myself as somewhat of a novice when it comes to the experimental film world. I’ve been only interested in this kind of work since going to Wavelengths for the first time in 2009. I’ve since been going to NYFF Views from the Avant-Garde (now Projections) since 2011, and have only in the last year made my first trips to Media City in Windsor, Crossroads in San Francisco, and the International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen. I’m noticing that what I consider cutting-edge and what seasoned avant-garde veterans and programmers can be pretty disparate, but this is also where it gets fun. You develop a position, find things that could be and should be done differently, and it inevitably gives your work something to respond to, and hopefully makes it richer. A piece of art is an argument for its own existence, so if it isn’t inserting itself into a discussion, or progressing and intervening in the field in some way, then it’s just filling up space.
Jean-Sébastien Chauvin
DD: While watching your film Les Enfants one notices its use of imagination and science-fiction. One gets the impression that it’s the total opposite of a certain trend of an independent cinema which is minimalistic, and by not anesthetizing, attempts to render immediate the condition of its character, usually in a world of bastards. Your film is the opposite of this. There is a side almost Spielberg in Les Enfants with its use of imagination, extra-terrestrials, and outer-space. Can you talk about this a little? 

JSC: I love science-fiction and the cinéma fantastique, and it’s true that it’s a minority tradition in France. Here the cinema is more in the tradition of realism or, as you say, a form of minimalism. But actually there is a true tradition of the fantastique as a literary genre here in France but which, curiously, has not really been transferred towards our cinema. What I really like about the fantastique genre or science fiction, is that it demands an imagery that is really visual and not literary (while, it seems to me, that the French imagination is in general more literary). Personally, when I try to conceive a film it usually starts from a situation that’s really visual. For example, in Et il gravirent la montagne, it was the idea of discovering a cellphone out in the middle of the woods, which seems like its calling the main characters. I found this situation really tormenting and bizarre. This was the starting point for the film. For Les enfants, it was the starting idea to have these flying saucers and the imagination of the children, and how the mother couldn’t really enter into that realm. I know that I really like to work on the lighting. One critique of Et il gravirent la montagne and Les enfants described them as sharing characters that are trying to find their own interior light. I find this to be accurate, or at least I recognize myself in this idea. Ideally I would like the whole film to come from the light, the characters, the story etc. And what I really like also are how when the elements that are part of the exterior of the scene are a form of expression of the interiority of the characters. It’s the case of the telephone in Et il gravirent la montagne or the luminous space-craft in Les enfants. It’s without a doubt for this reason that I really like the cinema of Spielberg, which is also extremely visual, and even more so iconic and graphic. It’s a cinema that is very attentive to the particularities of the light.

DD: In the interview with your cinematographer Thomas Favel in the special issue of  Cahiers on Light (N.702) he speaks about Les Enfants and how it’s set in Bretagne, which isn’t regularly seen in French cinema, and how the fog of the landscape helps to transform the atmosphere more towards a phantasm. Les Enfants made me think of Joaquim Pinto’s What now? Remind me, which you described in your critique in terms of a grand love of the couple that is fighting the killer disease, and how the ravaging landscape becomes a metaphor for Pinto’s plight. It’s like the mother in Les Enfants with her two children. Can you talk a little about what you were trying to do with the landscapes in your film, and what do you think of this comparison? 

JSC: I want to treat the landscape as if it was a character into itself, who is dialoguing with the characters. For this reason I also really like American cinema because usually their landscapes, nature, and its décor seems to participate towards the drama of its characters. And this also goes for the weather, like the rain, wind, and the sun. I want to treat all of these elements with the same equality as I do the characters. In Les enfants, the forest, with its huge rocks and tremendous details, gives the whole place its own spirit. When we scouted for the locations, I had the really strong sentiment that something magical came out of this space. And for the film it was the perfect location, which seemed like it had its own organic relation to the story. I really believe in what some people describe as the ‘genius of the location’. And I also believe that not all locations are indifferent, they are not all equal. The movie would have been different if it was shot in a different location. Like how Godard said, one has to cast a location just like one must cast an actor. In the film of Joachim Pinto, what I really liked was how this personal story was able to take on some more universal quality due to the landscape. It gave the story a dimension that makes it more important. 

DD: I like how Cahiers defends a youthful cinema. There was the dossier on Young French Filmmakers, another one on students, and in one of the newest issues there are the critiques on Inside Out and Mad Max: Fury Road. I can imagine a teenager being able to buy the magazine and being able to see themselves in it. The youth are the future. Your film is called Les Enfants. What’s the importance of youth for you, and how do you bring this theme into your film? 

JSC: Yes, I find it super that the youth reads Cahiers! But there is no intention from the part of the team of writers to aim towards a young readership. These are our tastes that are expressed through our choices – there is no cynical volition about them. And also it’s part of a tradition at Cahiers du Cinéma to defend a commercial cinema when it is smart, and when it holds some real ideas regarding cinema. It happens to be the case that this is a cinema that affects a lot of the youth. But that’s how it’s like, at Cahiers, there isn’t any hierarchical order. We defend a film like the one by Joachim Pinto and then also one by George Miller. We hierarchize depending on the quality of the film, at least from our subjective point of view. As well, youth allows one to read the world of the adults. One of my favourite films is Allemagne année zéro by Rossellini. There is something powerful and politically really violent to show how the only person that isn’t corrupted is the child. A child who perfectly understands, in a very lucid way, the horror of the adults and the world around him. It’s a little like as if the children are the extra-terrestrials. In E.T. by Spielberg, the character of the title is actually a child. I really believe that children are these strange beings, way more strange then the adults. When we grow up, we win more things, but we actually loose part of this strangeness, this bizarre way to act. And from one perspective, cinematographically it’s fascinating. But I feel like I still have a lot to learn, I think that I still haven’t found the secret regarding the directing of actors and particularly the directing of children.
DD: What’s the reality of being an independent director in France today? And I’m wondering about the special issue of Cahiers on Young French Filmmakers (N.688). Do you think, or have you heard stories regarding this, if it was able to help these actors, actresses, and directors get their films produced, distributed, and find a public? I like that it’s a subject that Cahiers returns to, and how films like Les rencontres d'après minuit de Yann Gonzalez et La Bataille de Solférino de Justine Triet made it on the Cahiers Top Ten Films of 2013 list.

JSC: It’s both really exciting to be a young director working in France today, and at the same time, difficult to express singularity, especially to convince commissions to fund wild projects. But maybe this has always been hard. Myself, for example, who is obsessed with the fantastique, I find it difficult to impose my projects unto scenarios for these commissions, since they aren’t really psychological and the stories are a little strange in the context of French cinema. But at Cahiers Stéphane Delorme is really attentive towards young directors. I find this to be great since I find there’s something a little conservative with film critics who expect first films to be immediately masterpieces before they defend them. While I think criticism must have some panache, take the risk to be wrong, and attempt to figure out the talent of tomorrow, even if the films aren’t perfect. What counts I believe is its spirit. If I see a first film with a spirit that I feel is promising, a vision of the world that I like, regardless of the film or its flaws, one must defend it completely, just like one would defend a person who has seduced us regardless of his flaws. I don’t really like this tendency of French film critics to sometimes imitate professors and who distribute good and negative points to films. A child is never perfect, he’s going through formation, and it would be stupid to say that he isn’t really bright, or not as talented as so-and-so. We can’t have to wait for these genius children, that would make no sense. For me, it’s the same concerning films. 

DD: Do you have any new film projects in the works? What would it be? And would you go on to make a feature-length film? 

JSC: Yeah, I have a project for a feature-length film that I’m developing at the moment. We are just at the beginning stage of the writing. This is with my collaborator script-writer Hélène Frappat, who wrote the script for Les enfants. It’ll be a passionate love story in a fantastique setting. 
Antoine Bourges

DD: When I asked you participate, you were telling me that you no longer consider yourself a cinephile. Can you elaborate a little? What happened and why?

AB: I wasn’t completely serious although I think I’m probably less of a cinephile than I used to be. I watch fewer films and while I still get excited when a film speaks honestly, I quickly get dis-interested when I don’t sense any kind of appetite for cinema. Having said this I am probably better at appreciating films now. I think I can more easily experience a film as an independent object, separate from what I believe or assume the filmmaker tried to do.

DD: Your hybrid-documentaries East Hasting Pharmacy and William in White Shirt aren't really 'cinephile' films, but they still demonstrate a strong idea of cinema. Can you elaborate a little on if there were any films or directors that marked you and that you thought of when you made them?

AB: I’m not sure what you mean by non-cinephile films, but I can relate to the idea of making films ‘against’ cinema. I first wanted to be a filmmaker because I didn’t recognize my experience in movies; it wasn’t so much my personal life-experience but the way events occur, how they unfold in time. I always felt there was an aesthetic quality to the empty moments and flatness of everyday life, and I could not see it in other movies. Obviously I was unaware that an entire tradition of cinema had embraced these qualities, but ignoring that probably helped me get started!

By the time I was making EHP and WWS, I was still interested in this idea of incorporating more life into films but I think I was a little less discriminating. I was fascinated by the films of Bresson and Akerman, and as I started following the more contemporary filmmakers of that tradition, I became aware of how these films helped my ability to see and experience life. They also made me more curious about others and meet people very different from me. So I think I started to notice that it really works both ways and that there shouldn’t be such a clear distinction between the two.

DD: You told me when you were last in Paris that you've even seen some of the films by the new generation of young French directors, whose films never get programmed here. What of their films have you seen and, from your perspective, can you tell me what you think of this new movement?

AB: I can’t speak about this movement as a whole because I only saw a few films by two directors, Sophie Letourneur and Guillaume Brac. I’ve also never been really convinced by this idea of wave in general.

I like the lightness in tone and treatment of Letourneur’s films. She seems to embrace a sort of triviality that works really well. I suspect part of it is in reaction to the more self-respectable air of more auteurist films, which can be misleading because there’s a lot in her films that deserve serious viewing. In La Vie au Ranch, I particularly responded to how she portrays people from her own milieu, never overly critical and at the same time never apologizing. I think this film is an amazing document of young bourgeois in Paris today.

DD: From an outsider perspective, you were born in France and spent time in Vancouver, what are your thoughts on the Toronto film community?

AB: I’m not sure how to answer this one. I worked for an artist in Vancouver, and before that, I was a hockey player in France and Montreal. I suppose the Vancouver art scene and the Montreal hockey community give me some outsider perspective but I’m not sure it’s really relevant!

I guess I like knowing that there is a group of people out there that shares my interest, and a lot of them are my good friends. I am also very cautious answering this because I am seeing you slowly become the Godfather of this scene and I want to stay in your good books.

DD: Do you have any new projects in the works?

AB: I’m hoping to shoot a feature film towards the end of the year but I prefer not to discuss projects until I get closer to executing them.
Kazik Radwanski

DD: You’ve talked of an Allan King and John Cassavetes inspiration. Can you talk about what you like about these directors, and if you’ve learnt anything from them that you brought into your own filmmaking practice?

KR: Years ago, when was doing my undergrad at Ryerson I didn’t feel comfortable making anything except for these small documentary projects. Soon even with documentary I quickly felt burdened by the rules and responsibilities. Watching how emotional and naturally inquisitive King's films were was inspirational. They just seemed so direct and unburdened by convention. So in many ways his work helped me find confidence in my own craft. To film what I found interesting and worry less about rules and boundaries. Cassavetes is a similar inspiration. There were moments in his films that I just found so incredible but couldn't articulate why. At the time I felt pretty inarticulate in general. There were films I wanted to make and things I wanted to explore but I couldn’t explain myself. Ray Carney’s Cassavetes on Cassavetes and The Films of Cassavetes: Pragmatism, Modernism and the movies were bibles for me for me for a while. The way Carney is able to breakdown scenes and describe what is so amazing about his work was huge for me. Watching those films and reading those books was a very important dialog for me to explore in a time where if felt alone and misunderstood.

DD: Nicolás Pereda in your Cinema Scope interview with him compared your work to that of the Dardenne brothers. Is that a similarity that you see with your own work?

KR: Yeah, I don’t remember exactly what Nico said but it would be hard to imagine my films or a lot of other recent films without the Dardennes. I think they are primarily responsible for re-introducing a certain type of realism to the landscape of contemporary cinema.

DD: You’ve spoken of being really impressed by the cinema of Denis Côté when you discovered it. What do you like about his films, and do you think Côté represents some kind of model for young Canadian directors?

KR: Definitely. I really look up to Denis and what he has accomplished. He's a good role model for young Canadian filmmakers. I think it's genius how he balances his body of work with two million dollar features and his, as he calls them, "revenge films" that are made for next to nothing. He follows his own path.

DD: I saw connections between Tower and Martin Ritt’s Edge of the City which stars John Cassavetes as a construction worker, and then with Cutaway I thought of Bresson’s Lancelot of Lac for the violence and emotional power of its close-ups. What do you think of these unconventional comparisons regarding your work? Do you think they bring out something new to you regarding them?

KR: Edge of the City was made in a very different time and is so racially and politically charged. Tower is a film that explores very different and perhaps more elusive tensions. Derek’s problem maybe is that he has no problems. So yeah, it's definitely an unconventional comparison. Perhaps comparing them helps bring out the nature of conflict in the films. A film like Tower almost relies on a history of more heroic or sympathetic protagonists to contrast is self against. It makes Derek that much more pathetic or tragic. I'm surprised Lancelot du Lac was the film you choose to compare Cutaway to. L'Argent was the film that really inspired me. The shot of the ATM in Cutaway was basically stolen from it. Beyond that I didn't think about any of his other films too specifically. Chris Heron once compared close-ups of hands from my early shorts to Bresson which I think planted a seed. When I wanted to experiment and a throw a wrench in my process I latched on to the idea of hands.

DD: Your MDFF screening series brings something new and exciting to the Toronto film community. These first or second films by new independent directors, which you show, are no longer getting standard theatrical releases. What do you think the role of film festivals and alternative screening platforms, like your own, is to make their work more accessible?

KR: I don't know exactly. There's that gut feeling you have with a certain film that this film needs to play in Toronto. That it would be a shame to watch this film alone on a computer. The collective experience of watching a film or the atmosphere of a theatre is crucial. Be it ten people in a room on a digital projector or 300 in a movie theatre. I start to feel uneasy when does happen regularly. It feels unhealthy like something is broken or we are experiencing a drought. Certain films need to live or at least make an appearance here to feel good about the city where I work in and call my home.
Sofia Bohdanowicz

DD: I haven’t seen any of your new work since Modlitwa. What have you made since then? Was Never Eat Alone ever made, and do you have any new projects in the works?

SB: Yes, I have. There are three other short films that follow Modlitwa that comprise of a series of five films that are based on my Great Grandmother, Zofia's poems. I screened all five of them with the support of the Polish Consulate in a retrospective last June. 

I also shot a short film with my friend and poet Gillian Sze last summer. We shot on a 16 mm Bolex. We used film that had expired the same year we were born (1985) and although we had no idea what it would look like, we thought we'd take the chance and go for it, since the age of the film itself held a lot of significance for us both. It's called A Drownful Brilliance of Wings and is based on Gillian's poem Arriving from her book Peeling Rambutan. It's a little bit of a riff off of Robert Beavers From the Notebook of.... 

And I did make Never Eat Alone! The project took on many different entities and versions of itself before I settled on a narrative that really worked. I began shooting it as a documentary but it slowly evolved into a docudrama. The film stars my grandmother and my partner Calvin's grandfather as well as Deragh Campbell. After shooting the film as a documentary for about a year and a half I slowly started writing a narrative into it and straight away thought to cast Deragh in the role of my grandmother's granddaughter. I wasn't sure that what I was setting out to do was going to work, but Deragh is so skilled that she was able to assimilate herself into the world that we had already built with so grace and ease. She added so much richness to it. I am actually in the process of finalizing the edit and feel like it might be ready for a screening soon. 

DD: What do you find cinematic about Toronto? And you’ve told me that you’re going to France on vacation and to make a short documentary, what do you want to especially film while you are there?

SB: Toronto is my city, I was born in Mount Sinai Hospital and I live in the West end. I can't tell you specifically what is cinematic about it to me but what I can say is that many significant things in my life have taken place in the city and therefore the way I frame my stories naturally uses Toronto as a backdrop.

As for the film I am working on currently, it's not set in Toronto, I am actually shooting in France right now. It's a feature that I'm shooting on 16mm again. I'm living in Montmartre with a woman who has been there for almost 50 years. She's a force of nature in these parts, everyone knows her and her home holds so much history. I'm here for 30 days so I am shooting off a roll of film everyday to document her routines and habits. Truthfully, I'm exhausted, working by myself can be a little isolating sometimes but I'm three quarters through production and feel like it's been a really fulfilling and challenging process so far.

DD: I see you at a lot of experimental film screenings. What do you really like about that form of filmmaking?

SB: Going to experimental film screenings is really important to me because they open my mind, and educate me in terms of other filmmakers' processes, methods and perspectives. I feel like it's good training for my brain because it feeds my subconscious intellect and when it comes time to make my own films, I'm able to reference works I have seen which give me confidence to take risks and push my own limits as a filmmaker. 

I love going to Early Monthly SegmentsFree Screen, Andréa Picard's TIFF Wavelengths program as well as MDFF's series because it's a unique opportunity to see carefully programmed work that you wouldn't have the chance to see otherwise, these screenings are very precious to me. The community of filmmakers and cinephiles that attend the screenings keep me motivated, focused and help me feel less lonely in the work I am making. Sometimes when you're working on your own so much it's easy to forget that there are others out there working just as hard (and harder), and are suffering as much (or more) as you are. I'm really grateful that there are so many opportunities in Toronto to learn, and expand my knowledge on different kinds of filmmaking

DD: How is it being in a relationship with another filmmaker? Does it have an impact on your own filmmaking practice?

SB: It's a wonderful thing. I feel really lucky and quite spoiled that Calvin and I found each other. We understand when we need to give each other space to focus on our own work but we also support each other when we need it. Calvin is actually a really close collaborator on all of my films and has had a really positive influence on how I make my work. He is a lot more disciplined and organized than I am and he keeps me on my toes.

We collaborate on every aspect of production, I bounce ideas off of him when I am of thinking of shooting something, he's there rolling sound or camera when I'm shooting (it's usually just him and I), and he's there giving me notes on my rough cuts. I've noticed that since we've been together I've been incredibly more productive and I think that it's because he really inspires me. Him and his filmmaking partners Yonah and Lev work together everyday and I've been able to observe how dedicated they are – in a lot of ways this gives me the strength to stay focused.
Calvin Thomas and Yonah Lewis

DD: I’m fascinated to hear about your Excel document list of all of the movies that you’ve seen. What is its purpose (do you rank them?), and how many films have you seen and is on it? Yonah was saying that it also includes his favorite films, what are they?  

YL, CT: We started closely tracking what we watched sometime during 2008. We were each watching around 600 to 700 films a year and it was just a way of remembering. We watch less these days, but it’s still hard to remember what either of us watched three days ago, let alone a year, so it’s good to have it well documented. We don’t have a ranking or rating system. We have a handful of additional lists like Top 100 something or Best Picture winners etc. and that’s just to cross films off as we’ve seen them. Truthfully, the lists started partially just to compete with each other, but we’re older now and less fun.

DD: I remember for The Oxbow Cure hearing that you would watch scenes from certain films with the crew to then inspire your filmmaking. Is this right? I heard that Philipe Grandieux’s Un Lac and Bergman’s The Passion of Anna were influences. How do you get inspiration from films and how do you decide on what films to be inspired by? 

YL, CT: Yeah, on Oxbow we all lived together in a couple of cottages, so we were trapped together for the duration of the shoot. This allowed us to the time to share some of our own inspiration for the film with our cast and crew, which did help to put us all on the same page. You always hear about directors setting up screenings of films before they shoot, Fincher showing everyone All the President’s Men on Seven, that kind of thing, but our budgets are so low we tend to not have the money to rent out a theatre, nor do we have much time for pre-production, which means most of our cast and crew meet for the first time on set, so rarely are we able to gather everyone and set them down and show them two hours of a film we want to be in their heads during production. I think we should thank our production designer Revanche for wall colour inspiration. That happened in prep. 

DD: What’s been going on with Spice it Up? Do you have any other new projects in the works?

YL, CT: Spice It Up is alive and well and nearing completion, we hope. It’s been a few years of working on that film and it’s been nice to come back to it every couple of months and fiddle. It’s the craziest thing we’ve ever made, maybe the worst, maybe the best, but it will be done soon. We just produced Lev Lewis’ first feature and are in post on that and we’ve got a couple of scripts we’re trying to get on paper ourselves.
Lev Lewis
DD: After having worked on Calvin Thomas and your brother Yonah Lewis's other films, what new responsibilities did you find yourself with as a director on your first film Sublet? 

LL: Calvin, Yonah and I have been co-directing a still unreleased/unfinished thing called Spice It Up for a couple years now so this new film is technically my second as a director. That said, Spice It Up was created through a very unconventional process, lacking many of the elements that generally make up a filmmaking environment (script, crew, money etc). On this one, working with a crew and having to communicate my ideas intelligibly and (often) very quickly was probably the hardest shift from the other work I’ve done in film. The knowledge that a group of people has come together to fulfill your vision is very exciting but also quite daunting cause it means you need to actually have a vision and you need to understand how all the little pieces are going to fit together. But none of this was a surprise, I’m basically just writing a director’s job description. 

DD: How many films do you typically see a week? And how would you describe your taste as a cinephile? 

LL: It really depends. For a number of reasons, including the one that I was making a feature film, I’ve likely watched less this year than any time in my life since 2010 or so. I think the most I’ve seen in a year was 2012 when I watched 642 (which averages out to about 12 or 13 movies a week?). That’s as much I’ll likely ever do. Lately, my patience for home-viewing has decreased and I’ve been spending more time catching rep screenings which means I inevitably see less but the impact is more significant. I don’t know the numbers of other people with my same affliction so it’s hard to say if my numbers are low or high.  Regarding my taste in film: I have 16 films saved on my hard drive. They are: 45365, Before the Revolution, Butterfield 8, City Lights, Footlight Parade, Goodbye Uncle Tom, Like Someone In Love, Nothing But a Man, Passion, Possession, Safe Haven, The Eric Andre Show, The Homesman, The Master, The Vow and Thief. Does that help? 

DD: What made you want to become a director? 

LL: I didn’t plan on becoming a director. I wanted to be a musician. But I was working in film, realized I wanted full control and had an idea. I’m glad that the billions of hours I’ve spent watching, reading about, thinking about and discussing movies has been put to some sort of practical (lol) use. 

DD: What do you think as a young director you have to contribute to Canadian cinema?

LL: It’s hard for me to say, David. I can list off every Best Picture winner and hopefully I have some good ideas. Beyond that, I’ll let the world tell me.
Pavan Moondi
DD: Were there any film influences on Diamond Tongues or Everyday is Like Sunday? 

PM: The influences are all over the place - for Diamond Tongues we were specifically trying to make a character who might alienate the audience somewhat likeable, or at the very least, engaging. So I remember watching Margot at the Wedding (Noah Baumbach) and Modern Romance (Albert Brooks) a lot.  

Visually: after the first half day of shooting we thought the film was looking a little too slick and lacked energy. We showed our cinematographer some scenes from Husbands and Wives (Woody Allen) and ended up drastically re-adjusting our shooting style after that to be a little bit more wild and alive. I remember showing Leah a scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (John Hughes) the night before we shot an integral scene.  

Everyday Is Like Sunday we figured out as we went along and only really got a solid grasp on about half-way through shooting, so you see a few different styles (and influences) present from scene to scene. Ultimately we found prioritizing the performances on that film and de-prioritizing technical proficiency was the only way we were going to get the most out of that film with the restrictions we were under. Incidentally, my favourite scenes are the ones shot in a room with two crew with the camera flying all over the place, jump cuts, out of focus and so on. For reasons I won’t bore you with here, it was like making a film with one hand tied behind your back, but there was enough precedent for this approach at this point in the Bujalski/Swanberg/Duplass films I had loved, and of course in Shadows (Cassavetes). So those films served as both an influence and a reassurance that we could overcome technical shortcomings and get the film out to a meaningful audience, anyway.         

DD: How do you find traveling with your film, and putting on these unique screenings of it? Can you talk about that a little?

PM: So far we’ve been lucky to only attend screenings of the film with a strong audience. We’ve played some smaller festivals, probably to mostly-empty rooms, that we haven’t traveled to ($$$). The Slamdance premiere was a blast - the screening room was packed with people sitting on the floor or standing in the back, and the audience of mostly industry people got all of the subtle jokes in the film. Diamond Tongues is mostly a comedy, and so it’s best to see with an audience. So far everyone has reacted pretty positively. The best part of getting to travel with a film is getting to meet so many new people. We just came back from LA and knowing about 5 people there, were convinced we’d be screening to an empty theatre. We got lucky that our trip overlapped with the LA Film Festival and were able to pack the place with an enthusiastic audience of fellow filmmakers and industry folk visiting LAFF; random people we met at house parties; Uber X drivers; and even a weird stalker or two. But we’re excited to go back and hang out with all our new pals.        

DD: How does your involvement with The Seventh Art affect your film-making practice?

PM: Diamond Tongues has definitely benefitted from the time I spent working on The Seventh Art. T7A forced me to think more analytically about film, and so when I was writing DT I wanted to make sure the film had more to say than what’s on the surface level. Whether anyone will pick up on all the subtext and an ending that is deliberately ambiguous that only about 10% of the people who have seen the film have fully understood remains to be seen.

More logistically, the time we spent on The Seventh Art doing things like generating press for screenings; dealing with booking cinemas and distributors; and coming up with creative ways to disseminate our content has given us a lot of experience that we draw on regularly, since we’re still at a stage where we’re lucky to have the support of distributors but still expected to do most of the leg-work ourselves.    

DD: You guys seem to going towards more ambitious projects with each new film. What is next? 

PM: We’re trying to shoot a film taking place in Mexico before the end of the year if we can get the money together in time. Other than that, I’m currently writing a couple TV mini-series projects that I’d like to shoot between the next couple films. Who knows, though.
Rebeccah Love
DD: Can you tell me about short-films? What’s your writing process? And were there any directors that influenced you on them?

RL: In film school we started off with small exercises but it wasn’t until about three years ago that I really started making short films.

There are two different ways for me to go about writing screenplays for short films. The first is to write around the budget – if I have less than a thousand dollars to produce a film, all decisions revolve around cutting costs, and it all begins with the writing. I am a big fan of using non-professional actors and using locations that I already have access to. I think first about what I have access to, and the story comes after I have taken into consideration all of these elements.

The second way has me dreaming up the story before I even know how much I’ll have to spend on the film, and then going out and finding the money to support the idea. I’ve only done this once, for my thesis film. The types of problems encountered in this style of writing and producing are quite a bit different from the low-budget process, in the sense that I had a very specific and intense vision, one that required a different kind of innovation from our team. The ideas were more imaginative and over the top, and required much more planning. I enjoy the freedom of this kind of writing project, as my creative process felt much less burdened by pragmatics, but this style of filmmaking is not one I intend to pursue for the time being: there is a poetry in working with limited resources, often leading to surprising and intriguing results.

As I will discuss in the next question, I am really into any director who pays special attention to his or her production design – Anderson being the best example, but also Jeunet, or Vallée or Gondry. I love stories about stories, or films about films or films about theatre, so Maddin and Kaufman are real heroes of mine. I also appreciate stories about amateurs taking themselves really seriously, or artists making small art projects that very few people will ever see. Guest’s actors in Waiting for Guffman bring me such delight, as does Greta Gerwig’s character in Frances Ha. I cherish the dreamers, and will always applaud characters who are less concerned with perfection, and more concerned with exploring their creative avenues.

DD: Can you tell me more about what you try to bring into your work as an art director?

RL: I have worked as both a production designer and as an art director and  either position requires slightly different approaches. As a production designer, it is my role to work with a Director and carry out his or her vision, and as an art director I work to carry out the production designer’s vision. In either case, I am totally in love with the details of the art department, particularly with set dressing.

I found that while dressing interior spaces, especially houses, I’m constantly thinking about character. Who lives here? What kind of people are they? What kind of art do they hang on their walls? Are they are smokers? Do they have many pictures on their wall, or are they estranged from their family? The questions I dwelled on while set dressing ultimately helped me in the detailing of my own scripts.

Many of my favourite films are the ones which pay super-close attention to colour palette, or shapes or textures. Any scene that showcases a kitchen or a dinner party or food preparation is definitely up my alley. When Keri Russell bakes her pies in Waitress, close attention has been paid to the colours of the fruits tumbling into the pie crust, and the composition of each shot is stringent but impressive. When Babette is making her legendary meal in Axel’s Babette’s Feast, again we see such colour and texture. Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman is similarly engrossing.

I am also in love with the Tenenbaums House, every shot of Ford’s A Single Man, the theatre in Wright’s Anna Karenina, the apartment in which Bertolucci situates his trio in The Dreamers, Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor’s elephant, Beetlejuice’s striped suit, everything (mostly) that Gondry has ever touched and Lucy Honeychurch’s hotel in Room with a View.

It is just as easy for me to fall in love with a setting in a film as it is to fall in love with characters – I attribute this to good production design.

DD: Can you tell me more about the Ryerson film program, and what resources they have to offer their film production students?

RL: Ryerson offers a four year BFA in film production. In the first year of study each student makes short little projects using Bell and Howell cameras and gradually works his or her way up to making a ten to fifteen minute thesis film in the final year. The production aspect is complimented by courses in theory as well as electives in other subjects. While studying there, students have access to wide range of cameras, audio devices and other filmmaking equipment, as well as a variety of studios and a soundstage. In my final year of study, when I was working on my thesis film, I made use of many of these resources, and am quite convinced that the cost of making my film would have been quadrupled if I hadn’t had access to these resources.

DD: Any new projects in the works? Is there a story that you really want to tell?

RL: I constantly have writing projects on the go, but few of these actually make it to production. It is my dream to write more stories that are situated in very specific parts of Toronto, and to dig into the city’s urban mythology (Guy Maddin did it first in My Winnipeg). I would love to tell stories about my childhood and my neighbourhood with the precision of Margaret Lawrence when she writes her stories about Manawaka.
Rafaël Ouellet
DD: How did you become a director? 

RO: Growing up in small village where no great films were accessible and at a time where the internet was pure science fiction, I saw a great deal of films, but not a lot of good ones. I saw all the double-bill programs at the local theater from age 10 to 17, mostly blockbusters, b-movies, and Bud Spencer’s movies. I rented my films, the same kind, in a gas station. So being a kid and a teenager in this small town, I had no idea how films were made, who did them, that it was something that I might be interested in. But as much as it was possible, I was a big film buff, and without knowing it, I was craving great art work, great films. One night, on TV, I saw Midnight Express and it really had a big impact on me. I was maybe 11, and for the first time I felt something different watching a film. It’s years later that I realized what had happened, that this was a film that was made by an auteur, a filmmaker that had something to say, and a vision to say it.

As a teenager, my thing was radio. I was a DJ and a radio host at my highschool, I started working at the local radio station at 15 years old (Talk Radio by Oliver Stone was my favorite film when it was released) so it was all natural for me to go and study to become a professional radio host, maybe a journalist. In 1991 we only had one college with this diploma, very far from home, far from everything. It was an art and technology diploma, after the first year we had to choose between television, radio, print, or advertising. I chose radio, all my friends chose TV. At the end of my third year, I decided I did not want to be a radio person anymore, and I stayed there two more years studying television, editing being my new passion. 

At 22, in 1996, after five years of college, I came to Montreal with the objective of becoming a documentary editor. A few things happened during my first year in Montreal. Le Cinéma du parc; an art-house theater with indie films, repertoire, retrospectives of great masters, was a great revelation. Those were the films I was waiting to see. I saw a great deal of films there and they all had a big impact for me. What I wanted to do when I was a kid, and didn’t seem realistic anymore the way radio was transforming, was to tell stories, communicate with people, extract reflections and a vision from myself and put it out there to people so I could make them dream, feel, think, cry, laugh, etc… and watching those films, I was feeling that I might have a talent for that. Remember, I was 22, it’s very old to discover that. And there was la Boite noire, a repertoire videostore where I rented all the Palme d’ors that I’ve never seen, all the masters. Combine to that, I was working as a production assistant on music videos and short films, and I learned how it was done, who did it, that I could do it. That I would be good doing it. 

And I remember, I was watching Heavy by James Mangold, at Cinéma du parc, that I thought, okay, this is what I’m going to do with my life. Films. Those kind of films. I gave myself ten years to achieve that, and during those ten years, All I did was watch films, read about them, think about it, learn. I did it all, except writing or shooting. I was very afraid. 

I’m going to skip many little things that shaped me as a director, or things that led me to where I am today, but, let’s say that while I was working as a TV director, mostly in music and entertainment, I was being sidetracked. It took a small bunch of young people who founded Kino, a group of inexperienced filmmakers who decided to make short films without money, every month. Their motto was « do good with nothing, do a lot with less, but do it now ». Among them was Stéphane Lafleur. I saw what they were doing, decided to joined them. I did a lot of shorts as a director, and much more as a director of photography and editor. I spent a couple of years there, which lead to me editing the first feature of Denis Côté, Les états nordiques, and shooting his second, Nos vies privées. With the strength of these experiences, at 32, I decided to shoot my first feature with my own (5000$) money. The movie was at TIFF in 2007, and it was the beginning of my career.

DD: How's being a working director in Montreal today? 

RO: I really don’t know. This is what I do, I’ve been working at it for almost 20 years now, so I don’t know how it is for others, or for young ones who want to start in the movies. I still have to work very hard at it, there’s A LOT of talent here, the young generation is very strong too, so as cliché as it might sound, every film I do, I do it as if it was my last. I’m never really sure if they’ll let me do another one. I try not to think about it too much, and work as hard as I can. But I’m grateful I can work in this city with so many great actors and actresses. 

DD: Is it easy to go from working in television to the cinema?

RO: Right now pretty much all the TV directors come from movies. We have to adapt a bit, but there’s a reason producer and broadcasters want us to do the series, so we make the most of it. They want strong cinematography, and strong performances. They want their series to look like the ones that are being made in the U.S., they want storytellers. It’s fast and we don’t have a lot of money to do it, but that’s where the public is, it’s a great way to tell stories, and all over the world, TV series are getting better and better. The frontier between TV series and movies is getting thinner everyday, so in a province like Québec where only a few can live making movies, and if you want to shoot more than a movie every three or four years, TV is a very good option.

DD: Can you tell me a little about your films?

RO: For me, to talk about my films, my style, my themes, I would need you in front of me asking very precise questions… I’m not the one who will reflect about it and find the truth or a certain truth. Some directors might be able to do so, but I prefer not putting labels on it. So here’s a very little answer: most of my films were being made in an urgent mode. The urge to tell a certain story, or the urge of creating. With Camion it started to change, I wanted to make something deeper, stronger, something that would last and reach a lot of people. I will probably make few more films like the ones I financed myself, movies that I called labs (as in laboratory) where I’m trying things, experimenting… but with Camion I think I found my real voice. That’s what is coming from me in the future. 

With 6 features and more than 10 shorts now, there’s one theme that is recurrent in my films and it’s the lost of innocence. But with this said, now it’s your job to elaborate!

DD: Are there any directors that influenced your style?

RO: Bergman is really the one. It’s almost a problem. I saw his films so many times that it became part of my DNA. I don’t pretend I can be as good as he is, not even a minor Bergman. He ’s the master, and I’m nothing compared to him. And I really try hard not to let his influences show in my films. I’ll sometimes use it if it feels right or sometimes I’m gonna do something because of his influence without knowing it while I do it. I love Bergman because he is a complex filmmaker doing very simple thing. He can tell a story while exploring the human condition, the ego, the faith, the face, the psyche. When I see a Bergman film, I’ll see the world for the next few hours, or days, as if through his lenses, his films… his impact on me is chemical. 

Gus van Sant (from Elephant to Paranoid Park) and the Dardennes really spoke to me 10 or 15 years ago, as did the Dogme 95. I think it did as well to a lot of directors my age in Québec. It struck a chord with me (and them?) because their movies have themes close to us, and also because it tells stories with a very precise-style, a real auteur form. And probably because their films look like they were shot with the same kind of budget that Québécois films can find. Early Bruno Dumont could fit in this category. And many more.

The first director that goy my attention when I was just a teen, was Oliver Stone. I still love him. My films cannot be more different than his, but sometimes I can see a bit of his influence on my work here and there…
An important book: Sydney Lumet’s Making Movies. It’s all in there. You want to make film? Read this.
Off my head, just like that: Malick, Bresson, Pialat, Chabrol, Kieslowski, the Coens, Arcand, Alan Clarke, Scorsese, Altman, definitely Altman!
Right now I love James Gray.
And you’re going to ask about Québec… Pierre Perrault.

DD: Gurov and Anna, which I saw at the Excentris, reminded me of Bergman and Woody Allen, but also some scenes of Andreas Apergis made think of the classic Nosferatu, and those of Sophie Desmarais sometimes reminded me of Carole Laure's roles in the old Gilles Carle films.

RO: Thank you!
DD: I loved your articles for 24 Images. Especially the ones where you described your experiences going to Bergman's island to visit his cottage in the off-season. Do you have any other Bergman stories? What do you like about him as a director? Have you read his autobiography, The Magic Lantern? I think it's pretty great.

RO: It’s pretty much all there, on the blog, feel free to use quotes or pictures from it! i have 50 books of and about Bergman, but The Magic Lantern is the one I read multiple times. Listen here (at18h16) for more.
DD: How's the Montreal film community? Are you all close and encouraging? Do you ever run into other directors at the Cinematheque Quebecoise or the Festival Nouveau Cinéma?

RO: Ten years ago, and with my « kino » experience I really wanted my community to be tight, and share ideas, and opinions, shoot for a friend, edit for another, etc… but it never happened. We know each other, we respect each other, maybe even like each other, but we don’t work together. We run into each other of course at le Centre phi, at Excentris, Fnc, Cinematheque… but also all over the world! in film festivals… we’re everywhere!

DD: What projects do you have going on now?

RO: Arsenault et fils. I’m going back in my hometown soon, with dudes, trucks, guns and dead deers.

DD: And do you have a dream project that you would like to make?

RO: Not really. My dream is always the next one.
Annie St-Pierre
DD: Can you tell me about your studies at UQAM and your first few films Jean-Pierre Ronfard, Migration amoureuse and Fermières?

ASP: I did my studies at UQAM, in communications. Coming from an eastern small town of the province (Rivière-du-Loup), I wasn’t so familiar with the culture of cinema. There was two videoclubs where blockbusters ruled the place (I remember the only VHS with a big notice « BE CAREFULL ! SUBTITLES : small sentences on the screen) so I found it more natural for me to try journalism studies. I took a course about documentary films and for the first time, I felt that I found what I wanna do in life. I decided to continue my studies in cinema and the program of UQAM was perfect for me, with its tradition and support of documentary filmakers. My last year of the courses, they began a new partnership with the Superior Theater School to make documentary films about great personnality of Quebec theatre scene and they asked me to directed the first one, about Jean-Pierre Ronfard, a major presence of the experimental movement. He was an erudite man who always wanted to try new way to do his art. This offer was an incredible gift. The movie resulting, Jean-Pierre Ronfard: an experimental subject, is humm… let’s say, more than imperfect… But the process was so rich! And that’s the most important thing I’ve learned from this film: process is as important as the result. There is no one who will spend more time with a film than the director, so it must be fun to do, or at least, enriching.

Unfortunatly, Jean-Pierre died a few months after I finished the film. And I understood the importance of the memory we had.

This first film found a place in festivals, mostly in Canada, and then, I met people who believe that I could do another one… And it was all I wanted.

So I did Migration amoureuse (I would have like to give you the english title, but it was never subtitled… The producer I worked with had some financial problems and he decided to concentrate his efforts with the francophone areas), a Québec-France-Belgium co-production. It was a complex set-up : the movie was really intimate but I had four television involved in the project (RDI, RTBF, Citizen TV, Discovery). I’m mostly satisfied that I was able to keep this film really personal. I made the camera and the sound in a very artisanal way, even with a notable diffusion. It was a movie about immigration and love; the tough and long road that lovers from different countries have to cross to be together… something like the new Romeo and Juliet. And, yes, it was a story I was experimenting at this moment of my life, and it was posible for me to capture all those intense moments that you just can’t have if you’re not so close with the person you are shooting. I mean, I don’t know anybody who will call the filmaker who follows him to say "Hey! I’m in a very very bad mood cause I’m waiting since 7 months today for a call that never arrive. Can you come right now to shoot me watching the snow falling with my empty eyes ?" It was a long shot deal; I followed my (ex) belgian boyfriend in this Kafka-style quest for his Canadian papers during almost 4 years. Documentary makes you learn that you can decide how you will tell the story, but you have to accept that life is the only author for the outcomes.

Between the begining of Migration amoureuse till the end of All that we make (Fermières) and still now, I developped a humble specialisation in Making ofs… Filmakers use to lord over this genre, but actually, I LOVE to do behind the scenes. I work every time to do a original and independant film, who shows that there is a human adventure behind every movie made. Making films is beyond nature; it’s a fantasy and it’s always inspiring to capture a team who works in the same way, building for the vision of someone. And it’s also a pleasant gymnastic for my work. I have the possibily to do the movie I want in a restricted area (the shooting), to be a part of a big team which sometimes miss me in documentary, and in the same time, I have to make myself invisible, doing images and sound by myself and trying to find a story behind another one. In 10 years, I made more than 12 Making ofs. The more notable are Moi aussi je m’appelle Gabrielle (Gabrielle, Louise Archambault), C’est moi je le jure (It’s not me I swear, Philippe Falardeau), Monsieur Lazhar- from the scene to the screen (Mister Lazhar, Philippe Falardeau). They were all produced by micro_scope, who became my producers for my last feature film All that we make (Fermières).

Aaahhhhh I didn’t have the time to write about Fermières!!!!

DD: How did you get involved with the Jean-Marc Vallée NFB tributee for the Governor General Award for the Performance Art? I really liked it, but it's very unconventional compared to the other documentaries that were made. How did you come up with the idea, and did Vallee liked it?

ASP: Jean-Marie Comeau called me to ask if I would be interested to do a tribute to Jean-Marc Vallée for the PGG. I don’t know Jean-Marc Vallée personally and to be honest it bugged me a bit. Usually, I can’t accept to do something for someone that I don’t know, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it… NFB told me that they were looking for someone young (but not too young…). A director who can propose a vision and I thought it could be fun. Sometimes, fun is a suffisant reason to accept. When I speak with Jean-Marc it was clear that he was really busy, editing his last movie, and he was not a big fan of tributes… I though the best way to celebrate him should be to give him an original movie. I wouldn’t like to have a portrait of myself in my livingroom, but an original painting from someone who tells me « I did that in my way to do my art, but inspiring by you » seems much more interesting from my point of view. So I did what I wanted: a fiction in mandarin, with chinese actors, expressing the worldwide success of Jean-Marc and by the look of a brilliant cinephile, fan of Vallée, show the philosophical scope of his work… with humor.

I think it surprised Jean-Marc and he wasn’t sure of my intentions… It must be really stressfull to be in a theater with 2000 persons, waiting for a tribute to your work… We discuss quickly after the show and he told me that he is not a fan of humor. Well, I didn’t knew… And I never made anything without a big smile in it. I was touched by the reception of the public who laught a lot, so I was satisfied.
Igor Drljača
DD: I'm wondering how did you get involved in cinema?

ID: I woke up one day and just to spite my parents applied to film school. I think I became a cinephile the day I managed to stay awake through Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Cliché, right? Ever since I was six, I had tried to sit through the Space Odyssey, but only managed to watch it from beginning to end when I turned ten. It took me about four or five attempts. They would play the film on New Year’s Eve, every year – during those holiday film marathons, both in Sarajevo and in Toronto. During my first year in Canada, I finally managed to finish the film, staying awake past 2AM (it was a watered down TV version). This was the only day I remember my parents letting me stay up that late. I just began to source other American and international film lists, and I began to read about films and filmmakers beginning with Bergman, Kubrick and Hitchcock. I moved on to Tarkovsky after reading a Bergman interview talking about his work, and then on to Bresson after Tarkovsky’s writings cited him, etc.

DD: You've told me that you really like Tarkovsky's The Mirror. What do really like about it, and did it influence you at all on Krivina?

ID: It is the last Tarkovsky film I watched, and it is my favorite. I think I initially avoided it because of the title. In many ways, I found it to be painfully autobiographical. Given my personal experiences of early childhood amidst the collapse of Yugoslavia, his parallels of WWII really connected with me. His relationship with his family also reminded me strangely of my own experiences. Our world views were in part shaped by the experiences of a child during wartime. In my head, there are still images and sequences from that film that I can’t shake. The way he structured the film was ingenious, and it really challenged the way I’ve come to understand narrative devices. There is therefore some of Tarkovsky’s influence in the way I approached the narrative of Krivina, with my experimentation with a non-linear approach, and the use of a dream narrative. The Mirror was definitely one of the films I watched before starting Krivina. 

DD: Can you tell me more about your time in film production at York University? And can you tell me more about how you got to work on the projects of some of your cohort like Albert Shin, who you now work with at your production company Time Lapse Pictures, as well as Nicolás Pereda and Luo Li?

ID: I am grateful that York provided me with the opportunity to meet friends and collaborators, as well as meeting some great professors. I feel fortunate that we’ve continued to stay friends all these years. Albert and I met during frosh week. He was the first person I met at York and we hit it off instantly, having collaborated on almost every student project before continuing professionally. We share a similar point of view, and are even closer friends than collaborators, which is why we’ve been able to take this plunge together. Lou Li and Nicolás Pereda, I got to know during the second year of film, and we quickly realized we had many shared interests apart from film, so we spent hours debating politics, culture and philosophy. As is often the case with people making work in close proximity, there is an excitement that fuels each other’s creativity. If your peers and friends make good work, it often challenges everyone around them to really ask tough questions about their own work. If you are just watching student films, the opposite holds true.

DD: On your Youtube channel there are videos that you did in relation to some of the old CUPE student strikes at York, and through Facebook I get the impression that you were active in the anti-Bill C51 protest. How do you see your role as an artist in relation to social protest?

ID: I was part of the Cupe Video committee during the strikes at York, and for the purposes of future members, I left those videos on my channel, as Cupe didn’t have one at the time. I have mixed feelings about the role of an artist as an activist, and I struggle with this often. I can get very passionate about many things, and it can be both draining and inspiring. I get involved in supportive roles, and I admire many of those courageous activists who, issue after issue, ensure that our democratic institutions still work. As for C51, I think that the fear mongering in this country has reached a level I’ve never experienced since I moved here in 1993, and it has became really upsetting. I cannot understand any advanced country slowly trading free speech and privacy for security, and it is something I’ve been following since October. I felt that this government started to politicize the Ottawa shootings, not out of a need to protect us, but out of the need to create more surveillance. I don’t want to get into a longer discussion for fear of your site being shut down. :)
Albert Shin
DD: How did you get into cinema?

AS: I saw Jean-Claude Van Damme's Bloodsport when I was five years old and I fell in love with marital arts films. By the time I was ten my martial arts movie phase had come and gone, but through that, I started transitioning into other types of genres and started getting fascinated by cinema. It was around this time that I happen to discover that A Clockwork Orange and The Shining were directed by the same person. I had seen both films independently of each other, probably months or years apart and was way too young to be watching either films, but both made an incredibly strong impression on my pre-pubescent mind. That was the beginning of wanting to become a filmmaker.

DD: What directors do you really like, and are any of them influences on your own filmmaking? 

AS: My list of directors that I really admire is a very long one. However, if I have to single out a few, directors like Krzysztof Kieslowski, Shohei Imamura and Hou Hsiao Hsien are some heavyweights for me. I'm not sure if any of their works directly influences my own filmmaking, but I certainly think about their films and reference them whenever I'm working on my own projects. So at least on a subconscious level, they're with me. 

DD: How did you find the reception to In Her Place?

AS: The reception for In Her Place has been incredibly humbling and truthfully a little surprising. It was a tiny movie that I made in Korea and very under-the-radar, and I always hoped it would have a strong festival run and hopefully good critical notice, but never did I think it would have the overwhelming reception that it did. I'm very proud of the film, so I'm glad I've been able to share it with audiences.     

DD: What do you like about filming in South Korea?

AS: Filming in Korea was a wonderful experience, but since most of the film takes place on one farm property, it was very easy to tune out the rest of the world and cocoon ourselves in the world of our film. The cast and crew were incredibly hardworking and collaborative and it was a fun experience to take my style of filmmaking and mix it with the "Korean-style" of filmmaking and come up with our own hybrid brand. 

DD: Any new projects in the works? 

AS: I'm always developing ideas and trying to hammer out something worthwhile to make. I'm working on an English-language film and also a Korean-language film, which are in the very early stages of writing, but I'm excited about both. So we'll see...
Andrew Cividino 
DD: Your film Sleeping Giant played at the Critic's Week at Cannes. How did that come about? It seems pretty rare that English Canadian independent films play there.

AC: We were in post on the film and decided to set Cannes as our deadline for getting a cut together. We never thought we’d be accepted but it was helpful to have a concrete date to work toward. When we submitted through Telefilm’s Cannes submission process we found out quickly that we were shortlisted for all three sections at the festival and realized we’d better take our self imposed deadline a lot more seriously. We found out in early April that we’d been invited to participate in Critics’ Week and from there it was total mayhem. We were working seven days a week, twelve to fourteen hour days to finish and deliver the film. I was fortunate to have amazing producers to shield me while I focused on the creative because we were also bombarded with a huge amount of administrative work and tough and decisions to make regarding how we wanted to position the film, which sales agent to go with, etc.

DD: I've read that Sleeping Giant was inspired by your own youthful summers that you've spent in Thunder Bay. How was it going back there now and filming? How were the teenagers that you worked with?

AC: It’s always a strange experience shooting a fictional film in a place that has a great deal of personal significance. On one hand it’s wonderful because you get to explore, share, and immortalize something that is dear to you, but it has its potential pitfalls too. You really need to keep a distance from your own nostalgia and love for a setting or personal connection to a story in order to make sure you’re making the best possible film and not just taking people on some indulgent trip down memory lane.

Working with my teenaged cast was an incredible experience but it wasn’t without its challenges. Some days I felt more like a camp counsellor than a director, but I think that comes with the territory. The biggest challenge was keeping my cast motivated over such a long period of time. Feature film shoots are a long grind and convincing a group of young actors who had never done anything like that before to stay the course and bring everything they had to each scene was a significant part of my job.

DD: You made a short film of Sleeping Giant before the feature. What was the production strategy on the film, and is that a strategy that you would recommend for upcoming Canadian directors that have so far only made shorts?

AC: I really wanted to do the feature first but financing fell through and we made the short, which ended up being a blessing in disguise. Making the short was absolutely essential in terms of discovering the right process for making the feature, the right grammar and tone, and we used mostly the same cast as well. I don’t think I would have been as bold if we went straight into the feature. Making the short before the feature had little to no bearing on the financing of the project though as we were already in production on the feature before the short premiered. 

DD: Your film has been getting great reviews from Cannes, Jake Howell in Maclean's and Jason Anderson in Cinema Scope. What do you like about positive reviews? And you've also told me that the critics there were also really cut throat. Do you also worry about bad reviews, and is there anything that you can get from them?

AC: My favourite thing about the reviews we’ve been getting is seeing that some people really truly deeply understand what I was trying to achieve with the film. I’d written this short one page manifesto for myself years ago at the outset of the project that described what I wanted the film to be about, what I wanted it to achieve. I didn’t even have a story at that point, but when I read some of these reviews and reference the manifesto I’m totally delighted to feel that what I wanted so badly to express is actually in there somewhere for people to discover. Not in a textual reading but in the tone, themes, and the energy of the piece.

When it comes to bad reviews I can see how damaging that could be if you’re not careful. Even though the reviews have been positive you see a few people pick up on the same thing they don’t like - and yes there’s a learning opportunity there - but there’s also an opportunity to lose your voice in an attempt to please others. I think you really have to do your own thing and be careful not to let reviews from your last film dictate how you approach your next project.
Fantavious Fritz
DD: How did you get into cinema?

FF: I started shooting photographs when I was young and then later bought a Bolex and began shooting 16mm film. I mostly filmed my friends skateboarding and hanging out. I was interested in capturing their personality and movements and energy, sometimes in an abstract way, much more than narrative story telling at first.

DD: Can you tell me more about your short films? And are there any films or directors that influenced them?

FF: The first short film I made was more or less about just being a young kid and not knowing what to make a film about. I ultimately just made a movie about being a kid and having a lot of energy and enthusiasm without really having much of a plan or conscious intent. In a lot of ways I think its the best movie I've made because I think it comes from a place of earnest curiosity and the making of the film and the experiences we had shooting it oddly mimic the film itself. I also cringe when I see it sometimes and try not to watch my old work very often. The memories of those experiences are some of my favorites, and overall I'd rather look back on much of my old work with a distant fondness. A lot of lessons have been learned along the way but I'd prefer continue to move into the future as blindly as possible.

DD: You were telling me that you were working on a new film from the perspective of a neighborhood cat. How's that coming along?

FF: I'm really excited about it! It's been a long and strange road and the project has evolved a lot from where it started. It's a short film about a missing cat and his encounters with a few people in a neighborhood. As far as films and film makers as influence, I'd say as of recently Miyazaki has been a large influence, especially on this film. His reverence for the natural world and the simplicity of his stories have been good reminders for me in making a film about a cat. The Red Balloon by Albert Lamorisse was also an important influence, one of my all-time favorites.

DD: I think I saw on Facebook that you also music videos. How's that like? And how do you make a living aside from cinema? Toronto can be an expensive city.

FF: I do a lot of odd jobs, I photo assist and work on friends film shoots when I can and live in inexpensive places. I used to live in my friend Mark's old photo darkroom which was right by the Lightbox so I would go see movies all the time but it was a terrible place to live. It was totally sealed off to light since it was once used as a place to process film and it was very tiny and had bad ventilation. My sleep schedule was all fucked up and I would wake up sometimes having no idea what time of day or night it was, living there was completely disorienting but I really enjoyed the time I spent there. Directly below the space there was this pyramid scheme 'business startup' type operation going on. Every Friday at around noon they'd hit this giant gong to get everyone’s attention, the sound would echo through our whole building. Then all the people at the office would chant MONEY! MONEY! MONEY! and that's the only way I really knew what time it was if I had slept in too late.
Simon Ennis 
DD: How did you become a director, and can you tell me about You Might As Well Live?

SE: I grew up around movies. My mother was a distributor and then a producer, my father owned the Revue Cinema and later programmed Festival Cinemas (the chain of rep theatres that included the Fox, Bloor, Revue, Royal, Paradise, Music Hall and Kingsway). I loved movies since before I can remember and I never really thought about doing much else. In my teens and early 20s I worked at the Bloor (before it was Hot Docs) and an art video store on the Danforth. By the time I got to film school, I had an incredibly strong sense of film history... so much so that I ended up dropping out because I had seen every film in the Film History syllabus and most of the kids in my class hadn't even watched Citizen Kane. In my decision to drop out of film school, I promised myself I'd make a film as soon right away. Within a year, my first short film premiered at TIFF.

You Might As Well Live is my first feature film. One festival programmer described it as being like Harold & Maude directed by John Waters (a big compliment because Ashby and Waters are two of my heroes). I think my two other of my biggest influences for that film were Carl Reiner's The Jerk and Todd Solondz's Welcome To The Dollhouse. YMAWL is a dark, outrageous comedy with a lot of heart. It won the award at Slamdance (where it premiered) and went on to play at other festivals before a theatrical release all across Canada. Funnily enough, think it actually just cycled back into rotation on TMN... which would be exciting if anybody still had cable!

DD: How was making Lunarcy!? And what do you like about the idea of space travel and how it's used in cinema?

SE: Making Lunarcy! (my second feature film) has to this point been the most joyous and creatively fulfilling movie-making experience. I was surrounded with a small cadre of some of my best, most talented friends (producer Jonas Bell Pasht, editor Matt Lyon, DPs Jonathan Bensimon and Cabot McNenly and EP Ron Mann) and created a film almost out of thin air over the course of 2 years. There was no real outline or plan, I just started shooting and cutting, travelling all over the US collecting stories of people who have devoted their lives to the Moon. Making this doc was a revelation for me and I look forward to implementing some of the improvisational, freeing, organic techniques to my next fiction film. Lunarcy! premiered at TIFF (where we sold it to US cable channel EPIX) before screening at SXSW, IDFA and many other festivals. For me though, the best part of the festival run was the Vancouver International Film Festival because I met my fiancée there.

Funnily enough, I haven't thought too much about how space travel is used in cinema. 2001 is a masterpiece that I've seen on the big screen multiple times. The original The Blob has a great theme song... You know, I was never a really big Sci-Fi guy though and I still have no idea how anybody can sit through a Star Wars movie. I've actually thought more about space travel in real life. I think it's a big, beautiful dream. In a way, thinking about space travel is the most transcendent and optimistic way we can view ourselves. It's funny because before I started researching Lunarcy! I didn't pay too much attention to space things... now, I've become very passionate about them. I was grinning ear to ear while also getting choked up just reading about the flyby or Pluto the other day.

DD: You've talked about Nick Ray and Errol Morris as filmmakers you like. What do you like about them?

SE: Those two are definitely among my favorite filmmakers. With Ray, it's all about how he taps into very pure, raw emotion but within the context of melodrama. To me that creates a dynamic that's surreal, beautiful, tough, funny and like nothing else. Performances in his films are always incredible and there is a cool fatalism that you can't help but be drawn into. Also, for someone who's mostly lauded for his work with actors, his eye for cinemascope photography is incredible. Last year, I took Stephanie (my fiancée) to see Rebel Without A Cause and Bigger Than Life at BLB. We often jokingly quote James Mason's line "God was wrong!" at each other (it works very well after a sneeze and a "God bless you"). I love both those movies but my two favorites of his are probably In A Lonely Place (a pseudo noir starring Humphrey Bogart as a rage-aholic screenwriter and the magnificent Gloria Grahame) and The Lusty Men (a cowboy melodrama starring my all time fav actor, Robert Mitchum). OH! Also, I can't recommend Nick Ray's book on his life, his work and teaching young filmmakers I Was Interrupted highly enough. It's essential.

Errol Morris is incredible and a real inspiration. Before beginning to shoot Lunarcy! I read as many interviews with him as possible. His quotes about how to get subjects talking... and to keep them talking literally taught me how to interview. Morris was the first one (perhaps along with Herzog) to really break apart the "rules" of documentary, ignoring the confines of fly-on-the-wall objectivity that is anathema to what I would consider the real truth. I'm paraphrasing here but I remember him saying something along the lines of that there is no difference between a documentary and a narrative film, that movies are movies. I really responded to that. I hate orthodoxy and anything that takes itself too seriously. Those are two things that Morris's approach and philosophy obliterates. I still believe that his first film Vernon, Florida may be the greatest motion picture ever made. It's like nothing else. It's pure magic.

DD: Any new projects in the works?

SE: I have a script that I hope to make soon - a sexy, crime thriller that will let me dip my toes into my all-time favorite genre, film noir. Also, a new documentary project in the works. I like to keep things a little close to the vest but, David, I promise you a scoop when I'm ready to reveal more!
Katrina Orlowski
DD: What got you into cinema?

KS: Well I grew up watching pretty diverse films thanks to my cool parents. I got into film/video-making, however, as a teenager. I was part of a group called EVTV that worked to tell local stories on video and broadcast them. It was my first experience of something so grassroots in the arts.

DD: What got you into your Chaudiere falls project? How's it going?

KS: I am interested in the relationship between place and cultural memories/narratives (I dare say you can’t have a memory without a place). So I was looking for a place upon which to focus my research, and my brother-in-law alerted me to Chaudiere island and falls. It’s a fascinating spot as humans have been visiting and using it for thousands of years. It has a long First Nations’ history; an industrial history dating back to the early 1800s; and its future is looking like condos and retail, though there are groups working to oppose this. So this small site has a web of battling narratives surrounding it. The project is going well! Nearly finished. It’s an interactive documentary, which is a new medium for me.

DD: How's working for Images? What do you like about experimental cinema? Any cool stories?
 KS: I love working for Images Festival, but I can’t say I have any particularly cool stories. The coolness is in the everyday at Images – wonderful people and I get to watch hundreds of films! What do I like about experimental cinema? Well I think that term encompasses so so many different forms and works. I like the space for multiple interpretations/understanding/experiences that experimental pieces allow for. For some works, I enjoy the meditative quality.

DD: What do you like about Canadian art? Any dream projects?

KS: I am planning to study Canadian documentary cinema and media since the 1990s for my PhD, starting this fall, so that’s the section of Canadian art that I know best. I like the scope of Canadian documentary cinema – I find it’s often focused on something fairly small that speaks to a bigger picture issue. Local stories that shed light on political happenings for example, like many of the interactive documentaries being made lately in Canada. As for a dream, I’ve always wanted to shoot way up north in the snow!
Eva Kolcze
DD: What got you into film making, and how did you find your time at York?

EK: I've been interested in making films since I was a teenager. After realizing that narrative filmmaking wasn't the right fit for me, I was excited to discover the world of avant-garde film and video installation. 

My time at York, while brief, was exciting and important for further developing my artistic practice. I had the opportunity to focus on one project for an extended period of time, resulting in the film All That Is Solid. I worked with some amazing people including experimental filmmaker Philip Hoffman who was my thesis supervisor. Phil was the reason I chose to study at York and he was an integral part of making the MFA experience such a positive one.

DD: Can you tell me more about your graduate student film, the Brutalist architecture one?

EK: All That Is Solid explores three university campuses built in the Brutalist style. Footage of the buildings was degraded using a number of photochemical processes. The film explores the buildings as sites of flux and change, both in a material and historical sense. I was interested in the connection between the grains of metallic silver suspended in gelatin that make up a film image and the mixture of aggregate and cement of concrete. Both of these materials are subject to decay. While they appear fixed and permanent, the massive concrete buildings are in a state of instability due to the shifting reactions and responses to their presence in the urban landscape.

DD: Can you tell me more about your LIFT workshop? How's that going?

EK: The workshop is called Transformation Through Decay and it will take place at Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto on July 26th. I will demonstrate a number of techniques using soil, bleach and oil as well as reticulation and freezing. Many of these techniques were developed during my research for All That Is Solid and I'm very excited to share them.

DD: Any upcoming projects in the works?

EK: I'm working on a number of projects right now including a film series called Dust CyclesOne part of the series is based around the Scarborough Bluffs. A major area of interest for me is erosion and the Bluffs are a prime example of this process. The project will explore the Bluffs from a geological and ecological perspective and will combine video and film. I'm hoping to present some components of the project as an installation.

DD: What's your favorite film that we've watched? And worst?

P: C.R.A.Z.Y. was great. I'm a huge Vallée fan. Other times I like watching the birds on Planet Earth. It's hard to decide. Meow Meow. There are so many sides of my personality, so it really depends on my mood. Least favourite is definitely Gummo, because I didn’t like how they treated the cats. Hiss Hiss.

DD: What do you like doing when watching a movie?

P: Yawn. I like to sit right in front of the TV, sometimes I forget it isn't real life and start pawing at the screen. Other times I give myself baths or play with David's toes.

DD: Can you describe your childhood?

P: I was born in community housing near Lansdowne station in Toronto. They don't know who my dad is. Last I heard about my mom, she was pregnant again - she was only 6 months old when she had me. Her owner had lots of strange facial piercings and just wanted a better life for me. I moved in with Candice when I was 10 weeks old and life has been great since. Meow Meow.

DD: Have you ever thought of directing, and if so, what would it be about?

P: Oh sure, I always trying to get my paws on a camera – Meow Meow –  but my owners yell at me. I think a cross between Homeward Bound and Scarface would reflect my life and personal style. Thanks for including me, David! Meow!
Andrew Stanley 
DD: What makes for a good film and what are your favorites? Also, what don’t you like?

AS: I really love The Big Chill and I really adore Rosetta. I really like Persona and I really love the Bourne series. I just re-watched Rosetta and found it terrifically heart breaking. I recently finished working on Soderbergh’s television show The Girlfriend Experience based on the film of the same name, so I revisited a bunch of his work as well. I think he has a great outlook on film making in general. I don’t care much for a bad attitude.

Lately, I have been doing a lot more reading and making my own stuff than watching too many films. I just directed a music video which was fun. I find it hard to be too into being a fan of film while working in it. I need some space when I am making stuff.

DD: Can you tell me more about what it’s like being on a film set, and your work as a director’s assistant, and particularly about working with Lodge Kerrigan?

AS: Working on a film set if you’re not directing is boring. One has to be careful to not spend too much time at the craft table.

Being part of the film making process, on the other hand, is an intensely satisfying process. The variables are incredible. I worked with Lodge very closely as his director’s assistant. We would plan all the shots out for the entire TV show. Ranging from 3-5 set ups per scene, 35-40 scenes per episode, 7 episodes of him directing. Anyway, a lot of set ups. I remember him saying that Fincher told him there were two ways to shoot a scene and one of them was wrong.

Working with Lodge was really great. I don’t know if I have ever worked so hard in my life. He was very demanding, very exacting. When it came to shoot the scene, he knew exactly where he was putting the camera far before the crew ever came to the floor. He has a beautifully minimal and stark way of shooting his scenes. He really has his own language that he works with which I found inspiring. I remember when I was standing beside him at the monitors and he would start to get very tense with the AD team because they were trying to flood the scene with extras. And you’d get these extras who, you know, really wanted to be actors so they’d do what extras do and look at the camera. If an extra looked at the camera, they would probably spend the rest of the day in extras holding. I always found this quite funny.

DD: What are your ideas for your first film? And has being in Berlin given you any ideas?

AS: I tried implementing a routine to help with writing and other creative pursuits. With no pressure to do anything, the world is yours and you can make with it what you want.

I start most days off with a solid routine. Wake up at noon. Best way to start off the day. My good friend Shaun taught me this about Berlin. You have early (noon). You have early early (11am). You have early early early (10am).

After getting up early, I go and get breakfast. I do not cook much in Berlin. I need to focus on my real creative pursuits. I am organizing an art show with 22 artists which I am very proud of. I eat at a vegan restaurant that also serves lamb kofta down the street while my girlfriend (Leslie) stays at home.

By this time, it is most likely 3pm. I have brushed my teeth, but not showered. I don’t shower much. My apartment has a great bathtub despite having no windows in it.

The hot water in my sublet doesn’t produce hot enough water to take a bath in. I instead run it at as hot as it goes, and then boil large kettles of water. I do this three times.

In the bath I read a book and learn how to say woman in German on this app called Duolingo. David, you gave me these books which don’t have a series name that I call Directors on Directors. I was reading Scorsese on Scorsese. Fantastic book and I would like to thank you very much for giving it to me. You also gave me Cassavetes on Cassavetes, but it is more than double the size of Scorsese on Scorsese so it remains next on the list.

By this time it is 5 o’clock. Shaun, who I organized the show with, are planning to meet up to talk about the show’s directions. We start having a drink.

By the time we are done it is 10 or so.

Leslie likes to have some form of vegetation during the day because she is a healthy and refined human being. The problem with Berlin is that the food is terrible. Unaccustomed to the intensely healthy attitudes of North American coastal metropolises, you have a few options for vegetables, iceberg lettuce being one of them.

After we find food we go to a place called Hyner’s but I call it Hyney’s because I have a bad sense of humour. We drink 16 year old scotch because Shaun likes it and I like getting drunk. Leslie is at home. It is 4 o’clock in the morning and because it is Berlin the birds are awake and the sun is coming up.

I am not sold on Berlin being a good place to write, but it is certainly a leisurely place to be.
Kurt Walker 
DD: How do you think cinephilia changed in the internet age?

KW: I'm not really sure as I haven't experienced cinephilia outside of the context of the internet age... but to go out on a limb, I do think the coolest thing about this age of cinephilia is how much more connected we are across the globe. Because of this I think people are discovering more movies and making new friends via cinema, which is never a bad thing.

DD: What’s the Vancouver cinephile scene like? It seems like you all are pretty close-knit and have an intense view on films. Can you also tell me more about Vulgar Auteurism?

KW: It's good. If anything we're too comfortable and agree on all the same movies. i.e. the idea that Pompeii is anything less than a masterpiece is an alien idea to us. As for Vancouver's film culture– it's good too, I only wish we had a festival or hub which supported and programmed avant-garde cinema in the way that say Wavelengths or Images does in Toronto.

Re: Vulgar Auteurism, my hand in that was the tumblr Jack (Lehtonen) and I started a couple of years ago simply as a project to think about these films– it was not some polemical revision of the auteur theory or anything, for me it was just a small protest against a certain laziness I detected in film criticism which wasn't giving these films their fair due. I think that the downfall of that whole thing was that we primarily highlighted action films, when for me VA encompassed much more: comedies, rom-coms, music videos, television, etc. The manifesto's or whatever you'd call them that were subsequently written didn't do it much help either.

DD: What made you want to become a filmmaker, and what’s Hit 2 Pass about?

KW: It came naturally as a practice to continue thinking about movies with my friends. Put simply, I think that the movie is about experiencing a new place with your friends. Did you see the film? What do you think it's about?

DD: Not yet, but really want to! I remember Adam Cook telling me that your film was going to be like Abel Ferrara meets Jerry Lewis. Was that this film? Any other influences on it?

KW: Haha – I'm not sure about the former, although I do love Abel's work, I'm not so sure he has influenced my films so far. Jerry Lewis though definitely – the only thing I really knew going into this movie, as it was for the most part a planned improvisation, was that we were going to remake the introductory scene from The Bellboy. Other influences: Raya Martin, Gina Telaroli, Isiah Medina, Kanye, James Benning, Phil Coldiron's writings on cinema, Clint Eastwood, Lumière, etc.

DD: When is Hit 2 Pass going to play in Toronto? Do you have any other new projects in the works?

KW: I'm not sure! To be honest I'm excited for this little festival circuit tour to conclude so that I can finally put it up online for everyone to watch– if someone in Toronto is still interested in hosting something after that then I'm down. I'm trying to get a mid-length movie off the ground for an end of summer shoot – it's kind of inspired by all these shows I've been watching (The O.C., Gilmore Girls, Gossip Girl, etc.) recently. The aim is for it to be an episode in the middle of a season which otherwise doesn't exist, all shot in East Van.

DD: Has television been an equal influence on your work?

KW: Definitely. The O.C. will influence everything I ever do ever. A majority of cinema is too formally neat and tidy for me these days, it's like Renoir said about perfect technique turning everything ugly; while TV on the other hand in all of its artificiality, compositional amateurishness can casually, unassumingly, form something beautiful. Like when Ryan is heading back to Chino at the end of towards the end of The OC S1 and we see the sun set on the Cohen's house and Marissa is standing at the end of the driveway again. How is that not cinema? Anyways, with the TV Movie we're working on I'd love to be able to work in this tradition and tap into why these shows struck such a chord. Why were there a dozen odd television shows running in the 90s/00's exclusively about love? That is worth something.
Isiah Medina 
IM: There is no relation between cinema and cinephilia. 

There is no relation between being and being-there.

Neither the phenomenalization of ontology, nor the ontologization of phenomenology. 

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