Posts in Interviews

“Most Likely to Murder” An interview with writer/director Dan Gregor and star Adam Pally

April 29th, 2018 Posted by Interviews, Weekly DVD, Weekly VOD 0 thoughts on ““Most Likely to Murder” An interview with writer/director Dan Gregor and star Adam Pally”

Dan Gregor co-writes with Doug Mand and directs this thrilling murder mystery comedy starring Adam Pally (“The Mindy Project”), Rachel Bloom (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) and Vincent Kartheiser (“Mad Men”).   Billy (Pally) goes home one last time before his parents move and is confronted with the memories and actions of his past.  Never having really grown up, he attempts to pick up where he left off ten years ago, but then finds himself in a world where he thinks a boy he picked on in school has murdered his mother.  The film is brilliantly funny yet somehow manages to delve into a rather poignant topic toward the end without ever losing the pace and sense of being a comedy.  I had the pleasure of talking with both Gregor and Pally about making this film.  You’ll be shocked by the genesis of the film, the candid childhood memories shared,  as well as the extortion that took place!

Pamela Powell (PP):  Before we talk about the film, Dan can you tell me about your background and the differences between writing for television and for movies?

Dan Gregor (DG):  I started writing TV at ‘How I Met Your Mother’ …  In some ways, a story is a story.  It’s about setting a problem and the rising action to fix it and the resolution… In that regard, going to movies has always felt very organic; it’s a similar muscle.  Obviously the big difference is trying to find something that really ends the sentence that gives real closure to the ideas … My writing partner Doug Mand and myself, whenever we’re breaking a story, we won’t even start writing a script until we know that we have an ending that gives it a really exciting conclusion.  Having something that feels like a third act that people are going to be engaged with, we always feel like [that’s] lacking in mainstream comedies.  You might like the first 45 minutes, but after that it’s like let’s wrap this up because I know where it’s going.  That’s the biggest difference in going into movie writing is that the third act is genuinely engaging and exciting and hopefully a little unexpected

PP:  I loved the movie!  You had me engaged the entire time and the ending was totally unexpected.  With as many movies as I see each year, that’s a tough thing to do!

DG:  Thank you.  That’s the highest praise I could get.

Adam Pally (AP):  Yes, truly the highest praise. 

DG:  I didn’t get a lot of praise from my parents growing up.  (Laughs)

PP: So how did you come up with the premise of this film?

DG:  The real beginning of the movie happened because  when I was 13 I had scrambled “Skinemax” porn in my bedroom and I would stay up all night. I would basically wait till I thought there was  a sex scene going on and then I would sprint on my tippee toes quietly to the family room that had the actual cable box and I would throw in a VHS tape and try to record the sex scene.  But I was always too late so I had this  really weird tape of the last 5 seconds of sex scenes.  (Laughs)  It’s this very weird montage.  And eventually I grew out of this phase of my life and I had the tape hidden in the back of my closet.  As an adult, I went back to my parents’ house and I stumbled across it and I was like,  ‘Oh, my God!  I can’t believe this thing still exists!’ and I was sort of desperate to watch it again, but I literally couldn’t find a VHS player.  As much as it’s ridiculous, that sort of emotion of having this piece of nostalgia that you are desperate to hold on to, but you can’t. [That] was the emotional starting place of movie.  Doug, my writing partner and I have always been obsessed with ‘coming home for the holiday’ movies in general, but also very specifically Thanksgiving weekend and the night before Thanksgiving where everyone’s back in their home town and you’re going to a local bar and you’re getting drunk and reliving past memories.  That sort of feeling that you desperately want to be in the past but you never can be again.  That was the genesis of … the movie.  Once we knew we wanted to do that, we then challenged ourselves to find a way to tell that in a [more] engaging way than white guy comes home and realizes he’s old. 

PP:  Adam, I’ve seen your two previous films, “Joshy” and “Band Aid,” two very different films from this one as are your characters.  Is there a commonality among these characters that you see as you play them?

AP:  Any character I play is a version of myself.  That’s the only way I know how to do something is to say, what part of me would be this person?  And then embrace that  and put a full spin on it.  I think they are three very different characters, but they’re all versions of myself.  I can see myself ending up like all three people with one right or left turn.  I think if I have any sort of process, it’s that. 

PP:  Some of Adam’s lines are remarkably memorable and offensively hilarious!  Dan, can you tell me about creating this?

DG:  I think that’s the fun part about writing.  By the time you’re seeing a movie, this, from concept to script, to revision to edit to improv, you’re seeing the 100th version of the movie … this movie was always written for Adam… and so even when we were writing the movie we were still checking with Adam…and also we’ve been working with Adam since we were 20 so we feel his voice pretty well.  And truly, Adam is one of the best improvisers in the world.  We have some spectacular lines in the movie that are completely improved from Adam.  

PP:  Adam, do you have a favorite line or improv situation?

AP:  The movie is written so well that it was fun to deliver the scripted lines.  You know what was really funny … is when I first curse in front of my parents.  I know that when you’re a kid, you see that other kid curse…

DG:  You go to that other kid’s house and go wait a minute, this kid is allowed to curse?  Not only in front of his parents, but at them? 

AP:  When you first see that in the movie, it gets a lot of laughs and I think that’s one of my favorite parts. 

DG:  And Adam gave it such a juvenile read, that is what I loved about it.  He’s such an angst-y teen about it.  My favorite Adam improve line, to brag about Adam, is toward the end of the movie, he’s talking about being a restroom attendant in Vegas and saying that he’s sorry that he keeps looking at people’s penises in the bathroom but it’s an accident and he can’t help but glance at a penis when it’s in front of you.

PP:  Are these characters based on any real life people from your past, Dan?

DG:  Every one is an amalgamation of people.  Every one is from my life or Doug’s life. In a very real way the character of Lowell is not a specific someone. [He] is based on the fact that when I was in middle school, I was a shitty kid.  I was not nice to people.  I went to this small private school and I was hot shit in this little school and I was not kind.  And then the next year, I went to this big public school and I instantly had the tables turned.  I was the nerd and I was getting picked on … And I had this realization that, oh, shit!  I was unkind to people and it fucking hurt.  That regret and that realization is the emotional cornerstone of the movie and the underlying ethos of the Lowell character.

PP:  Did you have any bumps in the road or was it smooth sailing?

AP:  We were extorted by the local town.

PP:  (Laughs)

DG:  Seriously … we moved to the actual suburbs where we shot the whole movie … this little town had a racket.  We found out afterwards where they let people sign up for film permits and then when it’s in the 11th hour they tripled the price.  Our amazing producer Petra Ahmann didn’t tell me what was going on because she didn’t want to mess in my head while I was filming and just snuck off to the local municipality courthouse.   Honestly, I have no idea what she did to spin them back.

AP:  Could have been a double extortion.

DG:  She somehow finagled them to let us get back to our original permit price, but the thing we did have to do is  we lost all of our night shoots.  So we had to change the entire closing sequence from a nighttime horror feel to a daytime horror feel.   I actually feel like it was a real gift because it gave that whole finale a much different look than maybe was the obvious choice.

PP:  I have to ask the next obvious question.  What town?

DG:  I’m happy to burn them.  Eastchester, NY.  It’s just the horror of making a low budget movie is that your every dollar really can mess you up pretty bad. 

“Most Likely to Murder,” a thrillingly comedic film, is available on DVD and various digital platforms on May 1.  Check out the trailer here: MOST LIKELY TO MURDER 

 

 

EBERTFEST: A SIT DOWN WITH CHAZ

April 16th, 2018 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “EBERTFEST: A SIT DOWN WITH CHAZ”

As published in this month’s edition of Fete Lifestyle Magazine, April 16, 2018

Ebertfest, the unique film festival created to give films overlooked by critics and audiences a second look, celebrates its 20th year on April 18-22 in the quaint college town of Champaign, Illinois. The festival, started by Roger Ebert and his wife, Chaz, continues even after Ebert’s death 5 years ago.

To read the interview in its entirety, go to Fete Lifestyle Magazine 

 

Ebertfest paving a new path of equality

April 10th, 2018 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “Ebertfest paving a new path of equality”

(From FF2 Media, April 9, 2018)

Roger Ebert will forever remain in the hearts of film lovers and film critics alike. His unique personality accompanied by his insight into all things film created a new way for people to see and enjoy going to the movies. Ebertfest, now celebrating its 20th anniversary on April 18-22, in Champaign, Illinois was originally named the Ebert Overlooked Film Festival to pay “…homage to those films that he thought needed to be seen by bigger audiences…” said his wife Chaz in a recent interview.

It’s been five years since Ebert passed away, but Chaz and her team continue this festival with special events planned for the 20th anniversary celebration. I had a chance to sit down with Chaz to discuss the festival, but also to get to know this woman who continues to champion Ebert’s causes, his vision of what makes films important in life and her focus on women in the filmmaking industry.

To read the article published on April 9th in its entirety, please go to  FF2 Media.

“We’re Listening:” Founders of Cherry Picks Reviews to launch new site for female critics

April 5th, 2018 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on ““We’re Listening:” Founders of Cherry Picks Reviews to launch new site for female critics”

(As published in FF2 Media, Thursday, April 5, 2018.  To read the interview in its entirety, go to FF2Media)

Cherry Picks Reviews (CPR) is the much-anticipated upcoming critical site for all things women-in-media launching this fall! The gender equality issue has been making the headlines for the past couple of months, particularly in filmmaking. As a female film critic (over 50), Cherry Picks Reviews is a welcome change from the predominantly white male critical terrain which had been painting a skewed picture for film lovers.

Women comprise more than 50 percent of the population, yet less than four percent of the top 100 grossing films have been directed by women, according to Sundance.org. Times are changing, and Cherry Picks Reviews co-founders Miranda Bailey and Rebecca Odes talked to me about this “new voice in the critical conversation.”

Pamela Powell (PP): Why did you decide to create Cherry Picks Reviews?

Miranda Bailey (MB): Cherry Picks came about because of the lack of representation that was happening across the critical landscape in media itself, whether it was film or television, music or video games or any of the above. And now that we’re doing these aggregated sites and scoring systems that consumers are using [and] not having an equal opportunity playing field, it was really skewing the score…skewing the scores as to whether something was worth consumers’ money or not. We started Cherry Picks to specifically cherry pick out the female critical voice across media to shine a light on it to support it…and also just for women to know what other women think about something…whether or not they should spend their money on it. I think a lot of what is out there right now is from a very specific point of view that doesn’t represent all of the consumers…Men worry that [CPR] is perhaps skewed in some sexist way, but it’s really not. It’s about support, not segregation. It’s really no different than any other website that would be for females.

Go to FF2 Media for the complete interview.

“Ophelia” director Claire McCarthy talks contemporary take on Hamlet

January 26th, 2018 Posted by Film Festivals, Interviews 0 thoughts on ““Ophelia” director Claire McCarthy talks contemporary take on Hamlet”

From the January 26, 2018 publication of FF2 Media:

Director Claire McCarthy who earlier this month was named as one of 10 “directors to watch” in Variety Magazine, sat down to talk with me at the Sundance Film Festival just days before the world premiere of her film Ophelia.

Shakespeare is nothing new to McCarthy having had an immediate connection to the renowned author from her early high school days.  “There was something about the words of Shakespeare that are sublime and the themes that really kind of struck me…I did study Hamlet quite intimately…so I knew it from the perspective of its faithful original text.  Our version is taking the original text and turning it on its head.”

READ THE INTERVIEW ARTICLE IN ITS ENTIRETY AT FF2MEDIA 

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute

Weighing in on “42 Grams” An interview with Jack C. Newell

January 12th, 2018 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “Weighing in on “42 Grams” An interview with Jack C. Newell”

Curiosity is the main ingredient in Jack C. Newell’s newest film “42 Grams,” a documentary about a chef, Jake Bickelhaupt, his wife Alexa, and the impact of a high-stakes restaurant life. Newell, the Program Director at The Harold Ramis Film School at The Second City and also a commercial director, met with me recently to discuss the film, the subjects, and how this labor of love came to be.

Newell’s curiosity, as he said, “…was rewarded in the biggest ways possible” as “42 Grams” hit the film festival circuit and is now currently available on digital platforms such as iTunes. But Newell cautions that  this isn’t your typical food documentary, defining the it as “…really funny at moments, and really, really sad…you learn something, but you also feel something. It’s complex.”

Complexity in the most satisfying ingredient in “42 Grams” and that word accurately describes this culinary tale. Newell’s keen insight and willingness to share his thoughts about the process were, dare I say, icing on the cake when it comes to savoring the many complicated and delicious layers of this film.

Food is a common theme in Newell’s cinematic endeavors. His first feature film, “Close Quarters,” featured two young baristas and his second feature, “Open Tables” “…was an exploration of food, but from the diners’ point of view. Food is almost incidental…” And now, Newell found Bickelhaupt, a self-trained chef with one of the most impressive resumes you’ve ever seen. Working under Charlie Trotter and creating dishes at the world-renowned Alinea and Schwa in Chicago, this underground chef turned 2-Star Michelin restaurant purveyor is now the focus of a uniquely emotional, delicious, and sometimes volatile story.

Finding Jake seemed serendipitous as Newell and his then-girlfriend Rebecca attended a fundraiser at the  Steppenwolf Theater in 2013. One of the silent auction items was dinner at an underground restaurant called Sous Rising. Newell, a foodie who takes pride in his knowledge of the Chicago restaurant scene, couldn’t believe his luck. The couple “won” the item and were blown away by the food served in this this intimate Uptown neighborhood apartment. “It’s the best food I’ve ever had. Easily. Each course is better than the one before it…” Newell then approached Bickelhaupt after the meal, connected over their common roots of Wisconsin and said, “‘Could I follow you?’ and he said ‘yes.’ So three weeks later I just showed up with my camera and just started filming them do the underground restaurant thing.”

The entire project simmered in the pot for about 3 years. Newell shared that after “…a year and 9 months of solid filming [there was] no solid narrative arc being apparent.” Did he panic? The answer is a resounding “no.” He reiterated his curious nature. “Curiosity isn’t a business plan and no one can make a career on it…but that’s what makes it so special.” He continued, “…[Bickelhaupt’s] wife (Alexa) presenting the food that he’s making…that was a very intimate dynamic that you almost never get at restaurants. It’s like family.”

Capturing that intimacy and finding that narrative arc was no easy task.  Newell confided that after 2 years into filming, becoming a fly on the wall, he encountered a reticence to stay involved by both Jake and Alexa. “I thought I had lost my access…every single question I would ask, they’d give me the same answer. I was running out of steam.” Newell was afraid that might be the end of the road, but his instinct pushed him forward, allowing the couple to view a rough cut of the film.  This was the turning point. Jake left the room at the end of the showing, overwhelmed by emotion as he witnessed some of his outbursts and character flaws. Alexa then told Newell, “‘You’re not done yet. You have way more to film. We have to tell you about our marriage. We have to tell you about our parents’” Newell said, “In showing them [the rough cut] it opened up a whole other avenue…I had actually taken it easy on Jake because I was a little worried about showing it to him.” The full story could now be told making this a more complicated and delectable film.

Emotions ran high in this intense documentary as we became connected with Jake and Alexa. We saw the good and the bad, the real people in front of the camera lens. They weren’t perfect—they were real. And then, Newell happened to capture one of the most dramatic scenes that gave him that needed narrative arc. That particular scene brought me to  tears and Newell shared that he too cries “…every time I see it which is crazy because once you see your movie enough times you get really desensitized to it, but not that part! And then, the very, very end, I cry at that part too!” Newell felt that the film is just like a great meal. “…you’re super satisfied…It’s emotional and true. That’s exactly what the [restaurant] life is. There’s always darkness [and] sacrifice.”  

Newell, a “jack of all trades,” has found that his ability to wear a variety of hats, from actor and editor to director and producer, making him a better filmmaker. Newell described making “42 Grams” as “…a perfect machine. It works on every single level.” And I couldn’t agree more—it’s the appetizer, the palate cleanser, the entree and dessert of movies.   This experience, according to Newell, has given him more confidence in his story-telling abilities and has learned a very valuable lesson: “Tell the story you want to tell. Don’t tell the story you think people want you to tell.” He has done just that with “42 Grams” and I’m confident we will see that in his upcoming documentary “How to Build a School in Haiti,” and a narrative film with the working title “Monuments.”

While you can see “42 Grams” on VOD, Chicagoans have the amazing opportunity to see it in the newly renovated Gene Siskel Film Center  , meet Jack C. Newel,l and ask questions after the film on Jan. 27 and 28 and on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.  For tickets to this cinematically beautiful and creative delight, go to http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/42grams

“Keep Talking” At the Gene Siskel Film Center

January 7th, 2018 Posted by Interviews, News 0 thoughts on ““Keep Talking” At the Gene Siskel Film Center”

The multiple award-winning documentary KEEP TALKING is Chicagoan Karen Lynn Weinberg’s newest documentary film depicting the efforts of four Alaskan Native women fighting to save the endangered language Alutiiq. Less than 40 fluent speakers remain, placing a heavy burden on them to keep not only the language alive, but the culture and history that is an integral part of it as well. Within the film, we begin to understand the important role indigenous language plays in those seeking a sense of identity and the necessary bonds between the Alutiiq people.

I had an opportunity to talk with Weinberg about her informative and emotional film and how it has impacted her, the Alutiiq community, and other cultures around the world. Her insight and passion will at once inspire you to see the film and see the world in a different and more compassionate way.

The Indiana University graduate found her first passion for langauage in literature, particularly Shakespeare as his writing “…allowed me to personally experience the power of language to elevate and transform.” Weinberg also studied French, Spanish, and Italian, and even when she became a published author and documentary film editor, she found time to tutor English to adults when she could.

Weinberg’s teaching skills crossed over into film editing and Weinberg was invited by the Native Village of Afognak to Kodiak, Alaska to teach a one-week course. Her entire class was comprised of Kodiak Alutiiq as the group wanted to learn the necessary software to preserve their native language and their culture. Weinberg shared, “I was hooked and wanted to know more…At the time, I had wanted to try my hand at producing/directing a documentary, so I went Kari (a language activist) a proposal to take to their Elders, and they granted me see funding and permission to come film their first-ever Dig Afognak camp geared towards immersion.”

Weinberg felt her own background weighing on her as an outsider to this community. She was an outsider and says, “I mean, how many times have Indigenous people been misrepresented in the white media? I felt an enormous responsibility to get it right.” Working with the community, conducting feedback sessions, and finding translators to interpret hours of footage allowed Weinberg to immerse herself, gain the necessary funding, and most importantly, get it right.

“Keep Talking” is powerful, but the one aspect that really is quite emotional is Sadie’s story. She’s a struggling teen who seems to transform her personality and hope for her future when she is among her people, learning her native tongue, and embracing her roots and traditions. Finding and focusing on Sadie gives the viewer a true understanding of the need to not lose our culture. Weinberg shared that she and the film’s cinematographer, Nara Garber, were immediately drawn to her. “As I got to know her, I understood that she was in a tough place emotionally, much as I was at her age. At the same time, the language and Alutiiq dancing was a clear, bright spot in her life.” Weinberg continued, “While we absolutely had more people we were filming with and I wish all the storylines could have fit into this film, it was Sadie’s coming of age story that most clearly illustrated the power of culture to help and heal.”

The film’s impact upon the viewer is tremendous as it exhibits the historical tragedies that continue to effect the culture in negative ways. A reconnection to their beginnings seems to have a healing effect. Weinberg has found from viewers that “…language revitalization work helps to heal historical trauma.” She continued, “In a bigger sense, I hope that the film contributes to discussions of the need for governmental bodies to provide lasting support to programs like language revitalization: this support is sorely needed to help to heal some of the damage done by assimilationist policies practiced by the United States, Canada and countless other countries formed with colonization at their core.”

Weinberg passionately expressed that, “Making this film has me firmly convinced that modern society desperately needs a push towards interpersonal connection and communication, including strengthening people’s sense of identity with an awareness of their own ancestry and heritage.” Perhaps in looking forward, we all need to look backward and see where we began and hold on to our roots, cherish our elders’ and their knowledge, and learn about our ancestry, no matter where we began. It is obvious in “Keep Talking” that this Alutiiq culture is on a more positive path…one that would benefit us all in understanding one another and even ourselves.

In closing, I asked Weinberg what was her favorite word or expression. Her answer brings me to happy tears. She said, “Since I can’t spell or say my favorite word (which means ‘they always tease me’), I will leave you with ‘Tang’rciqamken’- I will see you later. It’s a substitute for goodbye. I love that there is no word for goodbye.” The film screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Friday, Jan. 5th for its grand re-opening and will screen again on Jan. 11. For more information about tickets, go to www.siskelfilmcenter.org/keeptalking

For more information about the film go to www.keeptalkingthefilm.com

 

Michael Stuhlbarg talks about his remarkable role in “Call Me By Your Name”

December 15th, 2017 Posted by Interviews, Review 0 thoughts on “Michael Stuhlbarg talks about his remarkable role in “Call Me By Your Name””

“Call Me By Your Name” seemed a sure-fire Oscar contender when I saw it months ago. Beginning the festival circuit at Sundance Film Festival back in January, the film received rave reviews. Now, almost one year later, the film is winning major film critic awards including Best Film and Best Director from the LA Film Critics Circle and numerous acting awards and nominations for its stars Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer, and Michael Stuhlbarg.

The film is an daringly bold and honest coming of age film about a 17 year-old boy, Elio (Chalamet) who is trying to find his identity back in the 1980’s. His family summers in Italy as his father is a professor of history, researching during this time period. When Oliver (Armie Hammer), the new college research assistant arrives, Elio’s sexual emotions are awakened and with a new-found flurry of thoughts, feelings and desires, he finds himself confused and struggling with his first love.

The cinematically stunning film boldly addresses the powerfully intense emotions that occur in a young boy and how his family perceives his situation from the outside. I had the honor of sitting down and talking with Michael Stuhlbarg who portrays Elio’s father, Mr. Perlman, to discuss his career path, his own father’s influence upon his role, and how he hopes viewers will see this film.

Pamela Powell (PP): Your theater, television, and film credits are simply remarkable and you seem to have found a springboard recently to make a recognizable name for yourself with this film, “The Post,” and “The Shape of Water.” Can you tell me about your path?

Michael Stuhlbarg (MS): The drive to do this kind of work with my life, I don’t really thoroughly understand where it comes from. I’ve been doing it since I was 11 years old. non prof until 1989… I’ve always loved storytelling, I’ve loved making people laugh and think and feel. And I stand on the shoulders of giants, really, whether it’s been my father or professors or teachers I’ve had who gave me confidence or encouraged me or taught me something that was important. We all are on the shoulders of others who took an interest in us. Saw something in us perhaps a passion or a love or a talent and made us feel like we could perform miracles, otherwise we wouldn’t be here… certainly wouldn’t be here without the people who influenced me in my life. And with each opportunity you’re given, you hope that you gain a little more confidence about what you’re capable of, with each job, it’s like starting all over again, honestly. I never know what tools are going to be necessary for a new job and there’s always a great sense of insecurity and anxiety about will I be able to fulfill what’s being asked of me… So you just have to trust your collaborators, you trust your director, and they also have tremendous influence on you as well.

PP: This particular role of Elio’s father is one of compassion and understanding like I’ve never seen in a film. Tell me about preparing for this role, learning Italian and Greek history.

MS: In this case, I’m a Greek scholar who has an interest in history and art history…I met with a couple classics professors, talked to them about what it’s like to stand in front of a room and talk about encouraging students to know their latin and about coming off like you could speak italian. I took some [Italian] lessons in NY before I left. My tutor was from the South of Italy and then I learned that when I arrived [in Northern Italy] that the dialect and the meanings of some things are different than they are down south!

I loved what Luka said during the rehearsal process… He wanted this whole experience for the audience to be one of light, one of love, one of buoyancy. That idyllic summer that we may have been lucky enough to have had in our youth where we fell in love for the first time or we met someone we adored or we experienced something that just maybe encouraged us to take a particular path in our lives.

These are all great challenges and I think it’s a really good thing when you’re terrified at the beginning process. In some ways it puts a fire under you to do the best work that you can because you don’t want to be the one who doesn’t fulfill what the script is providing. Basically, you don’t want to screw up. So there’s always a fire there to always do the best I can. I guess you’re given a script, you mine it for what you’re responsible for and you do your best to learn all that you can so that you don’t have to think about it on the day that you’re shooting it. You just let it go, you let it fly.

PP: And it most certainly did fly! That final speech was extraordinarily moving. Was your relationship with your father an influence upon your performance?

There was a significant pause in Stuhlbarg’s response as I could see that perhaps this was a very emotional topic for him. As he took a deep breath, his eyes closed, he turned and looked at me and with a strong yet sombre voice said:

MS: My father was a wonderful man. He had a gravity about him and a wonderful sense of humor and he often said to me let’s solve the problems of the world. So I had an amazing example for a father in my life and I thought about him often, of course, in the making of the film. I think had the circumstances of my life had been similar to what Elio was going through, I imagined he would have been as compassionate and as open and as loving as Professor Perlman is to Elio. I feel like the luckiest kid in the world to have had such an example of wonderful parents, mother and father, to have encouraged me and have been open to anything that came into my life. So I feel like it rested and lived in a very natural part of who I am. I feel their blood in my blood and i feel like I had the kind of empathy that Professor Perlman has that I was blessed to have in my life.

PP: Thank you for answering that with such honesty and candor. I hadn’t realized your father had passed away…What do you hope viewers will take away from this film?

MS: I hope they just go along for the ride…and also that they will perhaps see an example in what I get to say of a beautiful sort of view into the difficult balancing act that is parenting which is compassion and love and trust, but also providing a sense of a rock from which a child could feel grounded in the world. I think in this instance, in the speech you mention, Professor Perlman gets to offer aspects of perhaps his own experience in a round about way to Elio that he hopes will allow his son to find some comfort in the pain that he is feeling. So perhaps the audience sill take away a relationship of compassion and of absolute love and the advice or the words that are offered are coming from a place of experience and generosity and for him not to push away the pain that he is feeling because and how wonderful it is that he’s feeling what he’s feeling because those feelings are rare.

“Call Me By Your Name” opens in theaters in Chicago December 15 and will expand nationally in the weeks to follow.

Razvan Stoica shares his thoughts about “Strad Style”

November 20th, 2017 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “Razvan Stoica shares his thoughts about “Strad Style””

The world-renowned classical violinist, Razvan Stoica, is one of the focal points in the new documentary “Strad Style” now available on digital platforms.  Stoica commissioned Daniel Houck, a backward Ohioan with no training to create a replica of a famous Italian-made violin from the 1700’s.  Unbenownst to Stoica, Houck had more hurdles to overcome to make this violin than a track runner in the Olympics.  The film premiered in Park City, Utah at the 2017 Slamdance Film Festival.  Stoica had not seen the film until the premiere and while the end result is shocking to the viewer, it was even more surprising to Stoica.  He recently shared with me his thoughts.

Reel Honest Reviews (RHR):  I’m guessing that you were unaware of Daniel’s background.

Razvan Stoica (RS):  Yes, I was absolutely unaware of what was going on.  [The] first time I saw it [was] at the screening of the Slamdance Film Festival.  I must admit I was shocked…Stefan (the director) was watching my reactions because he never told me what was going on.  I really lived the movie from [the] outside.

RHR:  Can you describe your feelings after seeing the film?

RS:  I guess that the message I received was, if you believe in yourself, everything is possible.  It gave me hope and made me happy to be a part of this.  And to know it’s reality and that sometimes wonders can happen…

RHR:  That’s a wonderful message!  Do you think you would have pulled back from asking him to make this [violin] for you had you have known what was actually happening behind the scenes?

RS:  Not at all…something dragged me to trust him and even if I would do it again and knowing what could happen, I would trust him 100% because I felt it.

RHR:  Your faith in him is inspirational!  Thank you so much!

To learn more about Razvan Stoica, visit his website and perhaps if you’re lucky, you can attend one of his concerts and see him perform with Houck’s beautiful creation! Go to razvanstoica.com

 

 

Nadia Jordan’s ‘For the Love of George’ wins at CCFF

November 18th, 2017 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “Nadia Jordan’s ‘For the Love of George’ wins at CCFF”

The 2017 Chicago Comedy Film Festival has come to a close until next year. The festival featured Chicago-made shorts which were featured at The Harold Ramis Film School, a part of The Second City, followed by two nights of shorts and narrative features screening in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. The casual and welcoming atmosphere set the right tone to not only see hilarious new movies, but to hang out with the filmmakers and talent.

CCFF founder Jessica Hardy, began the festival seven years ago and from its inception, has given an award to a top female filmmaker. Hardy explained in a previous interview with FF2 Media, “…because comedy, in the past, has been dominated by masculine voices. We’ve made it part of our objective to accept a fair amount of female producers, writers, and directors…” This year, the winner of this prestigious title as well as the Audience Choice Award went to Nadia Jordan for For the Love of George.

The film is about Poppy (Jordan) who finds out her hubby has been cheating on her. On a whim, she hops a flight to L.A. from England in search of her perfect man — George Clooney. She just knows that if George meets her, they will live happily ever after. Staying with her best friend, Justin (Rex Lee), Poppy’s obsession gets the better of her as she spirals out of control. For the Love of George is as hilarious as it is endearing.

To read the review in its entirety, go to FF2media.com

Brent Kado, Changing the Chicago film scene

November 9th, 2017 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “Brent Kado, Changing the Chicago film scene”

Chicago’s film scene is evolving thanks to the independent endeavors of  Brent Kado and his wife Jessica Hardy. Together, they have curated the Chicago Comedy Film Festival (CCFF) for the past 7 years, and more recently the Chicago Independent Film Festival (CHIFF) which will celebrate its third year in 2018. Kado sat down to talk about his recent film, “A Short History of Drugs in the Valley,” and the inspiration behind it.

Kado’s relaxed demeanor is at once calming as we sat down to talk.  The Indiana native and adjunct professor at Columbia College described the area just south of his hometown of Goshen, Indiana, which is the setting for “A Short History of Drugs in the Valley.” Kado chuckled, “It’s the most conservative county in Indiana which is kind of saying a lot! …it has this really repressive vibe…[and] it’s one of the worst areas for meth.” The film’s topic tackles the evils of drugs linked with crime and the consequences.

While Kado described Goshen and the college nestled there as liberal, the area south is a factory worker’s town and the script seemed to be a natural outcome of the problems there.  Kado shared, “If you say something about the meth problem, people say, yeah, but at least it’s not Chicago…it’s a lot of racist stuff too because white people are acting like that. If it was black people or Hispanics, it would be a problem.” He added almost as a parenthetical note, “There aren’t black people or Hispanics there.” He continued, “…this crime and situation that people [are] covering up…guys that have no business being criminals get swept up into something just because they’re there. Police officers that don’t really have any clue as to what’s going on…” It sounded much like a walk back in time when, as Kado said, “…people still listen to the radio, read the newspaper. So if you’re a newspaper columnist, you have some sort of power as a journalist…”

Kado actually had two separate scripts written before creating “A Short History of Drugs in the Valley.” The first, he said, “…was about a guy that was just doing a small town TV show and I made it radio…and then I combined it with another script that I had that was the actual criminal element…” Combining the two scripts and anchoring the film with the popular radio show interviews gives the film its beginning and its climax.

Finding the right actor to play the radio show host was key, but Kado had no difficulty casting this role. Unfortunately, the actor who played Dr. Dick Diamond, Jerry Sailor, passed away in a tragic car accident. Kado described the interview with him, a friend of his wife’s family, knowing ahead of time he would probably get the role, but wanted to meet face to face first. “He could have had his own radios show. (Laughing) He probably did have his own radio show! …He did one of those things that you hear about a Hollywood actor doing. He came to the meeting as the character…and I was like, ok, you sold me.” Kado continued, “…he was finally in his 50’s and back at grad school for theater, just trying to do what he loved to do. If there ever was a film around, he would get involved.”

Kado is no newcomer to the film industry and as he looked back on his career, he shared that he has grown as a director. He finds that he now lets “…the actors have control of the scene…trusting that they can deliver which goes into good casting.” As an independent filmmaker, Kado knows that micromanaging isn’t the way to get the best product. “Most of the actors I work with have a really strong improv background which [allows] you to trust them to get into the character and just go into the scene.”

All three of his feature narrative films have been done with improvisors as the cast. Kado quickly stated that he is not an improv actor although he tried that once, and joked,  “It was a terrible experience….for me and my audience.”

Be sure to see Kado’s “A Short History of Drugs in the Valley” now available to see for free on AMAZON PRIME.  The style, story, and music in this film punctuates the background of the fictional tale based upon key points of reality.

"Or Die Trying" producer Sarah Hawkins talks about women in film: collaboration, not competition

October 26th, 2017 Posted by Interviews, News 0 thoughts on “"Or Die Trying" producer Sarah Hawkins talks about women in film: collaboration, not competition”

Award-winning actress Sarah Hawkins is branching out quickly to the executive producer role of a new web series, “Or Die Trying” and creating her own production company, Dadley Productions, with fellow director, also her father, Bradley Hawkins. She’s on fire right now, paving a new path not only for herself, but for other young women in Hollywood and beyond.

“Roller Coaster,” her first film which happens to be a silent one, is filled with more heartfelt emotion in every action than most other dramatic or comedic short films. Based on her own humorous situations as she attempts to “make it” in Hollywood, she auditions and tries to live life on a shoestring. It’s a compelling short film which she and her father created and was the springboard for her next endeavors, “Or Die Trying” and “Filling In.”

Hawkins is shooting for the stars and I had a chance to talk with the talented and ambitious actress/producer recently about being female in this male-dominated world and the making of “Or Die Trying.”

Pamela Powell (PP): You’ve gone from award-winning actress to the lead and executive producer of “Or Die Trying.” Tell me about how you navigated this path.

Sarah Hawkins (SH): I love being on screen, but guiding a project from inception to final product is incredibly fulfilling. I’ve worked for a female-driven production company called Busted Buggy Entertainment, and recently produced a comedy-fantasy proof-of-concept called “Filling In.” It’s exciting to see [ODT] finally out in the world. It was also a fun way to put the acting hat on again as my character “Ellie Hansen.”

PP: Women in the film industry is a hot topic right now, thankfully. How do you see your role in helping to improve where women currently are and what can others do to help?

SH: As women working in the film industry ourselves, we were desperate to change the conversation on this topic as, more often than not, it focuses on depressing statistics and systemic misogyny. We knew our show wasn’t going to fix a patriarchal society like Hollywood; however, by committing to hire a team of at least 85% women, our audience was not only contributing to a female-driven narrative on screen, they were contributing to giving women in the industry a practical leg-up off screen. [And] who better to tell the story of millennial women in film than women in film? We made the decision early on to hire a predominantly female crew.

PP: Women supporting other women…there must be great strength with that!

SH: The simple switch in mentality from being competitive to being collaborative is what makes the women-in-film community so strong. When one woman succeeds in this business, we all do. We received so much support from brands, businesses, and badass women (and men!) who genuinely wanted to move the needle on gender equality. It was overwhelmingly encouraging to witness, and that much more exciting to be a part of.

PP: I’m sure you must have encountered hurdles in completing ODT which was funded through a campaign through Seed & Spark.

SH: Lack of time and money are always obstacles, but I think what is unique about OR DIE TRYING in this capacity is that we shot close to 70 pages within five and a half days, producing the entire series with a budget a little over 13k. It’s definitely not something I’d recommend, but looking back, I think it was a pretty excellent feat that we were able to get it all in.

PP: Do you feel like your show reflects the reality of women in your age group in the film industry?

SH: Absolutely. I have to give props to Myah Hollis, the series creator, writer (and my producing partner). She nails the highs and lows of the industry, and the work/life balance struggle [we] millennials go through exceptionally well. “Success” is an ambiguous term that can mean many different things to many different people. Who you become in the process of balancing your personal and professional lives while trying to achieve “success” AND being a woman on top of that makes for a hotbed of issues [that] I know a lot of our peers grapple with every day.

PP: What have you learned and what are your words of advice after creating this series?

SH: I think the biggest take away was a lesson in faith…the entire process was a little over two years. [And] leave nothing on the table, work fiercely and fervently, and don’t dare [to] give up on the end goal just because things don’t come easy.

Hawkins and her team’s series can be found on YouTube with a season 2 already in development. It certainly looks like Hawkins’ aim was a bulls eye in shooting for those stars.

Everybody Digital

October 10th, 2017 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “Everybody Digital”

Allen Maldonado has created a new app called Everybody Digital which gives not only a home to short films, but a new life to them!  Listen to Allen talk with Pamela Powell from Fete Lifestyle Magazine about his new app!

It’s Not Yet Dark

October 10th, 2017 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “It’s Not Yet Dark”

Director Frankie Fenton, producers Lesley McKimm and Kathryn Kennedy, and Ruth Fitzmaurice joined me to talk about the award winning documentary film “It’s Not Yet Dark” from the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Killing Ground

October 10th, 2017 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “Killing Ground”

Damien Power, Maya Stange, and Aaron Glenane discussed the creation of KILLING GROUND during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival

Pop Aye

October 10th, 2017 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “Pop Aye”

The Sundance opening night film POP AYE has met rave reviews.  I had the opportunity to sit down with the writer and director Kirsten Tan and one of the producers of the film to talk about the making of this beautiful film.

Suck It Up

October 10th, 2017 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “Suck It Up”

Director Jordan Canning spoke with fellow journalist Tom Haraldsen and I about making the Slamdance hit film SUCK IT UP

To The Moon and Back

October 10th, 2017 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “To The Moon and Back”

Susan Morgan Cooper and Miles Harrington talk with Pamela Powell about the documentary film TO THE MOON AND BACK

Unbroken Glass

October 10th, 2017 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “Unbroken Glass”

Documentary filmmaker Dinesh Sabu talks with Reel Honest Reviews’ Pamela Powell about making this personal film, “Unbroken Glass.”

A United Kingdom

October 10th, 2017 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “A United Kingdom”

David Oyelowo sits down with Pamela Powell to talk about his new film A UNITED KINGDOM

Dave Made A Maze Interview

October 10th, 2017 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “Dave Made A Maze Interview”

Writer/director Bill Watterson and actors Nick Thune and Meera Rohit Kumbhani joined Pamela Powell of Reel Honest Reviews to talk about their new Slamdance Film DAVE MADE A MAZE.

An interview with Chad Friedrichs, "The Experimental City" Part of the Spotlight: Architecture at the Chicago International Film Festival

October 8th, 2017 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “An interview with Chad Friedrichs, "The Experimental City" Part of the Spotlight: Architecture at the Chicago International Film Festival”

The documentary film, “The Experimental City” by Chad Friedrichs, will be a part of the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival taking place in Chicago from October 12-26 at the AMC River East.  The film, a part of the Spotlight: Architecture program, is a bold, innovative, and entertaining discovery of an almost lost and forgotten story of Athelstan Spilhaus.  Spilhaus lead a team of scientists attempting to develop MXC, the Minnesota Experimental City in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  This endeavor, targeting the results of climate change actually garnered state funding and political support, but just as quickly as it was considered, it fizzled out and was buried…until now.  Friedrichs unlocks the treasure of information and provides audiences with the opportunity to know Spilhaus as well as to ponder the era and the outcome.

Friedrichs talked with me about his discovery of Spilhaus and the arduous journey in making this wonderfully entertaining and enlightening film.

UNCOVERING SPILHAUS

I think outside certain sections of Minnesota, [the Experimental City] has been a largely forgotten subject. I came to it as I was searching for a topic along the lines of retro-futurism which is what people in the past used to think the future would look like…I came across some articles about Athelstan Spilhaus who is this scientist [and] academic…[and] this comic that he had written called Our New Age which of course is featured in the film…The very first ‘Our New Age’ that Spilhaus ever wrote in 1958 was about climate change.  He talked about [the fact] that we lived in a greenhouse and the carbon dioxide that is being emitted from our burning of fossil fuels is on the increase with the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere thus creating warming. And the last panel of that ‘Our New Age’ is NYC under water.  The very first one that he ever wrote!   But it’s one thing to do a profile on an individual, it’s another thing to try and define something far greater.  I actually looked it up on Wikipedia (You never know what you’ll find there!)… it mentioned that he had been a part of this project called the Minnesota Experimental City.  I’m originally from Minnesota, so this was something that I kind of cued in on…and you go down a Wikipedia rabbit hole and you start reading about this very futuristic sounding city.  Now, of course the Wikipedia article doesn’t give you any where near the kind of depth that we eventually arrived at, but it gave me enough of an indication that  there might be something really cool here.    

AUDIO RECORDING DISCOVERY

When I began this project, like all projects, you have no idea what this thing is going to look like, but…once I read the story of the MXC…[I thought] I’ve got to make this story somehow.  And I didn’t even know that those archival recordings were out there.  Walter Van den Broeck…who was one of the leads on the project donated all of these recordings and all of his materials associated with the MXC to the Northwest Architectural archives at the University of Minnesota.  A quick internet search revealed that they had these boxes. We didn’t know what was in these boxes, but it did mention that there were some reel to reel audio recordings.  Those are the kind of things that can change a film…when I say recordings, probably 40 or 50 reel to reels, and it says Steering Committee meeting, July 1967…this is going to be Spilhaus and all the rest talking about it and sure enough it was.

That was the first find and then the second find was when we went down to Texas to interview Louise O’Connor, Spilhuas’ friend. She mentioned off-hand that she had these recordings when she compiling his biography…In her recordings with Spilhaus, [he was] drinking heavily during the recording… he could say whatever he wanted, he was liberated. That was fun to listen to! That really gives you a sense of this character… we had 200 hours of audio…We had way more audio that we ever knew what to do with.  It’s a wonderful problem to have, but it is a problem.

REINACTMENTS USING ARCHIVAL AUDIO

The people (shown seated from the neck down) who are reading the MPCA transcripts at the end of the film, they’re all family members.  Even through editing, that was always the question mark, were audiences going to accept it? The idea: I’ve seen a film called “The Arbor,” that has lip-syncing involved. I didn’t have either the chops or the budget to pull off something like that. Another obvious choice would to be to do comics, to do an animation, but for some reason I just wasn’t feeling that.  And I really wanted to make sure that those recordings didn’t feel abstract.

So when you’re exposed to all this archival footage, all these still images…it’s going to distance you away from that audio…it just doesn’t have that same kind of immersion  when you’re actually seeing people talk even if you know in the back of your mind that those people aren’t real.

It’s the documentarians burden I’ve struggled with all my career.  Sometimes you have fabulous material from one aspect of the film but then you have to find ways to fill in the other aspects of the film, in this case, the visuals. 

WHAT IF MXC WAS BUILT?  WOULD OUR WORLD BE BETTER?

It’s tempting to look at that.  Let me give you my point of view on that.  I always, from the very beginning, try to strike a balance.  I always want audiences to come out kind of  a 50-50 split. I want audiences to see virtues of both sides. The people from [Minnesota] absolutely had to do what they did.  I mean it’s crazy to think that the city would come in, and if you believe in where you live is a good place, that’s the last thing you want to do is have that taken away… It’s very possible that this could have ameliorated some issues that created climate change today.  It’s very possible that it may not have done anything and become a ghost town after 20-30 years.  It does show [that] Spilhaus very early on was aware.  He was on the fence.  They knew that some sort of change was going to be taking place, but throughout the 70’s they weren’t sure whether it was going to be the climate change that we know or things were going to get cooler because of particulates in the air from pollution and that would block sunlight and it would have gotten cooler.  So he was on the fence.  To cast Spilhaus as this totally prescient person about our predicament today, is to do an historical injustice to him.  He was operating on the best information he had at the time.

RELEVANCY TODAY

A lot of people expect relevance out of documentaries…[However], this film is a kind of time piece as well.  It captures the spirit of a toxic era, so I wanted to remain true to that era  I didn’t want to move it forward to the 21st century.  It was a story about the 1960’s and ’70’s…At the same time, I think it’s great that people find relevancy that makes your work fresh; it keeps it interesting. 

GOALS

Number one, I want people to be entertained. There’s a burden that’s placed on documentary filmmakers to have this larger social outcome from a film.  That is not my desire, nor is it my particular talent.  Mine is making the movie and then letting other people use it as a tool.   The reason I got into this is that I’m attracted to the story…if audience walks out of it and they’re happy and entertained or sad and entertained, that’s enough for me.

CHASING THE BLUES co-writer and director Scott Smith talks about making this Chicago gem

October 8th, 2017 Posted by Interviews 0 thoughts on “CHASING THE BLUES co-writer and director Scott Smith talks about making this Chicago gem”

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The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival, October 12th-26, has one of the most memorable line-ups in its history.  Unique to this festival, CIFF features “City & State” films showcasing “local characters and settings” and this year, there are 6 standout films in the category.  “Chasing the Blues,” starring Grant Rosenmeyer, Jon Lovitz, and Steve Guttenberg and co-written and directed by Scott Smith is just one of the truly wonderful films to see.

“Chasing the Blues” takes us into the life of Alan (Rosenmeyer) who is behind bars.  This soon-to-be released convict, previously a teacher in Chicago, has his story to tell as to how he ended up in this lowly state.  Lincoln Groome (Lovitz) visits Alan just before he’s released to dangle a carrot, hoping to entice Alan to look for the record album that landed him in prison 20 years ago.  The temptation is too much and Alan takes the bait.  We take that journey with him as he recounts to a random (and beautiful) fellow bus traveler the sordid and simply hilarious details of a mythical 1930‘s blues musician, a cursed rare record, and his rivalry with a fellow collector.film_chasing-the-blues_1200x800

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

I had the opportunity to talk with Smith, currently a filmmaker as well as a creative director at Leo Burnett in Chicago about making this Windy City independent gem and  creating the mystery and intrigue of the fictional blues legend Jimmie Kane Baldwin.

Pamela Powell (PP):  Tell me about your background and how you got into filmmaking.

Scott Smith (SS):  Long ago, when my interest in filmmaking started to get more present in my life, I decided to shoot a couple of spec commercials for myself to see what it was like. I came up with these fake commercials for a fake yoga studio…targeted to men.  There are two guys who are calling a baseball game, but there’s a rain delay.  To show something, they went out to this yoga competition and they had to announce the [it].  It’s them trying to understand what’s going on.

PP:  That sounds hilarious!

SS:  It’s a 30 second thing and it was done with a couple friends that are improv actors.  Eventually, I wrote a short film about a guy who breaks all ten commandments (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0429172/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_12) in a couple minutes!  That one was the one that really encouraged me and validated my interest and belief that I could have some sort of competence.  And that short allowed me to compete in the third series of Project Greenlight.  I was one of three director finalists in the third season…I didn’t win…[but] it boosted my confidence and my ability to do something semi-worthwhile.

PP:  “Chasing the Blues” isn’t your first feature though.

SS:  It’s the first narrative feature.  The first feature was a documentary feature called “Being Bucky.”  “Chasing the Blues” was based on a short story that my friend wrote.  He and I wrote the screenplay…John Fromstein, the executive producer, was reading an anthology of short stories about Blues in Chicago and he read this one and said, “Oh, my God!  You have to read this.  It would be a really great short film.”  I read it and I looked at the author and said, I’m pretty sure I know Kevin Guilfoile.  The first thought I had was, yes, this would be a great film, but it would be a great feature.

chasingsdf

Smith shared that he and Kevin would take turns writing a scene and passing it back and forth, but then the project sat on a shelf for several years.  Then, 3 years ago, they picked it up again and began rewriting it as well as beginning the fundraising process.

PP:  You have a great cast.  Tell me about getting Lovitz and Guttenberg on board.

chasinglovitzSS:  Our first goal was to keep everything in Chicago.  When we weren’t finding what we needed, we expanded out…Steve Gutenburg came to us and was really interested in playing the lead…he wanted to be a part of the project and ended up being “Diamond Dan” and his agent is the same as Jon Lovitz’.  I started re-imagining the role before he actually came on—just the potential and the possibility of it.  We had a phone call.  He was totally into it.  He wanted to put on a southern accent [and] he signed on.

 

PP:  That’s great that you focused on keeping as much as possible in Chicago and it really has the flavor of our city.  What says “Chicago” most to you in this film?

JR-Jones-O+DEATH_v3i

SS:  Record stores here in Chicago.  When we were shooting at Val’s (Records) in Oak Park, that was a really fun scene to shoot.  Just being in there, to me it really reflects the depth of music in Chicago.  Chicago has 15-20 record stores that are prominent and busy with a great knowledge.  Re-creating the studio scene, Cicero Studios, felt Chicago-y to me.  It gave it that historic blues feeling.  And approaching the three flats… the apartment and Mrs. Walker felt very uniquely Chicago to me.

 

PP:  Your actors who played Paul (Ron Connor) and Alan were polar opposites, but so wonderfully compatible in their roles!  They really seemed like they were having fun while they were antagonizing one another!

M.+Walker

SS:  The three of us rehearsed a bunch [and] luckily Ron Connor is from Chicago…we went through a lot of the scenes and pre-blocked [them].  They did bring a different energy to it and we capitalized on it.  They were really fun together and there was a lot we had to cut out!

PP:  There’s something special about filmmaking in Chicago, don’t you think?

SS:  One of the things John and I wanted to do is to really emphasize Chicago and really use a Chicago crew; support Chicago as much as we could.  There was a conscious effort to keep it here and use people from Chicago.  It’s like a family.  It’s all the same attitude:  let’s get it done [with] enthusiasm.

Energy, quick wit, and definitely enthusiasm can be found in “Chasing the Blues.”  Check out the trailer and the video that had me believing in the myth of Jimmie Kane Baldwin right here:  TRAILER   JIMMIE KANE BALDWIN VIMEO

TICKETS INFO AT CIFF

TULIPANI: LOVE, HONOUR AND A BICYCLE Blossoms with love and humor

September 11th, 2017 Posted by Film Festivals, Interviews 0 thoughts on “TULIPANI: LOVE, HONOUR AND A BICYCLE Blossoms with love and humor”

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Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses never looked as beautiful as it does in “Tulipani: Love, Honour and a Bicycle.”  Oscar-winning writer and director Mike van Diem makes a comeback with this sweet and whimsical love story starring Ksenia Solo, Gijs Naber, and Giancarlo Giannini.  van Diem came to the project as a “crisis manager” after the original director left suddenly due to health reasons.  (Read van Diem’s interview here)  After a re-write and a few casting changes, van Diem creates an engaging, comedic, and oftentimes bitter sweet tale.

Upon her mother’s death bed, Anna (Solo) travels to her homeland of Italy from Canada to learn about her unknown origins.  The “madonna” is met with open arms as she learns about her father and her real mother, all the while explaining to a police detective (with her singed buttocks) how she isn’t responsible for the death of a former mafia ring leader.  “Tulipani” expertly brings us back and forth between the here and now and the days of yesteryear, recreating this complicatedly funny and downright romantic story.

We meet Gauke (Naber) early in his life as he escapes the soggy Netherlands after the historic flood of 1953, on a bicycle with a basket full of tulip bulbs, vowing to find a new— and drier— place.  As luck would have it, at the same time, he meets and falls in love/lust with Ria (Anneke Sluiters) also vowing to find her when he is established in his new home.  Gauke with Olympic speed and ability on a bicycle, lands in Puglia, Italy and, not speaking the language, somehow  puts down his roots in Puglia, Italy.  Through the kindness of others, this tall, blonde man who doesn’t foreigner who has never eaten spaghetti (properly), develops friendships and a home.  Ria, with a babe in arms (remember, I said the word “lust” in the beginning) shows up and the two seem to have the perfect little family and life.  That is, until the mob interferes.  All hell rains down, creating havoc, but again, van writer/director Diem finely balances this open display of heartbreak and tragedy with the brilliant comedic effects using his current day character actors to their fullest potential.

There’s always a surprising lightness to this story given some of the events of their lives.  The pace of the story and tempo of his characters interactions allow the film to flow effortlessly.  Solo has a fine-tuned performance as she embodies the Canadian-Italian beauty counter-balanced by Michele Venitucci as the now-grown Vito.  Their connection is palpable as they stay at arms length during their ordeal of tripping down memory lane to tie up loose ends.  Young Vito, in flashbacks, simply steals the screen and every scene he’s in.  He’s adorable as he creates this boy who admires Gauke to no ends.  The connection between the adult Vito and the young boy is absolutely real.  We truly believe this is the grown Vito with his appearance, interactions, and mannerisms.  Naber couldn’t have been cast any better and given his Dutch heritage, he fits the role perfectly.  Giannini and Lidia Vitale who plays Vito’s mother, give this film the levity it needs, accentuating that not only Italians love a good story, we all do.  Giannini, gruff initially (read the interview to find out why!) portrays another level of character itching to surface.  His comedic timing is unconventional and refreshing, setting the stage for the rest of the cast to follow and have fun.  It is their interaction and reactions that remind us that stories and history are frequently blown out of proportion for the sake of that interesting and entertaining story.  Who would have thought that Giannini had the makings of a comic actor!

van Diem pays careful attention to every detail in this film including the ability to capture Italy and the historic flood in 1953 in the Netherlands.  Coordinating with the cinematographer with precision gives this film that overall lightness to a sometimes tragic story.  And it is with this ability that we not only love the characters, we are invested in them and their home country.  van Diem said, “If there’s one feeling you get from watching this film, it’s that we do love Italy and we do love Italians.”  Grazie Sr. van Diem e salute!

“Tulipano” is the ultimate immigrant comedic love story filled with lore, exaggeration, and passion.  van Diem’s touch with stellar performances create a technicolor dream story.

 

Oscar-winning director van Diem is back: This time, he’s stirring up passion all over Europe

September 3rd, 2017 Posted by Film Festivals, Interviews 0 thoughts on “Oscar-winning director van Diem is back: This time, he’s stirring up passion all over Europe”

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The 2017 Toronto International Film Festival isn’t just for big names and big stars — it also finds and polishes the hidden gems of the film industry.

As TIFF begins next week, films from all over the world will be vying for the spotlight. In years past, several featured films have gone on to procure Oscar fame — and this year promises to have a similar outcome. One lesser-known film that I believe will shine is “Tulipani, Love Honour and a Bicycle,” a Dutch-Canadian-Italian romantic comedy directed by Academy Award-winner Mike van Diem.

I had the pleasure of talking with this talented writer and director about the tumultuous path this film and his life have taken after winning that little gold statue for his first feature film “Karakter” (1997).

To read the interview in its entirety as it was published in the Friday, Sept. 1, 2017 edition of The Daily Journal, go HERE

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