Category Archives: Interviews
Editor’s Note: If you’ve not yet seen John D’Amico’s Premake of Star Wars, do so now. One, because it’s phenomenal, and arguably the best Star Wars fan film ever, and two, because the following interview discusses it:
Brad Avery: So, you said on the Smug Film podcast that doing this took about three months of work. But in reality, this was the original idea behind Shot Context five years ago that you abandoned. You went on to run Shot Context for several years—what about the idea of drawing these connections between films spoke to you originally, and why did you decide now to revisit it?
I don’t know why I’m drawn to that because intellectually it seems pretty arbitrary, doesn’t it? Part of the reason Shot Context ended is there’s a limited amount of light you can throw by compare and contrast, and I felt like I was nearing the limit. But I’ve found that the whole exercise pays off in unexpected ways. It becomes a really good tool for contextualization (hence the name), and with Star Wars, the biggest challenge is a context one—we’re so numbed now to the movie as it actually is, this scrappy low-budget fantasy, and the idea of stripping it all to its ingredients is a pretty good shock to the system to see it that way again. I came out of the edit liking Star Wars more, both as a piece of crackling storytelling and as a piece of craftsmanship.
The Girl Next Door absolutely wrecked me. I can think of no other horror movie that has been able to bring me to tears. That’s such a rare emotion for the genre. But, when you think about it, tragedy really is the scariest thing—the people you love, in horrible situations, suffering, the threat of their death looming. Horror movies, to truly be horrific, should be tragedies, at least somewhat. Unfortunately, more often than not, they’re merely gory action movies or tongue-in-cheek comedies. If that’s not clear to you now, it certainly will be after watching this film.
Recently, I had the chance to sit down and pick the brain of its director, Gregory Wilson:
Gabriel Over the White House (1933)
Danny Reid is the operator of Pre-Code.com, a blog dedicated to watching and reviewing every film from Hollywood’s “pre-Code era” between 1930 and 1934, the brief period of time where the Motion Picture Production Code of censorship wasn’t strictly enforced. This led to daring films about taboo topics like abortion and incest, among other themes that couldn’t be shown in a Hollywood film from around 1934 and until the system began to crumble in the 60s.
James Bell, the features editor of Sight & Sound Magazine, recently called the site “invaluable” for its documentation of this sometimes overlooked era of filmmaking. Sitting down with Danny, he was able to tell me a bit about why he decided to take on the project, why he loves pre-Code movies, why he doesn’t like Code-era movies, and even offer a bit of advice about how to run a movie blog.
Joan Darling (bottom left), part of the cast of Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law (1971-1973)
Joan Darling entered show business as an actress on the New York theater scene in the 1960s, then became a fixture of early 70’s television. In 1974, she made the leap from acting to directing and quickly made history as one of the first and most successful women directors in television. She had an instant knack for it—her debut, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, a soap opera parody, has become an enduring cult classic for its dark-edged humor and deep understanding of the desperation and sadness of the American home.
Highlights of her career include a Mary Tyler Moore episode, Chuckles Bites the Dust, which, for its deft tightrope-walk between comedy and pathos, TV Guide calls the greatest television episode ever; a classic M*A*S*H episode, The Nurses, which revolutionized the way the show portrayed women; and a leading role in an episode of The Psychiatrist, directed by a pre-Jaws, pre-Duel Spielberg.
These days, Joan teaches acting and directing classes at the Sundance Filmmakers Lab. She agreed to a phone interview, and in about an hour, I learned more about the arts of acting and directing than I ever thought possible:
A couple weeks ago I wrote about my films Shredder and Rehearsals going up on IndieFlix, and since then I’ve been exploring their library. ‘Library’ isn’t even a good enough word for it—it’s an absolute treasure trove of under the radar, wholly independent films that you’d never come across anywhere else. Not all of them are good, but there are absolute gems to be found, such as my favorite discovery so far, a 35-minute documentary called Bowling Blind.
The film is about a blind bowling league that bowls in the basement of a housing building for the blind in Manhattan. If you enjoy light, honest documentaries about colorful characters, you’ll definitely like it. It’s a very warm movie, suitable for any age.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the director, producer, and cameraman of the film, Marc Cantone: