“Animation is the most direct visual route to the subconscious and allows for the most amount of creativity with the least amount of money. That’s why I got into it, I had a lot of ideas and no money.”
We sat down with Christie to discuss his new short “Emperor of Time” among other things…
Honey Wagon Confidential: You have a very unique style. When do you feel you first developed this style?
Drew Christie: I have been doing things the way I do them since as long as I can remember. There was no real moment. I have been slowly getting better (I hope) over the years but no time I could pinpoint for developing a style. There are some films, animations and drawings from when i was in middle and high school that aren’t too different stylistically from how they are now, just a little bit more polished now.
HWC: Who are your biggest influencers?
DC: My biggest influences in animation and film are: Brothers Quay, Jan Svankmajer, early Tim Burton, Paul Thomas Anderson, Sergei Parajanov, and the Coen Brothers most likely. For illustration it would be: Edward Gorey, Brodsky & Utkin, and Carson Ellis and Richard Scarry and probably a lot of other stuff I can’t think of right now. Music is also an enormous influence on my work. Music is a huge visual inspiration to me and I think a lot of other people. American blues music of the 1920s and 1930s like Blind Willie McTell and Charley Patton and English folk music of the 1960’s by Bert Jansch, Nic Jones, Shirley Collins and many more and Eastern European folk music are all very influential to me.
HWC: Do you feel your style evolving as you create more?
DC: I can only speak to having a short film on the festival circuit and it’s nice and potentially opens doors for you but the same can be said for having your work appear online. A few hundred might see your film at a festival. If the goal is to get as many people as possible to see your film, festivals are probably not the most efficient route. However, they are great places to meet other creative people.
DC: I have no clue where it’s going to go in the future but I believe animation is the most direct visual route to the subconscious and allows for the most amount of creativity with the least amount of money. That’s why I got into it, I had a lot of ideas and no money.
DC: I looked at a photograph of him and then tried drawing him with a Pilot ink pen on paper. The first drawing I did I kind of liked and decided that that;s how he’d look throughout the animation.
New York? Scorsese? Coppola? and Allen? Oh my…
A middle-aged artist obsessed with his young assistant, a precocious 12 year old, and a neurotic lawyer with a possessive mother make up three separate, but great New York City tales…
“In doing so, I hope that the piece will be sunk into the audiences’ subconscious as if it were a memory for them, instead of just another movie they came to watch to pass their time.”
Roy Arwas: The film didn’t so much come out of the blue. At Gearmark.TV we are 6 filmmakers, each experienced in his own field of the filmmaking process. The company has made a promise to make 12 short films in 12 months, and the month that was coming up was the month we have decided for me to direct something (February, 2016).
So Alexander Crews, one of the head writers in the company, has been wanting to write a script influenced by the world of GTA where the city is completely shrouded in corruption and violence. In the midst of this terrible place, the main character has the very simple goal of trying to eat his favorite cereal for breakfast. I, being a lover of absurd dark comedies, said it was a great idea, and after a day of brainstorming and talking, we came to the idea that the Cereal was Victor’s way of trying to relive his happier childhood memories before his parents were murdered.
HWC: What were some stylistic choices you were sure to include?
RA: When I went into the script and analyzed it, I was trying to find my connection with it, and when I did. I found a lot of challenges and things to try to achieve. The film, written like an absurd comedy, was crucially needed to be believable. So the biggest challenge was to make a cereal as important as the life of a child, or in our case, the memories of Victor’s childhood (happiness). I felt the style of the piece would be what makes the piece come together as a whole. So, firstly, we shot it like a drama, natural lighting, no high key. Sound wise, I wanted to audience to hear, and in turn, feel, what was going on inside Viktor’s head, and it took 48 hours inside a room with the amazing sound designer, Alfonso Cano, to be as detailed as possible with every single beat of the piece to make it have a feeling of angst and disturbance when needed. The score, as well, was used to emphasize how dramatic and tense the piece was, regardless of its surface topic. And finally, the acting, it was crucial to make sure the audience believes that the film had nothing to do with cereal, hence each character was developed to deal with inner conflicts that audience may not even know of, but in the surface, it came across as way more than a cereal, but a life or death situation.
HWC: What would you like to work on in the future?
RA: My main goal in life is to find the heart in any piece, in any genre I do, and to make sure it isn’t solely there to entertain, but it is exploring a theme which means a lot to me and the people involved, regardless of whether the audience sees it (hopefully they do), I want to make sure that my future projects all have a meaning and a heart to them. In doing so, I hope that the piece will be sunk into the audiences subconscious as if it were a memory for them, instead of just another movie they came to watch to pass their time.
RA: Filmmaking has been a part of my life ever since I moved to England in 2007 when I was 12 years old, my parents both worked in Pinewood Studios as production travel agents, and I always came to visit them at the office, which is where I was introduced to film sets. I started doing visual effects with my little brother with our home cam, and then, I realized I came about to make more and more films the more I struggled in life, be it bullied, or going through a rough patch. Film has become the perfect distraction from life, my obsession, while also a way for me to vent and explore situations that will solve whatever issue I had in life at the time. Film helps me grow as a person and as an individual, because each film has its own challenges, and different cast/crew members that give different perspectives, which teaches me a lot.
HWC: You attended film school. What was the most valuable information you learned while there?
RA: Film cannot be taught, it can be strengthened, so I wouldn’t say I learned much from the teachers. But Iearnt a lot from who the teachers were and their mentoring and advice have been substantial. I would have never ended up where I am today without the 5 people I have met in school. We started Gearmark Pictures as soon as we graduated and we learned and grew stronger together.
I would strongly advice people who attend film school to network, to be open to criticism, and choose who they get criticized by, and who they could grow around. Also, if the school provides equipment, it would be beneficial to go out there regardless of classwork, and shoot with those you feel most creative with, and learn together.
HWC: Any advice to filmmakers just starting out?
RA: Make films, all the time, don’t be scared to fail, because each failure is a lesson, and we all learn something. In my experience, no film has ever gone smoothly when shot, and that’s the most exciting part, the problem solving, always turns out to make the film better than it was planned to be.
RA: While all of those jobs were beneficial to me in my creative growth, I’d pick directing over all of them. Directing is something I have always been attracted to, and it is something that I would consider a necessity in my life, as it is the only way I can express myself and my thoughts. I love telling stories through the collaboration of amazingly talented people, and I love pushing the limits of how we tell stories visually. Directing is not only a job for, it is a way for me to explore and learn about the world we live in, in story, and in reality.
Check out more of Roy’s work here!
Start off your Wednesdy with some Dassin…
“That such nihilistic nastiness is remotely entertaining is a tribute to Dassin’s frantic, expressionistic portrait of London’s sickly underworld and Richard Widmark’s hysteria-laced performance. And even then, the fact that it’s this breathlessly exhilarating is something of a small cinematic miracle.”
Harry, a second-rate con man promotes an aging Greek wrestler. But his plan goes awry when the wrestler dies and everyone points the finger at Harry. Hiding out in a riverfront barge, Harry sees his grand ambitions spiral into a nightmare of fear and desperation…
Watch this flick and read more off Criterion!
“I grew up between a Blockbuster and the local library and I just fell in love with stories. It’s pretty much that simple – I read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies, and had parents who encouraged me to try to express myself. Also, I was terrible at sports.”
We sat down with Patrick Muhlberger to discuss his new short, “Pop Music” among other things…
Honey Wagon Confidential: You shot on a RED. How did you like this? Would you shoot on it again?
“I’m so thankful for our amazing festival run and having the opportunity to see first-hand how our story resonates will all kinds of different audiences. Now that we’ve secured distribution and the film will be shared with the wider world, I can’t wait to see how it affects people. Recently a friend from school called it ‘subversively-heartwarming.’ I love that! I think this movie is going to move people in weird and wonderful ways.”
–Jerry White Jr.
20 Years of Madness is excited to announce their national VOD release, this April 12th on iTunes. Pre-order is available now so check it out! And while you’re at it, learn a bit more about the film from our interview with director, Jeremy Royce…
Jeremy Royce talks with us about recent RxSM and Slamdance Jury Honorable Mention winner, 20 Years of Madness, capturing the eccentric cast of a mid-90s Public Access show reuniting after 20 years to make one more episode…
Honey Wagon Confidential: In the past you’ve worked on a lot of shorts. How did that help prepare you for directing 20 Years of Madness?
Jeremy Royce: Obviously the short format has unique challenges but the basic elements that lead to a successful short film are all necessary for a longer format film as well. I think the most important lesson was to always know where the tension is coming from. Every scene needs some form of tension. Without my previous experience in the short format I think it would have been much easier to settle with moments that don’t really keep the audience’s attention.
HWC: What was your thought process, and how did you keep perspective on the film while going through all the archival footage?
JR: The archival footage was necessary to set up these characters and what the show they made was, but I wanted the story structure to be more like that of a narrative film than a traditional documentary. There was over three hundreds hours of archival footage and I made a point to watch all of it. It took me about three months of full time work to watch and log all of the footage and there were moments when I thought I might be wasting my time. Then I’d find a gem and it would make all the time worth while. Those moments of discovery were what kept me going.
The archival footage operates more as a commentary on the evolution of the characters. Knowing where they ended up was essential to my process of figuring out what may or may not work from the 90s footage.
HWC: Was there a script for 20 Years of Madness? How did you go about making this film cohesive?
JR: When he starts making the new show, I wanted to mirror the creation of the original show. The breakup they went through in the late 90s was the perfect backdrop for the inevitable decision Jerry would have to make about what type of relationship he would have once the new show was complete. I was fascinated by the way we change over time as we mature, or maybe more importantly, how we don’t change.
By mirroring the evolution of the original show with the creation of the new show I was able to structure the overall narrative in a way that made both the past and the present relevant to the film. I did end up writing an in-depth treatment before we ever started shooting. It included various beats I assumed would happen, or hoped would happen. Some of them I could control, like two characters seeing each other for the first time in many years. Other beats were more guesses than intended scenes. I was often shocked by the moments that unfolded that were beyond anything I could have ever come up with. Life truly is stranger than fiction more often than not.
HWC: The film sheds light on the division between adolescence and adulthood. Was there an intention behind this or did it just surface as the film came together?
JR: I think the film focuses on that part of life mostly because that’s when this group of people split up. They met in High School for the most part, and when High School ended the relationships started to come undone. Now that they are coming upon midlife, I think many of them are in a similar situation. When the film was shot, Jerry had just finished grad school. He was absolutely at a crossroads in life, much like the end of High School. It was just the natural choice for the film. I think I was drawn to this story in particular because that’s a time of my life that was especially influential. I moved out of my home when I was sixteen. I went to four different high schools. I fell in love with filmmaking and got caught up in lots of life changing experiences between the years of sixteen and twenty. I think I’ll always be fascinated with stories that follow that period of life.
HWC: Has White’s creative process changed since he was younger?
JR: When Jerry was making 30 Minutes of Madness they would run around and shoot guerrilla style most of the time. There often wouldn’t be any lighting. The sound would be recorded in the onboard camera mic. They were more interested in finding something in the chaos that was unexpected and exciting than making professional looking and sounding movies.
I think some of that is necessarily stripped away in film school. You’re taught how to make a professional film and how to work in a studio environment. I think part of the appeal for Jerry was to have the opportunity to go back to that raw mode of filmmaking. I took a lot away from watching that process unfold. I tried to mimic the style of the show in the style of the documentary. When my cinematographer, Will Jobe and I were filming, we had to keep up with Jerry and the rest of the 30 Minutes of Madness cast. So we had to change our approach as well. It was exciting and I think the spontaneity of that process gives the documentary a vitality that it may not have had in a more traditional environment.
“There were moments when I thought I might be wasting my time. Then I’d find a gem and it would make all the time worth while.”
HWC: As the film brings attention to, three quarters of the crew of 30 Minutes of Madness are now struggling with mental illness. Do you think this is a coincidence or that the crew banned together through this unspoken similarity?
JR: I was originally drawn to the project in part because so many of the original characters were dealing with these problems. I thought it was ironic that a show called ’30 Minutes of Madness’ would have so many people dealing with their own form of Madness in real life. When I was a teenager I was hospitalized in a psych ward for a period of time and consequently ever since I’ve been drawn to stories of people on the brink of madness. I don’t know if I can answer the question exactly. What I do know is that giving people an opportunity to be part of a creative community that embraces them not in spite of their differences but because of them, is a good thing for everyone. I think the spirit of 30 Minutes of Madness was one of inclusivity. When there aren’t many groups out there with that spirt, it makes sense that people who were already considered outsiders would find each other in a group like 30 Minutes of Madness.
HWC: Is there a particular episode or scene of 30 Minutes of Madness that stood out to you?
JR: I think the scene that always stood out to me the most was a reoccurring sketch called ‘Crazy Larry’. Basically it was Joe Hornacek sitting in front of a door doing improv as a character called Crazy Larry. There wasn’t a particular theme to the reoccurring sketches. It was just a chance for Joe to tap into whatever he was feeling in the moment. He would sometimes use a guitar pedal to create an echo effect on his voice. It’s really surreal. I could watch Joe improv for hours. He’s able to come up with the most unexpected and inspired random stuff when he lets loose. I truly think he’s a creative genius.
“Giving people an opportunity to be part of a creative community that embraces them not in spite of their differences but because of them, is a good thing for everyone.”
HWC: The funding for this film came from a Kickstarter campaign. Would you recommend this to other filmmakers?
JR: Yes, absolutely. We would not have been able to make this documentary without Kickstarter and all of the generosity shown to us through the crowd-funding platform. I think it’s important to be realistic when approaching the process though. I’ve heard that ninety percent of all donations come from friends and family. That was pretty true for us. You can’t expect to put your film on Kickstarter and magically be discovered by thousands of new people who want to give you money. There will be some of those people, but most of them will be people you already know.
I think the biggest benefit of Kickstarter isn’t the money raised though. The entire process forces you to pitch your idea. You have to make key art, you have to figure out why the project matters to you. These things are essential, not only during pre-production but also when you’re trying to apply to grants, or you’re pitching your film to local businesses that will offer free meals for set. It’s also a great way to build your audience. Those early supporters have been some of our biggest advocates through production, post-production and the festival tour. It’s amazing to have people who are excited about the project you’re investing all of your time and energy into.
To check out some more on the film, or watch the trailer head over to the site!
“Sound is just as important as picture and vice versa. They should be treated as equals. Sound is an art in itself and you can tell when it is done well.”
Leah Shore on animation as a medium and the importance of sound…
Honey Wagon Confidential: You put a lot of emphasis on sound in your work, especially in your earlier work like Boobatary. Why do you feel that sound is so intrinsic to a film? What do you consider when making decisions regarding sound?
Leah Shore: Sound is just as important as picture and vice versa. They should be treated as equals. Sound is an art in its self and you can tell when it is done well. I prefer to make my own sound/help with the mixing process. My composer, Fritz Myers is a very talented musician and mixer and we sometimes even make music together.
HWC: Your recent short film, Old Man, revolves around Charles Manson. What type of research went into this and how did you go about weaving this information into a film?
LS: First of all, the audio you are listening to is my obsessively edited version of the audio. I was given access to hours of phone conversations between Marlin Marynick and Charles Manson. It took me about three months to edit it down to the five minute version you are listening to. It is a logical thought that makes sense to me and ends perfectly: Manson going to get some mail and walking away.
I purposefully did not research Manson too much. I wanted to reflect on the audio alone and try not to judge him. I wanted to make something that was raw and wasn’t like any other Manson-themed films.
HWC: Where did the inspiration for Old Man come from?
LS: I was fortunate to have my undergrad thesis Meatwaffle compete at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010. There, I met Producer/Entrepreneur Chris Barrett. He came up to me and said, “I saw your film. It was awesome. I know someone who is friends with Charles Manson and I think you two should make a film.” Then, I was introduced to Marlin Marynick. We hit it off as friends and collaborators. I was also introduced to my EP, Carl D’Andre, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to make the film.
HWC: Do you feel animation offers anything that other mediums don’t?
LS: I just think it is a different medium in which we can convey a meaning, story or art, just like live action. I suppose it is a great vice to use if you do not have live action or need to completely make up an image, like in my film Old Man. It is technically an experimental documentary; we did not have Manson’s image, so I had to fabricate that.
HWC: What is the hardest part of working with animation and where do you see the medium going in the future?
LS: Perhaps on how time consuming it is as opposed to live action. That and how sometimes you have to work with a big team to produce maybe thirty seconds. I think the medium is infinite. I love Oculus and what they are doing with film and animation. I cannot wait to see what develops with that, interaction and filmmaking.
HWC: Do you have any advice to filmmakers just starting out?
LS: Make as much as possible and keep producing. There is always time to make a film.
HWC: Are you working on any new projects?
I am trying to produce three films, two live action and one animated and pitch three TV shows! I guess things really do come in threes?
HWC: You’re based out of Brooklyn. What is the community like there for film? Do you find it supportive?
LS: It is the most supportive community. I love all the filmmakers, artists and weirdos here. Thank you Brooklyn! I am a lucky lady to have found you.
Check out more of Leah’s work on her site!
Quirky, sweet, with just the right amount of teen angst. Catch it at Nitehawk on the sixteenth!
“But if you have reached that stage of life when the opportunities for short-sheeting your counselor’s bed or sneaking a frog into someone else’s underwear are not as plentiful as they once were, then this sloppy comedy may be a pleasant reminder of days gone by.”
Set on the last day of camp, Wet Hot American Summer follows a group of counselors and the chaos pursuing them as they try to complete some unfinished business before the day ends: pent-up sexual frustrations, post-traumatic stress, pending separations, and a talent show.
“But, I think it was when I realized that the films weren’t real; that the stories were made up by people, that was the moment I wanted to learn how to make them. And I’ve been trying to do that since.”
Honey Wagon Confidential: You wrote and directed “Tumble Dry Low”. What was this experience like? Do you prefer one to the other?
Jefferson Stein: I’ve written each film I’ve directed and I’ve only written one film which I didn’t direct. For my process so far, it’s been important that I generate my own material. Since it takes a long time to make a film, I need to connect to it on a deep level or I lose interest. Although, I would be open to adapting stories from other mediums in the future. This film was always going to be a small project, but I ended up having to shoot and edit it as well. I even got to try my hand at making some of the music which was a blast.
HWC: Where did the idea for “Tumble Dry Low” come from?
JS: I approached this film in two parts. First I thought, what’s the most painful thing I can think of that could happen to me and what are my biggest fears? I came up with a list, and chose my mother dying. At the same time I had been compiling a list of unique places that I knew I could gain access to film at for free. When I had my location, I came up with these characters and wrote the story. The trailer became a motif for isolation, and we sort of crafted the story around what we had access to. At the trailer rental place, I offered to take pictures of the owner’s trailers for his website to get a discount cheap enough for afford to rent the trailer. That’s low budget filmmaking for you.
HWC: What got you into film-making?
JS: I owe it to my parents for getting me into film. My parents love movies and when my mother had me, she took off from work to stay at home with me. She would record movies that played on HBO onto VHS tapes and cataloged them in a truly massive library of films. There was even a rolodex with all the movie titles so you could look up the number and find it on the shelf. I’m the oldest of four, so after three more kids, the collection started to get pretty big. When we were all growing up, during the summers and after school we would watch them. But, I think it was when I realized that the films weren’t real; that the stories were made up by people, that was the moment I wanted to learn how to make them. And I’ve been trying to do that since.
HWC: In 2012, you directed “The Animal”. What have you learned from then and how did your process change when making “Tumble Dry Low”?
JS: The “The Animal” was a student film. It was a painful process. I did it in my first directing class in film school, and I was required to make it in a specific way. That way, was not the way I wanted to make it. In the end, I was brought into the head of the department’s office and he said to make it they way the teacher wanted, that I needed to learn this way of filmmaking. He said that my next film could be made the way I wanted, that this was the point of the class. I ended up getting to keep one shot I had originally planned; the shot you see in the trailer. Looking back, I’m immensely thankful for this experience, and that it happened in film school when the stakes were low. The pain of seeing a project completely get away from me and the disappointment in its result, has taught me the cost of not being true to myself.
HWC: This film has been a part of the festival circuit. What was this experience like and what did you learn from these festivals?
JS: I had an amazing experience on the festival circuit. The best part was meeting fellow filmmakers and seeing their films. Festivals are kind of the R+D of the indie film world, and it’s great to see the newest stuff. It can take years for some of these films to get onto theaters and VOD or for shorts to be released online. I liked doing the Q+A’s after the film screened. It was great to see people engage with the film and bring their own life experiences into the discussions. I never expected any of this, so it’s all been great.
HWC: When directing a commercial do you focus on different aspects as opposed to when directing a narrative short?
JS: So far commercials have been a different animal. But, I think what clients like about me is that I approach the spots from my filmmaking background. I ask questions that maybe they aren’t thinking about. It’s a very collaborative process and I like to be a part of it. It’s also surreal seeing it on TV.
HWC: If you could only watch one film for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
JS: 2001. That film means a lot to me. Every time I watch it, I see something new, and it has this feeling to it that I haven’t seen in any other film. The way the mise en scene, camera movement, and music works in unison; the characters and the setting; it all comes together in a beautiful and unsettling way. I’m a huge space nerd too, so that might also have something to do with it.
Cute, quirky and true to Wes Anderson, The Royal Tenenbaums will keep you laughing throughout its dysfunction…
Royal Tenenbaum and his wife Etheline had three children, all geniuses in their own way. However, after their parents’ divorce, all memory of these children’s talents are seemingly erased, replaced by failure and disaster. We follow the family to an unexpected reunion one winter.