g The Film Panel Notetaker: indieWIRE's "An Evening with Generation DIY" (Swanberg, Gerwig, Katz and Hillis) @ Apple Store SoHo – Thursday, August 23, 2007

Saturday, August 25, 2007

indieWIRE's "An Evening with Generation DIY" (Swanberg, Gerwig, Katz and Hillis) @ Apple Store SoHo – Thursday, August 23, 2007

DIY filmmaker Sujewa Ekanayake (Date Number One), who was in town from DC, and I headed over to the Apple Store in Soho Thursday night where we met up with A.M. Peters (NO Cross, NO Crown) for indieWIRE’s “An Evening with Generation DIY.” After the panel discussion, we met up with iW and other film bloggers at Botanica. The indieWIRE posse was there along with filmmakers Craig Zobel (whose film Great World of Sound is being released by Magnolia Pictures on Sept. 14 in NYC – See my notes from GWOS Q&A at BAM from back in June), Doug Block (51 Birch Street), Arin Crumley (Four Eyed Monsters), Michael Tully (Silver Jew), The Reeler’s S.T. VanAirsdale, Basil Tsiokis (NewFest artistic director), Agnes Varnum (Doc it Out), Pamela Cohn (Still in Motion), Matt Dentler, and this list goes on.

indieWIRE's "An Evening with Generation DIY" (Swanberg, Gerwig, Katz and Hillis) @ Apple Store SoHo – Thursday, August 23, 2007

Joe Swanberg (JS) – Director / Writer / Producer /Cinematographer /Editor, Hannah Takes the Stairs
Aaron Hillis (AH) – Director/Cinematographer/Co-producer, Fish Kill Flea
Aaron Katz (AK) – Director/Writer/Editor – Quiet City
Greta Gerwig (GG) – Hannah/Writer, Hannah Takes the Stairs
Matt Dentler (MD) - South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival Producer

Eugene Hernandez (EH)– Editor-in-Chief, indieWIRE

EH- “The New Talkies: Generation DIY” series at IFC Center brought us together tonight. Matt Dentler programmed a lot of these films at SXSW, which played a role in facilitating a place for these filmmakers to come together. How does this relate to DIY and Mumblecore?

MD- The term Mumblecore came from an indieWIRE interview with Andrew Bujalski (Mutual Appreciation). It’s a frustrating label. Seems limiting by creating a brand where a brand doesn’t need to be, but it has opened up doors to the filmmakers. The New York Times published an article about Mumblecore. People are starting to wonder what this movement is. Mumblecore represents excitement and enthusiasm about new films, but is not used too often, because it’s limiting. The films are bound by like-minded sensibilities. So far, they’re all good films.

EH- A lot of these films hadn’t played theatrically until recently. What’s the state for emerging filmmakers?

MD- Festival programmers are disenfranchised by what the media considers indie films. Mumblecore films open up a dialogue. SXSW took a stance to not program Sundance leftovers. I didn’t know any of these people before we selected their films.

[Clip screened from Hannah Takes the Stairs]

EH- What was the process of making this film?

JS- I had clear idea about the scenes, and we had time to try different things.

GG- There was no script. It was all improvised. You shouldn’t do anything in front of Joe or he’ll find a way to work it in the movie.

EH- What challenges are there to this process?

JS- Hannah is different from my other films, because they started from a script. Hannah was just a two-page outline so the actors could figure out who their characters were. The finished film was different than the movie we expected it to be. It’s a process of discovering the movie as you go along. I like to be excited and not know what’s going to happen. I edited the film each day after shooting. At the end of the day, we had finished scenes.

EH- How exciting was it for you Greta?

GG- I never acted in a film before (except for voicemail scene in LOL). I didn’t have any pre-conceived notions. It was a process of figuring out where the movie was going and finding out who Hannah was. All of Hannah’s boyfriends end up relating to the scar on her foot. It became a theme. We discovered it, liked it, and repeated it.

EH- You’ve had three years of features playing at SXSW. How do you feel your view of your process of filmmaking has changed?

JS- I started out more experimental. The shooting style hasn’t changed that much. I acted all of my previous films, but not in Hannah. The projects I’m acting in I tend to shoot more. Moving forward, I’m interested in telling more stories. My first film (Kissing on the Mouth) was more of a process of showing it to audiences at festivals. Audiences responded to the more narrative aspects.

[Clip screened from LOL]

EH- What is your connection to LOL?

AH- Partners with Andrew Grant on the DVD distribution label (Benten Films) with Ryko Distribution. We saw so many films flying under the radar. Our first title, LOL, comes out next Tuesday. I also co-directed the documentary Fish Kill Flea about a rag tag flea market in Upstate New York. It’s not a Mumblecore movie, but is DIY.

EH- What do you think as a blogger your take on DIY films represents?

AH- Have no lofty generalizations. Mumblecore tries to pigeonhole these films. I think it’s neat that we’ve come to a place without budgetary gatekeepers. It’s exciting these films are getting attention.

MD- There was a DV revolution in the late 1990s where you could shoot everything on DV, but didn’t have access to the editing equipment we have today. One of my favorite films is Tarnation.

[Clip screened from Fish Kill Flea]

EH- How did the idea for IFC’s “The New Talkies: Generation DIY” come about?

AK- IFC Center was going to screen my film Quiet City, then IFC First Take acquired Hannah Takes the Stairs. We talked about other films like Andrew Bujalksi’s Mutual Appreciation and the Duplass Bros.’ The Puffy Chair.

EH- What do you think ties these films together to be grouped as a series?

AK- Aesthetic qualities, shot on DV, except for Mutual Appreciation, which is shot on film. All films are different from one another, but attempt to explore the world around us in a truthful way with day-to-day life.

EH- How did your film Dance Party USA come about?

AK- I went to school in North Carolina and talked about what to do after school. Figured out a $3,000 budget I saved from working. Shot the film in Portland, Oregon.

MD- After viewing the screener DVD, I contacted Aaron right away. It’s really important to have your contact info on the DVD.

[Clip screened from Quiet City]

Audience Q&A

Q: In your (Joe’s) films, there seems to be a certain level of intimacy during certain scenes. How many people are on the set while shooting these scenes?

JS- There were four people including cast and crew on Kissing on the Mouth. I don’t like anyone to be there who doesn’t need to be there, so there are no distractions.

AK- On Quiet City, there was a five-person crew. Relatively small. Everyone is comfortable with each other.

AH- Three people on the crew of Fish Kill Flea.

Q: In Anthony Kaufman’s indieWIRE blog, he posted an entry regarding commercial distribution of films will be these types of films downfall. How do you feel about that?

JS- This is true for all movies in general. The best experience is having no expectations walking into a film. Commercial expectations change all the time. The film community is starting to look a lot like the music industry.

AK- I’d like people to be able to see my movies.

EH- As a performer, what kind of pressure does that create?

GG- It gives more people the opportunity to see me naked. I don’t really see a downside to it. I’m writing more things and acting in more films. It’s more pressure to be reviewed. Kind of scary.

AK- My next film is set in the 1970s, so it will require more money to make. It’s a positive thing to continue making the films I want to make.

Q: What are your next film projects?

JS- Nights & Weekends starring Greta about a long distance relationship. The web series Butterknife.

AH- Short film sometime in October to turn into a feature documentary about the decline of train culture in America.

AK- A 70s piece.

GG- The Duplas movie, Baghead. It screws with genres. They don’t want me to say too much about it.

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