Sundance

John Cooper & Trevor Groth on Sundance London

09 May, 2016 Posted in: Festivals, Sundance

Before Sundance London returns to the UK in June, Film4 site editor Michael Leader talks to Festival Director John Cooper and Director Of Programming Trevor Groth about the festival’s programme, enduring reputation, and new home in Central London…

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Sundance is a festival that is so defined by its setting, and the small-town vibe of Park City. Yet this year, Sundance London has relocated to Picturehouse Central, which is less than five minutes walk from some of London’s busiest tourist spots. Do you think that will have an effect on how the festival plays out?

Trevor Groth – I think the venue is so perfect for doing a festival, because what we love about the festival in Park City is not just the screening and watching of films, but also the conversations after the screenings. And I think having a venue like Picturehouse is so conducive to hanging out and socialising, and it’s got such great social spaces, so people can keep talking about films with the filmmakers, with the programmers, afterwards. I think that’s going to be a really dynamic element of the festival.

John Cooper – We have a lot of trust in the UK audience from our experience there. They’re so intelligent – we’ve had lots of comments from our filmmakers, saying how great the Q&As were. So I’m not so worried about the audiences finding us. I’m hoping to draw some of the energy off the street and into the venue.

Tell me about the thinking behind this year’s programme. Previous editions of Sundance London had a larger programme, but this year it’s more focused on the core selection of 11 feature premieres…

Trevor Groth – We love the lineup. We feel it does represent the range of voices that Sundance is all about, from the narrative films – it has first-time directors and it has established filmmakers like Todd Solondz and James Schamus. And documentaries as well, which have always played a crucial role in the festival. We even have our Grand Jury prize-winning film, Weiner, there, and our Directing prize-winning film there, Life, Animated. Even though there’s just the 11 feature films, I think if you look at all that they represent, and everything we’re doing around the festival, including the panels, I think it will be a full weekend that really does capture what Sundance is all about.

Weiner

Weiner

Speaking of ‘what Sundance is all about’, the festival has such a reputation, and it has become a descriptive term in its own right. Yet it’s hard to pin down quite what that means. 

John Cooper – It’s funny. When you were saying that, I took it as such a compliment, because that’s what I strive for. As director of the festival, I strive for this impression that can’t always be quantified, in a way, because it’s coming from the artists. We have seen such an evolution in the past 5 years of independent film, and most in the advancement of craft, and the craft of screenwriting, and people using modern techniques to tell their stories. That’s all adding up to what we are. We follow the artists, basically. And they lead us in such great ways. And you know who started that, who put that idea in my head when I started here 27 years ago – it was Redford. That’s what he always believed, that we were there to be flexible and responsive to the independent film community.

How do you stay flexible as a festival?

John Cooper – By being responsive to the artist, but also keeping a clear head and not getting sidetracked from your goal and your mission to discover talent. Because everybody wants to take you in a lot of different directions that may be more commercially driven for a brief amount of time, and we always have to keep coming back to it. The industry really likes that we do this, they really like coming to the festival to have a fresh approach to their own industry.

What are the hardest and easiest parts of your job?

John Cooper – Staying open. We have to find 120 features a year that you have to love, and you have to keep your heart and your mind open for so many different kinds of styles. The job is staying open and responsive – which, I know it doesn’t sound hard, but it takes constant diligence. And the easiest… For me it’s standing back stage at Park City, and it’s just me and the filmmaker backstage, and I know that after two hours their life is going to change. They don’t trust it, they’ve just made a movie, they’re nervous, they’re fidgety, they’re all over the place. But that talk I have with them, about what’s going to happen, is where the soft spot is, for me. It’s what makes it all worth it.

Sundance London runs 2nd – 5th June. Read the full programme and book tickets here.

Dark Horse: Postcard from Sundance

Dark Horse director Louise Osmond on visiting Sundance for the first time, where her film premiered to critical acclaim and won the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary.

Dark Horse: winner of the Audience Awards for World Documentary at Sundance

Dark Horse: winner of the Audience Awards for World Documentary at Sundance

Sundance has such a romance attached to it – the original indie festival – and I’m glad to say it genuinely lives up to its reputation. There is some madness out there – a swanky crowd who gather on the main street of Park City and swarm over celebrities like Chris Pine (we saw the swarm snaking down the road but not the man inside.)

But most of it is people who love film watching everything they can and a very warm atmosphere that gets film teams together in brunches and lunches and events that remind you why you love the job you do.

The producer, Judith Dawson and editor, Joby Gee were out there too and, nervous as cats, we waited for the premiere. Joby had one of his trademark fantastic/horrible shirts on – brown and blue dancing horses in 100% vintage rayon. Laughing at him proved oddly calming.  Coming out here, I’d thought – worried – a lot about whether American audiences would take to the story. In Park City, listening in the dark to every sigh or cough it seemed like they did but at a screening in Salt Lake City the next day it was louder and easier to read. They did seem to take to it and better still what they loved most about our fantastic characters – Jan and Brian, Howard and the others – was their spirit of defiance.

People will sometimes tell you America is a classless society but that news hasn’t reached Utah. Taking on the elite sport of kings with a horse bred on a slagheap allotment seemed to resonate very strongly with them. One man said: ‘Good to see people who aren’t respected getting the respect they deserve.’  Can’t argue with that.

Read more about Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance

 

 

 

20,000 Days On Earth directors Q&A

26 Jan, 2014 Posted in: Awards, Directors, Documentaries, Festivals, Interview, Sundance

Catherine Bray interviews Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, the directors whose portrait of Nick Cave’s 20,000th day on earth was recently embraced by Salt Lake City audiences at Sundance.

20000 Days On Earth

20000 Days On Earth

With two standing ovations from the packed Egyptian Theatre when it premiered in Sundance and two awards, for Best Directing and Best Editing, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s feature debut 20,000 Days On Earth was one of the most warmly received films at the 2014 edition of the Utah-based festival. Billed in several what-to-see-at-Sundance preview pieces as “the Nick Cave documentary”, the audience soon found out it wasn’t as simple as that. Although it isn’t exactly fiction, 20,000 Days On Earth isn’t exactly a documentary, either. Tracking a fictionalised version of the Bad Seeds frontman’s 20,000th day on earth, it’s a portrait of Nick Cave, not a fly-on-the-wall snapshot. And like many of the most interesting portraits, it isn’t photo-real, but gives an impression of the man, drawing together facets of his identity into a constructed whole that is deeper and more interesting than a more realistic approach would be.

Too many rock docs are like either a paparazzi’s picture of a celebrity, capturing them off-guard in an unflattering light that destroys the persona of the performer, or else a Hello magazine portrait, endorsed and airbrushed and uninterestingly flattering. 20,000 Days On Earth sets out to be something else: distilling the essence of Nick Cave into an audio-visual portrait that is also something broader: a celebration of what it is to be inspired and to create. That it does so via scenes of Nick Cave watching Scarface with his kids, chowing down on eels with Bad Seed Warren Ellis and chauffeuring Kylie around Brighton is, of course, a massive bonus. I sat down with Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard at Sundance to find out a bit more about how it all came to be.

Can you remember your very first contact with Nick’s work?

Jane: For me it was a song called ‘Slowly Goes the Night’ from Tender Prey. Iain put it on the first mixtape he ever gave to me, and I thought it was maybe an Elvis-era song. I didn’t really know who Nick was, it was just this gorgeous kind of Elvis-y, drunken, wonderful, amazing voice and I really fell in love with it. But I wouldn’t go and see Nick live for quite a long time, because Iain told me that he was really a violent performer and I used to be frightened of that.

Iain: The Bad Seeds were one of those bands that I found out about when I was at school. I remember hearing The Good Son and Your Funeral… My Trial, and being really excited by the fact that those two albums were by the same band. A lot of bands I liked at that kind of age were fairly unsophisticated, but the palette, I suppose, across those few Bad Seeds records was kind of incredible.


One thing that was an incredibly pleasant surprise about 20,000 Days On Earth for me was that I feel like anyone could watch it, whether or not they have any specific prior interest in Nick. Was that your aim from the beginning?

Iain: A couple of years back we made 14 forty minute long documentaries about each of Nick’s albums and they were very specifically made for fans – you needed to know the album, the song names, everything about it. They were made for the reissues, a film per reissue of each album, and so we felt we’ve been there, we’ve done that. We really delved into the minutiae of what it means to be a fan of that music and into the music itself, and the impact it has on people and how it lives on through their lives. And this was a deliberate decision to make something that was much more universal.

Jane: We started this wanting to make something that inspired people to do more, to make more, to be better, because that’s how we feel about Nick. When you get to know him, and when you watch him and the band at work, and you watch how disciplined and how progressive they are, and how brutal and ruthless in leaving behind half-baked ideas, you can’t help but feel completely fired up. You feel, “god, I wanna be like that”, I want to see things through, to bother to do things. So from day one we worked with the absolute certainty that we didn’t want to make a film just for fans – which is not to kind of dismiss the fans – but we wanted to make a big thing that would inspire everyone.

Iain Forsyth, Nick Cave and Jane Pollard at Sundance

Iain Forsyth, Nick Cave and Jane Pollard at Sundance

I was excited that you mentioned Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man! as a reference point. I loved that film – and the trilogy. Do you think you’d ever do the Hospital Britannia follow up? Or an If… style prequel?

Jane: [laughs] Hospital Britannia, I do like, but there’s something about O Lucky Man! You know when you come back to something over and over again, and it’s not just about what something is, it’s also what it does to you. Some things set fire to you inside, and that’s what that film did, to us. It was really galvanizing for us, and we go back to it, not for anything really specific, but to get that feeling back, to get that kick up the arse every time.

Were there any other conscious film influences in the mix?

Jane: Not in a big way, but we did look at other music-related films. For a very short time it became a way of discussing ideas with Nick – we could talk about other films, and what we’d seen and what we liked and what we didn’t like. And I think we all agreed very quickly that what we didn’t like was films that tried to peel away the mask. Fly on the wall, classic music docs that follow the band and film their life for 12 months, and you see Bono doing the washing up, and Sting taking the kids to school and all this kind of nonsense… I don’t think those films really stand up, or have any sort of longevity, because very quickly the band moves on and is in a different place, and the films just become this historical record of that one moment.

Iain: The films that we really liked, or that we felt some sort of affinity with, were films that felt like they were reaching much higher than that, whether they succeeded or not. I’m not sure that any of them really got to where they were reaching for, and I wouldn’t necessarily say they were great films, but the ambition in them was exciting. There were two that we came back to. One was the Led Zeppelin film, The Song Remains The Same, which is ridiculous. It’s insane on many levels, but there’s something about what they’re trying to reach for. And the other that I think has stood the test of time less well maybe is One Plus One, the Jean Luc Godard Rolling Stones’ film, Sympathy for the Devil. There’s something very conceptual in it, and then again almost something Beckett-like. We got really fired up by the ambition of those films. I’m really glad that we didn’t try and include too many references though, because I think it gave us a freedom to really create our own language.

Jane: I think because we don’t come from a film-making world, and we’ve not made documentaries, we therefore felt there’s not a set of rules that we needed to follow, or a formula that we needed to respect. It still sticks a little bit every time I call it a “documentary”. Because I feel, “Is it? I don’t know. Maybe. Yeah.” It probably fits better in documentary than it does in drama. But it doesn’t quite fit in documentary either.

Maybe it needs a new genre: constructed-doc, or performance-doc or something like that. Sorry to ask this, but was it strange making a film with someone whose music you’ve grown up a fan of?

Jane: Yeah, but he makes it very easy. He’s just a really lovely, remarkable, warm, funny person. And he talks about himself sometimes in third person and that makes it a lot easier as well. Like there’s a Nick Cave that’s separate to the one you’re sitting with. You know, there’s the one you’re having dinner with and then there’s the one that goes on stage. So that helps. It helps an awful lot. There’ve been moments where you pinch yourself and you’re like, “That’s Nick Cave, that’s Nick Cave”. But you’ve got to get beyond that pretty quickly to be able to actually constructively work with someone.

Speaking of pinching yourselves, it’s pretty amazing to debut your first feature at Sundance – congratulations!

Iain: Yeah. I mean, it’s just the coolest thing, isn’t it? A year and a half ago whatever, we had this kind of semi-formed idea to make a film, and a year and a half later we’re at Sundance and we’ve made a film.

Jane: And I have no idea what happens now. That’s gorgeous. It’s delicious, and it’s really frightening as well. We’re going to show the film at Berlin, but what’s beyond Berlin, we don’t know. There is for us this kind of black hole of “I don’t know what happens then”. I don’t know what we will do. I don’t know what will happen to us. But I know we want to work in this world again. Because this world, and by this world, I mean the British independent filmmaking support system, that’s the world I want to work in again. It’s tremendously healthy and supportive and fairly radical, and it seems to be occupied by some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.

Iain: They let us make the film we wanted to make, and all they did was help make that film a better film. Nick’s worked in Hollywood and he’s made some pretty big films, and hearing some of the experiences he’s had with big studios and filmmaking by committee is pretty terrifying, particularly coming from a kind of an art world background where nobody’s interfering. Some of those stories are absolutely terrifying. To have been able to make this film with Film4 and the BFI and Pulse and everyone else, and to feel like we were just enabled to make the film we wanted to make was amazing.

Jane: I was going to say I feel like a fraud, but I don’t know that I do. I thought I would, but actually I just feel very lucky. That we’ve got here on our first film, and we’re being received really well, that’s incredible. I mean, it’s such a buzz. There’s a surrealism to the whole experience. I feel really aware that I don’t wanna take it for granted, because I know that in this world, there are an awful lot of our peers and other filmmakers who’ve struggled to do this. So I feel really fortunate.

The film looks amazing – it was shot by Erik Wilson (Tyrannosaur, The Imposter), is that right?



Iain: Yeah, he’s great. The moment we met him, we knew we had to have him. There’s something so positive and infectious about his attitude. With other stuff we’d done with Nick over the years, we’d shot it ourselves, so to bring someone else into that role is quite daunting in a way, and Eric was just someone that immediately we knew we could trust. Because the film was more improvised than most scripts, and if there’s a technical problem, Nick’s not the kind of person where you can say, “Can we just go back and do that again?”

Jane: We ask people who work with us to trust certain principles that we have, and they’re principles that come from our practice. One of them is that a set belongs to the central person, in this case Nick. The set belongs to Nick. He’s a real person; he’s not an actor. He doesn’t have that discipline. That’s not something he understands. So when he comes on to set, the whole space has to feel like it’s his to walk around, in a 360 environment that he can just be in. So that means that there can’t be a lot of things that are usual to filmmaking, we just can’t have them. It comes out a bit more like theater, maybe, in that we ask our crew to disappear a lot, and we ask them to step back. We don’t allow a lot of cuts. We generally do takes that last for a couple of hours, and it’s a lot to ask. It’s a lot to ask of professionals who are just trying to do the very best job they can for you. But we need that psychological space for Nick to settle into.

You could probably work with a David Attenborough style camera crew, capturing wild animals in their environment… Was there anyone else in particular you couldn’t have made the film without?



Jane: Our producers really, since we’re inexperienced filmmakers. It’s not an industry we know anything about, so I think without the producers Dan Bowen at Pulse, and Jim Wilson, who is an independent producer, it wouldn’t have happened. They’ve both been just incredible at getting us from one end of the process to the other.



Iain: And really protecting us and protecting that vision of our ambition and enabling it to be made. I think within a week of meeting Jim, we were sat in a meeting, pitching for money, and got it. It was just great.

20,000 Days On Earth will be released in the UK in 2014


Frank: Maverick Genius

18 Jan, 2014 Posted in: Directors, Festivals, Film4 staff, Interview, Sundance

Are you an undiscovered creative genius? Do you have the soul of an artist but not much work to show for it? If so, Frank, a winningly comical dismantling of 21st century myths about life as an artist, very loosely inspired by Jon Ronson’s recollections of his time in the Frank Sidebottom band, might just the film for you. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson and with a script by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan, Frank has been selected in more Ones-To-Watch-At-Sundance lists than you can shake a papier mâché head at. Catherine Bray sits down with its director to find out exactly what Frank is all about, and what it really means to be that much-abused term: a “creative”.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender and Donhnall Gleeson in Lenny Abrahamson's Frank

There are three things you should know upfront about Frank, Lenny Abrahamson’s follow up to the thoroughly excellent What Richard Did (2012). One: Frank stars Michael Fassbender, but don’t expect to see loads of him – when we meet him, he’s hidden inside a giant papier mâché head. Two: Frank was initially inspired by Jon Ronson’s time touring with maverick outsider musician Frank Sidebottom, but it very much isn’t about Frank Sidebottom. Three: Frank is about a young man’s dream of becoming a true creative genius like his heroes – but it’s not your typical redemptive rags-to-riches tale of rock-and-roll redemption.

Frank is, in short, a complex, counterintuitive and utterly fascinating look at what it means to be creative and all the head-messing that comes with that. It should also be said that it is very funny, a timely riposte to the post-millennial narrative that it is possible to be anything you want to be so long as you really want it and that we should all pursue fulfillment through hobbies that are also our careers. The producer of Frank, Ed Guiney, puts it pretty bluntly: “There is a common wisdom that if you try hard enough and apply yourself and have sufficient self belief then you can achieve anything or be anything you want to be. Its a close relative of the mantra which says that successful creative endeavour is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. I think the facts prove that neither of these (nor other related) truisms hold.”

“The real truth is that some people are uniquely and unusually gifted and these gifts can never be emulated. And this is something for us all to celebrate and cherish. So I suppose the film shatters a common myth about the nature of creativity and that’s one reason it was worth making. That and the chance to work with some uniquely and unusually gifted individuals.” Ed isn’t quite saying that you either are creative or you aren’t, but he’s certainly not on the side of X Factor hopefuls whose self-belief outweighs any innate ability to sing or aptitude for music.

Executive Producer Katherine Butler’s take is slightly more encouraging for anyone who might be on the verge of giving up that career in writing/singing/filmmaking: “I think that in the film Frank what we discover is that people are creative in different ways and in different areas, but not always in the way they would wish to be. And the way to be happy in life is to accept your own limitations and embrace what you have a talent for. I think of this film as like Amadeus – where the man who discovers he’s not the genius he always wanted to be is eaten up by jealousy for the great genius he both worships and almost destroys… In the coolest, most beguilingly strange setting you could imagine.  With great songs. And a big fake head.”

So perhaps it’s more about finding your niche. Over the course of a ninety minute chat director Lenny Abrahamson shared with me his feelings about the film, what’s at its heart, what makes it tick and why it’s really Adrian Mole meets The Wizard of Oz…

 

So, who is Frank, really?

Well, the massive head is obviously a huge visual reference to the musician and comedian Frank Sidebottom. But our Frank is a composite inspired by several outsider artists – he isn’t Frank Sidebottom. We felt that the head made a good container for these other people, this strange mixture of people like Daniel Johnston, Captain Beefheart, Frank Sidebottom, Harry Partch, these people who made beautiful, eccentric and very wonderful music and art.

The Venn diagram of our Frank draws several of these people together and he is this very strange, sweet, brilliant man. But we did think it would make a good story to have this guy who has to deal with the outside world by hiding himself in this big fake head. A lot of what the film is about is what it is to be free-form in your creative life, versus approaching art conventionally. We don’t want people going in expecting a Frank Sidebottom biopic, because that’s not what this is.

 

Can you expand a bit more on what each of those influences and sources brings to Frank? 

We’ve drawn on so many different sources, all the great outsider musicians, but I’ll talk you through some of them. Beefheart, for example, went and recorded and album for over a year and they all went a bit mad and it was half commune, half slave camp, which you can see in Frank. And Daniel Johnson has that kind of anxious, boyish, almost childlike quality that our Frank sometimes has. But our Frank can also be sexier in the way that Captain Beefheart was. And then the invention of instruments, the idea of going out and collecting sounds, that is Harry Partch in the mix. Then Frank Sidebottom gives us the physical shape and allows us to play this elaborate joke involving Jon’s projection of what he imagines might be behind the mask. For somebody like me who is a great devotee of classical slapstick, the head gives you this puppet person in the middle of your film, which offers amazing opportunities for comedy.

 

It’s more about the clash of talent and mediocrity, isn’t it, than a traditional rise-and-fall music narrative?

You’ve got this conflict between someone who is genuinely talented and a person who should have loved that talent but also resents it because they don’t have it themselves. The Jon character, like most people, has a sort of bag of crap theories about what makes people creative, and he buys into a lot of those myths, like the idea that it’s desperate suffering that makes you creative. Like, if only he hadn’t had such a well-adjusted middle class childhood, he too could be creative.

 

I remember being reminded of one very funny bit in the Adrian Mole books where he’s really annoyed that he’s been born in Leicester because it’s no place for an intellectual to be living.

Absolutely, and I think we all go through it as teenagers when we first read about great artists and feel slightly jealous that our lives are so boring and comfortable. So this was an opportunity to poke fun at those oversimplifications of what makes a genius. Not that we’re trying to say in any serious way that our Frank is a genius – the film is a playful thing – but Jon is able to project behind that mask a series of fantasies of what a genuinely creative person must be like. It’s not that great suffering never leads to great art, because sometimes it does, but the Jon character holds these views in a very facile way.

We discovered while working on the script it’s also a sort of Wizard of Oz story, because it’s the same as the way that people project all these qualities onto the wizard, and when you pull back the curtain, it’s just this little old guy. In our case, when we pull back the curtain… well, people will have to see it to see it to find out what Jon discovers.

 

So Jon is an example of that type of person – again the Adrian Mole type – who spends more time thinking about his acceptance speeches and what he’ll say in interviews than he does about his creative work?

Yes, it’s that X Factor thing of people who want the lifestyle more than they want to do the thing itself. Jon is clearly not driven to write music, he clearly has a terrible time with it and he can’t do it. Frank has this naive idea that he wants to move people and be loved, but it’s very different; he’s unable to not make music, everything becomes subject matter for him. Jon can’t make a song out of the deepest ideas about love and death; Frank can make a song about a piece of fluff.

So Jon confronts a certain existential brutality: you are not this person, this person has talent, and you don’t. The fundamental fact is that no matter how much he wants to be that person, Jon is not that person.

 

How far would you go along with this very Calvinist sort of idea that there are the creative elect and then the people who are not creative – as the sitcom Peep Show puts it, “here be beauty, there be pie-charts” – and there’s no grey area in the middle?

There’s definitely a grey area. Experience changes people and you can discover you’ve had the capacity to invent and make and you’ve never used it, but I don’t think it’s something people learn out of nowhere.To use a physical analogy: are you born a runner or are you made a runner? Well, you can certainly train and improve, but people do have natural capacities and abilities. I don’t think anybody can do it if they just put their mind to it.

 

Then there are people who are naturally gifted but don’t seem to have the will to exercise that, who may end up less successful than a moderately talent person who slogs away and puts the hours in.

That’s absolutely true. People who are lazy or inhibited or desperately lacking in confidence – for every Mozart we know about, there must be some that we don’t. That drive, so long as you do have a very small amount of talent as well, can get you very far.

 

Frank is of course very funny, but it’s not a straight comedy; there are other elements in there. How do you describe it in general terms?

We’re not completely sure how we should be talking about it, because it doesn’t fit easily into a box. There are several shifts of tone. But we think that actually an audience will come with you if they’re enjoying it, you don’t have to be too rigid, the tone can be elastic. It is a warm film, there is a kind of playfulness and a free-wheeling silliness in places, but it can also be quite moving. But how would you describe it?

 

Me? Hmmm. I guess you could talk about it as a film for anyone who’s ever failed to express themselves creatively, which is probably everyone.

That’s perfect. Or a film for anybody who has ever wished that they were somebody that they’re not, which again is everybody.

 

One of my favourite visual jokes in the film is when you pull in close on the giant head, the way you would in another film to show someone’s emotions in close up, but of course we just see a giant head in close up.

Well, I remember at the time thinking, this could be a total disaster, we’re going to film this guy in a giant head, and heck, what if two days into rushes we find, “well, that doesn’t work”? Which was scary. But actually, so far, it seems that people accept this thing. The head in particular seems to be oddly expressive. It’s amazing that the same expression can reflect so much in any given scene. And we got a lot of good close-ups which I thought were never gonna work given Frank’s face never changes. When you go in for a close-up, it’s not like you learn anything new from his expression, but that was something we talked about right from the beginning: wouldn’t it be just funny to obey all the rules of film grammar, but with this giant head?

 

It’s wonderfully audacious to have put one of the most in-demand stars in the world right now inside the giant head.

We used to joke about that. Because pretty much every script or proposal you get sent at the moment, for any male role from 30 to 45, the wishlist of names for the lead will include Michael Fassbender. Everybody’s desperate to cast him. And we’ve somehow got this man whose face everybody is desperate to film and we’ve hidden his famous face under a giant head. But it’s part of the playfulness of the film. It’s a challenge, it’s a risk, it’s exciting and it’s sort of silly at the same time.

 

It’s an act of trust for the audience too, maybe – you’re telling us it’s Michael Fassbender and we have to go with that.

It’s worth saying that he was a real purist about that. No doubles, no long shots where a runner pops it on in the distance. It’s always him. Apart from maybe ten fleeting frames where it’s a stunt guy. The rest of the time, you are genuinely watching Michael Fassbender hidden in a giant head.

 

Frank premieres 17th January at Sundance 2014 and will be released in the UK in 2014. 

 

Jeremy Lovering’s Sundance Diaries: part six

15 Feb, 2013 Posted in: Directors, Festivals, Guest blog, Online, Sundance

In Fear writer-director Jeremy Lovering shares his final thoughts on Sundance 2013 and bids a fond farewell to Utah…

Alice Englert and Allen Leech

Alice Englert and Allen Leech

Day and Evening 4

I wake feeling good. This time I look in the mirror and all is calm. Everyone else is happy and they are heading off, leaving Sundance.

Allen is carrying the adoration of Downton Abbey fans with him to LA, Alice is going on the press tour for Beautiful Creatures, the producers and financiers are heading back to London or Paris.

I go up the mountain for breakfast. It’s beautiful. I’ve got some music on my computer that was being shared by a random guest at the hotel that I downloaded earlier. I’m guessing he / she is a snowboarder judging by his / her taste. It’s the kind of track that is amazing when you’re going at speed down the mountain but I know when I’m sitting on a bus in London’s grey winter it won’t feel quite the same.

But I like the fact that a stranger has given me a glimpse into who they are. I like that for this moment they have given me something without knowing it is making me happy.

It resonates with what I feel about the audience last night. I will always remember the look in their eyes.

I grab a lift back down the mountain with a random man. He tells me he is in Sundance trying to regenerate interest in his screenplay. He says he had Ridley Scott interested and now he has the Coen brothers interested. He says it like I should unquestioningly believe him, like why wouldn’t I believe him and suddenly unlike the anonymous and generous snowboarder I feel like he is trying to take something, not give something.

I can’t really explain that, but that’s what it felt like and it makes me sad.

Sundance is full of dreams and hope – there’s so much going on that I haven’t mentioned – the lunches and talks and panels and screenings and all that is part of the fabric that is exciting and positive –  amazing people from graduating filmmakers to veteran directors, indie actors to mainstream stars, wide-eyed short film producers to the impresarios of Hollywood  – but somehow here they all fit in, they all seem equally part of the Sundance experience that makes you happy to be making films.

But of course there is another side. And of course you can’t make any assumptions.

My last screening is in a bigger venue and maybe the encounter with that man has made me cautious.

Then it quickly dispels. The first gasp, the first nervous laugh and I relax.

The response is if anything even better than the night before. It feels great. Really great. And I feel really lucky. Again.

Maybe I’ve witnessed all the necessary parts of making movies laid out in stark detail – the ideas and creative force of the other directors, writers and actors, the brilliance and kindness of the Sundance programmers – John Nein, Trevor Groth, John Cooper, the seamless organization of Chelsea Rowe and all her team, the support and friendship of the financiers – Studio Canal and Filmfour, the brilliance and cleverness of the best producers – Nira Park and Matthew Justice, the bravado, fun and efficiency of publicists…

…But most importantly I’ve experienced the sheer joy of having reached an audience, seeing the thrill in their eyes and hearing the word ‘awesome’.

It’s like I’ve shared a piece of music in the ether and somewhere there is someone listening to it.
Oh, and I have also been up the mountain and received the blessing from the Sundance Kid.

 

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