In my film Kumaré, I impersonate a wise guru from the East and start a following of real people in Arizona. In order to look the part, I grew my beard and my hair to Gandolfian lengths, wore a sarong and mala beads and carried a five-foot-tall custom-made trident. I looked like the kind of reggae fan who sells oils and incense on Venice Beach. But people called me a guru, therefore I was considered one by everyone I met.
Making a film, you learn a lot of lessons—often contradictory lessons, but lessons nonetheless. These are a few of the thousand lessons I learned in the process of making my first feature, A Bag of Hammers. I’ll skip the really obvious ones, like “Write a great, compelling script” or “cast the best actors you can”…
When we started Last Call at the Oasis, our goals were ambitious and the challenge was considerable. We wanted to illuminate the water crisis and its many facets… and there are many, many facets. Generally, when we hear “water crisis” we think “drought”—usually “drought happening somewhere else in the world.” But what’s going on is big, and it is crucial that we understand it. This is water—essential for all life. Could the stakes be any higher?
Unlike the many American teens who first encountered the work of Edgar Allan Poe in English class, James McTeigue, director of the upcoming thriller The Raven, discovered the Gothic writer in the lyrics of 1970s punk rock, specifically the song “Descent Into the Maelstrom”—named after a Poe story—by the band Radio Birdman. The first assistant director on all three Matrix films before making his directorial debut with V for Vendetta, McTeigue was never a Poe fanatic. But when producer Aaron Ryder (Donnie Darko, Memento) suggested that they work together on a fictionalized account of the legendary writer’s life, he couldn’t say no.
The first thing you need to know about Richard Linklater is that he’s a Texas moviemaker. From his breakout hit Slacker, which told the poly-vocal story of several eccentric Austin residents, to his latest film Bernie, which is based on the true story of a murder that took place in Carthage, Texas in the mid-1990s, the bulk of Linklater’s films have taken place in his home state. MM caught up with the director on his home turf, at the SXSW Film Festival, to talk about truth, justice and the moviemaking way.
Actor-turned-director John Stockwell (Crazy/Beautiful, Blue Crush, Into the Blue), whose most recent film as a director, Dark Tide, comes out on DVD and Blu-ray today, shares his Golden Rules for directing.
One of the great horrors of human history, the Holocaust is the title of millions of interlocking stories that span tragedy to comedy, despair to hope. The delivery of a battered suitcase from the Auschwitz Museum to director Fumiko Ishioka of Tokyo’s Holocaust Education Resource Center marked the beginning of one of those stories. Ishioka, along with a group of young Japanese students, made it her mission to unearth the fate of the little girl whose name was painted across the suitcase front: Hana Brady. Ishioka’s search for Hana’s identity, and the story she discovered, is the subject of Larry Weinstein’s documentary Inside Hana’s Suitcase, opening in New York tomorrow, April 18th.
For Mohamed Nasheed, climate change isn’t just an academic issue—it’s one of survival. The former President of the Maldives, one of the lowest-lying countries in the world, Nasheed made it his personal mission to have a positive impact on the climate issue during his tenure as his island nation’s first democratically elected president. Luckily for everyone who loves a good underdog story, director Jon Shenk made it his mission to capture Nasheed’s inspiring crusade on film; the result, the award-winning documentary The Island President, comes to U.S. theaters tomorrow.
Talk to anyone over the age of, say, 20, and chances are good that they grew up learning about the values of kindness and self-respect from Fred Rogers, whose show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” brought Mr. McFeeley, King Friday XIII, Lady Aberlin and the rest of the gang to PBS from 1968 to 2001. Of the many whose lives were impacted by Mister Rogers, very few were lucky enough to actually have a chat with the man. One of those who got that chance is Benjamin Wagner, then a young journalist and producer at MTV News, who met Rogers at the cultural icon’s summer home in Nantucket, Massachusetts, which happened to be next door to the cottage Wagner’s mother was renting.
Everybody always wants everything to be perfect.The perfect budget, the perfect cast, the perfect shooting schedule, the perfect location. It took me six long years to get Natural Selection made, and most of that time was spent obsessing over getting things perfect rather than making do with what I had. I could have waited forever if at some point I didn’t say to myself—‘Hey, asshole, nothing’s ever going to be perfect, and if you wait too long to make this thing, every feeling that inspired you to write it in the first place will be nothing but a memory.’ So I sat down with my producers one day and broke the news to them. Two million dollars is a bloated budget, I said. Let’s make this thing for what we’ve got: $150,000. We decided on the spot to make our movie, come hell or high water, in three months. And that’s when everything started falling apart.
“Opportunity knocks…” was the intriguing subject line sitting in our Gmail nestled between the latest Groupon offer and reminder from Geico to pay the car insurance. With so many years since we’d made a film, not a whole lot of opportunities were knocking. Swimming with the sharks in Open Water was a leisurely dip compared to surviving the perils in Hollywood. We had had our hearts broken over passion projects and other labors of love, all of which were stalled at their own frustrated spot on the road to celluloid. But we didn’t give up.
He has directed music videos for Sugar Ray, Cypress Hill, Sublime and Wyclef Jean. Executive produced more than a dozen popular television series, including “The O.C.” and “Chuck.” And he’s been the chosen director to re-boot “Charlie’s Angels” and resurrect the Terminator franchise for the big screen. Now he’s making Reese Witherspoon choose between Chris Pine and Tom Hardy in This Means War. As the new action-rom-com makes its way into theaters, writer-director-producer McG shares his golden rules of moviemaking.
The Oscar-nominated short film Raju is something of an enigma. A German student film shot, not in a crew member’s backyard, but in India, the film’s small budget meant that, for director/co-writer Max Zähle, paying the cast wasn’t an option—but he snagged two A-list German actors, Wotan Wilke Möhring and Julia Richter, to star all the same. And, of course, it’s a student film that’s been nominated for an Oscar… and that’s not something that happens all too often.
With the Oscar-nominated documentary If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, co-directors Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman turned their camera on an issue that is at once historical and current: The Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a ’90s environmental activist group made up of once-peaceful protestors who took to committing acts of arson after the non-violent demonstrations they had been participating in were ignored by the government and often met with brutality by the police. Though the film resonates with the protest movements that have sprung up since its release, Curry didn’t make the film with any particular agenda—environment, political or otherwise—in mind. Instead, he was intrigued by the story of Daniel McGowan, a former ELF member facing life in prison for his acts of what the government considers terrorism.
In case you haven’t heard, the economy hasn’t been doing that well for the past few years. No country has felt the economic crisis so keenly as Iceland, where the collapse of a once-soaring economy left citizens feeling betrayed by their politicians. Against this backdrop rose an unlikely political hero: Jón Gnarr, the comedian who ran for mayor of Reykjavík as a joke… and won. His campaign—in which he promised to build a Disneyland in the city and refused to talk to his opponents if they hadn’t watched “The Wire”—was filmed, from start to finish, by Gaukur Úlfarsson for his feature documentary Gnarr.