Category Archives: 366 Exclusive

INTERVIEW: JAMES WARD BYRKIT, COHERENCE

James Byrkit James Ward Byrkit is a name that you’ll probably be noticing quite a bit of over the next few years. In fact, you may have seen his name before, if you’re the type of filmgoer that stays for the end credits. He was an illustrator/storyboard artist on big films such as Mousehunt, and two Pirates of the Caribbean movies: Dead Man’s ChestAt World’s End. He performed similar duties for Rango, but also co-created the story (with director Gore Verbinksi) and performed several small voice roles. He’s also made several short films of his own.

His first feature, Coherence, has been garnering glowing reviews from critics and positive buzz from film festival audiences over the past few months. The film went into limited theatrical release on June 20 and will be available via Video on Demand on August 5.

I recommend that you see the film at the first opportunity to do so. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Byrkit a few questions about Coherence.

366 Weird Movies: How was it going from big-budgeted productions (Pirates of the Caribbean; Rango) to doing a low-budget, ‘bottle-show’ type of project?

James Ward Byrkit: It was wonderful. I love working with big crews; you get lots of toys and resources, but I was craving the opportunity… I wanted to get back to the purity of working with actors and a story just as intimate as possible. It was exactly what I needed to love the project.

366: The film is very clever & smart… How long from conception to shooting did Coherence take?

JWB: At least a year of planning and mapping it all out, figuring out all the puzzle pieces and plot twists. We did not have a script. There was no screenplay; there was an outline that we created and then just shared with the actors little bits and pieces each night; they’d get a notecard with things for their character to do.

So we had a really structured secret outline with very clear plot points that had to happen and figured out all the plot twists and character arcs and things like that, but no script.

366: How was the casting process, in terms of finding the right chemistry, the right people for the role, etc.?

JWB: I had to cast people that I knew, who’d trust me, to come over to my house to experiment with me. I took a long time with my co-writer, Alex Manugian (who also plays Amir in the film). We’d look at photographs of our friends and kind of mix and match them and decide who felt like a couple, who felt like they’d be old friends. You really have to cast the right people because they have to be very smart and very quick on their feet. Most of them had never met each other before, so they arrived completely in the dark and within minutes, had to pretend to be lifelong friends, married couples and lovers. It was choosing personalities who seemed like they’d merge well together.

366: Since all of the dialogue was improvised by the actors, were there times when you had to abandon certain paths and start anew?

JWB: Again, we had a very thorough outline, so I knew what I needed to happen each night. We pictured it like a funhouse – you know where the door Continue reading INTERVIEW: JAMES WARD BYRKIT, COHERENCE

THE WALLACE SHAWN INTERVIEW

You might know from 1981’s My Dinner with Andre, which he wrote and starred in, from his small but memorable role in The Princess Bride, or as the voice of Rex the Dinosaur in the Toy Story series. I spoke to the actor and playwright by phone on the morning of May 16th; mustering all the restraint I could manage, I decided not to title the resulting discussion some variation of “My ___ with Wally.” After a bit of edited-out introductory fumbling around on my part, we got down to conversational business.

366 Weird Movies: You’re here today primarily to talk about Don Peyote. There are a lot of interesting cameos in Don Peyote: Anne Hathaway, most notably, but also cult figures like , the director Abel Ferrara, and yourself. How did you come to be involved in this project?

Wallace Shawn: I don’t know. Somebody called me, and I… you’ve read about Pavlov’s experiments? When certain bells are rung, the dog begins to salivate. In my case, I ran out the door and joined this rather eccentric collection of people for a day.

Wallace Shawn in Don Peyote
Wallace Shawn as Dr. Fieldman in the psychedelic comedy “DON PEYOTE” an XLrator Media release. Photography credit: Isak Tiner.

366: I imagine you didn’t get to interact with a lot of the cast; your scene was just with Dan Fogler, I believe.

WS: This was a very improvisational movie, and there were all sorts of other things that went on.

366: Were there scenes that didn’t make it in that you shot?

WS: Sadly, there were even scenes that didn’t make it in. Because the whole movie was made in a rather improvisational way, and different things were probably… I don’t think it was just me… they probably had five hours, if they put everything in. It would be a five hour movie—I don’t know, I’m speculating. But they obviously had to make some tough decisions in there. Each of the little interviews with the people that are in the documentary, they’re fragments, obviously, from longer conversations.

366: I’m guessing from the title alone that you realized this was going to be a drug movie, which doesn’t seem like the sort of movie you’ve done before. What’s your view on drugs, or the movie’s take on the psychedelic experience?

WS: The movie’s take, if I were to decipher it: I would say on the one hand the whole style of the film is, let’s say, a very “druggy” style. So, someone who had never taken any drugs might never have been able to make such a film, and might not have been interested in making such a film. There’s an implied criticism of excessive drug taking in it, because they’re not really up to the task of making the documentary that they dream of, and certainly Dan’s character is unable to enjoy his relationship with the very nice fiancee. So, in a sense the movie shows some of the negative sides of taking too many drugs.

My own view, obviously coming as I do out of the 1960s, I know that a lot of people have learned a lot from taking drugs, and expanded their consciousness. On the other hand many people have been destroyed by taking drugs, particularly in excess.

366: I don’t want you to incriminate yourself about any of your own drug use in the past, potentially, but were you involved in the counterculture movement in the Sixties, or did you consider yourself to be part of that movement?

WS: I tragically missed all of it, because I was too fearful. And I regret that, tremendously. I was afraid of everything at that time. I’ve become slightly more youthful in my older years, but it’s too late. Those decades are over and that counterculture period is over.

366: I saw you do another interview where you talked about being fearful in your youth, and it seems strange that you would then get into a vocation like acting, where you have to be very outgoing. So how did that come about?

WS: Well, I started as a writer, and I got into acting almost completely by accident. And I was changing by that time. I was about 35 years old when I had my first acting job. And by then, I was already becoming less fearful.

366: You are in another movie right now, The Double, with Jesse Eisenberg. I haven’t seen it yet, but based on the trailer you seem to have a very prominent part in that one. What’s your role in that?

WS: In that one I play the boss of the office where the “first” Jesse Eisenberg works as a miserable underling, and I barely can recognize him. And then the “second” Jesse Eisenberg comes along and he’s very smooth and suave and I absolutely am crazy about him and promote him and have the deepest respect for him. It’s a very, very fascinating film, based on Dostoevsky.

366: Do you have any other projects coming out soon that we might look out for?

WS: Yes, I am going to be in a movie called A Master Builder that Jonathan Demme has directed. It’s based on a play of Ibsen that Andre Gregory has been working on as the director since 1997. I have an incredible part in it, I translated and adapted the Ibsen play and I play the main part, I have to say. It’s a very remarkable film.

366: Is that coming out in 2014?

WS: It’s opening in July in New York.

366: I want to thank you very much for talking with us, and good luck with all your endeavors.

WS: Okay, it’s great to talk to you.

 

REQUIEM FOR THE RELENTLESS FATHERS (2012): FILM & DIRECTOR’S STATMENT

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT:

Requiem For The Relentless Fathers (2012) is a short film I made for theology graduate school. “First and Second Samuel” was a class taught by Dr. Marti Steussy. Among Steussy’s assignments was an artistic presentation from the text.

Embedded theology oversimplifies the Samuel narrative: Samuel, the Judge of Israel, is the protagonist. Saul, the first King, disobeys God, and is therefore the antagonist. God consequently replaces Saul with the hero David, whom God loves. Even as a child I had issues with that elementary assessment. Regardless of what my Sunday school teachers taught, I found myself sympathizing with the antagonist. Perhaps it is in my nature. After all, I never could manage to find sympathy for any of the characters in Richard Wagner’s symbolist opera “Parsifal” except the alleged villain Klingsor. Still, having had a class with Dr. Steussy previously, I rightly concluded that she would supply fresh insight into the narrative.

Dr. Steussy discarded tradition. She inspired us to go directly and honestly to the text without preconceived notions. After knocking the dust off my Bible, I did exactly that. At the end of the semester a few fellow students, upon seeing the film, pointed out that they would not have been open to my interpretation if they had seen it at the beginning of the semester.

Since Requiem is a short, many details are naturally left out. The film is what the title says: It is a requiem for three complex, relentless fathers in an authentically strange Biblical narrative. Samuel and Saul are the primary focus. However, we tried to depict even the secondary character of David as embodying more than meets the eye in his initial introduction. (Perhaps someday, we will be able to do a follow-up film of the Davidic character). The historicity of Samuel was not our concern, which is why we placed it in a relatively contemporary setting.

Dr. Steussy proposed a question—“Why is it important how we judge Saul?”—followed by an answer—“It is important because it reflects how we are apt to judge one other.” Of equal importance is an honest approach to the text as an un-hallowed narrative, stripped of our over-familiarity. I found the story of Saul to be a fresh and surprising chronicle; often bizarre, adverse, and morally questionable.

The cast includes  as Samuel/God, myself as Saul, Robert Webster as David, Jordan Wheatley as Michal, Nate Saylor as Jonathan,  as the woman of Endor, and Jennifer Ring as the Evil Spirit of God. Director of photography: Robin Panet. Assistant Directors: Robbin Panet and James Mannan. Sets: John Claeyse. Music courtesy of Tahra Records. The script was inspired by 1 Samuel and the Samuel commentaries of Dr. Marti Steussy and Dr. David M. Gunn.

Along with a number of other collaborative short films (including 9), Requiem For The Relentless Fathers will be available on 366 Weird Movies DVD label in late 2014.

CARLOS ATANES: THE INTERVIEW & TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIE LIST

Carlos Atanes Weird FilmmakerCarlos Atanes is a Spanish filmmaker who proudly describes his life’s work as “weird” (and was using the term before this site came into existence).  He’s the creator of the bizarre feature films FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions (2004), Proxima (2007), and Maximum Shame (2010), all of which are reviewed here, as well as dozens of short subjects.   His official website describes his ideal fan as one who likes “fantasy, weirdness and oddity” and is “part of that public who has a good time with risky and different things and with the cinema that recreates alternative and personal universes.”  Since that description fits 366 Weird Movies readers perfectly, we figured we would play matchmaker between Carlos Atanes and our fans—and get a top 10 Weird Films list to add to our collection in the process.

This interview was conducted by Gregory J. Smalley with Mr. Atanes via email in October and November of 2011.  His “Top 10 Weird Movie List” appears at the bottom of the interview.

366:  You’ve announced a new project, Gallino, which you describe as a”pornophilosophical film.”  What can you tell our readers about the movie?

Gallino promoAtanes: It is a step forward in my rise to weirdness. Gallino is related to my last movie Maximum Shame in many of its subjects. There are different actors and characters, other aesthetics and other conflicts, but in fact it is like a next part, a complement to Maximum Shame. Both are like a “double feature.”  Gallino goes deep into parallel realities, meta-narrative and blurred borders between the pornographic and and the non-pornographic.  Why do we consider one thing pornographic and not another, exactly?  Why some things are visible/presentable and other things are not?  So, Gallino is an strange trip along the cracks, halfway between dream and wakelfulness, porn and no porn, skin Continue reading CARLOS ATANES: THE INTERVIEW & TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIE LIST

366 EXLUSIVE: HALLOW’S DANCE

We are pleased to debut James Mannan and Robbin Panet’s short film “Hallow’s Dance” on the web.  Although there is a mild Halloween theme to the film, Hallow’s Dance should not be confused with a horror film.  It is in fact a drama, with the only horror being moral horror at the treatment of Frank/Mom.  Co-directed by Robbin Panet and James Mannan, it co-stars 366 scribe Alfred Eaker along with Jason Hignite, Chelsea Rogers, and Terry Dellinger.  It contains very mild scenes of suggestive sexuality.  The weird part is the short, experimental dream sequence which ends the film, which is shot in black and white with streaming beams of light, accompanied by a catchy organ tune.  The short runs approximately 14 minutes.

At the producers’ request, this film will not be released to YouTube or other video hosting sites, and will be available here for one month only.

[Our license to display “Hallow’s Dance” has expired. We will inform you if this film is released, on DVD or otherwise, in the future.]

366 EXCLUSIVE: “9″

We are pleased to debut Alfred Eaker and Robbin Panet’s short film film “9” on the web.  This is the movie they made for the 2009 48 Hour Film Festival.  The rules of the contest festival are simple: every team has only 48 hours to complete the film, and each must incorporate three elements given by the festival : a character name, a line of dialogue, and a prop.  Look for a character named “Professor Sherman Kane,” a ball, and the line “I’m not talking to you.”

Rather than making a straightforward short that looked like everyone else, “9” takes an experimental approach, becoming a sepia-hued exploration of domestic abuse through the generations, in a Western setting.  The bizarre free-association poetry of John M. Bennet replaces traditional narration.  It runs approximately seven and a half minutes.

Alfred’s description of the making of the film can be read in his Reflections on the 48 Hour Film Festival and the “9” Diary.

9

[Our license to display “9” has expired.  We will inform you if this film is released, on DVD or otherwise, in the future.]

At the producers’ request, this film will not be released to YouTube or other video hosting sites, and will be available here for one month only.  UPDATE: Because this film was reviewed and linked from Rogue Cinema, we are leaving the film up for another week, until October 12, 2009.