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Apart From That
Randy Walker, Jennifer Shainin
2006, 120m, drama, experimental
People are sloppy. They don’t always make sense. Sometimes they talk, sometimes they don’t manage to say anything when they talk, sometimes they connect, sometimes they don’t. They interrupt, contradict and repeat themselves. They confront certain aspects of life, while denying others. They want to be liked by strangers and can be callous to those whom they love most.
Produced by: Peter Shainin
Cast: Kathleen McNearney, Tony Cladoosby, Toan Le, Alice Ellingson, Kyle Conyers, Jessica Marlowe-Goldstein, Susan Alotrico
10 questions with Apart From That director, Randy Walker, Jennifer Shainin at the half-way mark.
Friday, February 26th, 2016
1How did Apart From That begin? What was the initial seed that made you want to make this film? It started with relocation. We moved out of LA because we couldn't make the kind of movies there that we wanted to, and we ended up in a small, rural town in the Pacific Northwest. This is the kind of place where farmers would bring their horses into the greasy spoon diners for breakfast. Ten minutes away was an Indian reservation full of people who had cultivated a sense of humor that was so dry, and so funny, that you couldn't stop giggling for days on end. Fifteen minutes away was a Norwegian Men's Choir consisting of men who expressed pride in the chrome on their trucks. We wanted to make a film about these people, sharing an emotional landscape with other crazy people from our own, personal lives. And we wanted to do it with non-actors.
2You two are co-directors, how did you two meet and what made you want to direct as a team? We met on a Limp Bizkit music video shoot—she was an assistant choreographer. I was catering. We both were interested in cinema and it was in our blood. My father was a videographer for this water park in California called "Raging Waters". He'd take me on his shoots and I got to spend all day in my bathingsuit, eating free churros and watching him work. That's how I got into cinema. He also shot cottage cheese commercials. And Jen got into it through the choreography and hip hop music video business. The first film we made together was a short called “wait, what?” and it was a "what if?" film about adults getting chicken pox and kids getting shingles..it was a reversal-type plot, like The Parent Trap, or Face/Off, but with chicken pox and shingles. We submitted it to film festivals, and it won an award at the Chad International Film festival in 2002. The rest is history.
3How do you divvy up the responsibilities? What are the pros/cons of co-directing? I mainly worked with the actors, while Jen focused on the cinematography. We would switch positions occasionally, but Jen is very talented, visually and aesthetically, so I tried not to interfere much with that. And I absolutely love working with actors, experimenting with various emotional directions that the scene might take, veering away from the script, if need be. This division of labor worked, for the most part.
4You have such amazing characters in your film. How did you find the cast? We held open auditions in Eagles lodges, Native American reservation community centers...we reached out to organizations like the Scottish Highland Dancers and Daughters of the American Revolution...we went to Drivers Ed schools and Beauty Academies...we wanted the people who worked in these places and lived these lives to play these parts. 99% of these people assumed they were auditioning for extra roles. They had no idea they were up for the leads.
5How were you able to get such natural performances out of non-professionals? We tried to make them feel comfortable on set. We wanted them to have fun, and explore their roles. No blocking, no tape on the floor. We told them that they should know more about these characters than we do--they're the ones who have to bring them to life. We wanted them to feel like they could really play.
6What scene in this film turned out better than you ever imagined it would? The scene where Peggy dances on her front lawn while the car spins out in front of her. That was done in two takes, and it's amazing no one got killed.
7Can you share a war story from the shoot?
There is a scene wherein Leo wanders amongst some highland cattle. Half-way through editing the film, the farmer who owned that cattle made national news. Apparently, he had been hanging the bodies of his dead cows in his trees, with the intention of avoiding disposal fees so that he could salvage and sell the horns after decomposition. We had unwittingly been shooting about 20 yards away from what looked like Kurtz's compound in Apocalypse Now. PETA hit the farmer with multiple fines, but he just holed up in his barn and refused to answer the door. Then we realized that the release form for the location hadn't been signed. We assumed, with all his troubles, the farmer had forgotten about us. That's when he showed up at our door, holding our release form. "You're gonna need this, right?" he asked. "I'll sign your form if you take some pictures of my cows so I can make a Highland Cattle wall calendar." We offered some location pictures of the cows, and he went silent, trying to figure out what else he could get out of us. "If you don't want to sign the release form, that's fine...I'll just cut the scene out of the movie," I said. Thankfully, he didn't call my bluff.
8Your film looks incredible and super 16mm is my favorite format. Why did you decide to shoot on film instead of digital? Well, we shot the film in 2004. At the time, there was no such thing as digital DSLR cameras. The RED didn't even exist at that point. We looked into shooting the movie on miniDV and then blowing it up, but that looked like garbage and the cost of doing that was actually comparable to shooting on super 16mm. And, of course, we always wanted to shoot on film, because the picture quality is so lush and rich, so there was really no contest.
9What are the films that made you want to become filmmakers? (in no particular order)
1. Cassavetes' A Woman Under the Influence
2. Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice
3. Wenders' Paris, Texas
4. Cassavetes' Husbands
5. Jarmusch's Down By Law
6. Altman's Three Women
10What's next? The script for our next feature is nearly done. Hopefully, production on some level will begin in 2016.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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