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2011, 64m, comedy
Small-town slacker Jason still lives at home with his mom Shelly. Content with idle days, he spends his time navigating joblessness, sipping on tall boys, and shooting the shit with his cohort, Tyson and Noah. Dodging tension at home, the trio sets off deep into the backwoods to visit an old friend. All the while, Jason maintains a phlegmatic, possibly fleeting crush with longtime friend Lacy.
Poetically sublime and playfully comedic, lyrical and sardonic, Country Story is a tender and loving homage to small-towns and quieter landscapes.
Produced by: Ian Clark
Cast: Chris Lambert, Austin Will, Audrey Kovár, Dusty Decker, Erik Jensen, Mandy Treanor
10 questions with Country Story director, Ian Clark at the half-way mark.
Monday, March 7th, 2016
1What's up Ian! Thanks for doing this. First, what was the initial seed that made you make Country Story? I think it's mostly a reflection on my experiences growing up in a small, rural community. It riffs on themes of friendship, family, apathy, and leisure.
2I love the way you shoot your films. You act as the cinematographer and the director in this film and a lot of your other work. What are the pros and cons of doing both? Cinema is an experiential medium, so for me working as both director/cinematographer is instinctual. I'm drawn more to expression through images, ideas, abstraction, symbolism—less through dialogue or story elements. Although this movie is fairly talkative... The downside of wearing multiple hats is that you can yourself thin.
3How did you get such natural performances? Did you improvise a lot? Was this stuff all scripted? Both? We did have a script, but I always knew it was going to be pretty loose. Most of the scenes involved heavy improvisation. Sometimes our location was the only thing decided upon in advance, so we'd show up, discuss the narrative, and just start shooting. It was a process of exploration and experimentation, but eventually you start to understand what's happening. You take risks and trust the people you're working with—letting it become something different than you may have originally envisioned. It's exciting. You allow yourself to be guided by the process and the dynamic emerges, and as a director you figure out how a specific conversation or theme might tie into the larger narrative. You suggest topics and gently steer your actors, and then at other times they take the reigns and you end up using those takes. I've always described COUNTRY STORY as a kind of carefully controlled form of non-control. The editing too became another component of the writing, of locating the form and structure of it.
4You're also a big champion for cool indie films because you are one of the co-founders of the Eastern Oregon Film Festival. How long has that been running and what made you want to start your own film festival? In some ways EOFF was a response to the lack of cultural offerings in La Grande, OR—the town where I was raised—but it was also just an extension of my newfound curiosity toward cinema at the time. I have a tendency to get a little obsessive when something new interests me. For me, it's basically about building a community and highlighting progressive, interesting artists who I believe in. The seventh edition will run October 20-22, 2016.
5What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? KOYAANISQATSI and TEAM PICTURE both made a lasting impression on me for different reasons, but I wouldn't say it was any specific project that made me want to become a filmmaker. More it was just a form of self-expression that I eventually discovered.
6You were also selected as one of Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces in 2012, which I think is one of the truly exciting places to discover new indie talent. What did getting that recognition mean to you? It was nuts... When I finally got on the phone with Nick Dawson, I remember asking several times if he was actually serious.
7You're also partly to blame for this entire site. I saw your great 2009 film Pool Room which was about an hour long, and you put it online for free. The lightbulb just popped in my head, why don't more people do that? What's your thoughts on putting your films online for free? Generally, I'd assume share your work with the world rather than keep it hidden away on a hard drive. It's a double-edged sword though because it may provide some exposure, but at the same time you're nurturing the cultural expectation of free.
8You're a filmmaker, you run your own film festival and you seemed heavily involved in the indie community, what are your thoughts on the status of indie film? Do you think this is a good time to be getting into filmmaking? I think more art in the world is a good thing.
9What was the most challenging scene for you to shoot on this film and how did you solve it? There were a few rocky moments the day we shot the van sequence...
10What's next? My current project is A MORNING LIGHT, which premiered at the Torino FIlm Festival this fall. I also edited Jennifer Anderson and Vernon Lott's THE ACT OF BECOMING, which premiered at CPH:DOX, and just started editing Nandan Rao's upcoming GREEK YOGURT. I'm developing a couple other projects of my own and am also interested in acting, so feel free to hit me up!
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. The film is about the evolution of a couple's relationship, and was shot in three different countries over the course of a decade.
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