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Micah Van Hove
2014, 84m, drama
Four male twenty-somethings spend twenty-four hours reliving their high school glory days. The drugs, video games, and boozing ends in a moment of terrible violence in this bleak and unflinching portrait of 21st Century male nihilism.
Produced by: Nate Kamiya
Cast: Johnny Wactor, Luke Eberl, James Wilson, Jacob King, Cornelia Livingston
10 questions with Menthol director, Micah Van Hove at the half-way mark.
Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
1I really loved this film. What was the initial seed that made you want to make Menthol? I wanted to occupy the gray area between the endearing and horrifying qualities of young white male culture.
2The acting is so natural in this film. How much of it was scripted? My co-writer Sam Jones and I wrote a script for over 2 years which was very detailed. During rehearsals and our casting process, the world of the script was absorbed by the actors, but once we were on set I didn't want to be stuck reading words off a page. Once the actors had the characters in their bodies, we often let them play independently of the script.
3You co-wrote, directed and shot the film. What are the pros/cons of directing and shooting your film? DPing and directing means I was cutting my time and attention in half. Ultimately the most important thing is the actors, so my attention to extreme detail on the photography side suffered a bit. I originally planned to shoot the film with no coverage, but once we started I realized I needed some. This lead to some visual discrepancies in the film that still annoy me! That being said, I wanted the photography in this film to be distant, removed and ugly.
4You also beautifully shot another film on Fandependent (Ever). How do you know Josh Beck and what was it like working together? Josh and I met at a party in LA and a year later he asked me to shoot his film. Josh has a great mind for storytelling and is always working out new ideas visually. I enjoy the intimate, personal nature of his films and his drive to tell stories that no one else is telling. His sensitivity and dedication to filmmaking is something I really admire and it pushes me to do better -- exactly what you want in a collaborator. He usually has the best haircut in the room too.
5You are a very active writer for the great website, No Film School (nofilmschool.com). What is your take on the current state of indie film? What is the biggest challenge facing filmmakers today? Independent film is in a ridiculously crazy place: it's both the best and worst time to be making films. It's never been easier to make films, but it's never been harder to get them seen. The biggest challenge for any filmmaker today is to make something fresh, powerful and resonant is a way that is unignorable. It's also very sad to me that the 90-minute format is being pushed out in favor of long-form television and the theatrical experience is dying.
6So many of your scenes were shot as a oner (one scene, one shot). Why did you decide to go that route? I wanted the film to feel as real as possible — editing takes me out of a film. I like images to have room to breathe and I want to make the audience implicit in the actions of the characters in the film. Long takes help simultaneously absorb and challenge a viewer, mirroring the interaction I want the audience to have with the characters themselves.
7What was the most difficult scene to shoot and how did you get it? The acid trip master shot that opens the film was the most difficult. We drank a lot of Jack Daniels and did it 7 or 8 takes.
8Zach Weintraub, a filmmaker who also has a film on Fandependent (The International Sign for Choking) gave your film a spot-on quote, 'I don't know if I've ever felt so uncomfortable identifying with characters or hearing my own voice in the way they talk.' Was that something you were going for? Yes, but it was more a by-product of creating characters that apparently have some truth to them. The characters were all based on real people and we tried to capture their behavior in the screenwriting process. Many people have told me the characters feel like friends they had in high school, and I think that's a great compliment — it means they feel like real people, which was the only goal.
9Name three movies, that if you see on TV, no matter what part of the movie it is, that you MUST finish watching to the end? I don't watch movies on TV. I recommend that people watch a film from start to finish without stopping, the way they are meant to be seen :)
10What's next? Nate Kamiya and I are working on a film about a private high school philosophically eroding; a coming of age story for both teenagers and adults. I'm also making a film about two neighbors who bond over their mutual interest in firearms; a meditation on the image of a gun in America.
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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