Four years ago, I began this independent film blog as a labor of love dedicated to covering the latest gems in recent cinema. Talking with filmmakers about their work has been one of the great joys of my life, and during this site’s fourth year, I’ve published interviews with directors not only from across the U.S., but from Canada, Germany, Hungary, Turkey and the United Kingdom as well. As I did for Indie Outlook’s first, second and third anniversaries, I have compiled excerpts from all of the interviews I have conducted over the past year. The first name listed here is director László Nemes, who happened to be in town for a preview screening of his masterful debut feature, “Son of Saul.” I moderated a Q&A with Nemes and his leading man, Géza Röhrig, after the screening, and interviewed them both the following morning. Two months later, Nemes deservedly won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
A huge thanks to the wonderful people who participated in the following discussions. Click on each name and you will be directed to the full interview…
“When you’re watching film, it is a hypnotic process—between each still image that is projected, you have darkness. Fifty percent of the experience is darkness, and the way in which the two images become movement is pure magic.”—László Nemes, director/co-writer of “Son of Saul”
“My first conscious memory was a nightmare about floating in a void-like space surrounded by metallic balls that poked and pulled at me. I tried to explain to my parents why I was crying but at a mere 18 months, the capacity for language was well beyond my grasp. In many ways that still feels like the case. I find images a more reliable and honest language.”—Martin Stirling, director of “Most Shocking Second a Day Video”
“There’s a sense that you can be someone else when you’re underwater. You lose a sense of your body, and you feel like you’re floating. You’re closed off and you can hear your heartbeat because of the way the water isolates you. As humans, we can only experience that for the duration that we can hold our breath, and then we’re forced back into reality.”—Lindsay MacKay, writer/director of “Wet Bum”
“Keith’s version of Jagger is stuck in time, and I feel like relationships can get like that. There will always be a place for them, but it gets to a point where they are no longer living, and they become a memory.”—Brad Bischoff, writer/director of “For Mick Jagger, 1972”
“The film is also about loneliness and people’s fear of it. That is something that strikes a huge chord because we’re in this position where if you don’t find a partner, you are alone, which is so unnatural. It can force people to make the strangest decisions just to remain with someone as opposed to being in a healthy dynamic.”—Joanna Coates, director/co-writer of “Amorous”
“The willingness to transcend yourself and inhabit these characters has become quite trendy and normal. […] The guys at my warehouse job all play ‘World of Warcraft.’ In my opinion, this is how society has begun to prepare itself for the virtual reality world that we are about to join, where anybody can be anybody.”—Sadie Rogers, writer/director/star of “RPG”
“Robin Williams was so inspiring to work with. In the case of the piece you mentioned, it was really inspired by Robin’s kinetic performance. When you saw that onscreen, it was almost like working with animation, in a sense.”—Howard Shore, composer of “Mrs. Doubtfire”
“I wanted someone who was recognizably the same voice in all these different places. Someone who had a more standard or generic way of speaking wasn’t going to work in the same way. There’s a sweetness to Tom [Noonan]’s voice, but there’s also a menacing quality to it.”—Charlie Kaufman, writer/co-director of “Anomalisa”
“The priority was always for human stories to drive the narrative, not the geography or chronology of any specific trip. It was a huge challenge to find a balance that allowed us to jump between so many individual stories occurring on different trains without disorienting the viewer.”—Lynn True, editor/co-director of “In Transit”
“It’s a great time for DIY filmmaking. It’s proven every week that with a Canon 5D—or an iPhone, for that matter—and some software, you can make a movie. It’s fantastic.”—Phil Joanou, director of “The Veil”
“Your role, as a critic, has become even more important. We’re not there yet but low-budget independent filmmaking, with unknown talent, is going the way of the novel. A lot of people are writing and (self) publishing them, but are they being read?”—Sean J.S. Jourdan, writer/director of “Teddy Boy”
“In New York, when it gets down to it, it always feels like the most valued person is the one making the most money. In Pittsburgh, the people who are the most valued are the ones working the most hours. That’s what people brag about at a bar.”—Colin Healey, writer/director of “Homemakers”
“‘Laughter sticking in peoples’ throats’ is a common truism in Germany. It’s what people typically say when asked about their work. We’re serious people, we value comedy highest when it’s almost tragedy, not when you laugh your head off.”—Dietrich Brüggemann, writer/director of “Heil”
“These conservative people in Turkey are continuously vocal about what women should and should not do. Now you have schools deciding that girls and boys should take different staircases. It’s a way of saying that when you go to Math class at eight o’clock in the morning, there is something very sexual happening.”—Deniz Gamze Ergüven, director/co-writer of “Mustang”
“I’m very disturbed by this notion of ‘purity’ and ‘pure women.’ I think it’s such a big part of the split that happens within people. Repression and abuse are two sides of the same coin.”—Deborah Kampmeier, writer/director of “SPLit”
“Stripping a script down to its bare core and getting something so resonant is really not easy to do—you’re teetering on the edge of losing its essence or just being completely empty—but I think [Kelly Reichardt]’s successful at it, and it’s something that I’m trying to do with my work as well.”—Christopher Jason Bell, writer/director of “The Winds That Scatter”
“You can perform in the practice room all the time and find yourself running up against certain obstacles. But when you’re performing with an audience, you feel like you’re radiating the music outwards, and it all starts to flow together.”—Emer Kinsella, composer of “Hysteria”
“Hollywood won’t make a story about a black female protagonist who is a badass. It’s going to have to be made independently, but fortunately, we are at a time in our country and in Hollywood where the climate is right for a story like this.”—Christine Swanson, director/co-writer of “Love Under New Management: The Miki Howard Story”
“For a person like me who is agnostic and doesn’t necessarily believe in a higher power, I feel like the experiences I’ve had that felt spiritual have been in relation to other people, and particularly involve breaking down some of the oppressive barriers that we impose on ourselves.”—Rebecca Parrish, director of “Radical Grace”
“That’s what I love about actors. There aren’t a lot of social conventions that you can’t at some point find a reason to break. So much of our time in society requires us to put up filters and barriers because we’re nervous that we’re going to be penalized for being honest about who we are. That’s not natural, and it’s nice to let that go when you’re working.”—Valerie Weiss, director of “A Light Beneath Their Feet”
In addition to my annual slate of interviews, I also penned reviews of films such as Robert Eggers’ “The Witch,” Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Lobster,” Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert’s “Swiss Army Man” (which I paired with Steven Spielberg’s “The BFG”) and my favorite film of 2015, Marielle Heller’s “The Diary of Teenage Girl,” as well as numerous selections from last year’s Chicago International Film Festival and this year’s Chicago Critics’ Film Festival. I wrote essays on some of my favorite films including Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 remake of “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” Anthony Harvey’s “The Lion in Winter” and Rodrigo García’s “Nine Lives,” not to mention Universal’s classic Dracula franchise. Special shout-outs were granted to the exciting Chicago cine-club, Filmfront, and the hilarious online performance art of Pupinia Stewart. And I found time to rank the Top Ten Pixar Movies, Top Ten Performances in a Star Wars Movie and Harrison Ford’s Ten Best Non-Lucas Films.
Stay tuned for Part II of this anniversary retrospective, which will feature highlights from my interviews, reviews and essays at RogerEbert.com.