There’s no question that this independent film blog has been one of the great joys of my life for over the past five years. It has enabled me to champion so many essential cinematic gems, and in its fifth year, I’ve expanded the site’s focus to encompass artists in other mediums whom I find extraordinary. The awe that I feel when I watch Laura Bretan sing or Bobbi Jene Smith dance or Michael Gibson teach or Alexis G. Zall edit fantastic YouTube videos is no different from the thrilling sensation provided by a great movie. As I did for Indie Outlook’s first, second, third and fourth anniversaries, I have compiled excerpts from all of the interviews I have conducted over the past year. The miracles of modern technology granted me the opportunity to have in-depth conversations with filmmakers not only from the U.S., but from Canada, Germany, Iran and the Netherlands as well.
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…
“It wasn’t that I had a specific story or characters in mind. It was more about me looking back on who I was, hopefully from a place of wisdom.”—Michael Glover Smith, director of “Cool Apocalypse”
“I’ve found that you tend to forget about the bullying you’ve committed, but the victims never forget it. […] The film enabled me to forgive myself for the things that I did, and also forgive what happened to me as a kid.”—Amy S. Weber, director of “A Girl Like Her”
“We have a lot of refugees coming over, and instead of being restrictive and saying, ‘You have to stay out, you don’t belong here,’ we’re like, ‘No, no, no. F—k it! Come in.’ It’s about integrating, not about pushing away everything that is new. It’s never going to be like it was before, so why don’t we create something beautiful and build upon everything that was shattered?”—Maria Dragus, star of “The White Ribbon” and “Graduation”
“I think children and the youth of today and tomorrow have so much more power and so much louder of a voice than even they realize. It doesn’t matter your age. You can always make a difference and a positive impact.”—Alexis G. Zall, star of “Coin Heist”
“In my own head, I always think my feelings and thoughts are unworthy of being expressed aloud, or are so out there that no one could possibly relate. Conversing with ‘the mirror’ can bring some objectivity into play.”—Rebecca De Ornelas, star of “The Videoblogs”
“David feels like he doesn’t have anything, and when he looks at the innocence of this child, it gives him some sort of hope. What he’s feeling isn’t rational or intellectual, it’s purely emotional. People might think that David’s attraction to Tommie is sexual, and that’s not what it is at all. He’s trying to figure out how to be a better person, and she’s the tool to get him there.”—Ross Partridge, director and star of “Lamb”
“I remember being little and having somebody in my family who was bipolar. I’d be like, ‘Why can’t you just be happy today?’ Looking back on that, I realized that it was not their choice.”—Madison Davenport, star of “A Light Beneath Their Feet”
“I think it’s really important for actors to constantly be doing roles that are different from what they’ve already done so that they are always working on their craft. I also had never done a comedy before, and Dr. O is such a crazy, wacky character.”—Peyton Kennedy, star of “Odd Squad” and “American Fable”
“I feel like you can only be as strong as you can be weak. Your arms have to be getting wider on both sides. You can’t just go in one direction. I can only go as fast as I can go slow. I need to learn how to be slower in order to be faster.”—Bobbi Jene Smith, subject of “Bobbi Jene”
“We talked about the nudity and how I dislike being nude on screen. But director [Tamar van den Dop] explained to me everything I wanted to know. I knew what she wanted to make and I completely stood, and still stand, behind this story. I think ‘Supernova’ is a great example of functional nudity.”—Gaite Jansen, star of “Supernova”
“When you are lying on your pillow, you never see a wide angle of the room. You are looking at things in extreme close-up, and that’s how I wanted to frame moments such as when Evy looks at the feather. I wanted the audience’s senses to be as heightened as those of the deaf-mute teenagers.”—Joost van Ginkel, director of “170 Hz”
“I like to arrive onset and be an open book and absorb things because that’s how you become present in a scene. A scene is just an honest interaction between people.”—Julia Sarah Stone, star of “Weirdos” and “Wet Bum”
“I believe it’s true that music can heal. It’s God’s way of showing the world His creation and when people hear my music, I want them to feel something. The joy of seeing other people smile is just one of those feelings you get inside. It’s like a warmth.”—Laura Bretan, finalist on “America’s Got Talent”
“When I went on the show and said it’s a rough neighborhood, I’m not talking about these small boundaries. I’m talking about the South Side of Chicago, which anyone can say is a problem. Teachers at the school have told me, ‘You exaggerated so much,’ and I’m like, ‘You’re driving here from the suburbs!’”—Michael Gibson, creator of Musicality and semi-finalist on “America’s Got Talent”
“Hollywood looks at children’s authors and says, ‘We love your book. Now here’s what’s wrong with it, and here’s how we’re going to fix it. We know the lead heroine is 12. We’re going to make her 24, size DD. We know it takes place in Paris in a castle. We’re going to put it on the moon and throw in a couple electronic pterodactyls. Trust us, this thing is going to soar!’ They really know how to mess things up.”—David Paterson, co-writer/producer of “Bridge to Terabithia”
“I agree that the sincerity and earnestness is one of the things that makes [“Manos”] so eternal. Hal Warren had this idea and he carried it all the way through. No matter how bad it is, he did it, and there is something to be said about that.”—Jackey Neyman Jones, star of “Manos: The Hands of Fate”
“A difference that I see in a movie like ‘God’s Not Dead’ or ‘Last Ounce of Courage’ versus some of the ones that I saw in school is the fact that these new films have a victim complex. They are made for people who want to feel like they’re being persecuted even though they’re not. […] It feels like alternative Christianity, honestly.”—Brad Jones, co-writer/star of “Jesus, Bro!”
“We should look at [Trump] as a gift to the world because there will be a lot of positive things happening. There will be a lot of artistic creation, and there will be a growing progressive movement in America that will be much more organized. He is the real face of capitalism, and it’s good to see the real face instead of seeing some beautiful face on a horrible book. He’s a horrible picture on a horrible book.”—Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami, director of “Sonita”
In addition to my annual slate of interviews, I also penned a preview of last year’s Chicago International Film Festival, which included Best Picture frontrunners “Moonlight” and “La La Land”; an updated list of my Top 100 Favorite Films; and an appreciation of Osgood Perkins’ stunning directorial debut, “The Blackcoat’s Daughter.” Three of my favorite interviews originally conducted for HollywoodChicago.com—with Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”), Piper Laurie (“Twin Peaks”) and David Lowery (“A Ghost Story”)—were republished as Indie Flashbacks. And after unearthing my cherished letter from the incomparable Fred Rogers, I couldn’t resist sharing it with all of you.
Stay tuned for Part II of this anniversary retrospective, which will cover my third year of interviews, reviews and festival dispatches at RogerEbert.com.