Hometown: Orig: Hollister, CA - Curr: St. Petersburg, FL
Why are you in this class?
Well, I teach the class, but apart from that it just struck me as a remarkable coincidence that the Sundance Film Festival overlaps with our January Term calendar. What a great thing to be able to spend some time learning about the history of independent cinema in America, watching some of the classics like Stranger than Paradise, and then coming to Sundance with an eye not only for current celebrities but for innovative approaches to visual storytelling and documentary. There is a lot of silliness and hype that goes on at Sundance every year, but there are also, every year, a number of wonderful and exciting and fresh films that may never get seen anywhere else but really ought to be seen. Those three or four every year make it all worth it. Plus, there is something so exciting and infectious about being here with a crowd that can't wait to see these sometimes obscure and innovative films.
What does independent film mean to you?
The standard answer that I teach my students is there is no easy answer to that question. Low budget and independence from the studio system is only a part of it; what is most exciting about independent film is the freedom that comes with this independence to experiment with narrative forms and to explore themes that would be shyed away from in mainstream films that have to earn large revenues and in their efforts to avoid alienating any audiences with anything that might seem strange, they often end up with something bland and predictable. There are, of course, wonderful films that come out of the studio system every year, but every once in a while it is refreshing to see a film that you know would never have been approved by Hollywood executives but somehow works and carries a powerful message in a new way.
Who is your favorite director?
Hard to answer because I have my enduring favorites whose films I will always be returning to, and then there are those whose work strikes me as fresh and novel and current. Enduring favorites would have to include at least Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman, Jean Renoir and Francois Truffaut, Nicholas Roeg and Jim Jarmusch. Right now, I am still giddy about the fact we had Andrew Bujalski here, whose two films are as fresh as anything out, and whose latest film Mutual Appreciation is as timeless as some of the early classic Cassavettes films.
What is your favorite independent film?
I'm going to make it two: Stranger than Paradise and Lone Star.
What do you like in your films?
I like slow, obscure or difficult films that only make sense if you are thinking too hard, preferably foreign with subtitles. I also like massive overbudget blockbusters with space aliens, evil walking dead people, big monsters or superheroes.
If you were to make an independent film, what would it be about?
I've been toying with the idea of making a film about bunny rabbits that become insanely angry killing machines as a result of animal testing, and then rapidly multiply and terrorize the earth.
If you had to make an independent film, how would you get the money (be honest)?
I think I would try to convince people to work for free, then use my academic connections to get free equipment, and then look for rich people who like extremely risky investments.
What is the most exciting thing about going to Sundance?
Ten days when I can indulge my obsession for movies without feeling guilty and thinking there is something more important I should be doing.
What is the longest amount of time you would be willing to wait in line for a film?
Rather than spend two or three hours in line waiting for movies I spent two or three weeks scheming up ways I could avoid waiting for hours in line waiting for movies (like setting up a writing assignment with the Weekly Planet and getting a press pass out of the deal).