A Few Words with Don Thacker on MOTIVATIONAL GROWTH – Part I

During the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Don Thacker, writer and director of the inventive, absurdist film with the talking mould: Motivational Growth. Now, Don’s a wonderful guy. But to say that I spoke at all would not only be an understatement, but it’d be a downright lie. Neither myself, nor my two fellow interviewers, got a word in edgewise save for asking all of five questions. The beautiful thing is that we didn’t have to. In spite of the months he’s been doing his festival tour, Thacker was just as excited to sit down and chat with us, as I’m sure he was on his first interview.

Don Thacker of Motivational GrowthI don’t even think we had a chance to ask how he came up with the concept for Motivational Growth before he started his story. “I was living in LA,” he began. “I did this foolish thing when I was 19 where I was like ‘I’m gonna save up $3000! I’m gonna go out to LA! And then I’ll be famous, and make all the movies! It’ll be great!’ I went to LA, and found that there’s a giant wall. […] [A]nd it’s built on broken dreams. It’s forded with hell tears, and it’s made metal by the aspirations of the young. […]And at the top is this giant line of networking that you have to get through to even get near the wall.

“At 19 you don’t know this,” he continues. “[…] And L.A. […] can be like a giant meat grinder from hell that destroys souls. My soul was one of those souls! I got into a bunch of bad business, worked with people who were shifty. And at one point I was living in this Australian lady’s apartment, but I was living in just one room of it. I didn’t have access to the common areas. […] And in the middle of the night […] I’d wake up, sneak out of the room, and I’d walk over to the couch and quietly turn the television on. And I sat there depressed. It was the only thing I had in my whole life. I couldn’t afford rent. […] I had no money. […]So I’m sitting there in my underwear, flipping through channels, and every time something went bad or I didn’t like something I’d just [change the channel]. And I just thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if I could just click and change to a different life?’ And then I [thought] ‘if this TV went away, I would fucking kill myself.’ That’s where I was. […] I was a kid, I didn’t know shit. Everything’s melodramatic when you’re 19, right?” Would you like to know more…?

Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim discuss THE BATTERY

The Battery

Far and away one of the best films at Toronto After Dark this year, The Battery has been taking not only Toronto, but the international festival circuit by storm. Winner of three audience award prizes, and official selection of over 20 international film festivals, it’s living up to expectations as one of the best zombie films in years.

I had the opportunity to sit down with writer, director, producer and star Jeremy Gardner, and costar and producer Adam Cronheim to discuss the zombie-less zombie film. Though it is an originally executed film, in many ways, it’s still the same concept. “It’s still zombies,” says Gardner, “and all the rules apply. Even some of the tropes are there. But the seed of it was trying to focus on the way an apocalypse would affect the psychology and the psyche of the human rather than the macro scale that a lot of zombie movies try to do.”

Reportedly made for a meager $6,000, much of the concept of a two-man film was based on budgetary restraints. “Even as a fan of the genre, it forces you to refocus,” Gardner added on the impact of their budget. “It’s hard to splatter a head on screen when you have no money. So it forces you to be creative in what you show and what you don’t show. But I always like things like that, where it’s a little off screen. It’s like Texas Chainsaw Massacre where they always say that it’s one of the most violent movies ever, but you really don’t see anything. It’s all about mood, and tone, and terror.” Would you like to know more…?

Matthew Johnson and Owen Williams Discuss THE DIRTIES and the Bullying Epidemic

Garnering accolades at festivals across North America, Matthew Johnson’s The Dirties tackles the now unfortunately trendy topic of bullying. The film attempts to shed a non-judgmental light on what drives the bullied to their breaking point, pushing them into the territory of infamous mass murderers. What Johnson’s managed to create is a relatable portrayal of high school kids being high school kids. That is, until they aren’t.

The goal of the film was to show that, even in the most terrible circumstances, these kids are just going through the high school experience. Johnson, and co-writer/producer Evan Morgan, wanted to create a film that represented the truth behind these troubled teens. Their inspiration for the tone of the film came from the home videos of Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and Seung Hui-Cho who was responsible for the Virginia Tech shootings. “What we found from looking at all of their footage was that, essentially, when you just look at videos that they were making of themselves, they’re really funny. And what they’re trying to do is make one another laugh. It’s a weird human portrait of what these guys are.”

The Dirties (2013)

The film is surprisingly funny nearly from beginning to end. The humour is natural, and impressively so given that all but one line in the film was improvised. The concern with having any comedy in a film that addresses such a tragic topic is that it will overshadow or demean the end message. Owen Williams, who plays Owen in the film, explains, “It’s not as though the movie was supposed to be a comedy in order to mimic the comedy in those videos. It’s more of a naturalism, and being real people, which obviously includes humour.” Would you like to know more…?

“There Go The Goddamn Brownies!” – Joe Dante Talks The ‘Burbs

As a part of Toronto’s Fan Expo, Rue Morgue Magazine runs the Festival of Fear, and they invited Joe Dante up to present a 35mm print of his severely underrated, but nevertheless, cult-classic Tom Hanks comedy, The ‘burbs. Dante talks about shooting on the Universal backlot, set visits and defecation by Michael Jackson’s pet monkey Coco, the amazing talents of Bruce Dern and the eccentricities of Brother Theodore, how much of the screenplay was improvised by the performers (“That’s about a 9 on the tension scale, Rube.”) due to the ongoing writers strike at the time and of course, the Alfred Hitchcock and Looney Toons references on the film. A top shelf event all around.

Playboy Interview with Quentin Tarantino

used with tidings from Playboy.com

His house is filled with movie memorabilia. Posters for unexpected films—Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, for example—hang on one wall, and I think I spotted oversize green Hulk hands. You can tell Tarantino is still single and able to indulge his voracious appetite for all things movies, because no wife would put up with it.”

For the full prologue, please visit Playboy.com
(obviously some images/language NSFW)

On quitting making movies while he’s ahead: “I’m on a journey that needs to have an end and not be about me trying to get another job. I want this artistic journey to have a climax. I want to work toward something. You stop when you stop, but in a fanciful world, 10 movies in my filmography would be nice. I’ve made seven. If I have a change of heart, if I come up with a new story, I could come back. But if I stop at 10, that would be okay as an artistic statement.”
On including controversial language in his films, such as the N word: “I’m just telling my story the way I’m telling it. I’m putting it in a spaghetti Western framework and highlighting the surreal qualities inherent in the material. I’m highlighting them mythically and operatically, and in terms of violence and gruesomeness, with pitch-black humor.”
On getting high while in production: “I wouldn’t do anything impaired while making a movie. I don’t so much write high, but say you’re thinking about a musical sequence. You smoke a joint, you put on some music, you listen to it and you come up with some good ideas. …I don’t need pot to write, but it’s kind of cool.”
On rewriting history in Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained: “You turn on a movie and know how things are going to go in most films. Every once in a while films don’t play by the rules. It’s liberating when you don’t know what’s happening next. …I thought, What about telling these kinds of stories my way – rough and tough but gratifying at the end?”
On originally seeking Will Smith to play the lead in Django Unchained: “We spent quite a few hours together over a weekend when he was in New York doing Men in Black 3. …I think half the process was an excuse for us to hang out and spend time with one another. …It just wasn’t 100 percent right, and we didn’t have time to try to make it that way.”
On why he ultimately cast Jamie Foxx in the role: “He was the cowboy…Forget the fact that he has his own horse—and that is actually his horse in the movie. He’s from Texas; he understands. …He understood what it’s like to be thought of as an ‘other.’”
On Leonardo DiCaprio’s role as the villain, Calvin Candie: “I hated Candie, and I normally like my villains no matter how bad they are. …what I’m always trying to do…is get you to kind of like these guys, despite on-screen evidence that you shouldn’t. Despite the things they do and say and despite their agenda. I also like making people laugh at f*cked-up sh*t.”
On the Aurora, Colorado, tragedy during Dark Knight Rises and the issue of films glorifying violence: “I think that guy was a nut. He went in there to kill a bunch of people because he knew there would be a lot of people there… That’s no different from a guy going into a McDonald’s and shooting up people at lunchtime because he knows a lot of people will be there.”
On his celebrity status: “I’m not a Hollywood outsider anymore. I know a lot of people. I like them. They like me. I think I’m a pretty good member of this community… I still do things my own way, but I didn’t go away either. I still kind of feel like I’m always trying to prove I belong here.”
On rising to the level of his earlier work: “I want there to be anticipation. I was actually quite proud when I read that Django is one of the most anticipated movies coming out this year. It’s a black Western. Where’s the anticipation coming from? I guess a lot of it is me. That’s pretty f*cking awesome.”
On settling down as he approaches 50: “If I had a wife, I would probably be more polite. She would make me write thank-you notes, which I won’t do on my own. I wouldn’t be such a caveman.”
On his ideal wife: “If I want to live in Paris for a year, what the f*ck? I can. I don’t have to arrange anything; I can just do it. If there is an actor or director I want to get obsessed with and study their films for the next 12 days, I can do that. The perfect person would be a Playmate who would enjoy that.”

The full interview is under the seats… Would you like to know more…?

Flyway Pubcast #7 – Matt and Kim Garland [Vivienne Again]

 
The final film in the brilliant block of shorts at Flyway Film Festival last weekend was Vivienne Again. It was the perfect end to the block, being close to Halloween, as this one deals with the resurrection of the dead. As creepy as that sounds (and for an instant it is), Vivienne Again is actually an exercise in relationships and communication. And to prove the short is as interesting and intriguing as it sounds, the film won the Kickstarter Jury Award here at Flyway. You can check out the beginnings of their next project, Deal Travis In, on Facebook. And don’t tell anyone, but you’ll hear it here first; the possibility of a future collaboration with Gary King and co. Ssshh.
 

To listen, hit the play button on the player above or grab the raw .mp3:
http://rowthree.com/audio/Flyway2012/matt-kim.mp3

 

 

VIVIENNE AGAIN: Official site | Facebook
KIM: Twitter | Facebook
MATT: Facebook
Another interview with James Gillham from WhereTheLongTailEnds
Script Chat | (Twitter)
Flyway Film Festival

Flyway Pubcast #5 – Troy Bernier

 
Every indie film maker’s work is tough going and on some level a passion project. They’re doing it because they want to. And every single one of them will tell you how hard they worked on their project and how much love they put into it. But maybe more heart and sweat went into this film maker’s movie than any of the others, with their production of Planet X Part II: The Frozen Moon.

Troy Bernier is co-writer/producer/director on this project and it has come to the attention of Flyway through a documentary (Journey to Planet X) that showcases the hard work these guys have put into their films. Troy was a blast to sit and talk with – almost as much of a blast as his film.

To listen, hit the play button on the player above or grab the raw .mp3:
http://rowthree.com/audio/Flyway2012/Troy-Bernier.mp3

 

 

Relevant Links:
ginfilms.com
Spotify soundtrack
IMDb
Flyway Film Festival

Flyway Pubcast #4 – Philippe Lupien and Vincent Ethier

 
Once again we get some returning film makers to Flyway and each year their stuff gets better and better. So good was their short this year, that it won best short film. And with the fantastic line-up of short films at this year’s festival, that is indeed a true honor. These guys are the most easy-going guys we’ve ever had the pleasure of talking with and it’s so great to have this level of craft at the festival. While it was fun discussing working with The Devil vs working with children, I think the highlight was working on English vocabulary and Matt and Andrew learning hard-core cursing in French. Good times.

To listen, hit the play button on the player above or grab the raw .mp3:
http://rowthree.com/audio/Flyway2012/felipe-vincent.mp3

 

Relevant Links:
Vincent on Twitter | Facebook
Philippe on Twitter | Facebook
Flyway Film Festival

Flyway Pubcast #3 – Xan Aranda

 
Five years we’ve been at Flyway Film Festival and this is the fourth year we’ve downed wine at the interview table with Xan Aranda. In previous years, Xan has been here with her production of a feature film, she’s curated the short film showcase and now she’s in Pepin as part of the advisory board at Flyway. So we get to talk about crowd sourcing, festival whirl-winds, Neko Case, her upcoming controversial religion movie and making a film with an ex-boyfriend. So yeah, it’s fun.

To listen, hit the play button on the player above or grab the raw .mp3:
http://rowthree.com/audio/Flyway2012/xan-aranda.mp3

 

 
Relevant Links:
Xan on Twitter | Facebook
Fever Year
Mormon Movie
Sound Unseen Film Festival
Flyway Film Festival

Flyway Pubcast #2 – Mark DiConzo and Joe Schermann!

 
Super excited to be sitting down with Mark DiConzo and Joe Schermann from writer/director Gary King’s newest picture, a musical dramedy, How to Write a Joe Schermann Song. Gary was not able to make the fest this year, but being a huge fan of Mark DiConzo since 2009’s New York Lately I was really jazzed about getting to hang out with these guys over the weekend. You can hear the clink of beer bottles before the interview begins – welcome to Flyway!

To listen, hit the play button on the player above or grab the raw .mp3:
http://rowthree.com/audio/Flyway2012/joe-schermann.mp3

Relevant Links:
Mark Twitter | Facebook
Joe Twitter | Facebook
Roulette the Musical: Official | Twitter | Facebook
Vote for the film to win a Gotham Award!
Flyway Film Festival

Flyway Pubcast #1 – Rick Vacius

 
Matt Gamble from and I were able to pull away the ever important Flyway Director, Rick Vacius, away from his many fans for a few minutes to talk a little bit about the tough times he’s had to endure both with festival logistics and personal difficulties. Nevertheless, the best Flyway yet is under his control and he talks about how it all came together.

To listen, hit the play button on the player above or grab the raw .mp3:
http://rowthree.com/audio/Flyway2012/Rick-Vacius.mp3

 

Relevant Links:
Flyway Film Festival
Twitter