Over at FilmInk, I interview Jessica Leski about her documentary, I Used to Be Normal.
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With James Franco’s The Disaster Artist doing well at the Box Office, and receiving nominations at this year’s Golden Globes, I decided to throwback to 2014 when I had an opportunity to interview Mark himself, Greg Sestero, about his memoir of the same name. This interview was originally published on filmink.com.au.
Since its release in 2002, The Room has gathered a significant cult following that will be baffling to some. Costing a surprising $6 million to make, The Room’s story of a doomed love triangle is besieged by poor dialogue, questionable acting and a larger than life performance by Tommy Wiseau: a man with a patchwork quilt of an accent – he claims to be from New Orleans – who was also the film’s director, writer, producer, lead actor and distributor. It has spawned numerous midnight showings, a musical and even a computer game. It’s no wonder this film has been famously crowned as ‘the Citizen Kane of Bad Movies’
So, how does a film like this even get made? Greg Sestero knows better than anyone. Not only because he’s friends with Tommy, having met in acting class, but he also has the dubious honour of starring in The Room. As Mark, Greg played the love rival to Tommy’s Johnny and utters one of the film’s more colourful lines – ‘Leave your Stupid opinions in your pocket.’ Speaking from LA, Greg admits that at the time, he didn’t know what he was letting himself into.
‘I don’t think I could possibly have imagined such an outcome,’ he laughs. ‘It kind of shows you that you never know what’s out there when you do something.’
His new book, The Disaster Artist, which Greg will be promoting in Australia in July, details the arduous journey to produce The Room and is interspersed with flashbacks to Greg’s early days as an actor and eventually meeting up with Tommy.
‘I was basically part of this crazy experience,’ Greg says ‘I really wanted to share what it’s like to go to Hollywood, try to make a movie, and try to make a career. And I felt this was a great story that captures that.’
Whilst researching the book, Greg reconnected with his old colleagues to get their view on a difficult production that saw everyone expected to be on set regardless of whether they had a scene to shoot that day or not.
‘I think they thoroughly enjoyed it.’ He replies when asked how his co-stars have taken to the book, adding ‘I‘ve got a great response from fans. As well as people who have never heard of the movie.’
And interest in the book is only going to increase with the announcement earlier this year that Seth Rogan’s production company, Point Grey Pictures, has acquired the rights to do an adaptation. Greg, understandably, is pretty excited and admitted, ‘From the beginning, what I wanted when I was writing this book, my ambition was always to turn it into a film. Kind of like Ed Wood or The Great Gatsby.’
The Gatsby comparisons aren’t unwarranted. In The Disaster Artist, Greg, as Nick Carraway, meets Tommy who, like Gatsby, has a past he doesn’t wish to discuss and a seemingly bottomless pocket of money. In one chapter, Greg writes about Tommy buying all his equipment for the film, including needlessly financing a overly expensive bespoke camera which, due to it being able to film in HD and celluloid, was incredibly awkward to use.
With rumours rife of Rogan’s BFF James Franco and his brother Dave, donning wig and accents to play him and Tommy in the film adaptation, Greg is remaining modest about who will eventually step into his shoes.
‘I’m pretty open at this point,’ he laughs, ‘I think it’s all about the ensemble and the cast and how it works together, so I’m pretty open.’
With the book tour going global and the forthcoming film, our conversation wraps up with the suggestion that Greg is looking forward to obtaining some closure and closing the door on The Room.
‘You know what, it’s always going to be a part of what you do because the audience enjoys it so much,’ Greg says. ‘And I think that’s cool. Whether it’s a great film, or a horrible film, if it strikes a chord, I don’t think it’s the worst thing ever. But from here on out, it’d be great to tackle some new projects and take audiences in a different direction. The Room is something that brought me so many cool experiences and I’ve met so many great people, I’m thankful for that. From here on out, I hope it’s just as exciting a run.’
Since the age of 19, with his accomplished documentary about his aunt, Chasing Buddha, Amiel Courtin-Wilson has been swimming through a sea of never-ending work (“I just really love what I do, so I try to do as much as I can.”) When FilmInk catches up with him in Paris, he is working with composer and sound designer Nicholas Becker (Batman Begins), about to board a plane to return to hometown Melbourne as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) for a screening of his new film The Silent Eye, as well as a 10th anniversary screening of his documentary Bastardy.
Running just over an hour, The Silent Eye is a contemplative performance piece that sees Japanese dancer, 72-year-old Min Tanaka collaborating with free jazz pioneer, 88-year-old Cecil Taylor; the pair having known each other for over 30 years. It’s a stripped back affair that contrasts with Amiel’s previous narrative work.
“I’ve been doing these shoots that take years and years, I wanted to do something that was discreet and very contained,” he explains. “I was really interested to see if I could shoot a feature in a few days, in a single room and setting those kind of creative constraints.”
Read the rest of the interview here.
Perhaps all of us at some time have wanted to reinvent ourselves; to be reborn a new person. For former housewife Morgana Muses, the desire came when she was at her absolute worst. Recently divorced and feeling isolated from her conservative community, Morgana, sadly, wanted to end her life. Before doing so, she hired a male escort for one last stab of intimacy. It was from this point onwards her life took on a whole new meaning. Seizing a later opportunity to make an erotic film about her experience, Morgana lit the touchpaper to a new life as a feminist adult actress.
The documentary, Morgana, follows the titular subject as she takes ownership of her sexuality and identity and is directed by Melbourne filmmakers, Josie Hess and Isabel Peppard. Isabel is an award-winning animator whose short Butterflies won great acclaim on the festival circuit. Josie, along with writing and producing the short film Sunroom, has worked on numerous indie erotica projects including Morgana’s Permission4Pleasure label.
“Josie had approached me to direct Morgana’s 50th birthday present to herself, which was to be suspended in a giant bondage installation,” Isabel explains. “It wasn’t something I would have directed, because I only direct my own visions and the stories I write. However, Josie told me about Morgana’s story, that three years ago she was a housewife from rural Australia and now she’s a pornographer and I thought ‘wow, that’s an incredible story’.”
Read the rest of the interview here.
The Space Between is the feature length debut from director Ruth Borgobello and the first to come out of the Italian/Australian co-production treaty signed way back in the ‘90s. A potent blend of second chances, love and stunning scenery, the film is likely to resonate with the Europhiles of Australia.
Filmmaker Ruth Borgobello hadn’t always wanted to be a director. Growing up she had her heart set on being an actress or a writer. Discovering films like A Clockwork Orange and The Graduate in her teens, led her to wanting to study film at VCA. A word from her careers guidance counselor led her down a different path however.
“He gave me a disapproving look,” Ruth explains “and said, ‘if you want to study arts, then at least do Arts/Commerce so you have a back-up.’ I took his advice to heart and ended up at Melbourne Uni studying Commerce, sneaking in a few cinema subjects and getting involved in theatre. Marketing was the most creative of the majors on offer so I did that.”
Read the rest of the interview here.
British actor, Steve Oram, co-wrote and starred in Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers, and has also featured in The Mighty Boosh, The World’s End, and Paddington. His new film Aaaaaaaah! – which he stars in, wrote and directed – is screening this week at The Lido Cinemas in Melbourne. The film, in which the actors only communicate through animalistic grunts, sees Smith (Oram) fall in love with Denise (Lucy Honigman), which pushes him to prove his dominance as the alpha male on the quiet suburban streets of England. The film also stars Noel Fielding, Julian Barratt, and pop singer/actor, Toyah Wilcox. FilmInk caught up with Steve Oram to talk about his unusual approach to storytelling.
You co-wrote Sightseers, and you have a number of other films under your belt. Was Aaaaaaaah! always at the back of your mind? “It’s an idea that I’d been mulling over for ages, because I found it so funny that we’re very similar to apes. Everything about us is so similar! We are primates, but no one references it. So, I had this idea for ages of speaking like apes but in a normal setting. It wasn’t until I got the right story that things started to take shape properly. The idea of doing a very straight, traditional, almost love story – Romeo and Juliet style – but in this brutal way really crystallised a lot of the ideas and themes within the film for me. I knew that I was onto something good when I started talking to people about it, and everyone was saying, ‘That sounds amazing! You’ve got to make it!’ I’ve always been very confident about it. I knew that getting the right cast would make it work. We did it on a shoestring budget, which meant that we had the freedom to do it exactly how we wanted to.”
It’s got a distinct documentary feel to it…you’re almost expecting David Attenborough to narrate the action… “It’s very much influenced by David Attenborough’s documentaries, and the unflinching way that nature documentaries in the ‘80s looked at their subjects. These days, it’s much more anthropomorphized, and there’s this weird music over the top. It’s like watching a drama about two penguins or something. But Attenborough never looked away. He’d just have a slow zoom in on this primate ape that was about to smash the brains in of another ape. It was really disturbing as a kid; I was fascinated by them. [Laughs] It stayed with me for days.”
It’s a very black and white universe in the film, with people brutally forcing their justice on others? “But then so is our culture anyway. When you strip away language, you actually are left with a very brutal culture. Language allows us to feel clever and above the creatures in nature, when we’re actually not at all. We’re just apes in clothes living in weird structures. We have rules and we’re able to kid ourselves that we’re superior. It’s true that anything in the film can actually happen in real life. Some of it is ever so slightly heightened, but it’s all real.”
For the rest of this article, please visit filmink.com.au.
The worlds of genre cinema and roller derby collide this year with the release of MurderDrome: the tale of a Melbourne based roller derby team being chased down by a soul hungry, inline skating demon. Whip It this ain’t. Nor was it a straightforward production; the film’s publicity highlights that this was three years in the making.
The idea was conceived by Daniel Armstrong, the film’s director and writer, who had written a script nearly six years ago “that was more or less a rip-off of The Warriors,” in which a gang of Derby girls comes to blows with gangs of pro-wrestlers and mimes. Although the script didn’t work out, his heroines stayed with him.
Years later and Daniel’s previous attempt at filmmaking almost crushed his spirit for the art.
“Trying to hold down my 9 to 5 job and make a feature film in the lack-of-spare time that allows was draining,” he says. “To have it fall over in post was devastating. I had to sell all my gear to cover debts and essentially shelve the project indefinitely.”
After almost calling it quits, a little bit of time and perspective (“I also got bored,” he explains) helped him make the decision to pick up a camera again. This time he would try an ‘80s style slasher: “I recalled my roller derby protagonists and it was like ‘EUREKA – a roller derby slasher film!’”
Having had his fingers burned with his previous film, Daniel understandably wanted to keep things as simple as possible to ensure a smooth shoot for all. Rather than a feature length affair, MurderDrome was intended to be a five episode web series that would have been quick and easy to achieve. With a script that was roughly 20 pages, Daniel went into pre-production, and it was during the auditions that he met Louise Monnington who would co-star in the film as well as act as Derby Advisor and Script Editor.
The rest of the interview can be read at FilmInk.com.au.
About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.
If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.