November 15 is GIVE TO THE MAX day and so I feel that it’s only fitting that I post the highlights from the 2018 coverage of The Twin Cities Film Fest. This year is my ninth year covering this amazing organization and I’m thrilled and inspired to see how much this film fest has grown!
TCFF is SO much more than just a film fest! Yes it is by definition a film festival in the sense that it gives an organized, extended presentation of various films with live screenings in a single city… but festival director Jatin Setia and the outstanding TCFF team has created an organization that not only champion AND support indie filmmakers (MN-based and beyond) but also provide education to youth and emerging filmmakers through its FREE educational programs (Film Fellows, Free Day for Youth, and Filmmaker Academy)!
So click on the banner above and consider donating to this non-profit organization that give local film artists a national voice… by doing so, you’re supporting MN arts and championing indie filmmakers! Yay you!
FlixChatter and team have been busy with reviews and interviews since TCFF 2018 started in October 17. Special THANKS to our phenomenal blog contributors: Laura, Holly, Vitali and Andy, for all your tremendous work watching and reviewing movies! You just have to type TCFF2018 in the FlixChatter search box and voila! you’ll see all of our coverage.
Since the TCFF has wrapped two weeks ago, I think there’s no bad time to post highlights from the 2018 session… on the red carpet, around the fest and on the amazing TCFF Wonderlounge.
This year, FlixChatter also have not one but two great media correspondent interviewing talents on the red carpet!!
Also THANKS also to Nick Raja for interviewing the dynamic duo Tom Arnold and David Arquette for Saving Flora.
Nick also did a red carpet interview with Michael Driscoll, the filmmaker of the stunning b/w noir short TWO BLACK COFFEES. If you’ve missed it, I’ve interviewed Michael earlier this year that you can read here.
There’s some issues to the red carpet video, but you can take a listen to the audio interview below:
Pictures sometimes speak louder than words. So here are some pics from around the fest that give you an idea how much fun we had at the fest!
(click on gallery to see a larger version)
Team FlixChatter – me, Ivan & Holly
With the venerable TCFF managing director Bill Cooper
Nice to have Nick Raja as FC’s media correspondent!
The awesome media producers Ellie & Kirstie + TCFF’s handsome host Shawn Dunbar
On the red carpet w/ Nick & filmmaker Michael Driscoll
Awesome TCFF staff Jesse & Liz!
With TCFF brand ambassador Chari Ackman & producer Steve Elbert
That’s Ben Zuckert, the filmmaker of the indie drama Noah Wise
TCFF Education director Matt Cici at the Filmmakers Brunch
So fun meeting Sanaa Sayyed of SAG-AFTRA Chicago
TCFF hospitality coordinator Charlotte & PR manager Anahita
Always fun seeing this lovely lady & her adorable daughter Roya
Now, every year TCFF always get some awesome sponsors (thank you!) either for the red carpet or for the lounge where the nightly after-parties happen. This year we had the wonderful people at Can Can Wonderland as our lounge sponsors, hence we named it TCFF WonderLounge this year!
My pal Julie T after the screening of ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’
Fun at Industry Night – Holy Batman!
Goofing around w/ Nick Raja
Glad to have my friend Dianne at Industry Night
Always enjoyed running into some of Hearts Want crew (Timmy & Jay) & new friend Justen Jones
Hanging out at the VIP lounge
Hey that’s actor Alex Galick & TCFF’s talented photographer Dallas Smith
W/ my darling hubby Ivan
More fun at TCFF Wonderlounge
Best Halloween costumes ever!!
Awards Night – great running into my friend Heidi (lookin’ bad ass as Black Widow) & her hubby
Congrats Barry Andersson for winning Best Audience Award for The Lumber Baron
One of my all time favorite features at the WonderLounge this year is this fun and addictive SimpleBooth (thanks UptopFilms!) where people can create photo experiences in GIF format with their unique iPad photo booths (can’t you tell I’m having way too much fun w/ it) 😛
Hello FlixChatter readers! Twin Cities Film Fest may have wrapped a couple of weeks ago, but today we’ve got another exciting indie spotlight!
Thank you director Rudi Womack for sharing his insights about his sophomore feature film. Apparently, this is the fifth collaboration between Womack and his lead actor Aleksander Ristic, set entirely in a single room.
Aaron, a petty criminal from the wrong side of the tracks teams with his girlfriend’s brother to rob a pawnshop. When the robbery goes south he barricades himself in a rest stop bathroom triggering a standoff with the police. As his reality slowly unstitches Aaron struggles to balance his unfaltering love for Laura with the inevitability of his situation. Featuring commanding performances from Aleksander Ristic, Angela Nordeng, and Marcus Johns, IN THIS GRAY PLACE is a memorable, beautiful story of a desperate man clashing with destiny.
Director: Rudi Womack (R.D. Womack II) Stars: Aleksander Ristic, Marcus Johns, Angela Nordeng
Interview with director Rudi Womack
Q&A questions courtesy of Andy Ellis
1. What made you want to tell this story? Was it inspired by any other similar movies such as Ryan Reynolds’ “Buried Alive”?
IN THIS GRAY PLACE evolved from a number of different places. I had just finished with my first feature film and was dying to get back onto set. I knew recourses and financing would be limited so from the start the story was going to be contained. I also wanted to explore deeper philosophical themes; fate vs. choice, destiny vs. consequence, and I wanted to push the envelope of what a person could do in order to protect the ones they love. Soon enough the story started to take shape! All the while I referenced several single location movies; as you mentioned, “Buried” was one of them. Also “Detour”, “Locke”, “Exam”, “Circle” (why do they all have single word titles?) I also explored others films like “The Thin Red Line”, “Apocalypse Now”, and what may be surprising to some, “Oldboy”. While all of these films had a deep influence on me I worked carefully to make IN THIS GRAY PLACE a unique experience for audiences.
2. What are the benefits and challenges filming primarily one room creates?
The obvious difficulty is keeping the film visually fresh. You have one man in one location, so you need to think of clever ways to keep it moving without boring the audience. By far the greatest benefit was also the greatest challenge. The majority of the film was made with only myself, the cinematographer, and the lead actor on set. That’s it; just three guys making a movie. Without an entire support team to worry about we could take our time. We’d frequently go for as many as 20 or 30 takes!
Once we did 42 takes. Most independent filmmakers don’t have that kind of luxury. It spoiled me for choice and assured the best moments made it to the screen. But as I said, there were only three of us. Juggling all of the jobs on set between just three people was an incredible challenge. It meant we all had to pitch in and help. I remember once I was applying Aleks’ (the lead actor) make up, then holding the boom pole, monitoring the sound levels, looking through the camera, and since it was a phone call scene, reading the other character’s lines for him! Truly I couldn’t have done it without the steadfast dedication of the team.
3. Ristic is the only actor in the movie for most of it. What was it that made him stand out from the rest of the actors who auditioned?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Aleks on several other projects, so when the story started to shape up he was immediately at the top of my list. I pitched him the idea, he fell in love with it, and we started work-shopping the character. This is the real “audition” period, where you see what an actor can do with the material. You push them to every imaginable limit you can think of. Aleks has this natural ability to embody the character he’s playing; from appearance, to mannerisms, he really explores what makes a person think and act as they do. And he’s not afraid to really “go there”! For example in the tear gas scene, that’s not makeup! All that snot, sweat, tears – it’s gross, but that’s all him, and most actors wouldn’t be able to deliver. And while Aleks will obviously get most of the attention, I was just as lucky to have a rich supporting cast. Working with actors is one of the best parts of this job and it was my privilege to work alongside Angela Nordeng, Nick Moss, Phil LaMarr, and Marcus Johns. All great people who went above and beyond to round out the story.
4. Did you stick pretty close to the script when filming or were there some improv that made its way in there?
Every movie is different. Most the time I think of scripts as ideas and not gospel. IN THIS GRAY PLACE was no exception. Often times we’d get onto set, start working a scene and come up with a better idea on the spot. Sometimes we’d see an opportunity that you would have never predicted just looking at the script. Overall I think we kept most of the script in the final version of the film. The scenes that we did improvise kept the main idea intact, which is the most important thing. Watching a script evolve on set, and then again in the editing room is really a sight to see.
5. It’s broken into chapters. Could you expand at all on what the titles refer to?
This is my favorite question! As I mentioned before IN THIS GRAY PLACE plays on themes of fate vs. destiny but it also has themes of birth. The chapter titles (SPACE, LIGHT, AIR, WATER, EARTH, LIFE) follow a sort of “process of creation” of our universe; I.E. birth. (I also argue that the location itself is a womb, and Aaron’s journey from the start of the film to the end is also reflected in this theme) Within each chapter there is both a physical and metaphysical manifestation of each element. Since I already gave away the tear gas scene let’s talk about chapter three, AIR. In AIR Aaron is literally struggling for air throughout the entire chapter, which is one of many physical challenges he must overcome.
From a character perspective Aaron is realizing the gravity of the situation he is in and is looking for any way out… in essence, he’s looking for a pocket of air. From a thematic point of view we explore Laura’s influence on Aaron’s decisions, and if it was in fact his choices, and not hers, that brought them to this point; and visually we see her referenced with Air several times. Every chapter is loaded with moments like these so I felt it vital to construct the film with this kind of framing device.
6. What’s next for you?
I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire. My next directing project is a proof-of-concept short film about a man investigating the death of his cousin. We’re planning on shooting in March 2019. I’m also lucky to be producing a feature film titled “The Stalking Fields” directed by Ric Maddox, and starring Sean Crampton. It’s an awesome action thriller with a very interesting military twist. This one goes into production in January 2019. Aside from those two I have another half dozen projects in development right now.
As for IN THIS GRAY PLACE we hope to lock down a distribution deal by the end of the year.
Thanks so much Rudi Womack for talking to FlixChatter about your film!
The 9th annual Twin Cities Film Fest may have come and gone, but hey, we still have some reviews to share with you!
MANY THANKS to our blog volunteers Holly, Laura, Vitali and Andy for their great work before and during the film fest! For ALL of the 2018 coverage that include reviews AND interviews, click here or just type TCFF 2018 in the search box.
Review by Holly Peterson
Director: Steven Luke
Before you see Wunderland, you should know that it is more of an action movie than it is an historical drama. The story leads up to the Battle of the Bulge, but the events at the Western Front are very decidedly a backdrop, not a plot. The audience is left following the meandering adventures of Lt. Cappa (Steven Luke), which mostly consists of him speaking in his most gravely voice and pulling his rosary out of his jacket – when he’s not shooting Germans, of course.
The choice to make Wunderland an action movie is confusing because it is clear that the filmmakers did research surround WWII. This was most apparent in the historical profiles of men who fought in WWII that scrolled at the end of the credits, but as far as I could tell, none of those men were characters in the movie which is, again, confusing.
Wunderland is a beautiful movie. Editing is choppy at times, but Peter Wigand has an eye for capturing scenery and does a great bringing the audience into a winter “wunderland”. The score is also great, although sometimes misused. (For instance, there were a couple scenes where the soundtrack playing behind the Germans was so victorious that I started to think that I had missed something and they might actually be Americans.)
The strongest part of Wunderland is the fight sequences. Steven Luke has one great bit of hand-to-hand combat about halfway through the movie and the firefights are fun to watch. It feels a little weird to enjoy watching people shoot each other when you know that the story is about actual events, but, like I said earlier, this is an action movie. It is fun to watch everyone run around in a snowy forest shooting service rifles, anti-tank rifles, and setting up trip wires.
You should see this movie if you want to see some of your favorite Minnesotan actors in action, if you are looking for an action movie with just enough historical reference to give it a little weight, and if you like goats. I’m not even going to explain that one. See it for the goat. Thank me later.
Review by Laura Schaubschlager
Director: Vanessa Magowan Horrocks
Witch follows a babysitter, X, who plays an ongoing game with their ward, Aima, where they pretend to be in a constant fight with an evil witch. Soon, however, the lines of reality blur, and it begins to seem as if their game isn’t as imaginary as X originally believed.
While Witch is listed under the “horror” section on the TCFF schedule, I wouldn’t categorize it as such. While there are some horror aspects to it (especially the character design of the witch), it’s much more of a psychedelic sci-fi fantasy- which is awesome, but I wish I had known that going in, rather than assuming it would be a horror film, since I kind of had to mentally shift gears and adjust my expectations while watching. That said, this is an absolutely beautiful movie. It’s full of dream-like animation, lush set design, and detailed costuming. Even the sound is gorgeous, from the background noises to the score. There are some moments where the music and sound effects overwhelm the dialogue (which is unfortunate, because the script is lovely and really makes me want to read the novella the movie is based on), but overall, this is a stunning film, visually and in terms of sound.
The acting in Witch is excellent as well. The cast is small but solid. The standouts are, without question, the actors playing X and Aima. X is funny and genuine, and Aima is ridiculously talented for such a young actor. The two have excellent chemistry.
While Witch isn’t available for purchase yet, the filmmakers are working with a distributor, so if you weren’t able to catch it at TCFF, hopefully you’ll be able to buy or stream it soon. In the meantime, the soundtrack is available on Bandcamp and is absolutely worth listening to. I sincerely hope this movie is shown at more festivals in the future, because it definitely deserves the screen-time.
Nor Any Drop to Drink
Review by Andrew Ellis
Director: Cedric Taylor
Nor Any Drop to Drink takes a deep look into the problems that caused the water crisis in the first place as well as showing us how much has changed – or hasn’t. The documentary forgoes the tradition of having a narrator guide us through the story, and lets those involved in the fight tell it instead. While there were many captivating moments in the feature length documentary that kept you hanging onto every word, there were also those that made you wonder how long this was going to go on for.
The shining moments belong to the residents for Flint who have been effected by the crisis, and are still paying the price long after the reporters and activists are gone. The film opens on an older African American woman who we see throughout the documentary using bottled water for everything, and explaining the effect the lead-infected water has on the human body overall. Two other women talk about the effect it has on their kids and how it changed one of them to a point where her son is now homeschooled.
Then are the other interviews. These are with government officials and other experts who attempt to explain the circumstances that lead to crisis, and what kept it from being solved. While they were important they were explaining details that most viewers might find hard to follow. They have plenty of expertise, but when they get into the hard details of certain aspects it becomes hard to follow especially with no accompanying visual graphics to highlight key information for the viewer. And in the age of short attention spans it’s an easy way to allow one’s mind to wander away from the screen.
The heart is there. There is no doubt the filmmaker cares about this topic. Unfortunately, passion does not always lead to a well-crafted story.
– Review by Andrew Ellis
Stay tuned for additional TCFF reviews/interviews… as well as two Halloween Specials coming tomorrow and Wednesday! …
Following accolades in Toronto, Peter Farrelly’s drama GREEN BOOK tops TCFF’s 2018 winners. Twin Cities audiences honor local productions “The Lumber Baron” & “Small Town ROBOT” alongside the electrifying documentary “United Skates”
The Twin Cities Film Fest announced its 2018 award winners Saturday evening, recognizing films in ten top categories. The 11-day marathon of movies, educational sessions and industry events, which showcased more than 130 titles and facilitated a broader conversation around the social cause of animal welfare, named Peter Farrelly’s Green Book the year’s Best Feature Film.
When Jeff Tried to Save the World, a lighthearted drama that served as the official 2018 centerpiece, was one of the year’s most honored titles, named as a finalist in three separate categories (Best Feature Film, Indie Vision Breakthrough Performance, Indie Vision Debut Director). Star Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) walked away with the year’s top performance award.
The festival’s top non-fiction award went to Who Will Write Our History? Roberta Grossman’s harrowing account of the journalists, scholars and community leaders in the Warsaw Ghetto who risked everything to secretly document the daily atrocities committed against their Jewish neighbors. The film screened in partnership with the Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival.
The 2018 Audience Awards went to Barry Andersson’s The Lumber Baron, a period drama about the heir to a failing lumber business and the enduring rumors of a treasure left behind by his grandfather; Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler’s “United Skates,” a documentary about the art, economics and underground subculture of American roller skating; and “small town ROBOT,” a locally-produced short film about the acclaimed robotics team at Greenbush Middle River High School and their journey to a world championship to compete against 300 other teams from around the world.
Director Mark Taylor took home the Indie Vision — Debut Director trophy, for his drama Saving Flora, which had its U.S. premiere at the festival last week. Starring Jenna Ortega, David Arquette and Tom Arnold, the film’s story of one girl’s unbreakable bond with an elephant, and her mission to save the kind creature, marked the highlight of this year’s TCFF Changemaker Series. Several of the leading stars were in town to celebrate the debut.
“One of this year’s unforgettable highlights was ‘Saving Flora,’” said TCFF Executive Director Jatin Setia. “The passion of that filmmaking, the broader mission behind its story, and the electricity that was on full display that night in the movie theater, between the audience and the advocates and the visiting filmmakers….that’s everything that makes a film festival special. It’s not just watching a movie — it’s being part of a transcendent experience. It changes you as a person.”
Minnesota filmmaker C.J. Renner was honored with the Indie Vision — Breakthrough Achievement award for his direction of American Tender, a widely praised drama about a robbery, a double-cross and one memorable first date.
“C.J. Renner exemplifies the talent, commitment and energy to be found in the Minnesota filmmaking community,” said TCFF Managing Director Bill Cooper. “And ‘American Tender’ is exactly the kind of homegrown independent project that we’re so proud to celebrate and showcase here at TCFF. C.J. always surprises us, he’s going places, and we’re so thrilled that so many smart filmgoers from across the country discovered his talent right here at the festival this year.”
The 2018 Fun Is Good Bill Murray Comedic Shorts Award went to Matt Hirst’s hilarious 12 Sips to Glory, about one man’s epic orange soda taste test.
Here’s the complete listing of 2018 award winners:
2018 Award Winners
Best Feature Film: “Green Book,” directed by Peter Farrelly
Best Documentary: “Who Will Write Our History?” directed by Roberta Grossman
Best Short Film: “Claire Means Well,” directed by Aaron Gervich
Audience Award, Feature: “The Lumber Baron,” directed by Barry Andersson (Runner-Up: “If Beale Street Could Talk,” directed by Barry Jenkins)
Audience Award, Non-Fiction: “United Skates,” directed by Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler (Runner-Up: “93Queen,” directed by Paula Eiselt)
Audience Award, Short Film: “small town ROBOT,” directed by Joe Brandmeier (Runner-Up: “Claire Means Well,” directed by Aaron Gervich)
Indie Vision — Breakthrough Performance: Jon Heder (“When Jeff Tried to Save the World”)
Indie Vision — Debut Director: Mark Taylor (“Saving Flora”)
Festival hits ‘Green Book,’ ‘United Skates,’ ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’, ‘Boy Erased’ and ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ lead this year’s class
The Twin Cities Film Fest unveiled more than 30 finalists for top awards Thursday. Among the top contenders for Best Feature Film are the new Barry Jenkins drama “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book,” which recently won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and two lauded Minnesota productions: Barry Andersson’s “The Lumber Baron” and David Buchanan’s “Black.” Limited tickets remain available for “Beale Street’s” Saturday debut.
Other notable 2018 finalists include Joel Edgerton’s harrowing drama “Boy Erased” and Marielle Heller’s thriller “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, both nominated for this year’s Indie Vision Award for breakthrough performance, recognizing Lucas Hedges and Melissa McCarthy respectively. (The festival has announced special encore screenings of both films this weekend).
Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler’s documentary “United Skates,” selected as this year’s closing night film, received two nominations — for Best Documentary and Indie Vision Special Achievement, recognizing Tina Brown, Matthew Peterson and Dyana Winkler’s electrifying cinematography. United Skates is playing Saturday night at 7:30PM | GET TICKETS »
Rounding out this year’s Best Feature Film nominees were Kendall Goldberg’s comedy “When Jeff Tried to Save the World,” which also received nods for director Kendall Goldberg and lead actor Jon Heder, and Ben Zuckert’s drama “Noah Wise,” which received a second nomination for musical score.
Actor Bill Murray is serving as a special guest judge for this year’s Comedy Shorts Award. Murray will be choosing his favorite comedic short from the three finalists listed below.
This year’s TCFF slate, which continues to screen in St. Louis Park through Saturday evening, is comprised of more than 130 short and feature films. In addition to staff and audience awards, this year’s Changemaker Award is being bestowed to Rachel Mairose, founder and executive director of the animal rescue nonprofit Secondhand Hounds.
See the complete list of finalists below; for more information on the films and to purchase reserved seats for the final screenings, visit TwinCitiesFilmFest.org.
2018 TCFF FINALISTS
Best Feature Film:
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” directed by Barry Jenkins; “Black,” directed by David Buchanan; “Green Book,” directed by Peter Farrelly (read FlixChatter’s review here); “The Lumber Baron,” directed by Barry Andersson; “Noah Wise,” directed by Ben Zuckert; “When Jeff Tried to Save the World,” directed by Kendall Goldberg.
“93Queen,” directed by Paula Eiselt; “Finding Hygge,” directed by Rocky Walls; “Fire on the Hill,” directed by Brett Fallentine; “Time for Ilhan,” (read FlixChatter’s review here) directed by Norah Shapiro; “United Skates,” directed by Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler; “Who Will Write Our History?” directed by Roberta Grossman.
Best Short Film:
“The American Wake,” directed by Kevin Quinn; “12 Sips to Glory,” directed by Matt Hirst; “Claire Means Well,” directed by Aaron Gervich; “Lunch Ladies,” directed by J.M. Logan; “Two Black Coffees,” directed by Michael Discoll (check out my interview with Michael about the film here); “Sexpert Franzen,” directed by Kaitlyn Busbee.
Indie Vision — Breakthrough Performance:
Adam Christian Clark (“Newly Single”); Jon Heder (“When Jeff Tried to Save the World”); Lucas Hedges (“Boy Erased”); Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”); Toussaint Morrison (“Black”); Sophia Mitri Schloss (“Sadie”).
Indie Vision — Debut Director:
Erik Bloomquist (“Long Lost”); Kendall Goldberg (“When Jeff Tried to Save the World”); Jenna Laurenzo (“Lez Bomb”); James Ojala (“Strange Nature”); Mark Taylor (“Saving Flora”); Kulap Vilaysack (“Origin Story”).
Indie Vision — Breakthrough Achievement:
Sam Boyd (screenplay for “In a Relationship”); Tina Brown, Matthew Peterson and Dyana Winkler (cinematography for “United Skates”); Roxanne Paukner (art direction for “The Lumber Baron”); Vanessa Powers (animation for “Witch”); C.J. Renner (director of “American Tender”); Ben Zuckert (composer of “Noah Wise”).
Comedic Shorts Award:
“12 Sips to Glory;” “Deep Dish Apocalypse;” “Lunch Ladies.”
2018 TCFF Changemaker Award:
Rachel Mairose, founder and executive director of Secondhand Hounds.
CONGRATS to all the nominees!!
Be sure to attend the Closing Night Party on SATURDAY NIGHT at TCFF’s Can Can Wonderlounge!
Since Twin Cities Film Fest always happens around Halloween, there’s always selections that will please horror fans. MUSE is one that looks intriguing for self-proclaimed NON-horror fan like me (as I simply don’t have the nerves for it), as there’s something SO intriguing about Celtic folklore. I hadn’t heard of the Leannán Sí before, which is essentially the mythology of a fairy being who takes a human lover, but I think it makes for a terrifying yet enchanting subject matter for a horror film.
A painter’s life is forever changed when a mythical and deadly spirit from Celtic lore — a Leannán Sí — becomes his muse and lover.
Interview with writer/director John Burr
Interview Questions via Laura Schaubschlager (aka our horror contributor)
1. What about the Leannán Sí appealed to you as a film subject over other potentially more well-known mythical creatures?
It was definitely appealing to share a lesser-known mythical being with my audience rather than a more familiar one, but the way that this particular legend made it into the film was somewhat unorthodox. I knew I wanted to make a movie in the dilapidated lofts in the arts district of downtown LA, and I knew I wanted to have a weak male character inspired by a powerful female. The legend of the LS was something I came across after I already had the framework for this story, and it fit perfectly. It was part happy accident, part the result of being the sort of person that googles “creepy legends” and goes down the rabbit hole on a regular basis.
2. How much of the Leannán Sí in the movie is based on the original folklore and how much is your own creation?
The idea was to take this timeless, immortal creature that adhered to the rules of the original folklore and to place her in a modern setting, but in taking this approach, I found that I was forced to confront certain elements of the mythology and choose how to interpret them. For example, according to Celtic legend, the lover of the LS is said to live a brief but inspired life. Obviously, many would view this as sinister dynamic; in the work of 20th-century poet W. B. Yeats, the LS is presented as essentially a vampire. But I wanted to leave it more open-ended. I wanted my audience to ponder whether they would chose the short but inspired life over the long, normal one if given the choice.
3. This movie’s score is beautiful, striking, and does a great job of setting the film’s tone. What was the process of choosing the music like?
The process really boils down to one thing: work with a great composer. Alex did an outstanding job on our score, and I’m delighted to say that his work has been recognized by a number of the festivals we have played in — we have won awards for Best Musical Score at the Austin Revolution Film Festival, the Sin City Film Fest, and the HorrorHaus Film Festival in LA, as well as receiving nominations from a number of others. The idea was to create a sort of haunted fairytale, with the work of Danny Elfman on similar Tim Burton films as one of the strongest inspirations. He did an incredible job.
4. What kind of challenges are there in incorporating a creature from Celtic folklore into a modern American setting?
To be honest, the question of how certain character traits from this legend might be expressed in modern times did not end with the “brief but inspired life” issue mentioned above. That was something almost entirely related to the protagonist Adam’s arc. But it was also important to consider how to emphasize certain traits in the LS character while still remaining loyal to the mythology. If anything, the present-day setting made it feel even more essential that she be a proactive presence rather than simply the object of a man’s obsession. Casting Elle in the role helped immensely. She’s able to be impossibly alluring in one moment and abjectly terrifying in the next. We were very fortunate to have her in the film.
5. Why did you portray what sounds like a more supernatural/ethereal creature as more human?
The intention was for her to become more and more human as the narrative progresses. I think that our first few glimpses of her make her seem a bit more supernatural, but as Adam starts to truly fall for her, it is important that she feel real to him, and while always being vaguely otherwordly, also display recognizable human traits that he could connect with. As a side note, I also tend to prefer the aesthetic of practical special effects and characters that feel real and tangible, especially in thrillers and horrors. I won’t pretend that there’s not one sequence at the very end in which I wish we had been able to afford some big, crazy stunts, but we’ll just save those for the next one. This was a sexy independent thriller shot in 15 days, not a Marvel movie, and I couldn’t hope for a better result.
TCFF Screening Date:
Friday October 26th, 2018 9:45 PM
Thank you John Burr for chatting with FlixChatter!
Year after year, Twin Cities Film Fest supports women filmmakers, as well as LGBTQ-friendly films. Lez Bomb is written and directed by a woman, Jenna Laurenzo, who also stars in the film, talk about a triple threat! It’s also one of the few indie films playing at TCFF that gets an encore screening. Oh and if you read the interview below, there’s a connection between Jenna and TCFF’s opening night film, Green Book!
Our reviewer Holly Peterson deems Lez Bomb an absolute must-see… “The writing is tight, funny, and relatable, and her direction is impressive.“ Plus it’s got quite a star-studded cast, the likes of Steve Guttenberg, Bruce Dern and Kevin Pollack!
A comedy about a young woman who struggles telling her overbearing mother that the friend she brought home for Thanksgiving is actually her girlfriend.
Review by Holly Peterson
Lez Bomb is a coming out story/comedy of errors about Lauren (Jenna Laurenzo) trying to tell her family that her friend Hailey (Caitlin Mehner) is actually her girlfriend. Unfortunately, Lauren’s parents (Deidre O’Connell and Kevin Pollak) are terrible listeners; the rest of her family is walking, talking chaos; and she’s chosen Thanksgiving as the appropriate moment to drop the “lez bomb”. Lauren tries and fails to be heard through the increasingly unbelievable chaos until she finally finds her moment. Or does she?
Overall, Laurenzo (also the writer and director) put together a great film. The writing is tight, funny, and relatable, and her direction is impressive. This is especially apparent in her direction of group scenes: the audience never loses the thread of the primary conversation or any of the witty one-liners (of which there are many), but the hubbub of the large group still plays naturally in the background.
The cast is subtly star-studded, which makes for a fun group viewing experience. You will constantly be nudging your movie buddy to whisper “HEY, ISN’T THAT ___ FROM ___?!” Aside from that simple pleasure, all of the actors are just good at what they do. Every actor got a fun character to dive into (except Jordyn DiNatale, whose role as a horny teenager escalated way past where it should have and Davram Stiefler, whose unabashed, unwelcome flirtation ruined an otherwise charming character) and everyone (yes, even Jordyn DiNatale and Davram Stiefler) made their characters come to life with a sense of hilarity, whimsy, and believability.
Visually, this is a great film. The shooting style is mostly story-forward, but there are several beautifully shot moments as well. For instance, a perfectly framed close-up of her Lauren’s face when she sprawls out on a bed with her cellphone by her head and a stunning long shot where she walks in front of an ornate building wearing bright red and blue winter clothes.
The comedy of errors element to the script eventually gets out of hand and several scenes at the end of the film are played completely straight (no pun intended) despite the rest of the film being comedically driven. These two things made the end of the movie a little bit harder to track with than the beginning, but the movie is undoubtedly worth seeing regardless.
See it to laugh. See it to star-watch. See it to be glad that your family isn’t quite as dysfunctional as Lauren’s.But whatever you do, definitely see it.
Q&A with filmmaker Jenna Laurenzo
Interview questions courtesy of Holly Peterson
1. Is this movie at all based on real life? I feel like I have to ask when the lead character is named Lauren and your last name is Laurenzo.
I can’t believe you are the first person to ask about the Lauren – Laurenzo connection! The original character’s name was “Katie.” I used the name Katie in the character I played in Girl Night Stand and had planned to carry it over in Lez Bomb. But when Girl Night Stand went viral and there was interest in potentially developing it as a show, Girl Night Stand became separate to Lez Bomb, and I had to changed my name in the script. Since everyone has always accidentally called me Lauren, because of my last name, I thought I would continue to encourage the confusion and just go with it for Lez Bomb. All that aside, yes, there is so much based on my real life in Lez Bomb. How much so? Depends on who is asking. If my family is asking, I say “loosely based upon…” ha!
2. What was the casting process like for this film? There are so many great actors involved!
Mia Cusumano is my casting director and guardian angel. Her and Meghan Rafferty cast the film and they did a spectacular job. Mia has been my biggest teammate and support net from the beginning and her enthusiasm has helped drive this project home! In fact, she’s who got the script into our producer’s hands. We spoke endlessly about the family feeling familiar and the importance of the family chemistry and all those dysfunctional family comedy dynamics that would pop and help heighten the comedy. When Kevin Pollak first said yes, I near fell over in my seat. I rewatched The Usual Suspects before he called to get in the Kevin Pollak zone. When he said, “I’ll see you in a month running around the motel in the freezing cold” (that’s a script reference) I was so beyond grateful.
3. What was it like to write, direct, and star in your film?
It was a lot of work, though I had an incredible support team. From the crew to the cast, there was endless support and collaboration. We had such a tight shooting schedule we had to be precise with every shot. I worked with my acting coach before stepping on set to make sure I knew where I was emotionally each moment, and this allowed the necessary time to focus on the directing. People always ask if I’d do it all again, and I generally say no. But, ask me again in a year when I’ve slept, and it might be a totally different story. I had the opportunity to act in Peter Farrelly’s Green Book which is also out this November. That was an amazing set to be on. In future projects the dream is to act in other’s pieces, and then direct my own scripts.
4. What do you hope people leave this film thinking and feeling?
I want people leaving the theater on a high note, feeling uplifted, and hopefully with a greater scope of compassion and empathy, but also with a sore stomach from laughing. Can I hope for all that?
5. What was the best part of this process for you?
Showing my family the finished film. Steve Guttenberg plays my uncle in the film, and my uncle sadly passed unexpectedly a few months ago. The last time I saw him was last Thanksgiving, showing him Lez Bomb. I am so happy he got to see the film.
TCFF Screening Date:
Friday October 26th, 2018 7:45 PM
Thanks so much Jenna for chatting with FlixChatter!