TCFF 2017 Interviews: Lea Thompson, Madelyn + Zoey Deutch AND filmmakers/ musicians Jack & Kitty


There are SO many things going on during Twin Cities Film Fest! It’s fun to see filmmakers and talents coming to present their films and see them do the red carpet interviews! This year I’ve a couple of bloggers helping me out not just in reviewing stuff but also in doing interviews. That’s super helpful as I can’t be in two places at the same time (can someone invent something that enables us to do that?)

In any case, thanks to FlixChatter’s blog contributor Andy Ellis, we’ve got an interview with Lea Thompson and Madelyn and Zoey Deutch, her two daughters and fellow collaborators in The Year of Spectacular Men. So the film is Lea’s directorial debut based on Madelyn’s script and the three starred in the film together.

Andy w/ Lea, Madelyn & Zoey on the red carpet

Take a listen to Andy’s interview below:

 


I first met filmmaker Jack Norton when his documentary Jug Band Hokum was playing at TCFF in 2015. I’ve seen Jack & Kitty at various events and film screenings since, but it’s so cool to see them back at TCFF, this time as musicians!

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Jack and Kitty are high school sweethearts that play Organic Vaudeville and Jug Band Folk for All Ages. They are an Emmy Award winning musical duo that also makes critically acclaimed films and television. Based in Minnesota, they love to perform concerts nationwide and play a variety of folk instruments including: banjo, guitar, ukulele, washboard, jug, kazoo, harmonica, whizbang, rumba box and much more. The Minneapolis Star Tribune hailed them as “one of the most entertaining groups in the midwest!”

I remember that when I talked to Jack a few years ago how much he admired filmmaker Sean Baker (who made his breakthrough with his film Tangerine, shot entirely on an iPhone). So I’m so thrilled that he ended up working with him on his new film The Florida Project, starring Willem Dafoe!

Take a listen below on how the collaboration got started… and also specifically about their music.

Check out their Facebook page for events in the area and around the country. Subscribe to their YouTube page too, while you’re at it.

Watch them share their incredibly inspiring story of how they went from homeless to having four songs in THE FLORIDA PROJECT.

Jack & Kitty are the loveliest, funnest people you’d ever be blessed to meet, so thank you guys for chatting with me!


Stay tuned for another interview post tomorrow with Victor’s Last Class’s filmmaker Brendan Brandt … thanks Laura Schaubschlager!


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Highlights from TCFF 2017 Opening Night… BREATHE, THE FLORIDA PROJECT & THE YEAR OF SPECTACULAR MEN

It’s that time of the year again folks! Yep, it’s the time when I basically made Showplace ICON at the West End as my second home for the next eleven days. And for the eighth year in a row, Twin Cities Film Fest always opens up with a bang! This year we’ve got such a strong line up that there are not one, not two, but three strong films playing on opening night… Breathe, The Florida Project and The Year of Spectacular Men.

I saw Breathe and The Year of Spectacular Men practically back to back, but before I get to the films, I also got to interview talents (one of the major perks of a blogger’s life!), and even better if the talents are your friends!

I haven’t got a chance to transcribe the interview just yet (I got home around 11:30 and had to work the next day), but for sure it’ll be posted in the next few days. Congrats Jack & Kitty! How awesome that director Sean Baker himself picked the four songs they wrote to be in The Florida Project! Stay tuned on how that came about in the interview!

I wish I could be at two places at the same time! I was hoping I could do the red carpet interview w/ Lea Thompson and her two daughters, Madelyn and Zoey Deutch, but I was still in the theatre for Breathe. Thankfully, my guest blogger Andy Ellis was able to do it… so hopefully we’ll get the interview in the next few days.


Films based on a true story is a dime a dozen in Hollywood, but once in a while comes along one that truly tugs your heart strings. Breathe is Andy Serkis‘ directorial debut, who’s best known for his mo-cap work for Lord of the Rings and the ‘Apes’ films. Featuring two extremely talented performers, Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy, this film not only inspires but also sweeps you off your feet with its beauty. Beauty in terms of the visuals of the English countryside and Kenyan landscape, but also the beauty of the human heart.

Garfield portrays Robin, a man stricken by polio at the age of 28, which left him paralyzed. But with the help of his loyal wife Diana and his caring family and friends, Robin is able to not only survive but truly live. The film perhaps feels decidedly old school and unabashedly sentimental at times, but I was engrossed throughout by the performances. It’s not all gloom and doom despite the protagonist’s grim prognosis, thanks some bits of humor peppered throughout. I enjoyed Tom Hollander‘s performance as well playing Diana’s twin brothers.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Garfield as another Oscar contender next year, it was such a genuinely moving performance given the confines of his physical limitations.


The Year of Spectacular Men

I remember chatting to Lea Thompson last year when she came to visit TCFF and how excited I was when she said she’s making her first film! Well here we are… it’s so cool that TCFF goers are the first ones to see this. It’s so new there’s not even a trailer yet!

Talk about #womeninfilm… not only did Lea directed this, it’s also a family project with her two daughters Madelyn and Zoey Deutch. Madelyn wrote, star and scored the film as well, and her husband Howard Deutch produced the film. The story is about a young girl struggling to navigate life after graduating from college. So it’s a Millennial movie, but the themes of ‘trying to find answers’ and ‘wanting real human connections’ are something we can all relate to no matter how old we are.

The script is brutally honest and not afraid to show the pain and absurdity of millennial dating life. The two sisters have an effortless chemistry together, and the the joy and pain of sisterhood is genuinely moving. I like the scene towards the end where the two sisters laid down on concrete in front of their apartment and yelled out things that have caused them pain. During the Q&A, Lea revealed that is her favorite scene to shoot.

Madelyn’s certainly a talented writer, and like their mother, both Madelyn and Zoey have good comic skills. It’s so inspiring to see a family come together and make art together, it’s fun seeing the three of them come up for Q&A after the film. What a great film to end a strong opening night… I love that TCFF continues to support and encourage women filmmakers!

Q&A following the screening

What’s in store for Day 2

Well I’ll be seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, starring another actress from Minnesota, Rachael Leigh Cook. It’s a Shakespeare adaptation set in modern-day Hollywood, where bold declarations, idiotic miscommunications and wandering amorous eyes feel right at home. That’ll be quite a contrast to the documentary A Human Flow which centers on the global refugee crisis – the greatest human displacement since World War II.

So, stay tuned to more daily TCFF coverage!


Guest Review: Why Him? (2016)

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After being underwhelmed by the last holiday comedy I reviewed (Office Christmas Party), I was not particularly enthusiastic about seeing another one- especially one written by Jonah Hill and starring James Franco. Not that they aren’t both talented, but the majority of their collaborations have been stoner comedies, which have never really been my thing. However, while this movie wasn’t comedic genius, I still enjoyed it more than I expected, thanks to a strong cast of genuinely funny actors.

Why Him? follows Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston), along with his wife Barb (Megan Mullally) and their teenaged son Scotty (Griffin Gluck), on their visit to from Michigan to California to celebrate Christmas with their daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) in order for her to introduce them to her boyfriend, gaming app mogul Laird Mayhew (James Franco). To say Laird is eccentric is a major understatement, and despite his best efforts to earn Ned’s approval, the protective father can’t understand what his daughter sees in him.

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While the film won’t be a classic by any means, it did get a lot of solid laughs throughout the screening. This is mostly thanks to a performance by a strong cast. The highlight for me was Keegan-Michael Key as Gustav, Laird’s personal assistant/life coach-type person, who cracked me up every time he was on screen. The rest of the actors were great as well; Megan Mullally was hilarious as ever, Bryan Cranston brought not only plenty of humor to his role but also some genuinely heartwarming moments (due to some great father/daughter chemistry between Zoey Deutch), and even James Franco as Laird was likable in his eagerness and genuine excitement to get to know his girlfriend’s family, even if the foul-mouthed, loveably clueless character wasn’t much of an acting stretch for him.

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This movie’s problem is that the plot isn’t original-the “overprotective parents meeting the significant other who’s not good enough for their child” storyline has been done multiple times- and if a film is going to have a clichéd plot, it had better have either a new take on it or exceptionally funny writing, and this had neither. The ending was predictable, and while the writing wasn’t bad, I couldn’t remember a single joke or one-liner from it. Fortunately, the actors were able to work well with what they were given, but it wasn’t enough to save the movie entirely.

If you’re a big fan of any of these actors, Why Him? might be worth checking out; otherwise, I’d wait until it’s available at Red Box or on TV/streaming.

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Have you seen ‘Why Him?’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Interview with Lea Thompson on ‘The Trouble With the Truth’, career longevity in Hollywood and her directing debut

Though it hasn’t officially starts until October 19th, the festivities of Twin Cities Film Fest has begun! Last Wednesday I got the chance to meet Lea Thompson just before her MN theatrical premiere of her indie film The Trouble With The Truth. I got to meet both Lea and the film’s writer/director Jim Hemphill, here they are at red carpet that night:


I’ve posted my interview with its director Jim here if you haven’t read it yet. I’m glad MN film fans got to see the film on the big screen, and they did a Q&A afterwards.


Thanks to Dallas & Jake for the great shots!


Meeting Lea was definitely the highlight of my week! I was waiting for her at the Showplace ICON lounge waiting to talk with her and was chatting with a couple of people when she approached us. Being from Rochester, Minnesota, she certainly still has the warm Midwestern manner. It’s so lovely meeting her, I mean I grew up watching her films in the 80s… All The Right Moves, Back To The Future, Some Kind of Wonderful, etc.  It’s been three decades since her big break in Back To The Future, yet she still looks as beautiful and youthful as ever, she didn’t look a day over 35! But it’s her wonderful, warm personality that will make me a fan of hers forever.

Speaking of Back To The Future, that very movie was playing on one of the TVs right above us. How cool is that! So here’s the transcript of my interview with the Lea:

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Let’s talk about The Trouble With the Truth. I love your role as Emily. I find that as a female audience, I find that there are so few meaty roles for women out there. She’s not just the girlfriend, or the wife of so and so.

It definitely was a meaty part. When I got the script, I couldn’t put it down. I just couldn’t believe someone had written a part that interesting. I mean, her perspectives keep changing. At times it seems like a male perspective, and sometimes he’s got the more female [perspective]… So it’s very interesting which is like real life, because people often want to put us into little pigeonholes, but all of us are a lot more complicated than that. So it’s very rare to get great parts like that.

lea_sally_cabaretI’ve had four really great parts in my career. One is Lorraine from Back to the Future, this one [in The Trouble With the Truth, I’ve done Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway, and also the role in a TV movie called The Substitute Wife. So those are my great parts.

I also think Amanda Jones in Some Kind of Wonderful is a pretty great part. I mean initially you think she is this way but she has a certain depth the more you get to know her in the movie.

Yeah, Some Kind of Wonderful is close, but not as great as those other four. I do love that movie.

It is timeless. As a lot of John Hughes’ movies are.

It is. People love it. People love the music, the costume, etc.


So back to The Trouble With the Truth. Is it because of the strong female role that made you want to sign on as producer?

Yeah. I helped cast it, I helped getting it together in some way. So yeah, I’m proud of that. I’m really proud of this film. Y’know, it’s hard to get films that weren’t made by studios to be seen by people, so it’s great to have these independent film festivals where they embrace it. They get people a chance to see it, talk about it, discover new filmmakers and meet new filmmakers. It’s so exciting and I’m so happy that the Twin Cities has a film festival now I spent time at the Guthrie, the Children’s Theater, MN Dance Theater, Chanhassen Dinner Theater, the MN Orchestra is wonderful, so it’s great to see films celebrated too in MN.

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There’s a lot of dialog and long takes in this film. How do you approach a role like this? Was there any improvisation or ad lib at all?

There’s hardly any ad-lib, it’s all script. There’s only tiny bit parts when we got up and move to a different location, there’s a bit of improv there, but we stayed to the script. The process was that we rehearse every day for like 2 hours. I mean the shooting was fairly simple but the takes was like 12 minutes long. The takes was hard but it was fun. They had a camera on hand and a camera on me, so it was easier to improv things, not on the words but on how you act it. I can laugh in one take, and cry in another in the same place. So I don’t have to do the same things all the time.

I have to mention Caroline in the City which I love.

Oh thank you, thank you.

You worked on another TV series, Switched At Birth [on ABC Family], which was on fairly recently.

Yes, I’ve been doing that for the past five years. We still have 10 more episodes they’re going to air in January.

Is that season 6?

Yes and I directed the 100th episode which was really nice.

Between working in TV and movies, which one do you prefer?

Oh I’m happy to get whatever job I can get. I mean, I’m directing TV stuff, I’ll be directing The Goldbergs [ABC] in two weeks, and I’m also acting in Scorpion [CBS]. I also just finished my own independent film The Year of Spectacular Men.

I was just going to ask you about that.

So yeah, my daughter Madelyn Deutch wrote The Year of Spectacular Men, she also starred it in and scored it. My other daughter Zoey is starring in it along with myself. It’s a family project and I spent the last year doing that.

Lea with her daughters Madelyn (L) and Zoey (R). Photo courtesy of Huffington Post

Is it too early to talk about the synopsis of it?

It’s about a young girl struggling to figure out what life is after graduating from college. So it’s a Millennial movie. It’s also a story about sisterhood, it’s a love story between two sisters and five horrible boyfriends. Something everybody can relate to.

Is your husband [Howard Deutch, who directed Lea in Some Kind of Wonderful] involved at all in this movie?

He’s a producer, but he doesn’t do too much. I kept him out of the way.

Now that you have two of your daughters in the business. What tips did you give them when they told you they wanted to act?

Well it’s an ongoing thing. I’m always giving them advice, I’m kind of their acting coach. Y’know, we’re kind of contemporaries, we’re at times doing the same job. I’ve been through what they’ve been through or what they’ll go through. I know the ups and down of the business, so it’s nice in that way. I think a lot of people like to hire children of people who have had some success as the kids know it’s work and you have to keep at it. You never just get your big break and everything’s gonna be great. Look, we’re doing an interview under Back to The Future playing on TV right now. I did that 31 years ago and I’m still out here handling my movie that I’m doing.

It’s a testament to your talent and the fact that you’re so prolific in the business!

It’s about the work. It’s not about the fame and all that stuff that’s fake. It’s all about the people you meet and get to meet, the audience. I mean without art, the world is gonna be a complete disaster. We need to make people compassionate, we need to make people feel things, to help people understand how another person live and not be so quick to judge. Artists and stories are super important and I feel that it’s a noble profession. I feel honored that I get to do this for 32 years… no actually I started my first ballet I did here in MN when I was 11. So it’s been 40+ years that I’ve been in the biz.


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THANK YOU so much Lea for taking the time to chat with me.
It’s such an honor and privilege meeting you!


Hope you enjoyed the interview! What’s your favorite Lea Thompson role(s)?