NBC Mulling 'Office' Spinoff?

off2NBC is rumored to to be in discussions with the creative team behind The Office about the possibilities of a spinoff, according to Michael Ausiello of TV Guide. The plan may involve the introduction of a handful of new characters in the current season, with the newbies to eventually jump to an as yet unnamed series. The network is also reportedly looking for at least one top-tier name to add to the second generation cast.

To further the speculation, I say the spinoff rumors speak to the future of The Office as we know it. With Steve Carell a full fledged box office draw, plus John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and Rainn Wilson making inroads as well, it appears that cast members, if not the entire production group altogether, are beginning to eye the endgame in the foreseeable future. Currently in their fourth season, I could see the team committing to one or two more, with the spinoff as a concession to the network. Five seasons would be a great run, and would increase the chances that they could walk away from the production while still near their prime. Six may be pushing it.

NBC seems hopelessly devoted to all things Dunder Mifflin, to a fault. They suggested the hour-long episodes, which have seemed especially labored. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that the idea for a second Office campaign (or third, in respect to Ricky Gervais) was their baby as well. The writing team of The Office – partly consisting of cast members like B.J. Novak and Mindy Kaling pulling double-duty – is smart enough to know when to ride this thing into the sunset before the show turns into a sad shadow of its former self. If the rumored series takes shape, would they be involved long term or hand it off to pursue new opportunities? Is the spinoff their escape pod?

Posted by Ted Zee on October 31st 2007 | 3 Comments

NBC Holds Tightly to Conan, Says iTunes Could Destroy Video Biz

cob3.jpgDespite Jay Leno’s reported reluctance to leave The Tonight Show and his prolonged success in the time slot, NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker has reaffirmed that his successor, Conan O’Brien, will indeed be taking the reins in 2009. Leno continues to garner high ratings, which had led to speculation that the network would be looking to retain him longer than originally planned, despite having to pay a penalty to O’Brien upwards of 40 million, says AICN. Rest assured that after Tonight, Leno will remain on network TV in some capacity, either on NBC or a rival network – because as a whole, we either don’t like to be entertained, or will laugh at anything.

On the online front: now that they’ve cut ties with YouTube, and their relationship with iTunes set to end in the near future, NBC has launched a public beta of their video site, Hulu.com – offering programming from NBC and Fox, cable networks Bravo, E! Entertainment, FX, Sci Fi, USA – as well as studios Fox, MGM, Sony and Universal. Part of their now irreconcilable relationship with iTunes stemmed from Apple’s refusal to break from their flat rates for downloads when NBC wanted to “experiment” with a $2.99 charge for one show. “It didn’t matter which one it was,” said Zucker, “we made that offer for months and they said no.” He also said that NBC wanted a cut of iPod sales claiming that Apple “sold millions of dollars worth of hardware off the back of our content.” Further distancing the network, he added, “Apple has destroyed the music business. If we don’t take control on the video side, they’ll do the same” to video. (Via iLounge)

Posted by Ted Zee on October 30th 2007 | 9 Comments

Video: Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson Plug Away Without Incident

As a PR move arranged between sister companies Fox Searchlight and MySpace, a lot of noise was made over the past 24 hours for what turned out to be nothing more than a harmless video interview between Wes Anderson and the recovering Owen Wilson for the Darjeeling Limited campaign. Shot in split-screen, with Wes in New York and Owen in Culver City – the video clocks in at just over five minutes.

No tell-all-type bean-spilling from Owen regarding his recent suicide attempt or his recovery – this is merely two old friends joking around and casually plugging their movie. Wes described Darjeeling as “a sleeper” and “the most overtly personal” of his five films. Owen – appearing a tad affected for obvious reasons – said it was his favorite of the pictures that he and Wes have worked together on. Was he sweating out of his shirt?

Owen’s first interview since his release from the hospital was so devoid of revelatory material that the Barbara Walters and Larry Kings of the world have no cause for hurt feelings. Despite that, an article on the ABC News site posted before the interview turned all pouty-mouthed about their exclusion from the party. Correctly assuming the video would amount to “a combination of movie PR, damage control and image reconstruction,” much huffing and puffing was done anyway, essentially over lost opportunities for a scoop coming from a vulnerable celebrity. To which Nikki Finke of Deadline Hollywood scoffs, “ABC News defends the use of journalists for celebrity interviews, claiming the TV newsosaurs have integrity. What b.s.”

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Posted by Ted Zee on October 26th 2007 | 5 Comments

Michel Gondry Gears Up "Auntie" Documentary

mgTo add on to his pile of projects in the planning stages, Michel Gondry has told MTV News of his intentions to release an unnamed film of a personal nature. He said, “I’m doing [a documentary] about my Auntie who has been a school teacher for 50 years. It’s amazing.”

Of course its not a true Michel Gondry joint without some handcrafted or surreal touches, and because many of the schools that his 80 year-old aunt has taught at have either disappeared or are dilapidated, he’ll use some form of visual trickery to fill in the blanks. “We shot [my aunt] on film and [also] did some animation,” said the filmmaker.

The documentary adds another iron to the fire for Gondry, who by some accounts has committed to a Blondie biopic, with Kirsten Dunst allegedly pegged for the lead role (a controversial pick, though Debbie Harry approves). He also had joined two other directors Joon-ho Bong (The Host) and Leos Carax in shooting a triptych entitled Tokyo! (think Paris, je t’aime), in addition to the Daniel Clowes scripted Master of Space and Time. Next project of his slated to hit the screen is Be Kind Rewind, next January.

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Posted by Ted Zee on October 26th 2007 | 0 Comments

Turning the Lens on David Lynch


Filmmaker Magazine talks with a director incognito going by the name of blackANDwhite, a former assistant of David Lynch who was allowed full access to his world – both behind the camera during the filming of Inland Empire and away from it – for an upcoming doc. LYNCH (one), says the nameless documentarian, is “an insiders’s look at the word surrounding David and his creativity.” Intended as a trilogy, LYNCH2 and LYNCH three are still to come.

Posted by Ted Zee on October 24th 2007 | 1 Comment

Scripts for 'Margot at the Wedding', 'Into the Wild', 'The Kite Runner', and 'A Mighty Heart'

Update: The script for P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood has also been made available here. (PDF file)

As Gold Derby points out, Paramount Vantage has an early For Your Consideration site for some of their high profile Oscar hopefuls: Margot at the Wedding, The Kite Runner, A Mighty Heart, and Into the Wild. Pages for each film feature trailers, reviews, screening information, and best of all: final scripts available for download.

Available film pages and scripts:

Margot at the Wedding. Written and directed by Noah Baumbach. Starring Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Jack Black. Script (PDF).

Into the Wild. Written and directed by Sean Penn. Based on the book by John Krakauer. Starring Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, and Catherine Keener. Script (PDF).

The Kite Runner. Screenplay by David Benioff. Based on the book by Khaled Hosseini. Directed by Marc Forster. Starring Shaun Toub, Khalid Abdalla, Nasser Memarzia, Said Taghmaoui,and Atossa Leoni. Script (PDF).

A Mighty Heart. Screenplay by John Orloff. Based on the book by Mariane Pearl. Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Starring Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Archie Panjabi, Irfan Khan, Denis O’Hare, Will Patton, and Gary Wilmes. Script (PDF).

There Will Be Blood. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J. O’Connor, Ciaran Hinds, and Dillon FreasierScript (PDF).
Related: Special preview screening of There Will Be Blood at San Francisco’s Castro Theater on Monday, November 5th. Tempting. (Hollywood Elsewhere)

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Posted by Ted Zee on October 23rd 2007 | 5 Comments

Scorsese and DiCaprio Reunite for 'Shutter Island'

martyandleo.jpgBack together for what will be their fourth collaboration, Variety reports that Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio will work next on an adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel, “Shutter Island” This will make for the third book-to-film project Lehane has set off, following Mystic River and the just released, Ben Affleck directed Gone Baby Gone.

For Shutter Island, a psychological thriller set in 1954, DiCaprio will star as a U.S. Marshall, investigating the mysterious disappearance of a female inmate at a hospital for the criminally insane that presumably fled to the remote Shutter Island. Shooting is likely to begin early next year.

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Posted by Ted Zee on October 22nd 2007 | 8 Comments

Items: 10/22

Mika2Directed by Mike Mills (Thumbsucker), IFC airs Does Your Soul Have a Cold? tonight (9pm ET/10pm PT). The documentary focuses on America’s influence on Japan’s changing views on depression, and follows 5 Tokyo residents using antidepressants. Supplemental to my interview with Mike Mills a couple weeks ago – 2 video clips: Morning routines, and Mika (pictured), one of the film’s subjects. Info/listings.

— Variety on AMC’s Mad Men: both critics and fans “are rabid about the series, holding viewing parties and day-after discussions. The only people who don’t seem to like it, it seems, are real-life Mad men, who complain that the depiction of Madison Avenue is unrealistic.”

— Speaking of the ad world, New York Times on directors moonlighting in commercial work, with Michael Mann and Wes Anderson as recent examples.

— Meanwhile, Anderson’s short film, Hotel Chevalier, intended as a prelude and companion piece to The Darjeeling Limited, will be shown along with the feature film once it hits broad release this coming Friday. The much talked about short (mostly due to a nude glimpse of Natalie Portman) was first released on iTunes.

— Early reports on Francis Ford Coppola’s long awaited Youth Without Youth: lackluster (SlashFilm).

Posted by Ted Zee on October 22nd 2007 | 1 Comment

David Chase Talks 'Sopranos' Closer, Again

chase22.jpgEntertainment Weekly posted an excerpt from an interview (from The Sopranos: The Complete Book, releasing on Oct. 30th), with Sopranos creator David Chase. Just as there is a large contingent of fans that are still pissed over the blackout finale sequence, Chase is increasingly agitated by some people lusting for Tony Soprano’s “brains splattered on the wall.” And he seems closer and closer to throwing up his hands and saying, “Alright, here’s exactly what happened. Will you just let this thing die already?”

Rest assured – with so many moving parts, so many participants in the ending scene – whether it’s an exasperated exec, crew or cast member – someday, someone is going to talk. But after reading this, it’s probably not necessary:

Are they wasting their time? Is there a puzzle to be solved?
There are no esoteric clues in there. No Da Vinci Code. Everything that pertains to that episode was in that episode. And it was in the episode before that and the one before that and seasons before this one and so on. There had been indications of what the end is like. Remember when Jerry Toricano was killed? Silvio was not aware that the gun had been fired until after Jerry was on his way down to the floor. That’s the way things happen: It’s already going on by the time you even notice it.

Are you saying…?
I’m not saying anything. And I’m not trying to be coy. It’s just that I think that to explain it would diminish it.

Not to beat you over the head, but to all that I’d remind you of Bobby Baccala’s line, “In the end, you probably don’t hear anything, everything just goes black.”

Other pertinent bullet points, direct from Chase’s mouth:

— He envisioned the final scene years in advance: “As I recall, it was just that Tony and his family would be in a diner having dinner and a guy would come in. Pretty much what you saw.”

— “Originally, I didn’t want any credits at all. I just wanted the black screen to go the length of the credits — all the way to the HBO whoosh sound. But the Director’s Guild wouldn’t give us a waiver.”

— Chase, effectively unloading his clip: “Meadow may not become a pediatrician or even a lawyer, but she’s not going to be a housewife-whore like her mother .”

From EW, read the full (excerpted) interview with David Chase. Via Time’s Tuned In.

Previously, in an interview released just after the finale: Chase, a little less generous with the hints.

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Posted by Ted Zee on October 19th 2007 | 70 Comments

'Where the Wild Things Are' Script Reviewed


Spike Jonze’s live action adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s children’s book for the ages, Where the Wild Things Are, finished shooting in December of last year, but details on the production have been kept tight to the vest. MTV posted the first still (above) online back in June, but that’s just about all there’s been to consume.

Last week, The New York Post’s Vulture blog learned that author Dave Eggers, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jonze, will be releasing an adult novel based on Wild Things, and the release would coincide with the film’s debut in October of 2008. Now they’ve copped a version of the script written in October of 2005, and have posted a review. Bottom line is that Eggers penchant for nailing “the excitement, small joys, and great disappointments of childhood,” in tandem with Jonze’s well established eye for absurd, visual decadence could cook up something that rivals the impact of its source material. Here’s an excerpt from their review:

Max, the hero of Wild Things, is now an 8-year-old with an absent father, an older sister who’s drifting away from him, a mother whose personal and job concerns leave her little time or energy for the rambunctious boy she dearly loves. Eggers and Jonze — mostly, we suspect, Eggers — touchingly sketch this troubled family unit and carefully track the rising frustration and alarm Max feels as his world becomes darker and more unhappy, until, on page 21, he runs away, climbs aboard a boat, and sails to the island of the Wild Things.

There Jonze’s influence begins to be felt, as the enormous creatures — with names like Carol, Alexander, and K.W. — look to Max as their King, and in a series of marvelous adventures, wrestle tornadoes, eat mud, and tame hawks. Always, though, there’s a subtle undercurrent of menace, and it becomes clear that while spinning a yarn, Jonze and Eggers are also taking us on a tour of Max’s psyche, as he works out so many of the issues that plague his young life.

A mix of live action, “Big Bird sized” monster costumes, and CGI – Wild Things employs the vocal talents of Forest Whitaker, James Gandolfini, Michelle Williams, and Catherine O’Hara, and also featuers Catherine Keener, as Max’s mom on-screen. A heretofore unknown, Max Records (seriously?), was cast as Max, the fictional.

Previously: Katherine O’Hara talked about voice work for the film and iChatting with Maurice Sendak. Also, an on-location report from Melbourne.

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Posted by Ted Zee on October 17th 2007 | 8 Comments

Video: Funny or Die Welcomes Judd Apatow

Note: real talk and colorful language ahead. Video via Cynthia Littleton.

No longer interested in having people leave the house to see their films, Judd Apatow has joined Will Ferrell and Adam Mckay (director of Anchorman, Talladega Nights) in their joint venture video site: FunnyorDie.com, reports Variety. Heralding the online Frat Pack alliance, Apatow said, “Adam and Will and myself have been friends for many years, and we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to create a situation where the friendship could not survive.”

Judd has already been a part of the site in spirit, as outtakes and shorts stemming from both Knocked Up and the Apatow produced Superbad have shown up there, but he’s now a full fleged partner. Look for already shot videos featuring both Ferrell and Mckay on the way, and you can likely count on seeing more friends of Apatow, meaning more R-rated material from Cera, Hill, (Kristen Wiig, please?) and Rogen in the foreseeable future.

For a refresher, many of their friends in the biz can be seen on the Chosen Ones page. Entry level: the 47 million hit, break out performance seen in the The Landlord.

Posted by Ted Zee on October 16th 2007 | 3 Comments

TV Briefing: Creator of 'The Wire' Eyes New Orleans

david.jpgThe New Yorker gives David Simon – creator of HBO’s The Wire – the 11,000 word treatment in a profile that offers up a history of the show, drops details on season five, and follows Simon through New Orleans as he plans his next series – it’s a must-read for serious fans. In the wide ranging piece, the natural-born cynic and former journalist for the Baltimore Sun blasts rival crime dramas, if not most everything else on TV for remaining unable to hold a candle to The Wire in terms of authenticity, saying, “So much of what comes out of Hollywood is horseshit…And what they increasingly know about the world is what they see on other TV shows about cops or crime or poverty. ”

Season five, according to Simon, is about “perception versus reality”–in particular, what kind of reality newspapers can capture and what they can’t.” Simon has taken some of the stories and dialogue from his beat at the Baltimore Sun and used them word for word, demonstrating the same level of realism that citizens of Baltimore have attested to about the show’s street vernacular. The New Yorker describes what will be the final season as “a tragicomic collision between homeless people, newspaper reporters, politicians, and the cops we’ve come to know.” The fifth season will begin airing in January.

As shooting of The Wire has concluded, Simon has been making trips to New Orleans as he maps out his next project. Noting that he was looking at the area as the backdrop even before Katrina, if greenlit, the new project will be “a smaller, more intimate story about musicians reconstituting their lives.” He’s using real musicians as character outlines for his cast – and just as The Wire was as much about the health of Baltimore as it was about intertwining relationships of the streets, the cops, and the politicos – his next series will champion New Orleans. From Simon: “This show will be a way of making a visual argument that cities matter. ‘The Wire’ has not really done that…we’ve been so angry about what’s been mangled in public policy, and what’s at stake, that we really didn’t have time to celebrate what the city can be.”

Also in the works for Simon and co-creator of The Wire, Ed Burns, is an HBO miniseries called Generation Kill, based on Evan Wright’s nonfiction book of the same name. Kill tells the story of the first month of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, told through the eyes of a Marine who was among the first wave of troops.

Stealing Life – The crusader behind “The Wire.” – The New Yorker

More in TV:

— Speculators have been waving red flags about The Return of Jezebel James, a multi-camera sitcom starring Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) for a few months, and now Fox has reduced the order for creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s (Gilmore Girls) midseason series to 7 episodes, down from 13. Alternate source of income for Sherman-Palladino: The Late Bloomer’s Revolution, her film directing debut starring Sarah Jessica Parker.

— Facing the possibility of a writer’s strike (Slate), will NBC turn to episodes of the original UK version of The Office as well as Curb Your Enthusiasm to fill gaps in fresh programming? (TV Squad)

A.V. Club’s early assessment of the fall season.

Posted by Ted Zee on October 15th 2007 | 9 Comments

Director Interviews: 10/13

mister3“I was writing screenplays about pigs. I would sit in my room and write these screenplays about a guy who puts glue on the hoofs of a pig, and then rides the pig up the walls. It was called ‘What Makes Pistachio Nuts.'” – Harmony Korine in a video interview (via Movie City Indie), talking about his 8-year lapse between Julien Donkey-Boy and Mister Lonely. Not much talk in the way of his new film (here’s a few couple older clips) but there’s a Korine-esque tangent of a story that brings Hansel’s (Owen Wilson) tripping “off the southern coast of St. Barts with spider monkeys” anecdote in Zoolander to mind.

Filmmaker Magazine with Craig Gillespie, whose 1st and 2nd films, Mr. Woodcock and Lars and the Real Girl are being released just one month apart from each other. Gillespie compares the formerwhich was turned over to another director (Wedding Crashers‘ David Dobkin) for reshoots – to Lars, with Ryan Gosling playing the warm body in the sex-doll romance.

– Video: everything you always wanted to know about Margot at the Wedding: 1234567infinity. Director Noah Baumbach with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nicole Kidman and John Turturro at the New York Film Festival.

– Video: everything you always wanted to know about The Darjeeling Limited: 123. NYFF press conference with Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Roman Coppola, Amara Karan, and Waris Ahluwalia. Supplemental:The A.V. Club with Wes Anderson.

– Audio: Jeffrey Wells with photographer cum music video, now film director Anton Corbijn – re: his much heralded biopic of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis – Control. Wells is calling the film “one of the finest rock-music dramas ever made, easily one of the most beautiful black-and-white films of the last 40-plus years.”

Posted by Ted Zee on October 13th 2007 | 3 Comments

Interview: Director Mike Mills on 'Does Your Soul Have a Cold?'

Mike Mills, filming Does Your Soul Have a Cold?It’s been two years since Thumbsucker, his feature film debut, but director Mike Mills has been working in film and video – along with a few other mediums – since the early nineties, directing short films as well as music videos for the likes of Air, Pulp, Moby, John Spencer, and Yoko Ono. Most recently he collaborated with Blonde Redhead for five videos. Mike also fronts HUMANS, a Japan-based clothing and graphic art label of his own designs. It was in Japan where he conceived and shot his upcoming documentary for IFC Television.

Does Your Soul Have a Cold? follows five people – Mika, Taketoshi, Ken,
Kayoko, and Daisuke – who are among the first wave of Japanese to adopt
Western concepts of depression and to use antidepressants to treat their
mental illness. Tokyo’s progressive sights and sounds provide a contrast to
the subjects’ daily struggles with something for which they’ve only recently
discovered a term. In providing an empathetic glimpse into the changing
concepts of treatment, Mills creates one of the most unique and memorable
works that I’ve seen this year.

I spoke with Mike about his documentary in a phone interview. You can see more of his previous works at his site. IFC airs Does Your Soul Have a Cold? on Monday, October 22nd.

How did the concept come together?

Over the last ten years I’ve gone to Japan a lot and have friends there, and one day a friend took an antidepressant in front of me. Japanese culture is such an older, more homogeneous culture – you can feel its history when you’re there. So to see this person taking an antidepressant, which is such a Western, American device, it really struck me as a new level of globalization – where global trade, ideas of pharmacology, global economies – literally going inside her body and affecting the most mysterious part of your brain: your sadness. This thing, that somebody who really is depressed is really not in control of, really doesn’t know how to handle, and is at the mercy of. So it seemed like such a fragile place for globalism to be happening.

I just started researching it, poking around, and that’s when I discovered the whole GlaxoSmithKline story of how they went there and how they needed to open new markets, and they started marketing to Japan a lot, and created sort of a buzzword: “utsu.” They didn’t really have a word for depression that everybody knew, and it all of a sudden became a buzzword like “metrosexual” did in the United States.

And Japan, due in part to their high suicide rate, was a high priority target for the pharmaceutical companies?

There’s a really good, old New York Times article on it called “Did Antidepressants Depress Japan?“, and it’s not just Japan. If you think about it, during the eighties and nineties the pharmaceutical companies had a growth market in the United States with antidepressants. And towards the middle of the nineties it levels off. And being a profit-based situation they need to create some markets. So they started going everywhere, and Japan was just one of the many places. And the real problem to them, with where Japan was at, while there’s a lot of depressed people – depression wasn’t something that was talked about or something that people had access to. And that’s why they came up with that metaphor “Does Your Soul Have a Cold?”, or they would call it “A Cold of the Soul.” And that phrase described it really well to Japanese people so they understood what it was. And just that education at the surface of the market, about this thing that I find very true, coming from the perspective that depression is manufactured. It can be, but I think all the people in my film are really dealing with some level of pain that anybody would want relief from.

In the ten years in which you’ve been visiting, at what point did you notice the shift in attitudes towards depression and the use of antidepressants?

Well I just have one friend who I knew was taking them, and that was probably four years before I made the documentary. It kind of just rang in my ears, watching her do that. And through her I knew how shameful depression was in Japan, or any kind of mental problem, is really seen as a failure and a breakdown, and as an American I could relate to that. I think that is really true here too. But it’s even more so there. You see it’s true for the people I was interviewing. For a lot of them, if they told their boss they were depressed, it’s kind of like if you told your boss here that you were schizophrenic. Their boss would be really worried. At the least they’d probably not challenge you, and at the most they might fire you.

What do you think compelled the people you interviewed to be so open with you – a complete stranger with a film crew?

I think part of it was that I was doing the interview, and I came to it being very sympathetic to people who are depressed. I’ve grown up with depression around me and don’t have any judgment about it, and I think that was relatively new to them. So here’s a guy in a position of power doing an interview, and the mood is not that they’ve done anything wrong, and that they’re good people, and that I’m very curious to know how their struggle is going. And I think that really opened the door. They weren’t used to being treated like that.

That was maybe one of the first opportunities they’ve had to verbalize what they’ve been going though.

Yeah, and I think these people that identify themselves as depressed, it’s maybe like a gay person who was out in America in the fifties. If you were out in the fifties, you were sort of an activist. You were willing to risk things and say “This is real. I am here. This is important.” So there’s a piece of that in all those people that decided to be in the film. This other thing is, I told them, “I’m not interviewing any doctors, any specialists, I’m only interviewing people who are on antidepressants.” And they really liked that. I think to them that was very empowering. And for whatever reason they just trusted that and went even farther.

And then there’s another level, that’s sort of complicated, and it was part of the context of the film. It’s that I’m American. I’m a white guy with blue eyes. And some of the Japanese people on my crew said, “You know, if you were Japanese, they would not be telling you all this.” Because it would be so much more shameful. And because a Japanese person would be much more likely to judge them. But they see America as being more progressive in terms of mental health. And in general, since World War II, they yearn for American things and think of it as the future. One of them told me, “Whatever is happening in America will happen in Japan 10 years later.” So, there was sort of a reverse racism thing going on where they were very inclined to think that I was benevolent and helpful because I was American, which I find ironic.

What surprised you? For me, there’s a scene early on where we see their daily routines. You list off the different prescriptions that each of them were taking. Daisuke rifles through a large box of pills and then downs them with Dr. Pepper and alcohol…

With a homemade White Russian; that was one. And I interviewed some other people for the film who took even more pills. And for whatever reason I just couldn’t film enough of their lives, and they didn’t end up working out in the film, but they’re very interesting. I met people that were taking eight pills at a time. Part of that is just the Japanese medical world where if you have the flu, you would go to the doctor and he would give you three or four different medications. With anything, they are prone to taking medicine or believing in chemical solutions to a problem. That’s part of the deal. So when it came to the medication for their depression – when you see Mika take her pills it’s actually at night, so you see her take a sleep inducer, and then a sleeping pill, and then an anti-anxiety pill, and then her antidepressant. And they all tended to take an antidepressant as well as anti-anxiety pills, and they all took sleeping pills. So you only see Ken and Taketoshi take their antidepressants, but if I shot them at night you would also see them take sleeping pills.

Mika - Does Your Soul Have a Cold?Even though you’re dealing with a somber topic, you were able to maintain a measure of warmth and humor throughout. What conscious efforts did you make to balance the tone?

Part of that is just for me. I don’t want to be depressed. And those people, they don’t want to be depressed. It’s hard, talking about all that for them. And I don’t want to work on a film that’s just going to drag me down more than I already am. It’s just self-preservation. And the other part of it – all those people that I interviewed were pretty funny. Humor and laughing wasn’t very far away, even when they were very down. I don’t know what that was about, but I found them all pretty funny in their own way. There’s some levity to be found in all of their lives. I wanted to get away from the cliché of what a depressed person is – stuck in bed, and has slumped shoulders, and is looking down and all that – which is totally true. But there are a lot of people that are dealing with a pretty painful level of depression who are walking around working, eating, having relationships – and that to me is pretty exciting, to portray that. The everydayness of it.

I’ve read interviews in which you mentioned how difficult it was to find financing for Thumbsucker, besides that it was your first feature. It was hard to sell people on the themes having to do with not being able to meet our culture’s norms of masculinity or adulthood. You followed up with an issue that people are even less apt to talk about. What kind of resistance did you encounter this time around?

I didn’t want to have that experience again. This is a different beast because it’s a documentary, and even an expensive documentary isn’t going to cost as much as a narrative film. Thumbsucker started off at three and a half million, and it was very difficult to get that. So when I was at Sundance showing Thumbsucker is when I started trying to get this made and pitching it to people. And I said, “I’m going to make this for $350,000. I’m going to make this for so cheap that you can’t say no.” And I was very lucky with IFC, in that they got it. They were very supportive. I didn’t have to sell it too hard, and obviously they liked the price. They were sympathetic to the whole idea right off the bat.

You’ve said that you tend to pursue projects dealing with things you have personal experience with. Is that a hard and fast rule for you?

I do think it’s true as a director. Making a movie is so hard, you’d better make movies about something you really know about. And even more, it’s really good to make movies about things you need to figure out for yourself, so you’re driven the whole way through. It’s going to make things more crucial for you. So with Thumbsucker, it’s not that I suck my thumb, but that I can totally relate to Justin’s problems and his family dynamic and his relationship to his mother is something that I could identify with in my family. So for me it was a working out of things I was dealing with myself. And then with this film, like I said before, I grew up with people who were dealing with sadness or depression and looking for a way to be happier, and so many friends who were dealing with it. And myself, I don’t take antidepressants, but I definitely have dealt with my own sadness or sort of a chronic feeling of “things aren’t going to be OK.” A lot of my art is the hub of where it comes out of, that feeling that I have. In making this it became more and more clear to me that there was something in me that wanted to ask questions about depression, and the film gave me the permission to do that.

What’s next in the pipeline – a feature or another documentary?

I’m working on a script for my next narrative film and will hopefully start doing that soon. I hope to have a career where I get to go back and forth between doing documentaries and narrative stuff. They really enrich each other for me and maybe I’ll get better at integrating the two into one piece.

Are you going to continue to work on music videos?

I love doing videos. I’m a little spoiled. When I started doing them, for years I got to do videos where you didn’t see the band, and the videos were more stories in themselves. And I love that. I grew up watching videos, and music video directors are people that I consider my peers in a way. But with the collapse of the music industry, it’s really hard to get to do a video that’s in any way experimental or anything more than a publicity piece for the band. You definitely have to have the band doing something. And I never really had to do that, so it’s hard for me. I’m really happy with the five videos I did for Blonde Redhead that are all very experimental, and I hope to find more opportunities like that. I really don’t want to go backwards. Even though I love doing videos I don’t want to step backwards creatively just to be able to do them. I don’t think I’ll be able to do a lot because of the way that I want to do them.

HUMANS is another avenue for you.

For me it’s all really one thing. HUMANS is a way to do all my visual, graphic art stuff, a way to put it all in one basket and make it accessible to people. I do a lot of posters on there that are available for thirty bucks, and that’s kind of the perfect context for me. It’s public, it’s accessible, it’s easy to get. Hopefully it’s as thoughtful and personal and revealing as something you would find in a typical art context. A lot of my HUMANS stuff is dealing with depression, but on a different level. I think that the themes run throughout. It’s all stuff relating to things I know about, things happening in my life, and they just manifest in different ways.

Have people in Japan had the opportunity to see the documentary yet?

To me the project is not done until it’s shown in Japan. It’s just gotten to the point where the people are trying to find someone to sell it to there. I’m hoping that will work out. For the people in the film, of course they want anybody to see it, but they really want it to be shown in Japan. That’s why they made it, to create a difference in the world that they’re living in.

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Posted by Ted Zee on October 08th 2007 | 13 Comments

P.T. Anderson Speaks

pt1.jpgAbout a third of the way into this 20-minute video, Paul Thomas Anderson takes the stage, just after a surprise, world premiere of his new film, There Will Be Blood, at Fantastic Fest 2007 (via Cigarettes and Red Vines). One showing was all it took get the Oscar talk for Anderson and star Daniel Day-Lewis (actually, it was already taking place prior to the screening) and the hyperbole rolling for this work based on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil!, set during the 1920’s oil boon in Southern California. Citizen Kane has been referenced a number of times (Gold Derby), and Cinematical calls it “a stunning surprise…more than a ‘departure’ for the director; it’s a monumental display of ‘evolution’ that’ll wow the established fans and impress a helluva lot more new ones.”

”I was really sick of the way I was writing. Everything looked as though I had written it, and that was a horrible feeling.”

I can’t write up any expectations of There Will Be Blood without a large amount of bias, as the guy is my favorite contemporary American director. The quote above is from a couple months ago, describing the measures he took to create something fresh. The words have been ringing in my head for a while, really wanting to use them as words of advice for a similarly named young auteur with a just released film in the news, who could maybe use a tear-down and restructuring of his aesthetic. But forget the pot shots. Just give me Blood. Please and thanks.

There Will Be Blood will debut on December 26th. Trailer. Original teaser.

Posted by Ted Zee on October 08th 2007 | 3 Comments

HBO Responds to 'Deadwood' Fans Left Hanging

deadwood-dead.jpgUndoubtedly a segment of Sopranos fans are still grimacing over the abrupt blackout of a series closer, but at least they never got the kick in the ass that fell upon Deadwood watchers. Last week, during an interview with Cinematical, Ian McShane divulged the disappointing news: despite HBO’s claims over the past year that two 2-hour movies were still in the pipeline to endcap the series, in reality the Deadwood set was being torn down. Said McShane, “I just got a call on Friday from … a dear friend of mine, who told me that they’re packing up the ranch. They’re dismantling the ranch and taking the stuff out. That ship is gonna sail. Bonsoir, Deadwood.”

In a follow up story, another castmember – W. Earl Brown, weighed in – unfavorably comparing the cut-off to how The Sopranos went out, saying it was “either great or awful (depending on one’s interpretation of it) but at least it got people talking. Deadwood — it just stopped. Just stopped. It’s like never finding out that ‘Rosebud’ was his sled or that Darth was Luke’s father. F*ck.”

If you recall, at the tail end of the last season, Al Swearengen (McShane) and rival George Hearst (Gerald McRaney, in a career performance) were at odds over the ownership of the mining town, ratcheting up tensions towards a conclusion that may have quite literally set Deadwood ablaze. If a revisit is truly not in the cards, HBO is missing an opportunity to go out with the bang that David Chase either didn’t want, or didn’t know how to produce with The Sopranos closer. I’ve got Deadwood in a three-way tie with network mates The Wire and The Sopranos as TV culture-shapers, and as of today HBO is 0 for 2 with a large number of fans on going out on the right note.

Now, in response to a fan’s written inquiry, HBO recalls the rationale for the cancellations of Deadwood and also that of creator David Milch’s subsequent series, John From Cincinnati. Posted in full on fan site SaveDeadwood.net the letter cites a handful of reasons why both series failed to earn new season orders, while offering a glimpse into the decision making processes over at the network when it comes to new and returning shows. HBO says that although they’re “not in the ratings business…each show on the service has to justify its existence since money spent on one show means money unavailable for something else.”

Vulture provides some “PR Flack–to–English” translations of the letter, while taking a few well-aimed swipes at David Milch and a more recent target, Tell Me You Love Me.

Posted by Ted Zee on October 08th 2007 | 19 Comments

Trailer: Will Ferrell in 'Semi-Pro'

Will Ferrell spins the wheel, or completes the Madlib, or fires up the occupation generator – whatever he does to pick his next role. Woody Harrelson, Andre 300, Will Arnett, and Jackie Earl Haley are also primed to don the short shorts. Semi-Pro teaser trailer, via Solace in Cinema & Cinema Blend.

Posted by Ted Zee on October 04th 2007 | 0 Comments