Interview by Camden Ferrell
In anticipation of the release of his film Nine Days, disappointment media got to sit down and talk with writer-director Edson Oda. In the interview, we discuss the film's ambition, working with such a star-studded cast, and more. Check out the interview below and watch Nine Days in theaters now
Interview by Sean Boelman
Having directed the indie darling Blindspotting and having since released the Disney animated hit Raya and the Last Dragon, filmmaker Carlos López Estrada’s second feature Summertime (which was made before Raya) is finally making its way to U.S. audiences on a wider scale. We at disappointment media got the opportunity to speak with Estrada about his wonderful mosaic of spoken word poetry set in Los Angeles in anticipation of its release. Check out the interview below!
On Spoken Word Poetry
disappointment media: This is your second film to use poetry as a medium of storytelling in film? What do you think of the use of that as a whole?
Carlos López Estrada: You know, my life has surprisingly led me into this community of spoken word artists. And it was unexpected, it was not a community that I belong to. Like, my upbringing was so far from that, I was born in Mexico City. But I sort of, like, found a place in it, and I am so happy to be surrounded by so many wonderfully talented artists, a lot of them young, and they've all taught me so much about creativity and about art, about activism and organizing, and like the responsibility that we have with our work as artists, as creative people. So I've kind of taken it as like a personal mission to just do anything within my power to help support this community because it's given me so much. And I feel like so many other people, like myself can benefit from learning about them. So, you know, Summertime is just an excuse to do that, to try to introduce as many people as possible to them.
disappointment: You mentioned some of the young talent in the film, and they're amazing. How did you find these specific people featured in the film?
Estrada: So we worked with a nonprofit organization called Get Lit from Los Angeles, and they work with local high schools, essentially promoting literature through spoken word poetry. And because they work all across the school district, the makeup of the group is like incredibly diverse and eclectic, and from every single neighborhood of Los Angeles. So I was introduced to the organization by a friend, they invited me to a spoken word showcase. And from there came the idea to try to adapt that experience into a movie.
On Capturing This Community in L.A.
disappointment: One of the things that really stood out to me about this film was that there were so many characters, but they were all very fleshed out and felt lived in. How did you work to create these?
Estrada: I'm so glad that you say that. Because that was definitely what we wanted to accomplish. It feels like that because the poets really put their personalities into them because they created the movie with us. It wasn't like I came in and gave them a script and said, "Hey, learn your part and let's develop your character." This was really them sharing their poetry. This was them giving us an insight into their lives. Like many times we shot in their houses, we shot with their family members, with their friends. And they're the authors of the movie, it's their film, and we got to create it around them. So that's really sort of why I think it feels so real, is because, you know, they're not playing characters. They're just playing versions of themselves, and they're exploring things that are important to them.
disappointment: What was the difficulty of telling so many stories in a single film?
Estrada: So many difficulties. Well, first of all, just because we had the summer and only the summer to workshop the movie, because many of them were graduating high school, and were sort of like going all over the place afterwards, whether it was work or whether it was school. So if we wanted to make the movie with this group of people, we had to shoot it over the summer. And this was April when I first met them. So that gave us only a handful of months to develop, to script, to rehearse, and to shoot the movie. And there were so many people involved. So it was really a series of summer workshops every day for about two and a half to three months, we met, sometimes as a group, sometimes with individuals, sometimes in smaller groups. They would bring poetry, we would put it up on boards and find a way to put it all together. Like figure out what locations we wanted to shoot in, in a map of LA, figure out where each poem would fit and how we would move through it. So there was no one formula of like, "This is how we did it." I feel like every interaction with each of the poets was different. And every scene required such different tools. Like, we were in a new location, we were with a new cast you know, many times the tone of the movie shifts a little bit depending on who you're following. So I think that it's chaotic, but I think that's what hopefully gives the movie its personality.
disappointment: Do you have a specific performance or performances in your film that you would call your favorite?
Estrada: Um... there are so many. I mean, there's one by a poet named Marquesha, towards the end of the movie, where she confronts an ex=lover about, you know, some kind of like trauma that had been built up in her. And that scene just hits me every single time and filming that scene was such a memorable experience. And Marquesha is just such a brilliant, brilliant poet and performer, so I would say probably that one, but I do think I've gotten really close to the poets and I feel like every single scene comes with like a history of how it came together, how we shot it, what it meant to the poet, so it's multifaceted.
disappointment: So there are a lot of scenes that are based on individuals, but there are also a lot of them that come together, like the scene in the burger joint. How did you capture this feeling of community within the poets?
Estrada: I mean, I think it was mostly what you just said. Rather than like creating it, it was just capturing it just because this community already existed, these poets had been performing with each other for years, some of them grew up together, some of them have known each other for over 10 years. So there's a bond and there's a familiarity there that is really sort of like the essence of this community. And we just tried to create that as much as possible. through the poetry through the scenes, bringing them together, and also on the shoot. Like the poets would show up on set on days that they weren't even shooting, they would just show up to hang out, they would run lines with each other, they would rehearse the poetry, they would give notes, like performing notes, to each other. So it was in front of the camera, and behind the camera, there was a real feeling of community that I think is really sort of like the magic behind the film.
On the Meaning of Summertime
disappointment: The film is obviously a love letter to Los Angeles. Do you have a favorite part of the city of Los Angeles? Like just a favorite thing about it?
Estrada: Oof, that's... what is it, what is, what is it? I think I love locations or events that present opportunities for this kind of intersectionality. So whether it's a Dodgers game, or whether it's a protest, or sitting out in the park, like in Echo Park, and just like being hit by all these different stories and kinds of people with different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities. I feel like, a lot of cities do that, but LA just is so vivid, and the amount of languages that you get to hear, the amount of kinds of music that you have to hear, if you drive across the city, the kinds of food that you're exposed to. So I don't know, I think that's what I love the most about the city, just when you're out in public just like being in this constant state of getting hit by stimuli and learning so much about people whose cultures are foreign to our own.
disappointment: Several of the performances in the film deal with some very weighty and timely issues. What were some things that you hope that this film contributes to the conversation about?
Estrada: I just feel like it's a place where so many important voices, so many important stories intersect. And I feel like what that initial poetry workshop did for me, and what I hope the movie does is just generate a lot of empathy in people who watch because I feel like many times, myself included, we get to experience life through a singular perspective that doesn't often leave room for other voices to affect or impact. And what I think the movie does is show you one city, especially a city that I think a lot of people feel like they know really well just because it's been documented so much in movies and media. And it gives you so many different layers and nuances to something that we believe to know well, so it shows you 27 different points of view of how to understand the city differently, and how people in the city are existing, the problems that they're dealing with, the things that excite them, things that confuse them. So I feel like what it did for me is that it really brought the city to life. And it showed me nuances and layers to it that I believe are so important. So I hope that people who get to see it have a similar experience and that they welcome this chaos and learn to embrace it and appreciate it and enjoy it.
disappointment: One of the things that really stood out to me about this film is how there's so much Latino and other people of color representation in the film. Why do you think that minority stories like this are so important to be heard and seen?
Estrada: Just because they haven't been heard and seen for a really long time. And I think we're entering an age where that is not excusable anymore. And I feel like people are just really committed to bringing stories that haven't occupied the mainstream into the mainstream. And, you know, I'm definitely one of those people. And I feel like for the same reason we were speaking about earlier, I feel like we live our lives with such a singular vision that is not very often challenged, or, like complemented by other points of view. And I feel like just pushing to make movies and to bring stories to light where perspectives are different from our own, and perspectives that haven't really been given as much importance as others are being highlighted are just so important, because it makes our life and our point of view so much more layered and interesting. So I don't know, I find that to be sort of a big part of who I am as a person and as an artist, and I feel like I'm here because people that I looked up to did the same kind of work and inspired me a lot. So I'm hoping that by doing this work, you know, I can also pass that along to other people who may also be as passionate about this as I am.
disappointment: This is like a community that isn't really highlighted a lot, a lot of people don't know about it. What do you hope that people come away from the film knowing about this community?
Estrada: I hope that their interests are piqued and that they find ways to get engaged and find ways to follow and find ways to support these artists, the organization that we're working with, and I mean, this one's very particular to LA, but also the spoken word community, in the States and across the world is like growing and growing and becoming more prominent. And, you know, we saw in the inauguration speech this year, we see it more and more in movies and TV. And I think, you know, if people watch the movie and and get excited about this, this sort of art form, then I think they should try to look at their local organizations, see what are the personalities and the names and the people that are supporting these artists and become involved. Because I think, at least for me, it's been a very rewarding experience.
Summertime hits theaters on July 9.
By Camden Ferrell
Few people have had as consequential an impact on music as Brian Wilson. Through his work with The Beach Boys and his solo work, he has crafted a legacy that has lasted generations. He is the focus of Brent Wilson’s newest documentary Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road which is premiering at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. We at disappointment media got the opportunity to attend a virtual press conference with director Brent Wilson, Rolling Stone editor and Brian’s longtime friend Jason Fine, as well as the one and only Brian Wilson. Here’s what we learned.
Brent Wilson met Brian Wilson while working on his previous film Streetlight Harmonies, and after becoming close on set, Brent wanted to make a movie about Brian. Brent mentioned that Brian has had many things written about his career but this “incredible third act [Brian] was having in his life” hadn’t properly been captured yet. He wanted to create an “intimate” film that would show us a different side of the musician. He then got the thumbs up from Brian and his wife, Melinda. From there, Brent was recommended to meet with Fine who wrote multiple articles about Brian and was also great friends with him.
For his article Brian Wilson’s Better Days, Fine drove around L.A. with Brian for 3-4 days, and Brent wanted to capture that type of conversational intimacy. When asked about how it felt filming, Fine mentioned that aside from the myriad of cameras in the car, it all felt “natural”. Fine said that he and Brian have been driving around L.A., listening to music, and going to eat for years, so there was no pressure when filming the movie over the course of three weekends. Brian has a lot of history and memories embedded within the city, and Fine noted that driving around with him felt significant due to Brian’s past with the area. Throughout the interview, they banter and reminisce a lot about the restaurants, the beaches, and even a party with Paul McCartney.
When asked why he agreed to the movie, Brian said he didn’t really know; he just made up his mind on it. Although, he does concede that Fine’s involvement was also a factor in his decision. Throughout the film, Brian and Fine are driving and listening to music. This music includes some of Brian’s work as well as the music of his brothers Dennis and Carl. He enjoyed the experience of hearing this music with his friend, and it was clear in these moments in the interview that Brian and Fine had such great chemistry and camaraderie.
As filming wrapped, there was roughly seventy hours of footage. When asked how one condenses that much footage to ninety minutes, Brent simply responded, “painfully”. While they all laugh at this remark, Brent proceeds to talk about how it genuinely hurt him to cut so much footage. There were a lot of “beautiful” moments that he wanted to keep in, but he also knew his film had to breathe. He talks about the “quiet” moments of the movie where Brian and Fine aren’t talking and how it was important to the final product. They spent three months sorting through footage before even editing the movie, but Brent mentioned that focusing on the juxtaposition between their interesting conversation and the more reflective silences was a tough but proper choice.
Fine remarks that seeing Brian in this casual environment, the viewer gets to see the “courage”, “humor”, and “strength” he has as a person. He says people know the music, not the man, and that this movie provides a window into how much of a joy it is to spend time with Brian. Throughout this interview, it is clear that Brent and Fine have such a profound respect for Brian and that this movie is a testament to the love and admiration they have for him as an artist and as a person.
Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road is currently seeking distribution.
[GIFF 2021] Brothers Justin and Christian Long Talk Their Feature Directorial Debut LADY OF THE MANOR
Interview by Sean Boelman
The 2021 Gasparilla International Film Festival opened with a special screening of the new comedy Lady of the Manor, the feature directorial debut of Justin Long (Dodgeball, Jeepers Creepers) and his brother Christian, which was filmed locally in the Tampa Bay area. Before the screening, we at disappointment media got the chance to talk with the filmmakers about their debut and experience filming in Florida. Check out what we learned below!
One of the unique things about this film is that it is a collaboration between the two brothers. There are clearly certain pros and cons to working with one’s sibling on a film, and here is what Justin and Christian Long had to say about that:
“I think we just have very similar sensibilities and we get along as friends. So I feel like we just see things very similarly in terms of comedy in terms of creative things,” says Christian Long.
“Trust, I trust you. It's like any other relationship. It's usually the simple things, you know, those are the important ones,” says Justin Long.
The film follows a stoner who, after getting a gig as a tour guide in a historic manor, befriends the ghost of the former lady of the residence. This is what Justin and Christian Long had to say about coming up with this story:
“You know, we really love buddy comedies from the '80s and '90s. And I don't know, besides, it came to us we realized it was such a good opportunity for that type of buddy comedy, but with two women, and we just felt like we hadn't seen that in that way. So we just wanted to, you know, sink our teeth into that,” says Christian Long.
“But, you know, though it involves a ghost like Christian said, we wanted first and foremost, we wanted it to be an odd couple comedy, and a ghost comedy second. And then when we started attracting these actors who we loved, I mean, we were such fans of God, Melanie Lynskey and Judy Greer. We had seen them in so many things, but never seen them do something like this. And so that was part of the thrill was getting to just watch some really great actors be funny,” says Justin Long.
Comedy can be a very difficult genre to pull off because of its unique complexities, especially when it is a filmmaker’s first film. This is what Justin and Christian Long had to say about tackling their directorial debut:
“It's just our favorite genre. And especially for these times right now, I feel like I want to see, just personally I love movies, and as an audience member, I want to see comedies. And like Christian said, they're the movies that we grew up on. We grew up on the classics. What About Bob? and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The Odd Couple. You know, great odd couple comedies,” said Justin Long.
“I don't think we're aiming for directing a drama,” said Christian Long.
“It'd be disappointing,” says Justin Long.
If their debut is any indication, we can look forward to seeing more great things from these two brothers in the future. But for now, everyone can make sure to keep an eye out for Lady of the Manor, which comes out everywhere on September 17.
The 2021 Gasparilla International Film Festival runs from June 10-13 in Tampa, FL with in-person and virtual options available.
Interview by Sean Boelman
In anticipation of the release of their film The Paper Tigers, disappointment media got to sit down and talk with actors Alain Uy, Ron Yuan, and Mykel Shannon Jenkins. In the interview, we discuss the meaning of family, the film's great action sequences, and more. Check out the interview below and watch The Paper Tigers in theaters and on demand beginning May 7.
By Sean Boelman
The Underground Railroad is Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins’s first foray into the medium of television, and his touch can be felt all over the series. We at disappointment media got the opportunity to attend a virtual press conference featuring director/showrunner Jenkins and cast members Thuso Mbedu, Joel Edgerton, Aaron Pierre, William Jackson Harper, and Sheila Atim. Check out what we learned below!
The series is based on the acclaimed novel by Colson Whitehead. This is what Jenkins had to say about adapting the source material: “I think the biggest thing for me, one I love the book. I thought Colson had created a really great opportunity to maybe even recontextualize the story of our ancestors by focusing on this young woman Cora. You watch the show, and, you know, there's this version where maybe without seeing it, you assume for 10 episodes, Cora is trying to vanquish the condition of American slavery. But what she's really after is she's trying to reconcile this sense of abandonment she feels towards her mother. And I thought that was a really interesting way to come at a story like this to present this very, I think, truthful but also just massive in scope and scale journey that was ultimately about parenting and about a daughter's relationship to her mother.”
For Jenkins, a serialized format was the only way to tell this story. Here’s why: “When you go into a movie theater, it's a very captive experience. You kind of have to surrender yourself. You're in the middle of a 30-seat aisle. You turn your phone off. I wanted the audience to have the opportunity. You can pause. You can play. You can skip. You can choose whom you want to watch this with, or whether you want to watch it alone. So that was part of the reason why I felt like it had to be a series.”
In bringing this story to life, Jenkins utilized some terrific imagery and symbolism. Some of the most memorable moments in the series bring the eponymous network to the screen in a literal sense. This is what Jenkins had to say about that: “The first things we did were all the trains and the tunnels. And I told Mark Freidberg, our production designer, because I'm working from this childhood memory, ‘This can't be fake. I want real tracks, real trains, real tunnels. I don't want blue screen, and I don't want CGI.’ And so we found a private rail network and we built our tunnels above them. And so much of this project was trying to contextualize what it would've been like to be my ancestors which is a very difficult thing to do and just because some of this history has been lost, I think that's why we're creating these images in our image now.”
Still, Jenkins does not shy away from the horrors of what he is presenting. When asked if the world is ready to see his vision, he said: “I do think the audience is ready for it. And if they aren't, I think that's fine too. You know, I think the thing that's really beautiful about putting images into the world is that, when someone is ready to find that image, it will be there. And I think in creating this show it honored our ancestors. I think we were respectful of ourselves, respectful of the text, and respectful of the audience. So, I do think folks are ready. I wouldn't have made it if I didn't think they were.”
The Underground Railroad streams on Amazon Prime beginning May 14.
Interview by Sean Boelman
One of the highlights of this year’s Midnighters section at the virtual SXSW Film Festival is The Spine of Night, an ultra-violent adult animated fantasy epic featuring a star-studded voice cast. We at disappointment media got the opportunity to chat with Morgan Galen King and Philip Gelatt, the directorial duo behind the film, about their process of bringing their vision to life. Check out the interview below!
On Animating the Film
disappointment media: I think one of the things that really stands out to me about this film is that it's really epic in scale, but it's an independent film. And so what were the difficulties of making something this ambitious on a smaller scale?
Philip Gelatt: Yeah, I mean, so one thing to acknowledge about that, off the bat is that what allowed us to do this independently is basically the sheer amount of time that it took our animation team led by Morgan to do the animation. Like it took about seven years, to be honest, from when we started to when we finished. So, you know, and we knew that going in, you know, we knew that we were setting out to make something epic in scale and vastly ambitious on a visual level and a narrative level. And just sort of knew, I think, and I think we probably verbalized it, but I think we all sort of knew on sort of like an internal subconscious level that the way it was probably going to get done was brute force. And so that's sort of, you know, how it happened. Yeah, I mean, I don't know if I have anything else to say on that, other than just like that sort of the like, what it takes to do something like this independently is just a lot of grit, I guess.
Morgan Galen King: I mean, I think it was, you know, it was definitely an act of endurance. You know, I remember when we were finished shooting the motion reference in 2014, March 2014. You know, like I was, I think we were driving to the train station, so I could go back to Philadelphia to start the animating. And I was like, "Well, I sure hope we can be, you know, I think three, maybe four years." But as it gets into year five, and year six, like we are, we are really in this now. And when we're tipping into the latter half of the decade of production. So it was, yeah, I mean, for sure. Brute force is the answer to pulling that off, I think.
disappointment: And so did you have any particular scenes or images that were your favorite to animate, or that were the most memorable to animate?
King: Well, I think anyone who has ever gotten a chance to animate a lot of ultraviolent gore, it just tickles me, I mean, I'd like to think the film treats the gore in a fairly serious manner. But as an animator, keeping track of like, the weight of organs and the spatter of blood, and all of that is just like,it feels like a juggling act, it's a very active animation when you're working with that much fluid. It's always the most fun to draw.
Gelatt: I thought you were gonna say one of the scenes of just endless people talking to each other, like scene 11 is the scene in the throne room, and it's the longest scene in the movie, and it took Morgan and the other animators forever to do. That's like a negative thing to think back on. Not the positive thing of the gore. Yeah.
On the Film's World
disappointment: And so another thing that really impressed me about the film is just the level of detail that you put into the world building, both in the writing and the animation. What informed your process of writing and animating the world of The Spine of Night?
King: I mean, Phil, you're saying, we were talking earlier about, like, how much coding influenced the psyche? Do you want to talk to touch on it?
Gelatt: Sure. I mean, from a writing perspective, you know, the chance to build a fantasy world is so much fun. Like, it's so much fun, but it's also there's a lot of responsibility, right? Because you want the viewers to, you know, you're bringing them someplace strange, and you're asking them to engage with it, visually, and also emotionally. And then also, like, intellectually. You're asking a lot of the viewer, so when you set out to write something like that, you know, you want to be detail oriented, but you can't be too detail oriented, there's this whole balancing act that you have to do. So when we set out to do it, you know, I think we had in mind, like our favorite examples of the genre. And like, for me my favorite example is the 1982 Conan movie, because it is, like, it just just feels like a tangible world that has like a real history and like, the armor looks like it comes from different cultures. And it's just like, I just love it. So I don't know if you can really see that in this movie. But it certainly was massively influential, at least in terms of, I think both the writing and the visualization of the movie, in terms of, you know, how you go about making a grounded low fantasy, feature film. Because we're not doing dragons and elves, and you know, like, there's no minute tear off, there's like, it's a very different flavor of fantasy than that Tolkien stuff. So you have to be a little bit more focused on the, you know, the tangible aspect of it, I guess. Not to not to insult Tolkien, but you know.
King: I think that's pretty much right on point. I mean, like in terms of creating a detailed world that feels fleshed out, I mean, there's obviously some fantasy genre tropes in there, I think. But like, we wanted to really sort of push off a lot of them. And I think, like Phil was saying, like, to go to, like, lower fantasy, like Conan, that is less about like fantasy races, but also to not really do like, Game of Thrones, you need a family tree guide to follow the lineages of what's happening. I think, you know, I think we're sort of trying to find an area that was not like either of those.
disappointment: I think you also leave a lot of room to be explored. Are there any more stories you want to tell in this universe?
King: I mean, I think we certainly have considered it. Like we've talked about, you know, a lot of ideas over the years. Over the course of seven years of working on this, I think we've kicked around ways we could do all sorts of things with it, because it does sort of, I mean, act as a hub through the middle of a bunch of different timelines. So like, if people really wanted to, I think we could tell all sorts of stories that interconnect and spill out of this setting. For sure.
Gelatt: It's a tricky question. Like, as Morgan says, We've certainly discussed it. Both sequel ideas and spin-off ideas. I think there's also part of the fabric and the DNA of writing the movie and making the movie was the hope that people would imagine some of those stories themselves, right? Like we sort of left a lot of these dangling narrative bits and like, dangling characters almost. And the hope with all of them wasn't like, "Oh, we could do a show about this, or we could do a show about that". The hope for the viewer to lean in and put themselves in the world and imagine the other stories that could exist there. Like, that's always sort of been my favorite thing about fantasy fiction is both the story, but then also the details of the story leaves out that let me fill in myself. Which isn't to say we don't have stories we want to tell this to say we wouldn't. Like we're saying, I don't think it's the type of fantasy world that we would want to go through and make an appendix and a huge family tree about. That wasn't the style we were after, as he said.
disappointment: Did you have one of the heroes in the film that was your favorite?
King: I love them all so much. even the ones that are kind of jerks, I like all of them. Well, I mean, Mongrel, the Barbarian character that Joe Manganiello voices is a character that I've sort of been doing things with on and off for over a decade now. In like, sketching stuff, so I mean, I've always loved that character. I just think he's like a fun distillation of like, it's Conan but the mustache, he's a eunuch. He sort of wears like a He-Man thing, he's like a meta-barbarian to me.
Gelatt: Mongrel the meta-barbarian. It's great. Yeah, it's a spinoff series right there. For me, I mean, I also love them all. Faye, the scholar in the second sequence I think, is always going to be my favorite. Because, like, Mongrel is a meta-barbarian. Faye to me is like a fantasy version of Indiana Jones, right? Like she's like, she's like what if Indiana Jones were in Conan the Barbarian? And that's just like a really exciting idea to me. And Benny Gabriel who voices her and who was the live action reference for her, I just think she's so massively talented. So there's like, affection there, both for the behind the scenes stuff, and also for the character itself.
disappointment: And you mentioned the cast, you guys assembled an amazing voice cast for this film, what was it like signing them on to this project, and then working with them?
Gelatt: Signing them on to it was exciting and terrifying. Like in that, terrifying, because you know, you want to get a large voice cast, and then they say yes and you're like, "Oh, my God, now I have to go record with Patton Oswalt," Then you're like, "This is maybe gonna be weird," but then it's not weird. It's great. So it's fun. And we tried to pick, tried to approach people who we thought would appreciate, you know, what the movie is. And I think we did find that. So yeah, I mean, it was a lot of fun. I mean, they're a great cast, and they're a great group of people, and they all seem to really like, get it, which is nice. Like, it's nice to like, you know, have them sort of engaged with it for what it is.
King: Yeah, I'd say two things. I mean, it's great. The final voice cast is just a dream come true in a lot of ways. I mean, when you get to tell someone "Oh, yeah. Also, Lucy Lawless is in this movie.," and, "Oh my God, Xena is in this movie." It's I mean, that's tremendous. But as Phil was saying earlier about Betty Gabriel too, this has been such a fun process in that she was there when we were shooting the motion reference, because we actually filmed so long ago that we were filming before Get Out, which is sort of her big breakout role. And so, you know, it's been fun too to have her be able to be a part of the cast as the years have gone.
On the Rotoscope Animation Medium
disappointment: So what about this process of rotoscope animation really stands out to you?
King: I mean, I grew up with a lot of these films that we're referencing like the Ralph Bakshi films. From a very young age, I was in love with us. Although it the style was never as big in the West, like, you know, Eastern European animation has such a rich history of it in a way that it never quite, I think the Disney cartooning approach was so popular in America that like a lot of this stuff done under the Soviet regime never made it over. But there was so much rotoscoping outside of that Western animation world and I love all that stuff, too. I think there's just a realism to it that I think for some people I've heard say tips into the uncanny valley, but I feel like when it's done well, at least, I think it sort of skirts around that into being its own aesthetic choice.
Gelatt: Yeah, it's like a very distinct flavor of animation that is increasingly rare, but I think it's just a particular flavor that I think is great.
disappointment: And so what do you think is the potential of the animation medium for stories like this that are grand, but to produce them live action would cost hundreds of millions of dollars? But you have this independent film that's just as impressive on a smaller budget?
King: Oh, I mean, I hope so. We certainly tried. I mean, I think we're really swinging for the fences. I think animation is, you know, like, so inherently geared towards this, you know, like, creating fantastical stuff. I think having done more like, you know, we animated shots of people just talking over drinks in a bar. And like, animation doesn't necessarily always serve that. So I think it really motivated us to keep the scenes full of fantastical ideas on a regular clip in a way that live action can kind of breathe more. And little nuances can tell a lot more in a live action thing, and in an animated forum, it's almost like, you're encouraged to make it epic and fantastical. Because it's well, it's just a lot more fun to draw and it utilizes the medium better.
The Spine of Night is screening as a part of the online edition of the 2021 SXSW Film Festival, which runs March 16-20, 2021.
Interview by Sarah Williams
Belgian filmmaker Zoé Wittock's Jumbo is an atypical romance that, though its premise of a girl who falls in love with an amusement park ride named Jumbo may come off as an easy joke, manages to make its love story believable. disappointment media was able to talk to her about the film's unique subject, and her writing process.
Jumbo is a story of objectum sexuality, or an orientation where one builds a romantic relationship with an inanimate object. Wittock based Noémie Merlant's character, Jeanne, around Erika Eiffel, who famously had a civil partnership with the Eiffel Tower, as well as public relationships with a bow, the Berlin Wall, and a construction crane. Having talked to Eiffel during the writing of the film, she says the most striking thing about her is that "She's just like you and me. She jokes like we'd do, has a fairly normal life." Wittock goes on to say how the expectation of these objectum-sexuals is for them to be complete recluses, but she says that she found how normally the relationships were conducted to be a major influence in choosing to frame the film like a usual romance.
What's interesting about Jumbo is that it doesn't lean into surrealism or the supposed weirdness of a relationship between a woman and a theme park ride. "Unlike Crash [by David Cronenberg] I avoided shock," she says. The film is lush and romantic in depicting Jeanne's love, and playing the relationship so straight silences a lot of jokes that come with the out-there premise. Unlike the Cronenberg film, that leans onto the gory details of paraphilias, Zoé Wittock knew from the beginning she was filming a fairly ordinary romance.
Jeanne's character is also kept out of these easy storytelling beats to lean into. When asked if any of the questions viewers have had as to Jeanne potentially being autistic, with her fixations and difficulties socially, she says, "I didn't want to diagnose her character, or to make a psychoanalytic film." While Asperger's is mentioned as a possible way to view the character, she makes it clear that her film isn't meant to have a psychological explanation, or to assume Jeanne's neurodivergence, but to work on a purely emotional level. Jeanne's love for the ride stems from a tactile aesthetic appreciation initially, building her models in her bedroom.
What is intended in terms of metaphor is the film's queerness. "I talked to many of my LGBTQ friends. Some loved the idea of film as a metaphor for acceptance, and other LGBTQ friends didn't want their sexual orientation to be interpreted as parallel to objectum sexuality," Wittock says. She poses an interesting question: "What do we see as too far? It's not hurting anyone, and though it's different from loving a person of the same gender, that same stigma is there." Jumbo's potential queerness is speculative, a potential metaphor for the rarer acceptance of homosexuality in the past.
What rings especially true if indeed reading the film through a queer lens is the idea of compulsory heterosexuality, or forcing oneself to desire the opposite sex. The film has two pivotal scenes, one is a sensual, surreal sound-stage sequence between the machine and Jeanne, and the other is the typical sex scene with a man from work, but here it's shot through a mirror. When asked about the choice to distance the camera, and the viewer emotionally on the latter, Wittock says, "If I loved women, I shot this as I would feel to be with a man. It's supposed to be uncomfortable, and reversed." The mirror gives Jeanne her privacy here, in a scene of discomfort as she tries to force herself into society's norms. For those struck by the intimate scenes between Jumbo and Jeanne, the sequence, done with practical effects, actually uses a mixture of thickened sugar-water and squid ink to represent the bursts of oil.
By choosing to film what many call a paraphilia as a traditional romance film, Zoé Wittock creates a new empathy. Her depiction of objectum sexuality as sympathetic has made a character she believes audiences can still relate to. By never viewing Jeanne through a diagnostic lens, the film becomes allegorical, while still doing its best to follow the experiences of objectum-sexuals who consulted on the film.
Jumbo is now available on VOD.
Interview by Camden Ferrell
Over a year after its premiere, Minari is receiving attention this awards season and was even in the National Board of Review’s Top Ten Films of 2020. A lot of this attention is surrounding the performance of legendary Korean actress Yuh-Jung Youn. She was recently nominated for best supporting actress by the Screen Actors Guild, becoming the first Korean actress to do so. In anticipation of Minari’s release in theaters, disappointment media had the opportunity to talk with the seasoned actress about her new movie.
On Receiving Her Role
disappointment media: Can you tell us a little bit about how you met Lee Isaac Chung and got the role of Soonja?
Yuh-Jung Youn: Okay. I have a dear friend, and she’s Korean, and she was born and raised in Germany. We were going to make a film together back 20 years ago, but the project fell apart. I tried to comfort her and her friend Grace Lee, and then we became friends later on. Then, she was back and forth from Germany to Korea and America. And then one time, she asked me to have some kind of Q&A thing while we were at the Busan International Film Festival. And her friend, [Lee] Isaac Chung, is teaching at the University of Utah, and he's going to bring his students because they'd like to meet us and then have a Q&A, so I said yes. We had the Q&A, and I was very shocked and impressed. Isaac mentioned my first movie [Women of Fire]. It's from back in the '70s, and Isaac wasn't born at the time. I wondered how such a young guy could know about my first movie. I found out his major was film history, so I was very touched and moved. The students weren’t interested about that movie, so we didn't talk about it. That was the first meeting with Isaac. Later on, my friends brought a script. It's Minari, and it's written in English, and as you know, my English is not perfect. In the middle of reading the script, it was very real to me. During that day, I hadn’t finished yet, so I called my friends and asked, “Is this [Isaac’s] story?” She said yes, so I said, “Okay, I will do it.” That's the story.
disappointment: You’ve had an extensive career working in South Korean film and television. How did your experience working on Minari, an American film, differ from your past experiences as an actress?
Youn: I don't know. The director was Korean and Steven [Yeun] was Korean and Yeri [Han] was Korean, so we didn't feel that much different working in Korea, but the staff is different, and then we try to speak English and there are some words I don't know. Like they say that first team comes in, or something like that. I thought, “Who is the first team?” That kind of special word. I couldn't get it, but later on, we picked it up. There's always a first team that comes in, and I’m like, “Who is first team?” and I was looking around, and I realize that I’m first team.
disappointment: Earlier in your career, you came to the United States before returning back to Korea. How did your experiences in the United States shape your performance in Minari?
Youn: That’s hard because I didn’t have that experience myself. I have a lot of friends who came to the States as immigrants. Of course, they struggled with English, and because of the time, they were well-educated, but they couldn't get a proper job. Every nation loves their second generation. They’re trying to do their best to give them a better future than we have, so they work hard, and they sacrifice for them. I think it is kind of insulting. Since they cannot speak English perfectly, they have to do something like chicken sexing, like they do in the movie. So yes, I've been watching many families and many parents sacrifice and work for their children, so that hurts.
On Filming Minari (Contains Mild Spoilers)
disappointment: In Minari, you play a witty and foul-mouthed grandma. are there any people in your life who inspired this character?
Youn: Actually, the first question I asked Isaac was if I should imitate [his] grandmother. He said, “No, no, you do it your own way,” so that gave me freedom. I was thankful because it’s different with every director. Some of them want you to do it a certain way or to imitate their grandmother. They might say she has a very specific behavior or something like that. Sometimes, I feel like I cannot move around if the director gives me that kind of direction, but Isaac was smart enough not to give me that direction. He told me to just do whatever [I] want. I felt very trusted, so I just played myself if I were in her position and in her situation. That was my imagination. I was witty because I think the culture difference between her grandson and her makes people laugh. Also, I like to be witty, and I like to laugh all the time. I don't want to be serious.
disappointment: What was the most difficult scene to film for your character?
Youn: [Soonja] got paralyzed because of the stroke, and usually, on set, somebody had to be with me to correct me and tell me if I should move this way or that way. I practiced a lot before I left Korea. I have a very nice neurologist friend, Dr. Kim. I was very grateful and thankful that he showed me a lot of videos, and he actually was performing in front of me how to do this and that. So that scene was just trying not to forget that this side is not supposed to move because of the stroke. That was very tricky. And of course, the fire scene was very dangerous to film.
disappointment: What do you think families of Korean immigrants will like most about this movie?
Youn: I don't know because they all have a different memory like you. Everyone has a grandma. For instance, my first son, he is a Korean-American living in New York, and he's not trying to watch this movie. I was so shocked that he's not watching it; his mother is in the movie. I later found out that he saw the trailer, and it made him cry. He saw me playing go-stop, and he remembered his great aunt was playing go-stop when he visited Korea. It’ll be different for everyone.
disappointment: What do you hope audiences will learn from your character after watching Minari?
Youn: You know, if they see the movie, then it’s their part to learn and understand my role and the movie. I cannot suggest how to watch the movie. I'm not the guidance. Whatever they individually feel and think, that's just part of this movie, so it's fine with me.
disappointment: In the movie, you have great chemistry with Alan Kim. Can you tell us what it was like to work with this young and talented actor?
Youn: First, I was like, “Wow, what am I going to do with this young boy?” He’s a seven-year-old boy, but he was like a sponge to me; Isaac told him to do this. He just treated me like a grandma. We usually did a master shot together, him and me. He has a good memory, so he memorized all the lines perfectly. So, we would do the first master take. Later on, if Isaac needed some kind of shot from him, he directed [Kim] in a very wise and smart way. That's how David became that character. He was really good. Like a sponge, he just absorbed everything.
On Her Career and Korean Representation
disappointment: Your career has spanned many decades, and you've worked with so many different directors. Are there any directors you want to work with in the future that you haven't worked with yet?
Youn: When you're young you can hope for a lot of things, but at my age, as I’m older, I know the chance has to come to me, and the role has to be suitable for me. If somebody asks me to do it, then I will do it, but I’m not hoping to do it with a specific director because it will give them pressure.
disappointment: Over the last few years, we've seen an increase in the popularity of Korean culture in the United States. What do you hope for the future of Korean representation in Hollywood?
Youn: I'm doing some kind of project now. That's why I'm in Vancouver. There's a lot of Korean directors here actually. I was hoping you guys could have a better future than us, so you can introduce a lot of Korean culture, so we can share it. After all, we are all the same human beings. The culture may be different, but later on, it's all the same. It's not about discrimination anymore. It’s just sharing together, like you have this kind of culture, we have this kind of culture, but in the end, we love each other. We are all trying to make the future better, not fight each other, not talking about discrimination or something, just that we are all the same. Whether your face is yellow or white, it doesn't matter. We are all same human beings, so I wish we can share together and then love each other.
Minari will be in select theaters February 12 and on VOD February 26.
Interview by Camden Ferrell
When Minari first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020, many were impressed by the performance from 7-year-old Alan S. Kim who plays David. In anticipation of the release of Minari, his debut film appearance, disappointment media had the opportunity to talk with Kim and discuss his role in the movie.
On Joining the Minari Cast
disappointment media: You made your film debut as David recently, and it's a great debut. When did you first know you wanted to be an actor?
Kim: I guess when my mom told me about Minari I’m like, “I guess I'll do this.”
disappointment: And what was it like to audition for Minari? Was it nerve-wracking? Was it exciting?
Alan S. Kim: It was exciting, but the heat wave was kind of hot, like really hot. It was so hot, and the hotel was so well air-conditioned, so when I had to go out to film, I'm like, “Do I have to go out? It's way too hot.”
disappointment: And you were filming in Tulsa, Oklahoma, correct?
Kim: Yes, in the summer.
disappointment: What did you like about the area?
Kim: Well, it was big and cool, but kind of western, I guess?
On Preparing for and Filming Minari (Contains Mild Spoilers)
disappointment: Whenever you got the role of David, what did you do to memorize your lines and prepare for the role?
Kim: Well, for the Korean lines, my mom would speak and help me memorize. I would repeat it, and if I still didn't get it, she would do some of the motions to help me understand.
disappointment: In the movie, you speak both Korean and English very well. Did you learn both of those languages growing up, or was there one you learned first?
Kim: My first language was Korean and then my teacher helped me learn English, but before she even taught me how to speak in English, I always spoke Korean to the teacher. Yeah, that was really bad.
disappointment: What did you find was the most exciting part about filming Minari?
Kim: Probably when I gave pee to the grandma [Youn Yuh-jung]. Because it’s just so funny, but kind of naughty. It's like, giving pee to someone innocent.
disappointment: That was hilarious. So, you and Steven Yeun, who plays your father in the movie, you guys seem like a real father and son. What was it like to work with him?
Kim: It was really fun working with him because he really was kind and awesome. Since I was such a slow eater, he would say, “Hey, let's have an eating contest. Fastest one to eat is the winner," just so he can make me eat faster.
disappointment: So, giving the pee to your grandma was your favorite part of film, but what was the most difficult scene to film for you?
Kim: Probably nothing because everything was so easy except the heat wave. Yeah, it was really hot.
disappointment: What do you think kids are gonna like most about this movie?
Kim: Probably the funny parts because most kids like to see funny parts. And yeah, they will really like that.
On Being Behind the Scenes
disappointment: In the movie, there's lots of Korean dishes and beverages you have to drink, so what is your favorite Korean meal?
Kim: Well, the Korean meal there on set was probably like the rice and the kimchi and lots of things like that. In the movie, I had to drink Mountain Dew. Other than that, I would drink nothing but like apple juice and orange juice, so when I drink Mountain Dew, I'm like, “Yum!”.
disappointment: What was it like working with a movie big sister [Noel Cho] on set?
Kim: It was really fun. Off set, we would watch Captain Underpants, and we would play games like Talking Tom Hero Dash.
disappointment: Are there any behind the scenes secrets or stories that you want to tell us?
Kim: Like, behind the scenes, for the raining scene we would watch the TV and then Steven would carry me into the car. That’s more of a cut scene. It didn't actually rain. It came from like a giant rainmaker thingy majiggy. Then, there's also a part where I go to Johnnie's house, but in that part, there was a scene that was cut out. I had to ride a bike but since the bike was so big, they had to attach it to the go-kart, and I had to fake that I was riding the bicycle.
disappointment: In the movie, your grandma teaches you how to play a card game. I believe it's called go-stop. Did you actually learn how to how to play that in real life?
Kim: Yes, my mom taught me.
disappointment: What's the most fun part about that game?
Kim: I don't really care about winning or losing, but if I win, I don't really boast, but I'm like, “Oh, yeah!” kind of like that. I really like to play.
On David and Minari's Message
disappointment: How do you relate to the character of David?
Kim: Well, mostly everything except he has an unhealthy heart while I have a healthy one. We both have older sisters, and we like to annoy them. And we also follow rules on our own terms. Because if my mom says to sleep, I'm like, “Okay,” then I sleep somewhere random.
disappointment: David's a fun-loving kid. He likes being mischievous. He likes goofing around, but in your free time, what do you like to do for fun?
Kim: I like to play video games and watch TV. My favorite video game is either Minecraft or Roblox.
disappointment: Now, what do you hope people learn the most from Minari after watching it? What's the lesson you want people to learn from the movie?
Kim: I'm not sure, but the lesson would probably be if you believe in yourself, you can do it. Probably something like that.
disappointment: Minari is a movie about family and what a home truly is. What does home mean to you?
Kim: A house mostly, but more so than a house, love.
On His Future as an Actor
disappointment: What's next for you and your career as an actor? What do you plan on doing next?
Kim: More movies, and I'm doing another movie sometime in March. I think it's called Latchkey Kids.
disappointment: That's great. Are you excited for Latchkey Kids?
disappointment: What advice do you have for any children who want to be in movies?
Kim: Don't overreact and don't rush. Also, don't really do anything that's not yourself.
disappointment: Who do you want to thank the most for all the help they've been when filming this movie?
Kim: My family.
Minari will be in select theaters February 12 and on VOD February 26.