Five Questions With... Charlie Tyrell, Director of MY DEAD DAD'S PORNO TAPES

In MY DEAD DAD'S PORNO TAPES, the filmmaker tries to better understand his deceased father through random objects he inherited, including a pile of dirty movies. 

We spoke to filmmaker Charlie Tyrell - read more below, and see the film in the Shorts of the Year block, playing Sat, Jun 23 at 9:00am!

 CHARLIE TYRELL

CHARLIE TYRELL

NFF: The film is obviously very personal. Was anything off-limits to use in the film?

CHARLIE: Not really - I mean there were tons of limitations in general. The first being that we only wanted to animate with objects that belonged to my dad, and the second being that I knew my mom, brother, and sister wouldn't really be up to on-camera interviews which is why they were (unknowingly) interviewed and recorded over the phone. But I did keep my family a little in the dark about what kind of content I would include in the film, so it was pretty terrifying when I finally showed it to them. 

NFF: Can you talk a little about the decision to incorporate animation in the storytelling?

CHARLIE: I generally try to incorporate stop motion or animation into any project I'm working on, but in this case it happened to be a perfect fit. My dad's not around to get answers from and there are very little home movies so we had to tell the story with his stuff. But Martha and Phil (the stop motion team) really brought their talents to the table by giving these inanimate objects such fluid movements that really help with the exploratory nature of the story. And then Marty (our 2D animator) brought an extra layer with his animations - including having all of the subtitles for the interviews in the hand writing of the person speaking. That was especially hard to do for my dad and grandmother - we had to source old notes and christmas cards to build an alphabet of their printing.  

NFF: How has your family reacted to the film?

CHARLIE: Well my mom is (obviously) great and has been very supportive through the whole process. I think even if I made a film that she didn't agree with, she would respect that it was my personal perspective. My brother and sister have also been appreciative about it. I think we all find it kind of nice to introduce total strangers to our dad.  

NFF: Has making the film changed or expanded your understanding or relationship to grief?

CHARLIE: This film was kind of made out of a feeling that I hadn't completely settled my grief. Since my dad passed away when I was in my second year of university I felt like I never got to know him as an adult and had to acknowledge that I would never be able to know him from that perspective. So this was me as a fully formed adult taking what I had left of him and what we all knew of him to try to build that to develop a better understanding of him.

NFF: Are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

CHARLIE: Of course! And I'm pretty bummed that I couldn't be there. I'm always happy to be surprised by what someone takes away from the film. I've had strangers come up to me after screenings or send me very personal emails that say "I had the exact same relationship with my dad" or some people can't get past the title. But I made this film for myself so even if it's not a person's cup of tea then I'm totally cool with that too. 

Five Questions With... Rudy Valdez, Director of THE SENTENCE

Director Rudy Valdez’s sister, Cindy, a married mother of three young girls, long ago left a drug-dealing ex. Despite this, she receives a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison under conspiracy charges related to his crimes. Over a period of ten years, Rudy’s camera captures the moments in his nieces’ lives that Cindy is missing. This personal portrait of the devastating impact of draconian laws on families was an Audience Award winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Read more with Rudy below, and see THE SENTENCE on Fri, June 22 at 2pm and Sat, June 23 at 10:30am!

 RUDY VALDEZ

RUDY VALDEZ

NFF: This film is obviously very personal to you - did you have any reservations about laying yourself and your family's story bare? 

RUDY: The film is very personal.  I certainly had reservations about telling such an intimate story, but ultimately felt like I would be doing my family a disservice if I didn’t share.  To me, this was only going to remain a terrible event in my family's history if we allowed it to be.  I wanted so much to make something good out of this.  I promised my family that I wouldn’t let this be in vain.

NFF: Did making the film change your relationship to your sister (or your family at large)?

RUDY: The film did not change our relationship - what you see on screen is what you get.

NFF: What would you want to tell audiences who want to get involved in a prison reform campaign or conversation?

RUDY: When audiences ask how they can get involved I often say pay attention to what you are voting for.  Read between the lines when people starting using rhetoric like “soft on crime” or “hard on crime”.  With that said, I also ask people that are moved by the film - that feel like this is a call to action for them - to fight! There are so many people in prison with stories just like my sister.  They don’t all have someone on the outside fighting for them.  Find someone and fight for them. 

NFF: Did you face any particular challenges or surprises when filming/assembling the film?

RUDY: No!

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

RUDY: I’m excited to screen and Nantucket because as a documentary filmmaker we often work in a vacuum.  Wondering if what we are making is going to resonate.  If it’s going to be seen at all. To be invited to such a wonderful film festival is an honor, and I can’t wait to share the story and see what the audience takes away from it.  

Five Questions With... Sarah Ginsburg, Director of SPACESAVERS

Sarah Ginsburg's short documentary SPACESAVERS profiles how when it snows, Boston residents respond to threats to parking spaces with subconscious self-expression.

We spoke with Sarah about this short and sweet doc - read more, and check it out in the shorts program "It's All True," playing Thursday, June 21 at 9am!

 SARAH GINSBURG

SARAH GINSBURG

NFF: What inspired the film? Are you a Boston local?

SARAH: I went to school in Boston and stuck around for about 5 years after graduating, watching a majority of my peers leave for bigger cities and warmer climates. As rent prices increased, I found myself living in a funny little residential neighborhood in Somerville alongside mostly retired folks who had grown up there. Boston's winter of 2015, with its relentless and record breaking snowfall, showed me a side of the city, including my own quiet neighborhood, I hadn't seen before but totally believed. The items people chose to put out on the street and save their much labored over parking spot spoke so loudly to me. I saw determination, persistence, wit, humor, pride, sacrifice and artistry in the space saving operation but then I also saw a simple way to document it. 

NFF: The film communicates everything it needs to in just three minutes. Did you cut a lot of material down, or did you always intend it to be a snapshot? 

SARAH: As with any film ever made, the stripping down of this film in the edit was painful but necessary. With the help of friends' feedback, I let the space savers be the lead in a solo performance instead of trying to paint a well-rounded portrait of the neighborhood and all its quirks. Once I recovered from losing some of my favorite shots, I focused on creating different feelings and bringing out the whimsy of it all by playing with the order of shots and audio.

NFF: Did you discover any particularly weird or interesting space spavers? 

SARAH: It's not in the film but there's the well-known and highly anticipated bust of Elvis that some one in Southie puts out every year. I love to see any type of toilet out there doing its job. My favorite in the film is definitely the walker that my next door neighbor's put out with a laminated sign explaining why it would be rude to move the walker and take the spot.

NFF: Did filming present any particular challenges you weren't anticipating? 

SARAH: Taking your gloves off to set up a freezing cold metal tripod and press record as gusts of wind blow snow in your face can be challenging but I'm extremely tough and brave and had on a super warm winter coat given to me by my mom, so I was just fine.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film? 

SARAH: I consider Boston and Nantucket to be friends. There's a camaraderie that exists probably because of proximity, sports teams and extreme weather. Just as you'd help your neighbor shovel their car or maybe just share their pain from inside your warm home as you watch them shovel their car, I imagine Nantucket residents and festival attendees enjoying a little bite of Boston's rich heritage captured.  

Five Questions With... Donal Lardner Ward, Writer/Director of WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH

WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH reveals the emotional life of four generations of the Copeland family. As Jean (Jeanne Tripplehorn) reckons with the consequences of an affair, her husband, Gordon (Damian Young), worries he’s falling prey to the same dementia that has afflicted his father, Theodore (Loudon Wainwright III). Their children, Otis (Noah Schnapp, Stranger Things) and Priscilla (Taylor Rose), navigate the pitfalls of first love and young adulthood, while the family’s 95-year-old matriarch, Vivian (Virginia Robinson), struggles to maintain control of the household in this comedic drama.

Read more with writer/director Donal Lardner Ward below, and join us for the WORLD PREMIERE of WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH on Thurs, June 21 at 3:30pm and Sat, June 23 at 4:15pm!

 DONAL LARDNER WARD

DONAL LARDNER WARD

NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for the film? 

DONAL: I was looking for something that could be shot on a micro budget, in a contained way, when I read my old friend, Betsy Crane’s, debut novel about a multigenerational family spinning out in different directions, in search of something they feared they’d lost or might never gain. I feel that sort of self-centered fear is endemic and destructive in contemporary life and I wanted to explore it. I also knew an increasing number of people who were dealing with taking care of elderly, sick parents and young children at the same time. What they call the “sandwich generation.” It’s a growing phenomenon, with people living longer and having kids later, and I hadn’t seen it addressed very much. By the time we finished the film I was living it. 

NFF:  The film depicts many different permutations and variations of love. What's your definition?

DONAL: Love is the particle that charges the atom of humanity, the connective tissue that gives our species dimension, shape, insulation against the chill of the great void. Without love, in all its forms, we drift apart, dissipate into nothingness.

NFF: How did Jeanne Tripplehorn become attached to the project? Had you worked together before?

DONAL: I met Jeanne through our mutual friend, Ben Stiller, many years ago. When I showed him the script for the film he thought she might be right for it. That was an understatement. 

NFF: Did you face any particular challenges or surprises while filming?

DONAL: We faced the age-old, dual challenge of independent filmmaking: lack of funds and time. There were a couple of things we missed in our lightning fast, 15-day schedule. However, by the time we organized reshoots at the beautiful old house that was our primary location, it had been sold and leveled, reduced to a pile of brown dirt. We had to recreate a section of the exterior on a shoestring. The enthusiastic commitment of our amazing cast and crew made the impossible possible. 

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

DONAL: I’m excited about screening at Nantucket because it’s a literary festival, a place where audiences appreciate thoughtful storytelling. The film is based on a novel, and books, and the concept of story, are central elements. I hope people come away from the film with a refreshed appreciation for the people and love they have in their lives. 

Five Questions With... Don Hardy, Director/Producer/Editor/Cinematographer of PICK OF THE LITTER

In PICK OF THE LITTER, Phil, Primrose, Potomac, Patriot, and Poppet are all in the running for a vitally important, life-changing job, but they’ll have to make it through intense training first. These five adorable puppies from the same litter are candidates to become guide dogs for the blind. Dana Nachman and Don Hardy follow them from birth through training to see which dogs have what it takes to be paired with one of the 500 applicants seeking their assistance, including Janet, waiting for her fourth dog, and Ron, waiting for his first. 

We spoke with Director/Producer/Editor/Cinematographer Don Hardy about all things puppies - read more with Don, and then bring your family to see PICK OF THE LITTER on Wed, June 20 at 1pm and/or Thurs, June 21 at 10am! 

 DON HARDY

DON HARDY

NFF: How did you find/come to this story and meet the puppies? 

DON: My filmmaking partner Dana Nachman and I had known about organization Guide Dogs for the Blind for many years. We'd done a few stories on them during our time at the NBC affiliate in San Francisco in the early 2000s and always thought they would make for a good documentary. Years later, after we'd left television and made a few documentaries, the idea of doing something on guide dogs resurfaced and we thought it would be great to focus the film on a single litter of puppies. The nice folks from Guide Dogs for the Blind liked the concept and trusted us to as filmmakers so then we waited for the right moment to begin filming. Our litter was born on June 2nd, 2015. Poppet, Patriot, Primrose, Potomac and Phil.

NFF: Did you become attached to these dogs (and trainers/owners) during filming, or were you able to remain objective? 

DON: Definitely. We knew the dogs very well and they knew us. It's always a challenge to remain objective with your characters (human or canine) in documentaries, but I think we did a good job of following the stories as they unfolded and those twists and turns are seen in the film. It's a real roller-coaster ride. 

NFF: Are you still in touch with all of the owners (and dogs)?

DON: Yep. We're still in touch with everybody and many of the dogs and people featured in the film have come out to screenings help us share the story with audiences. Lots of other guide dogs in training have come out to see the film as well. It's great fun to see a theater full of dogs enjoying PICK OF THE LITTER.

NFF: Did filming/working with animals present any particular challenges you weren't anticipating?

DON: Yeah...a ton of them. The biggest challenge was keeping up with the dogs during the final weeks of training. They move quickly down the street and we had to develop a camera-rig that would allow us to move side-by-side with them and not impede their training process. 

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

DON: I've always heard great things about the Nantucket Film Festival and this is the first time I've had a film I directed selected to be part of the lineup. 

I hope audiences learn a bit more about these amazing dogs and the intense training they go through in order to take on the job of working with a person who is blind. Also, these days we are bombarded with negativity and it can feel hopeless at times. If audiences can sit back and enjoy this story of kindness and, in some small way, have their faith in the goodness of people restored for at least a couple hours I'll be happy.

Five Questions With... Risa Mickenberg, Alysia Reiner, and David Alan Basche, Writer and Actor/Producers of EGG

In EGG, two former art school friends, Karen (Christina Hendricks, Mad Men) and Tina (Alysia Reiner, Orange Is the New Black) reunite in Marianna Palka’s satirical chamber piece exploring motherhood, personal freedom, and social expectations. Karen, eight months pregnant and married to a successful developer, took a different life path than Tina, a conceptual artist recently engaged to her partner. Emotions run high when Tina reveals her latest project—surrogate parenthood as performance art—and things get even more tense when her surrogate arrives.

We had a group conversation with some of the creatives on EGG - Risa Mickenberg (screenwriter), Alysia Reiner, and David Alan Basche (Actor/Producers) all came together to share their thoughts on the film. Read more with them below, and see it on Friday 6/22 at 8:45pm and/or Sun 6/24 at 5:45pm!

NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for the film, and for Alysia and David, why you wanted to get involved?

RISA: Writing this film was a way to air things that had not been said about some of our deepest thoughts and instincts. It was a way to take risks.

ALYSIA: David and I did a workshop of the script years ago, and we never stopped thinking about it. To quote a recent review in The Hollywood Reporter, the film “explodes cliches about motherhood, marriage and career...laced with unblinkered truths about the sometimes ruthless, sometimes warm-hearted ways that women see themselves and each other.” 

DAVID: We bumped into Risa again and realized it had never been made, and we felt compelled to be the ones to tell the story on film.

NFF: Alysia and David - you're married in real life, but although you share a lot of screentime, you play spouses of other people in this movie. Was that a decision you came to as a collective production team?

ALYSIA: We were cast that way in the original reading and loved these roles so much we had no desire to change it!

DAVID: Agreed, but strangely enough, now that we’ve made the film, there’s a part of me that would love to play “Wayne” because that’s such a great role, too!

NFF: Is it easier or harder to work with actors/partners you love and know well?

ALYSIA: Easier! We've worked together a lot before. In our early 20's when we did our first play together we fought like cats and dogs, but now we have good healthy boundaries - something neither of our characters in the film have learned!

DAVID: We were both producing and playing leads in the film, so with that amount of work and responsibility, we really needed that extra sense of safety and comfort that comes with a trusted creative partner.

NFF: Did working on the movie change your view of parenthood in any way?

ALYSIA: When I first read this script I was not yet a mother, and not 100% sure I was ready to be one.  Exploring the character at that time made me go deep about IF and WHY I truly wanted to be a parent, and what it means to be a parent and an artist at the same time. Now, making the film as a mother, as both producer and actress I was deeply devoted to exploring and advocating choice for women, and love and acceptance for all choices in parenthood - including choosing not to have children. I also feel the film is so much about friendship and loving and supporting your friends, even when their choices are different from yours.

DAVID: Similarly, I wasn’t a dad when I first read EGG, but it moved me nonetheless. Working on the film now that I am a father opened my eyes to the different things people go through and the ways families can be constructed. In the end, it's all about allowing other people the integrity of their own choices.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

RISA: This film is like Nantucket’s relationship to the rest of the world. Such beauty on the surface, with such dangerous shifting sands below, so daring to navigate. The film is powered by a leviathan of a theme with indelible characters who are not afraid to go way out into unexplored and dangerous waters. I hope people appreciate the daring of thought. I hope they feel something has been let loose in their conversation and that it leaves them feeling raw and fired up and powerful and alive.

ALYSIA: The first time I was at the Nantucket Film Festival, I felt like I was just dreaming of really being in this business. I saw so many films, loved them all, and met Paul Giamatti at the screening of AMERICAN SPLENDOR which I thought was outrageously brilliant. I made a wish to someday work with Paul and someday be at the festival with a film I was in. Well, a year later I got to act with Paul in SIDEWAYS, and here we are at the festival with EGG! Both dreams came true!!! So yes, I am beyond thrilled to share EGG with the NFF audiences.

As for take away, of course I want to entertain people, for them to laugh at themselves and the moments of recognition in the film. But more deeply, I hope it makes people explore their own complexities and contradictions. I love when people say they can’t stop thinking and talking about the film weeks later. Another review I loved said it all: “This film is wonderful for the way it takes you into yourself and exposes you to your own contradictions and emotions…” To me that's what great entertainment is about, it makes me laugh, think and feel.

DAVID: What she said!

Five Questions With... Jesse Peretz, Director of JULIET, NAKED

Annie (Rose Byrne) is in a rut. Her long-term boyfriend, Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), is more devoted to the music of faded singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke) than he is to their relationship. When an unreleased demo of Tucker’s acclaimed 25-year-old album surfaces—prompting the reclusive artist's own reemergence—Annie and Duncan’s routine existence is upended in unpredictable ways. Based on the best-selling novel by Nick Hornby, JULIET, NAKED is an insightful and charming romantic comedy.

We spoke with JULIET, NAKED director Jesse Peretz about the film. Read more with him below, and see the film on Thurs, June 21 at 1pm and/or Fri, June 22 at 3:34pm!

 JESSE PERETZ

JESSE PERETZ

NFF: Can you talk about your inspiration for the film (visual or story-wise)?

Jesse: It is hard to be entering into the world of film adaptations of Nick Hornby novels without siting ABOUT A BOY and HIGH FIDELITY as key references. Both are movies I adore.  But I would also say that a key part of my life that I kept coming back to while we were developing this project was my days in the late ‘80s and beginning of the ‘90s when I was the bassist of the band The Lemonheads, and lived a life pretty ensconced in the pre-Nirvana punk/indie music scene.  This was the world that our character Tucker Crowe lived in back in his mythologized past, and so exploring those memories were key to defining who he was.

NFF: Which music artists or musical forms are you personally obsessed with?

Jesse: My musical obsessions over the years have bounced around between ‘60s soul (I remember being given a Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrellalbum in 1977 that was spinning non-stop on my turntable for a year), Be Bop Jazz and Punk Rock.  In particular I would say that Elvis Costelloand Big Star are probably the artists I have clocked the most hours in my life consuming and re-consuming.  This is music that never gets old to me.

NFF: How did you decide or collaborate on the way the music in the film should sound

Jesse: Obviously for this film the music was of extra importance in the shaping of the film and the story, as who Tucker Crowe is/was as a musical figure is central to the story.  My friend (and musical collaborator on almost of my projects) Nathan Larson and I have a deep history of shared loved music (and being in bands that toured together), so we (along with our brilliant music supervisor, Maggie Philips) listened to a lot of music from the period and styles we thought Tucker Crowe would have lived and worked in, and narrowed in on what we found most compelling directions to follow.  But then we included a number of song writers in the process by putting out an appeal for original songs with these influences in mind, and saw what kind of songs came back.  We used the ones that we felt best served the vibe we were looking for - and of course the ones we liked the most.  Then Nathan and Ethan Hawke went and spent a bunch of days in the studio recording them, and putting their own spin and inspiration into the session.  It was a very exciting process, but also filled with dead ends that were often filled with frustration.

NFF: Did you face any challenges or surprises while filming?

Jesse: We shot the entire film in England (even though a bit of it takes place in New York State), and it was a shock for me to learn how strict the English were about sticking to a 10 hour day - something almost unheard of in the US.  I couldn’t imagine how we could responsibly go into each day knowing we would get what we need in those hours, but to my surprise it was not only completely doable (with a few exceptions) but also created a working environment that was mentally so much more focused, civil and calm.  People came to work having had a good night’s sleep and a life since we wrapped the afternoon before.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

Jesse: I am very excited to bring the film to the audience in Nantucket.  I hope that people connect with what I believe are universal themes of second chances and the struggles to conquer our fears we have failed the ones who need us most.  Mostly I hope that people find it both entertaining and emotionally honest.

Five Questions With... Charlene deGuzman, Actor/Writer of UNLOVABLE

After a night of alcohol-fueled sex with strangers, actress Joy (Charlene deGuzman) hits rock bottom and attends a 12-step meeting for sex and love addiction. There, she convinces Maddie (Melissa Leo) to be her sponsor. Maddie allows Joy to recover in her grandmother’s guesthouse, but sets strict rules, including forbidding her from interacting with Jim (John Hawkes), Maddie’s estranged brother and their grandmother’s caregiver. But Joy and Jim each end up being just what the other needs to heal in this fresh dramatic comedy.

We spoke with Charlene deGuzman, who both wrote and stars in UNLOVABLE. Read more with Charlene below, and catch the film on Wed, June 20 at 8:15pm and/or Thurs, June 21 at 8:45pm!

 CHARLENE DEGUZMAN

CHARLENE DEGUZMAN

NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for the film?

Charlene: UNLOVABLE is inspired by my personal experiences with sex and love addiction and recovery. I wanted to bring awareness to sex and love addiction, help get rid of the stigma, show a female perspective, and help people feel understood and less alone. And I wanted to do it in a way that uses light, hope, comedy, and music.

NFF: Have you acted in pieces that you've written before? Do you prefer to be in your own work?

Charlene: This is my first feature film I've ever written or acted in, but I've acted in other pieces I've written before - I wrote a few shorts that went viral on YouTube, "I Forgot My Phone" was the one that got the most international attention! It changed my life. I love performing my own work, it's how I can be the most ME. There is no one better to express your own voice than yourself. Plus, I like to write things from my own personal experiences, and the only one who has lived my life - is me.

NFF: How did Mark and Jay Duplass become involved with the film? Had you worked with Mark before as a writer?

Charlene: In 2013, Mark Duplass started following me on Twitter. I sent him a DM telling him that he was my hero. He DM'd me back and told me that if there was anything I had written that I wanted to show him, to send it over. (Tweeting sad and funny thoughts and ramblings is what originally got me a following.) I didn't have anything at the time, but a year later, I started recovery for sex and love addiction. While in my first months of withdrawal, I was in physical and emotional pain, and the thing that kept me going was exploring my creativity. I ended up writing a TV pilot in five days inspired by my own experiences. I sent it to Mark, and the next day he wrote back - he wanted to meet, and he wanted to make a movie!

NFF: Did you face any particular challenges or surprises while filming?

Charlene: So many! I had major Imposter Syndrome - every day I couldn't believe that it was happening, and I kept thinking I had tricked everyone into being there. It was hard to act in scenes with John Hawkes or Melissa Leo and not think, "How am I in a movie with my favorite actor John Hawkes?" or "Oh my God this is Academy Award-winner Melissa Leo." As you could imagine, the pressure to not completely make a fool out of myself in front of these pros was high. I ended up learning so much from the both of them. It was also intense to act out scenes that would have happened in my past. I got triggered a few times. But every time I took a deep breath and remembered why I wanted to make this film, how I wanted to help people, it kept me going.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

Charlene:This is my first time in Nantucket so I'm excited to be there! I hope I inspire others to tell their story. We all have a story to tell, we may even feel ashamed of it at first, or embarrassed, or scared it won't be good enough. But the truth is, telling your story gets rid of the shame. Because you will find that your story is a huge gift you have, because it can help so many people. Humans crave the truth, and they don't even realize it, until they experience it. I hope my movie and story will inspire others to share their truths too!

Five Questions With... Raúl Castillo, Actor in WE THE ANIMALS and ATLANTIC CITY

You may recognize actor Raúl Castillo from his TV work in such shows as HBO's Looking or Netflix's Seven Seconds. But he's also accumulated quite a film career, including his performances in #NFF18 feature film WE THE ANIMALS and short film ATLANTIC CITY. Read more with this dynamic actor, and see his films next week!

raul-castillo.jpg

NFF: Both of these characters could be considered similar: working class men trying to do the best they can in difficult circumstances. Are these the kind of roles you seek out, or do people see these these roles in you?

Raúl: I shot ATLANTIC CITY right after WE THE ANIMALS - it was that same summer. I remember the process of ANIMALS was so intense and so beautiful, but I wanted something to jump into right away that was very different. It's great that you see through-lines, because in the moment, it felt very different to me. ANIMALS came through my representatives and I auditioned for it and I'm so proud of it. But the ATLANTIC CITY director, Miguel Alvarez  - I've known him for 16 or 17 years - I made my first short film with him. We've collaborated on a number of projects over the years. I guess now that we're talking about it, those roles are also similar to Richie on Looking - a combination of masculinity and vulnerability is what they're looking for.

NFF: And that seems like a new kind of man in film, at least in the last handful of years. Are you seeing or hearing a conversation around sensitivity in men being represented onscreen? 

Raúl: You know, my father didn't cook or change diapers. I see my friends and their relationships to their sons are way different now than in the past. I mean, I'm surrounded by artists and sensitive people,  but I do think the culture is shifting. I hope so. Even the way people are seeking these stories out and media is changing and stories are being told. People are demanding there be a broad range of cultural representation.

NFF: On one of these films you worked with friends that you've known for almost 20 years. Do you think chemistry is important? Do you like to have a personal relationship when you work?

Raúl: Yes, although not everyone is like that. It confuses me when I come up against that. I feel like as an art form it's all about getting personal, and sometimes that's not always comfortable. And then sometimes not being personal IS the chemistry. It depends on the character. Because I didn't train as an actor, I have to reinvent the wheel every time. 

NFF: I've heard the saying that you can't judge your character as an actor - do you agree? 

Raúl: I believe with few exceptions there are no good or bad people, just people who do good and bad things. When you judge your character, you die. You have to understand the why. With Pops [in WE THE ANIMALS], the more I learn about men in my own family, the more I can understand where he's coming from. Abuse is cycled and passed down and everyone is just trying their best. That's the way I have to approach people I'm playing and that character in particular. The novel is written with so much love, that even though he does frightening, at times horrific things, I have to honor the love that was there.

NFF: What do you hope audiences take away from WE THE ANIMALS?

Raúl: If we did the novel justice, the audience is in for a pretty beautiful ride. The kids in this film - I'm just so proud of them and their work and they were so fascinating to share that experience with. I hope people are infected by their charm and their brilliance the way I was. 

 WE THE ANIMALS

WE THE ANIMALS

 ATLANTIC CITY

ATLANTIC CITY

Five Questions With... Steven Cantor, Director/Producer of BALLET NOW

We're screening an incredible documentary on the Monday of #NFF18 (Monday, June 25 at 12:15pm) and want to make sure you grab your tickets NOW for this not-to-be-missed special film.

BALLET NOW provides a rarely seen, unfiltered glimpse into the world of ballet and what it takes to create a groundbreaking, one-of-kind dance extravaganza. Featuring a diverse cast of world-class dancers from around the globe, the film follows New York City Ballet’s Prima Ballerina Tiler Peck as she unites the worlds of tap, hip-hop, ballet, and even clown artistry as the first female curator of The Music Center’s famed BalletNOW program. With less than a week to pull it all off, Tiler faces the mounting pressures of not only dancing in multiple pieces, but also producing and directing this high-profile event. The success of the performances rests squarely on her shoulders. Will she pull it off?

Read more with Director/Producer Steven Cantor below, and join us on the 25th!

unnamed.jpg

NFF: How did you come to this story, and/or how you were introduced to Tiler?

Steven: Tiler and I made a music video (Charlotte OC - Medicine Man) together last year and became friends, plus I was blown away by her talent and athleticism. My company, Stick Figure, has a partnership with Paul Allen’s Vulcan Productions to do a series of projects aimed at making the classical arts, in particular ballet, more accessible and inspirational to younger generations, so when Tiler was given this opportunity, she told me about it and it fit right in with that mission and became our first feature film together.

NFF: Can you talk about your own relationship to dance and the dance world?

Steven: My main relationship is that my daughter, Clara, is 14 and a student at SAB, the school of the New York City Ballet. She has been there since she was six. There’s no outside pressure on her or anything - she goes because she absolutely loves it. Tiler has been her favorite dancer since she started watching ballet at 3 or 4, so this whole relationship is kind of mind-blowing to her and has  made her think I’m a real cool dad. 

On another note, I made the film DANCER about the so-called “Bad boy of ballet”, Sergei Polunin, last year, so this is my second ballet themed film in a short period.

NFF: How did Elisabeth Moss become involved in Ballet Now?

Steven: Elisabeth was a ballet dancer growing up. In fact she attended the same school, Westside Dance, in L.A. as. Tiler. She is Tiler’s and my partner in this whole mission with Vulcan. And she has obviously a great relationship with HULU, so she was instrumental at bringing them on board at an early stage. She’s been a phenomenal partner - highly engaged and a creative force at every step of the production.

NFF: Did you face any challenges or surprises while filming?

Steven: Well, what is never said on screen is that while documenting Tiler’s monolithic effort to pull off this whole program in three days, we essentially had three days to film all the major building blocks of a feature film. On films in the past, I have often taken several years to accomplish the same task. So that was certainly an adventure.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket?

Steven: I love Nantucket. I have been visiting since I was a child and for the last ten years or so, my parents, my sister’s family and mine all rent a house on the island for a few weeks in August. It’s a time of extended family togetherness that we otherwise rarely get. Suffice to say, Nantucket has a special place in my heart. You can spot me riding my bike around town this August, probably with some kids behind me.

balletnow_hero.jpg