Five Questions With... Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein, Writers/Directors of THE STRANGE ONES

Young Sam (James Freedson-Jackson) and older, rugged Nick (Alex Pettyfer) are seemingly on an innocent, brotherly road trip into the woods. But the younger boy has disturbing nightmares that suggest all is not as it seems. Are they on the run, and from what? Is Nick the quiet boy’s protector, his captor, or something else entirely? For their feature debut, Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein have crafted an engrossing, atmospheric mystery.

We spoke with Christopher and Lauren about THE STRANGE ONES - read more below and catch a screening on Thursday, June 22 at 9:15 PM and/or Saturday, June 24 at 4:00 PM!

NFF: The film is deliberately vague. Do you prefer to let audiences draw their own conclusions, rather than provide explicit exposition?

Christopher & Lauren: Yes -  we tend to be more drawn to films that ask questions rather than give out answers; we think it's more fascinating to consider multiple dimensions and possibilities for what a film might be, and we hope our film has this sort of quality. Rather than being vague, we wanted the film to be quite precise in its mysteriousness, if that makes sense... everything the viewer sees and hears in the film is there for a reason and we hope that it adds up to a beguiling and satisfying experience for anyone who watches it, even if it takes different shapes for different people.

NFF: The atmosphere/setting is such a prevalent part of the film. Where did you shoot, and how did you decide on your location/s?

Christopher & Lauren: We shot in upstate New York, mostly in the Catskill region and Hudson Valley. The script was written with pretty specific locations in mind, and they all hold different meanings that relate the characters and their journey.  They are two people journeying away from civilization and into an unknown future, so the places they go naturally needed to mirror this in terms of being both beautiful and seductive in a way, but also treacherous and full of mystery.

NFF: How did you work together as co-directors? Were there pre-determined work or shots you divided up, or was it more in the moment decision-making?

Christopher & Lauren: When we co-direct we basically do everything together. We both direct solo as well, so we are both pretty opinionated and are always thinking of all aspects of job, so it never felt right to divide up tasks in any way. We prep and shotlist really extensively together, so we have a really unified vision for the whole thing going in and this in turn allows us to give each other the space on set to make decisions in the moment.

NFF: What surprised or challenged you the most while you were making the film?

Christopher & Lauren: The most challenging aspect of our film was probably making sure that each scene presented multiple dimensions, in addition to figuring out when to reveal pertinent information about the characters' past while still keeping the film in the present tense. We were surprised in the edit process that certain scenes we shot didn't fit into the natural progression and pace of the film we were making, and therefore these scenes ultimately had to be cut. Since our film is a mystery that is largely left for the audience to solve, we were very aware of how each scene would be interpreted in multiple ways when we were writing, shooting, and editing the film. Because of these challenges, it was a very ambitious first feature film for us.

NFF: Why are you excited to show the film in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences will take away?

Christopher & Lauren:Nantucket is a really special place and the festival is known to have excellent programming, so we're really excited to be included in that. We hope the audiences there take away a sense of intrigue and wonder with the film's story and our approach to it, and find it to be something they continue to think about even after the film ends.

Five Questions With... HOT SUMMER NIGHTS Writer/Director Elijah Bynum

Daniel (Timothée Chalamet, Miss Stevens, NFF 2016) has been sent to spend the summer of 1991 with his aunt on Cape Cod. He quickly falls in with the town rebel, Hunter (Alex Roe), and falls for the town beauty, McKayla (Maika Moore), who just happens to be Hunter’s sister and thus off-limits. As Daniel re-invents himself in surprising—and illegal—ways and a hurricane looms on the horizon, the stage is set for an unforgettable coming-of-age drama in writer/director Elijah Bynum’s assured feature directorial debut.

We spoke to Elijah about Imperative Entertainment’s  HOT SUMMER NIGHTS - read more below, and see the film on Thursday, June 22 at 6:30 PM and/or Friday, June 23 at 4:30 PM!

NFF: The film is based on a "mostly true story" - can you talk a little about your inspiration?

Elijah: It's based on two kids I knew in college. Daniel and Hunter are much different than the two kids I knew but the unlikely friendship or so called “odd couple” dynamic is the same. They started out selling weed around a dorm and then they were selling in two dorms, then 10 dorms, next the entire campus and the five other colleges in the area were getting weed from these two. As their success grew so did their paranoia and distrust for one another and you could see their friendship starting to come apart at the seams. Eventually it all came to an end in dramatic fashion and both kids dropped out of school and vanished. Nobody really knows where either of them are or what they're up to. Still gives me chills to think about.

NFF: This could be classified as a "coming of age" film - were you influenced or inspired by any coming of age films when you were working on it?

Elijah: Absolutely. The John Hughes movies of the 80s were certainly an influence. As were other classics such as The Sandlot and Stand By Me. The Last Picture Show was another film I found myself revisiting over and over again while making Hot Summer Nights. But the biggest influence was probably the book Virgin Suicides. It haunted me and has stayed with me in ways few other movies or books have. 

NFF: You have an impressive young cast. Tell us a little about casting and how you found them?

Elijah: First of all, I'd like to say I love all the actors. They are all incredibly talented and dreams to work with. I had seen Timothée Chalamet on “Homeland” and then again in “Interstellar” and thought he was great. One of our producers, Ryan Friedkin, was also a big fan and everyone was on board right away. As far as the role of Daniel goes Timothée was always the first (and only) choice. Alex Roe was brought to us by WME after a long search for Hunter. The role was really tricky to cast and a bunch of great actors came in and read for the part, but nobody felt quite right. Alex did an audition tape, and it was basically love at first sight. Then we skyped and he held up well under interrogation and the rest is history. I think he did a fantastic job and now I can't imagine Hunter being played by anyone else. Another producer of ours, Bradley Thomas, had seen Maika Monroe in “It Follows” and called me up and said "this is McKayla". I went out and watched “It Follows” and agreed. She did a great job with a role that could have very easily turned into a clichéd mess. Maia Mitchell had come in and read for the role of McKayla but at this point we were closing in on Maika for the part. But she was just so good I knew we had to have her in the movie. Again, she took a role that didn't give her much on the page and turned Amy into a fully formed human being. Maia is great. I first saw Emory Cohen in Place Beyond The Pines and thought he was fantastic. I remember thinking "if I ever get to make a movie I want to put him in it." Originally I had imagined Dex as being played by someone much older but Emory had gotten hold of the script and responded to the role. We met up and talked about it and he had really exciting ideas. He's such an incredibly inventive actor and it was a joy watching him work. He's also one of the funniest people I've ever met.

NFF: The soundtrack is so important for setting the tone of the movie - and you have a diverse, engaging collection of songs throughout. How did you decide on the music you wanted to use?

Elijah: A lot of the music in the movie were songs that I would listen to while writing the script. Their energy seemed to seep into the story. I would play them on set whenever I could to set the rhythm and mood. While the story is set in 1991 I wanted the story to feel timeless -- I wanted it to feel suspended in some bygone summer of America's yesteryear. I knew the wardrobe and production design would tell audiences the movie was set in 1991, not to mention the fact we slap "1991" on the screen, so I didn't think we had to also remind them through the music. The tone of the movie is slightly heightened, it's a dreamy memory,  more so than a fact based account. It's a story about teenagers with raging hormones who's emotions run the full gamut. We felt that this gave us the artistic license to choose music that complemented the story and characters on an emotional level rather than try to use music that felt grounded in a specific time and place.

NFF: Why are you excited to show the film in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences will take away?

Elijah: Not only is Nantucket a great film festival but it's only right that a movie set in Cape Cod, a movie in which Cape Cod plays an integral character, gets to be seen in Cape Cod. Hopefully the Nantucket crowd can relate in some way to that special feeling of being on the Cape during those summer months while also taking note of some of the more subtle social-class issues and the effects it can have on the kids who live there.

Five Questions With... Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse, Writer/Directors of COUP D'ETAT

NFF is delighted to showcase Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse’s satiric comedy COUP D'ETAT, originally presented as a staged reading at the Festival in 2006! Putting a rebellious twist on a high school English assignment, 16-year-old Tatiana (Odeya Rush) strikes up a pen pal correspondence with Anton (Michael Caine), the notorious dictator of an island nation. When his people rise up and depose him, Anton escapes to the last place anyone would think to look: the suburban home Tatiana shares with her single mom, Darlene (Katie Holmes). As he plots his return to power while in exile, Anton takes on Tatiana as a protégée, helping her plan the overthrow of her high school’s ruling mean girls. What could possibly go wrong?

We chatted with Lisa and Joe - read more below, and join us at COUP D'ETAT on Thursday, June 22 at 6:15 PM, and/or Friday, June 23 at 4:30 PM!

Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse

Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse

NFF: How do you work together as co-writers and directors? Does one of you handle certain tasks more than the other, or do you divide everything down the middle?

Lisa & Joe: We’ve been screenwriting partners for twenty years so we’ve ironed out working together. We are usually of one mind, which is good and bad. It’s good because we don’t fight that much. It’s bad because if we are going off a cliff, no one stops us. In general, though, Joe is the ‘idea’ guy, and Lisa is the ‘decision maker.’ Joe comes up with a million ideas, and Lisa tells him what seems to work, what doesn’t; what’s funny, what isn’t. Also, on set, Joe is usually there with the actors and Lisa is watching through the monitor to see if it’s working. Before directing, we storyboard together. Unlike most indies, there is no handheld in our film (on purpose) because we wanted to create a more heightened, stylized reality. This is very hard to achieve on a short shoot like this one (19 days) so we really had to have our shots nailed down. Similarly, we didn’t have much rehearsal time, so we had to know in advance what we wanted from the actors. We had such super pros, they understood what we were going for very quickly but if there was any confusion/debate, we’d usually tag team until we got our way. 

NFF: Can you talk a little about casting, and how your actors came to the project? Did you write this with any of them in mind?

Lisa & Joe: We always thought of Jason Biggs because we knew him and had worked with him before. At various times there were many other actors in the lead roles, including for the staged reading we did at your festival ten years ago. For that, we had Jimmy Smits as our dictator and Heather Graham as the mom. Later, we had Alfred Molina, Robert DeNiro, Anthony Hopkins, but our heart always was with Michael Caine. He has the gravitas but also pairs that with the most subtle wit. We were blessed to have him.  We also got very lucky with Odeya Rush. She came in just weeks before shooting and she blew us away. 

NFF: The production design and art direction is so specific to the storytelling. Did you have the world in mind when you were writing, and/or was it a collaborative effort with your team putting it together?

Lisa & Joe: On a small budget,  the art department is the most under-funded area. Directors should have very clear ideas because it’s hard to create a look with no money or crew. We had a very specific vision for Tatiana’s room. We wanted no punk rock posters and wanted it to look like the character hand-made everything. In real life, we made the decor with our kids and a student from SCAD. The idea of defacing cute animal pics later became Tatiana's DIY motif, she then defaced her backpack, her boots, her school etc. 

We wanted suburbia and Tatiana’s town to showcase consumerism gone awry. Lots of Americana.  When choosing locations, anything kitsch we used— the huge globe, the mall with the insane train and toy animal play area,  the school that looks like a post modern fortress.  We wanted America to be Disneyfied and not totally real because we felt that would allow people to believe the very unlikely story. When choosing props, we went for gaudy color, especially yellow because it reflected Anton Vincent’s flag and also made the world a little more fantastical. (We used yellow for Darlene’s hygienist outfit, her silly car and the crazy adult tricycle)!

By contrast, we wanted the island nation to look deprived and rural, like Guiana/Cuba. we also wanted to push the dictator’s Soviet imagery, with his very eastern european fortress, his retro Rolls Royce and his very Fidel style propaganda posters. since we shot everything in Savannah, we are pleased that it actually does look like a different country. 

NFF: This is a satirical look at family, relationships, and politics, among many other topics. Would you say you approach the world or are you drawn to stories from a place of humor?

Lisa & Joe: We always start with our own stories from our lives. In PARENTAL GUIDANCE we used our real stories with our kids. In Coup D’etat, we used stories from both of us growing up with single moms.  Joe’s mom really did force him to spy on her boyfriends. Lee’s mom really did date a convict because he could fix her car and make her life easier. 

In high school, we were very into punk rock and always wanted to find a way into a story about teens, punk and moms. When Saddam went missing, we imagined him hiding in suburbia and that became the thread to weave our real stories together.  

NFF: Why are you excited to show the film in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences will take away?

Lisa & Joe: We love Nantucket. We are from upstate NY and CT and we both went to Connecticut College. We had many summers on New England beaches and on Nantucket, so it feels like home to us. Also, we think Nantucket could use some punk rock and DIY spirit, so, we hope everyone becomes galvanized to spark their own revolutions. 

COUP D'ETAT

COUP D'ETAT

5 Questions With...Paul Serafini, director of ANABELLE HOOPER & THE GHOSTS OF NANTUCKET

We were excited to sit down with Paul Serafini, who has one of the most ‘Nantucket-filled’ films in this year’s program with his feature debut, ANNABELLE HOOPER AND THE GHOSTS OF NANTUCKET. This family friendly adventure features both Bailee Madison (who’s also a producer on the film) as Annabelle, and several of Nantucket’s most iconic locations. We spoke with Paul in advance of the film’s World Premiere at the Festival!

NFF: Annabelle Hooper and the Ghosts of Nantucket is your feature debut. What was it like to work on a film with such an amazing location?
Paul Serafini: I came up with the idea for the storyline a few years ago while doing a ghost tour with my then 10-year-old daughter. Nantucket was where my movie education began in the Dreamland when I was very young. I went every night in the 70’s and 80’s and saw all the iconic films from then--like Jaws and Star Wars. When I came up with the idea I thought “why don’t I shoot my first feature there?” We wrote the script around locations that already existed, so we didn’t have to spend a lot on building sets. So many told me to shoot a few days on Nantucket and double it elsewhere but I wouldn’t. The entire movie was set there and couldn’t be duplicated anywhere. As a result the film looks more expensive than it was.

NFF: You’re also a producer on the film, along with Bailee Madison. Talk about the development process (from when it was a script) and what it was like to work with Bailee both as your lead and a production collaborator.
PS: As I mentioned, I came up with the concept “Nancy Drew meets the Goonies” kind of mashup. Once I had that and an outline, I partnered with a screenwriter for a first draft. And it was two or three years to get it from good to great; it had to be great or there was no reason to make it. After that we got Stefne Miller (our screenwriter) involved to polish the script, add story elements and age it up (Annabelle was 12, but when we shot, Bailee was nearly 16.).
As to working with Bailee, I can’t say enough. I’ve never met a more down-to-earth kid. The crazy industry she works in can cause one to get lost, but boy she is so mature and has a wonderful family that keeps her grounded. She only wants to be involved in wholesome and creative projects. I wanted Annabelle Hooper to be a girl for younger girls to look up to and be inspired by, and that’s right in line with Bailee’s creative outlook. It was Bailee’s first time producing. She went out there know she was starting out and was keen to learn, but was also unafraid to speak her mind (as you must!). I don’t think there was a suggestion she made that I didn’t take

NFF: Were there any particular challenges to shooting on an Island; how did the Nantucket spirit contribute to your set?
PS: One thing that was paramount to our production, this being a low-budget film there weren’t going to be bells and whistles in comforts, but the environment people worked in would be happy; there’d be no drama allowed. Period. I wanted everyone to have a great experience. Making movies is hard and we do it because we love it, and there’s no reason it can’t be a good experience for all no matter your position on the film. In terms of the island, they couldn’t have been more accommodating. When we got there, two big productions had already filmed, so the Islanders were perhaps weary, but I’d begun building relationships years ago with locals and when we finally got funding those relationships were in tact.
I wanted to showcase Nantucket’s iconic sights: the Whaling museum, Dreamland, the Sankaty Lighthouse, the First Congregational Church and of course the Athenium Library. Not that Nantucket needs any help in tourism, but the film was kind of a ‘love letter’ to the Island. That’s how Basil [Tsiokos; NFF’s Film Program Manager] referred to it when we were invited. I’ve never thought of it like that, but it fits!

NFF: Can you recount any favorite memories you have from your time working on Nantucket?
PS: Oh boy! I don’t want to give the cliche “every day was memorable,” answer, but truly, every day there was something special to experience.  I remember a lot of laughter and smiles. The people involved with the movie did it because they thought it was something worthwhile. Working on a set like this, away from home on an island, it’s like summer camp. You’re thrust into this family environment, which we became. Bar none, Nantucket is one of the most special places in the world and it’s why I wanted to shoot my first film there. Maybe this movie is my way of giving back to the Island all the wonderful memories it gave me.

NFF: Please tell our audience why they should come see Annabelle Hooper and the Ghosts of Nantucket at NFF?
PS: I think the movie has something for everyone. It will appeal to younger audiences and parents will enjoy it with their kids. And it touches on a lot of universally important themes. It looks beautiful. If you like Nantucket, you’ll get a kick out of seeing all the locations. It has scares, mystery, romance and will take you back to your childhood. And I’ll be there, Bailee will be there and several of the actors, production team and crew will be there. We used local actors and crew, so locals can see their neighbors on screen!

ANNABELLE HOOPER & THE GHOSTS OF NANUCKET plays the Nantucket Film Festival Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26. Stefnee Miller, Paul Serafini and Bailee Madison will be in attendance for both screenings.

5 Questions With...Maris Curran, writer/director of FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE

Writer/Director Maris Curran’s feature directorial debut is sure to be one of the year’s best-received films. Her moving portrait of loss and braving a broken heart to find solace through connection will linger with you. We recently caught up with Maris in advance of her bringing FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE to the Nantucket Film Fest.

NFF: In preparing to speak with you, I revisited my initial impressions of your film. I remember being pleased by the unexpected casting; being impressed by the expansive space you created in a fairly discrete set, and being super pleased I was watching the work of a female director. What are the impressions you hope audiences will take away from watching your film?

MC: All the things you said are very important to me. When I think about the audience and what they take away it’s about the emotional content; about slowing down and creating room to feel. I want the audience to go on an emotional journey with the lead. Each person will have their own experience with the film, but hopefully they’ll leave talking about their own parallel experiences. To have the film start conversations among its viewers would be the best takeaway.

NFF: The characters of Sherwin and Lucinda needed to be able to sustain a particular kind of chemistry. David [who’s also a producer of the film] was already attached when casting began, but how did you go about find his right partner in Dianne Wiest?

MC: It’s interesting, when you’re casting a two-hander, you’re always paying attention to chemistry. Their dynamic was important. They didn’t meet until they were on-set, since having friction between the characters was important. Dianne is so deep and nuanced; we know her from comedy, but she also possesses a depth I wanted to push into. Even she was surprised by her performance and asked me “how did you know this was in me?”  There was magic in having the actors come into film almost like the characters. As to casting Dianne, I was looking for, a woman over 65 who could play complicated, emotional and acerbic, and someone who would play that fearlessly and that person was Dianne. She was very excited to take on the role.

NFF: While this film is not autobiographical, you’ve said it was written from a very personal place. What were some of the benefits and challenges in mining creative work from that place?

MC: I think that’s how I work as a director. When you’re working in emotional terrain--I make earnest, empathetic cinema--the shorthand you can use to establish where the characters are is to share emotional experiences. Even before shooting, when doing scene work and talking with my collaborators, I would share where the script was coming from (i.e., a vulnerable place) and my collaborators would also share in kind. It creates a real investment in the work. As far as challenges from working in such a personal manner the challenge involves your taking a risk and I’m not afraid of risk-taking in my work.

NFF: Maine is very much a 4th character in the film. Talk about your decision to set the film there.

MC: I grew up in the beginning of North Philly in an artistic and diverse area. Every summer growing up we’d spend time in Maine with family. It impressed upon me from a young age the fact that there are different Americas. Maine is a place you could imagine the lead (Sherwin) finding solace, but it’s also a conservative area, so you could see him feeling alien. Maine is also a place we don’t often get to see on-screen and I wanted to feature its unique geography.


NFF: In your own words, why should people come to see Five Nights in Maine at Nantucket Film Festival?

MC: It’s an emotionally-resonant film and a film for adults. The audience is given a glimpse at the inner-lives of these characters, and it’s a film about sinking into yourself and your feelings, and I think we can all use that in the summer!


Five Nights in Maine plays the Nantucket Film Festival on June 22nd and 25th.  Maris will be in attendance at both screenings.

Watch the trailer for CHRONICALLY METROPOLITAN, a World Premiere at NFF!

A World Premiere at NFF16, Xavier Manrique's (Hope Springs) CHRONICALLY METROPOLITAN has just released a trailer. Written by Nick Schutt (Blood and Oil), the sardonic comedy about love and letting go stars: Shiloh Fernandez, Ashley Benson, Addison Timlin, Josh Peck, Mary Louise Parker and Chris Noth.

Click the image below for a link to the trailer at Deadline.com.

CHRONICALLY METROPOLITAN has its WORLD PREMIERE at Nantucket Film Festival on Friday, June 24th. It also screens Saturday, June 25th. Director, Xavier Manrique, and writer, Nick Schutt will be in attendance.

 

See the trailer for EQUITY, the first female-driven Wall Street drama

Check out the trailer for Meera Menon's debut drama, EQUITY.  Starring Anna Gunn, it's a film featuring what Variety calls, "the She Wolf of Wall Street...." Rounding out the cast are: James Purefoy, Craig Bierko, Nate Corddry, and Sarah Megan Thomas and Alysia Reiner, whose Broad Street Pictures produced the film.

EQUITY plays Nantucket Film Festival on Saturday, June 25th, and Producer/Actor, Alysia Reiner will be in attendance.

 

 

Todd Solondz's WEINER-DOG just released a trailer

From director Todd Solondz (WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE, HAPPINESS), WIENER-DOG is a dark, starkly funny story of a single dog and the many different people she touches over her short lifetime.  Man’s best friend starts out teaching a young boy some contorted life lessons before being taken in by a compassionate vet tech named Dawn Wiener (Greta Gerwig). Dawn reunites with someone from her past and sets off on a road trip. After leaving Dawn, Wiener-Dog encounters a floundering film professor, as well as an embittered elderly woman and her needy granddaughter—all longing for something more.  Solondz’s perversely dark comedy offers an appallingly honest look at the American experience, brought to life by its all-star cast.

Rounding out the cast are: Danny DeVito; Zosia Mamet; Ellen Burstyn, Kieran Culkin, Tracey Letts and Julie Delpy.

WEINER-DOG plays the Nantucket Film Festival Thursday, June 23rd and Saturday, June 25th.

Watch the trailer for Feature Drama, Ira Sachs' "Little Men"

Known for directing stories that pull at the heart-strings, Ira Sachs' latest film, a heartwarming dramedy, Little Men, does not disappoint.  It features a young 'odd couple', new neighborhood friends, Jake (Theo Taplitz) and Tony (Michael Barbieri).  Little Men focuses on Jake and Tony's budding friendship that's put to the test when their parents end up battling each other in court. Little Men also stars Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, and Paulina Garcia as Jake and Tony's parents.

Click below to see the trailer, and learn more about the film on its Facebook page.