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... 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... Finn O'Hara, Director of I LOVE YOUR F*CKING NAME

In the short documentary I LOVE YOUR F*CKING NAME, people discuss the trials and joys they have experienced because of their unusual or famous names.

We spoke with director Finn O'Hara about the film and what's in a name. Read more, and see the film in shorts block "It's All True," playing Thursday, June 21 at 9am!

FINN O'HARA

FINN O'HARA

NFF: How did you find all of the subjects? 

FINN: I started with a Craigslist ad as I wanted the casting process to be an unexpected exercise. I thought that if people saw the ad, or heard about it, they’d be drawn into the conversation I was looking to have about the complex relationship they had with their given name. If it piqued their interest, I knew I’d have an engaged participant.

NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration, and/or why you wanted to share these stories? 

FINN: Growing up in the rural country meant that my super Irish name marked me as being different. I didn’t want to be different, and I just wanted to fit in. I always had to explain my name, and I stored up a handful of responses to the same questions about my name that would help diffuse the attention my name brought me. I was shy, and didn’t like the attention that my name brought to me in social situations. I hated my name, and tried my best to hide it. But it was in University, in another town, that my name was actually well received. Random people would actually come up to me and say “Hey, I love your fucking name”, and it really took me by surprise. At that time in my life, I began to discover who I was and began to like myself. My name actually helped mark me as being different and it made me who I am.

So fast forward to a few years back when I realized that many people have gone though the same paths as me with their names, and I saw it as a way to explore how people grow with what they have, and love who they are.

NFF: Have you struggled at all with your own name? Or do you f*ing love your name?

FINN: See above! And oh yes, I love my fucking name.

NFF: Any particular challenges or surprises that came up during shooting?

FINN: We were really surprised by the level of sincerity and openness that our subjects gave me during their interview. It was the first time I had met all of them, and our conversations were candid and inspiring. 

Oh, and that Peter Pan actually dressed as Peter Pan for Halloween. That kept us in stitches for a while.

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?

FINN: I’m hoping that the Nantucket audiences take away from my film the fact that most of us share a common journey about personal acceptance and our unique space in the world. Some just have a steeper pitch to climb along that journey, and we can all learn through this film’s light hearted, empathetic conversation.

Oh, and if you’re going to have kids, spend a bit of time before you name your child. Say the whole name out loud, ask your friends, Google it. Do your homework and dodge a lifetime of regret.

Five Questions With... Nina Horowitz and Alexandra Liveris, Directors of Short Docs THE MARGARET LAMBERT STORY and EYES OF EXODUS

We spoke with Nina Horowitz, director of THE MARGARET LAMBERT STORY and Alexandra Liveris, director of EYES OF EXODUS, both included in DOCUMENTARY SHORTS: LIFE JOURNEYS, screening on Thursday, June 22 at 11:15 AM. Read more with Nina and Alexandra below, and check out their films this week at Bennett Hall!

NFF (To Nina and Alexandra): How did you first become acquainted with and interested in your subjects' life and story?

Nina: There is a famous quote from the author Virginia Wolff,  “If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” Here is my truth, I am Jewish and I was a competitive high jumper in both high school and college. I was vaguely familiar with the story and the rumors about Margaret Lambert, but I did not know much more than she was unable to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Life can be full of unexpected opportunities, and when I was asked to work with the Olympic Channel and develop films to showcase the impact of the Olympic Games , I knew this was the story I wanted to explore and document.

Alexandra: I started filming EYES OF EXODUS while visiting my grandfather’s birthplace. I was struck by the surreal dynamic of locals, vacationers, and refugees coexisting side-by-side on this fairytale island. It wasn’t until I became engaged in the underbelly of the town, did I understand that this coexistence wasn’t surreal, it is our global reality— only visually heightened when you are dealing with a population of 300.

NFF (To Nina): Can you talk a little bit about obtaining the archival footage and material/s? How difficult was that process?

Nina: I thoroughly enjoyed the work involved with searching and finding archival footage for this film, and I had decided early on that the perfect archival would be critical to sharing Margaret’s story. Our subjects in the film generously donated old photos, articles and videos for us to use in the film. Another leading provider of archival in the film was our distributor, The Olympic Channel, who had an impressive and unlimited bank of archival from every recorded Olympic game, specifically from the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, which were the first ever broadcast live to the world.

NFF (To Alexandra): Immigration is a hotly contested topic all over the world right now. Do you think your film might be able to provide some perspective on the global refugee crisis?

Alexandra: My intent was to make a short film that humanized both the refugee and local experience during a small, but crucial part of the Syrian refugee crisis—the first stop into Europe. I was interested in using Kastellorizo as a microcosm to explore how this global crisis affects all of our choices and destinies, refugee or not. Kastellorizo only has a population of 300 and for this reason it is easier to show all sides of humanity more clearly. My main focus was showing something that is not often talked about--the difficulties of altruism. 

NFF (To Nina and Alexandra): What surprised and/or challenged you the most while you were making the film?

Nina: One of the biggest surprises, which may sound funny, was Margaret Lambert herself.  At 103 years old, she still recounts her life narrative with such clarity and passion. It became a huge inspiration for the film.  I was also surprised how the people closest to her shared her story with clarity  and without the resentment or anger that some might have expected toward her persecutors. Margaret's attitude and acceptance of her history are compelling and at times, emotionally wrenching. She is an exemplar of positivity. She lost a title and the opportunity for a gold medal, but she gained a life in the US that she valued more than anything else.

Alexandra: The different reactions my refugee friends had to the island. A few very young men told me that they wished they never came to Kastellorizo because they expected the Red Cross to be available to them and they didn’t have enough money to buy hotel rooms and food from the locals. Another couple were happy to spend a few days on the island after surviving war torn Syria so they could enjoy the honeymoon they never had. 

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

Nina: I cannot wait to show my film and meet some of the incredible filmmakers that I'll be featured alongside.  This is a distinguished festival, I’m absolutely thrilled to be included in this year’s program.  I'm looking forward to seeing as many films as possible and eating delicious seafood.

I hope the audience is moved, inspired and can also laugh a little. Margaret lived in a time of great political uncertainty, yet she found ways to recreate herself and to honor her past. At 103 she is able to be grateful for the life she has had. My goal is to have us all pause, reflect and recognize that if we are lucky, the road is long and our stories can inspire generations to come.

Alexandra: I know that Nantucket is a community of compassion and with 1/113 people worldwide currently living as refugees, I hope that EYES OF EXODUS will inspire an environment of continual education and compassion on a very complex issue.

5 Questions With...John Stanton, director of THE LAST BAY SCALLOP?

Documentary filmmaker and Nantucket resident, John Stanton, has crafted an important film on a topic of great importance to Nantucket Island: the declining bay scallop fishery. His short documentary THE LAST BAY SCALLOP? possess the question about the future of Nantucket’s scallops to viewers and to those in a position to affect change. We recently spoke with him about making the film and what he hopes to impress on viewers.

NFF: You’ve said you like to make and tell ‘stories about communities.’ The Last Bay Scallop tells the story of a community very close to home. What did you learn during the process that you didn’t know before?

John Stanton: It’s not so much about what you learn--I know all the people and the problem--it’s more about finding that crossroad when a local culture may be lost due to lack of environmental concern. There are problems in the harbor which people are working on and the film address some of the changes in the Nantucket community.  I make films about local cultures that seem to be slipping away.

NFF: Detail your production process from development to final edit.

JS: There was a story I wanted to tell and I knew where it was happening and the people involved. The biggest thing in my favor was Carl Sjolund, who’s personally carried the film. I knew he would be both informative and entertaining on-screen. For my process, I start with a chat and a notebook and I get a feel for what people want to say. Then I start developing a loose script, look for funding, and recruit my team.  Andrew Cromadie, my DP, was local talent I got. And I usually work with a 2- or 3-man crew to keep people who speak to me comfortable. I cut the film myself, and from conception to final cut, it was about 6 to 7 months. The story was right here, so it went pretty quickly. I guess, thinking about it, a study on the loss of eelgrass over the last decade was the impetus for the film. I was at that meeting when the results were released and shortly after that I began talking to both fishermen and scientists about the problems in the harbor and with the scallop fishery.

NFF: You don’t shy away from the politics of the issue, but conclude the film on a hopeful note. What, ideally, will audiences take away from screening The Last Bay Scallop?

JS: I kept it to 30 minutes because I want there to be audience discussions afterwards. I think nothing is more powerful than watching a film with neighbors and immediately afterwards talking with your neighbors. You hope people will be opened to the issues of what is happening with the harbor and what needs to be done. We made a 10-minute version in advance of a Nantucket Town Meeting to help raise the issue. In the end I like to tell stories about how to be in the world, and being a commercial fisherman, a scalloper, is one of those ways.


NFF: Talk about some of the characteristics specific to bay scallop fisheries and why carefully-considered conservation is key to their survival.

JS: Well [the issue facing] bay scallops is like the canary in the coalmine; ecologically, the harbor catch has been decreasing steadily over 10 years. The joke was, if you can get a job, you can always scallop. That’s changed as people can make more money in construction. The life cycle of a scallop is dependent on eel grass which has declined. A study came out which inspired me; it reported that we’d lost 50% of eelgrass in the past 10 years, and this loss has come from harbor pollution.  That pollution has increased nitrogen levels, and algae, which kill eelgrass, thrive in nitrogen-rich environments.

NFF: In your own words, why should people come to see The Last Bay Scallop at Nantucket Film Festival?

JS:  I would like the film to reach out to both islanders and folks who only recently came to this island, to both summer folks and the people who travel here specifically for the film festival. I would like for those audiences to be reminded of this moment of local culture that still exists in this changing world we live in.

THE LAST BAY SCALLOP? plays the Nantucket Film Festival in a Special Presentation on Friday, June 24th