Five Questions With... Annabelle Attanasio (MICKEY AND THE BEAR)

Teenager Mickey, forced to take on adult responsibilities as her veteran father struggles with addiction, must ultimately choose between familial obligation and personal fulfillment, in MICKEY AND THE BEAR by writer/director Annabelle Attanasio.

Read more with Annabelle below, and see the film TODAY (Sat 6/22) at 11:45am and tomorrow (Sun 6/23) at 9pm!

Young Film Lovers between the ages of 18-30 can enjoy $10 tickets with code NFFYFL30 online or at the door!

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

ANNABELLE: There are so many father-son stories, but only a handful of father-daughter stories where the daughter is more than a vehicle for her father’s emotions. I am so grateful that recent films like EIGHTH GRADE and LEAVE NO TRACE exist, and I hope MICKEY AND THE BEAR falls into the expanding canon of films that explore the complexity of the father-daughter bond.

My film contributes something somewhat darker, somewhat outré to that canon. What happens when you are 17, your mother’s dead, and your Dad is single, unstable, and self-medicating with booze and pills? Mickey alternates between traditional feminine roles — daughter, wife and mother — in order to keep her father’s mercurial moods and addictions at bay. Sometimes she nurtures him like she’s his mom. Sometimes she makes him feel important like she’s his little girl. And sometimes, she inadvertently lets her father cross a boundary so he can fill the void of his late wife.

Since writing the script I have met so many girls and women who have gone through some version of this pattern. I hope Mickey feels like a mosaic of all those girls and women who went through varying degrees of the same experience.

NFF: How old was your lead actress (Camila) when you started filming? Did you adjust your directing technique at all when working with younger actors vs. the adults in the film?

ANNABELLE: Cami has just turned 21 when we started filming. She continues to awe me with her artistic maturity, professionalism, and wisdom beyond her years. She feels like an old pro of her craft. What was fun about working with a group of such unique actors was learning each persons process. Badge is a veteran of film and television but this role was quite different from anything he had done before, so that was really exciting for me — to build the role with such an experienced actor. Ben came up doing a lot of theatre and loves immersing himself in the daily rituals of the real life people he’s representing, and I loved how singular he was able to make his role based on his research. With Calvin, he embodied the essence of the character so viscerally that I decided to cast him and tailor the character to fit him. We spoke extensively before the shoot coming up with Wyatt’s backstory, though in the movie you learn very little about him. I found age somewhat irrelevant — I think each actor is special in their own way and it is the director’s job to learn how to best support and guide them through the shoot.

NFF: You have a background as an actor. Did you always want to make films as a writer/director? What did you learn as an actor that was helpful on the other side of the camera?

ANNABELLE: If you’ve acted professionally and been through the slog of fairly consistent rejection, you just have so much more empathy for your actors. There is nothing worse than feeling like your director is working against you, or having bad communication with him or her. Mickey was an opportunity to really invest in my actor relationships. To make sure I listened and stayed present and was clear in my direction.

NFF: What are you working on currently, and/or where can we see more of your work?

ANNABELLE: I have two new features in development right now. MICKEY comes out in the Fall. My first short is called FRANKIE KEEPS TALKING and it’s available on Vimeo and my latest short, SAFE SPACE, will be online soon too. 

Five Questions With… Kristian Mercado (PA’LANTE)

An estranged family in Puerto Rico tries to reconnect in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in the narrative short film PA'LANTE by Writer/Director Kristian Mercado.

Listen as Kristian talks about the film, and see it in the "What I'm Looking For" block of short films on Sunday, June 23 at 11:30am!

Five Questions With... Sarah Colt & Josh Gleason (TRUE BELIEVER)

TRUE BELIEVER is the story of Arkansas pastor Robb Ryerse, one of the only evangelical Christians who spoke out against Trump’s rhetoric of hate.

Take a look at our Five Questions With… directors Sarah Colt and Josh Gleason, and see the film in the “Characters Welcome” block of documentary shorts on Sat, June 22 at 9:30am!

NFF: Please say a little about your inspiration for, or how you found the subject of your film.

SARAH & JOSH: In the days following Trump’s victory, we wanted to tell a story about the surge of political newcomers running for office. There was no shortage of amateur candidates running on the Democratic side, but we wanted to focus on a campaign that transcended party and drew attention to the process itself. That was how we found US congressional candidate Robb Ryerse, a progressive evangelical Republican who pastors a church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. What initially struck us about Robb was that, unlikely the majority of evangelical Christians, his ministry focused on love and social justice issues.

Robb started his grassroots campaign with the support of Brand New Congress, an upstart political action committee that recruits non-politicians to run for office. One of Robb’s fellow recruits for the 2018 midterms was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

 NFF: You’re in the documentary block. How do you balance entertainment value with a factual accounting of events?

SARAH & JOSH: We come from a background in journalism, so the facts take precedence. We are always mindful of our ethical obligation to depict our subjects fairly. But entertainment value is an important consideration, and we tend to gravitate towards stories that we believe will have a beginning, middle, and end. Following principal photography, we typically sketch out a dramatic narrative structure that will guide us in shaping the footage. The goal is to create an emotional experience for the viewer, not just an intellectual one. After all, if the story doesn’t capture the attention of audiences, then its message obviously won’t spread very far. 

To make sure that the film hasn’t drifted away from the facts during the editing process, we rigorously fact-check prior to completion. With a véritéfilm like TRUE BELIEVER, we screened a fine cut for the protagonist, Robb Ryerse, and gave him the opportunity to tell us if there was anything he considered inaccurate or misconstrued. We always maintain editorial independence, but it’s important to us that our subjects feel they have been portrayed accurately.   

 NFF: What do you find the biggest advantages and challenges of making a short as opposed to a feature?

SARAH & JOSH: Since most stories don’t rise to the level of a feature, the short form opens the doors to all kinds of enlightening, artful, and socially urgent stories that wouldn’t otherwise be told. It’s been inspiring to see how the form has given filmmakers the confidence to take more creative risks. It was never our expectation that True Believer would turn into a feature. Knowing that there is an audience for shorts took some pressure off, and gave us the confidence to pursue the story. 

The short form pushes you to be economical and precise with your editorial choices. True Believerwas edited from over 70 hours of footage, so it took some time to compactly layer a rich, compelling story. It really is like a literary short story in that every detail serves the storytelling in some way. If a scene or a piece of dialog wasn’t playing a well-defined role, then there really wasn’t room for it. 

 NFF: What are you working on currently, and/or where can we see more of your work?

SARAH & JOSH: We’re currently in post production on an vérité feature documentary that we’re very excited about. The working title is PROMISED LAND. It interweaves the personal stories of a factory worker in Ohio, a fifth-generation Kansas farmer, and an Uber driver in Florida. For years, their hard work paid off, but corporate consolidation and the erosion of union wages force drastic changes. We’ve had exceptional access to their personal and professional lives and have watched as all three made dramatic life choices in response to changing economic realities. The result is a kaleidoscopic portrait of a middle-class on the edge—and a time capsule of this moment in American history. We plan to release the film in early 2020 and hope to show it at Nantucket next summer! To stay up to date on the latest news about the film, follow our Facebook page.

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

SARAH & JOSH: We are honored to have the east coast premiere of TRUE BELIEVER at such an esteemed festival, with such a deep commitment to meaningful storytelling. We look forward to providing Nantucket audiences with a window into a part of the country, and a type of Christian, that they may not be familiar with. We hope that the film’s portrayal of an idealistic effort to create political change, no matter the odds, is inspirational. 

Five Questions With... Lilian Mehrel & Mary Evangelista (WATER MELTS)

WATER MELTS is a blue-hearted rom-com about people who are going to lose someone they love. Nobody knows what to say, so they bicker, laugh/cry, and get married. It's a romantic comedy, after all.

This virtual reality experience is available in our Legacy Lounge in the Harborview Room - take a look at the teaser below, as well as our filmmaker Q&A, and try it out for yourself this week!

NFF: Please say a little about your inspiration for the film.

LILIAN & MARY: Each of us co-creators were handed similar cards - the person we love most was given a terminal diagnosis. We came together and realized the story we had to create: a story that didn't exist yet. A story about the struggle to enjoy the moment with your loved one when you have been told you will lose them. It's almost impossible to be light under urgent dark clouds, but we knew what it felt like to live for the smallest of golden moments. And how the most absurd comedic moments burst forth from these tightly wound circumstances. And how it's about love.

NFF: Why do you enjoy working in VR to express your vision?

LILIAN & MARY: We are storytellers first, but we love the challenge of telling a story in this medium. When the entire space is our canvas, how do we imbue scenes with feeling? WATER MELTS is unique in the 360 realm as a narrative-driven cinematic piece. It also stands out in its play with genre: a blue-hearted rom-com.

We embraced a minimalist naturalism with long takes (the way it might feel to be sitting near a couple on the beach, eavesdropping on their argument) -the dreamy theatrics of life. We wanted the audience to have breathing room to look around and take in the vastness of the beach, to choose to watch the characters or let their conversation wash over you as you follow an animation. The blank canvas beach environment allowed any Fellini-esque absurdity to stand out in contrast.

We also enjoyed playing with cinematic touches in editing, like creating a slow-motion 360 montage.

It also brings an old-school element to the new medium in a fresh way. We overlay classic hand-painted animation (created by Emmy-award-winning artist Maya Edelman) on the 3-dimensional live-action footage. The real and the unreal co-existing in this surreal emotional landscape - the way humor and heartbreak can live together too.

NFF: What do you find the biggest advantages and challenges of making a film in this way, vs. "traditional" filmmaking?

LILIAN & MARY: The biggest advantage is the minimalism, which forces us to sharpen our storytelling skills. Also by allowing us to give audiences a life-like experience, we were able to let the real (live-action) and the unreal (animation) co-exist in a surreal emotional landscape - the way humor and heartbreak can live together too. So we overlaid old-school hand-painted animation (created by Emmy-award-winning Broad City artist Maya Edelman) on the 3-dimensional live-action footage.

The biggest disadvantage is the difficulty in sharing the final work with wide audiences.

NFF: What are you working on currently, and/or where can we see more of your work?

LILIAN & MARY: We’re working on a new romantic-comedy-with-an-edge series. More about our work at www.lilianmehrel.com and www.maryevangelista.com.

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?

LILIAN & MARY: We love the emphasis on screenwriting at Nantucket, and hope audiences will connect to our storytelling first and foremost. We also hope that those who see themselves in our characters and circumstances will feel seen. We would love to engage with audiences and invite anyone to share impressions with us - hashtag #WaterMelts and feel free to message us on Instagram (@lilianfilm @maryelista) - thank you!

Five Questions With... Michael Tyburski (THE SOUND OF SILENCE)

In Spotlight Film THE SOUND OF SILENCE, a successful "house tuner," who calibrates the sound in people's homes in order to adjust their moods, meets a client with a problem he can't solve. Featuring Peter Sarsgaard, Rashida Jones, and Austin Pendleton.

Read more about the film with writer/director Michael Tyburski, and see it on Sat, June 22 at 11:30am and Sun, June 23 at 12:15pm!

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NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for both the script and the visual/aural palette of the film?

MICHAEL: Well, it started with a short film that I made called PALIMPSEST, which I wrote with my friend Ben Nabors. And I think after making the short, we both realized that we wanted to do more with the “house tuner” character, who is introduced in that film. He’s the perfect conduit in which to tell a larger story about sound and the way it influences people. The feature script was really inspired by our collective experiences living in a noisy city. Aurally, I wanted sound to be represented as an ever present, but invisible character on screen too. We used a lot of static frames in the film, and my cinematographer and I played with negative space so that we could leave physical room for this unseen presence that is mostly portrayed sonically. As far as the visual palette, it’s a modern set film, but told from the point-of-view of a character who operates in a slightly dated New York, aesthetically. So we had that spirit in mind while shooting. I suppose I wanted to try my hand at making my own version of a love letter to New York City too. It’s such an inherently cinematic setting, and I have a lot of romantic feelings about the city.

NFF: Did making the film heighten your own sense of sound in your home (and everywhere else)?

MICHAEL: Very much so, yes. I did a lot of research into sound science and noise leading up to production. I’m typically hyper aware of the sounds around me, but making this film certainly escalated my sensitivity. I don’t think it was a conscious decision at the time, but when we were in post-production, I actually moved homes within New York City for the first time in a decade of living here. I moved from an apartment on a pretty busy commercial street, to the much quieter block I currently reside on. And like the main character in the film, my personal office is now literally located in a subterranean room in my home, away from the noise on the ground level. I love silence and appreciate having as much control as I can over the sounds that come into my space.

NFF: How did the collaboration work between your sound mixer, composer, and editor?

MICHAEL: It was designed to work very in-tandem in our case. And it’s an interesting question, because more often on an independent film budget, it’s unfortunately typical for these departments to work separately from one another. But it was really important for me from the beginning to make sure there was a dialogue between everybody. Because sound itself is really its own character in the story, it was necessary to be actively thinking about that unseen element while we were editing picture. Our sound team came into the edit to review early cuts, and even created temp sounds for us so we could use them prior to getting into the actual sound mix. Once we were mixing, our designers were working in parallel with our composer too. I personally think sound design and score are at their best when they can become one and the same.

NFF: What are you working on currently, and/or where can we see more of your work?

MICHAEL: I’m spending a lot of time writing these days. I’ve been dreaming of doing something that takes place in the past, so I’ve been doing a bit of time traveling to long gone eras as of late. As far as where you can see more of my work, a lot of my short films are easily tracked down and available to screen on the old world wide web.

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?

MICHAEL: I'm excited to screen as much as I can while I’m on the island. Presenting work to a live audience in a movie theater is one of my favorite things. So I’m really just looking forward to the opportunity to share a good story that hopefully resonates.

Five Questions With... Brittany Snow (MILKSHAKE)

In MILKSHAKE, Natalie only wants her mother's approval. Her mother wants a big and different future for them both.

Listen to Writer/Director Brittany Snow talk about the film, playing in the "What I'm Looking For" block of short films on Sunday, June 23 at 11:30am!

Fun fact: you can also see Brittany as a presenter at our Screenwriters Tribute on Saturday at 6:30pm!

Five Questions With... Ron Eyal (THE THERAPIST)

In THE THERAPIST, an unstable therapist is haunted by his own issues while struggling with a challenging patient.

We spoke with writer/director Ron Eyal about his film playing tomorrow morning, on opening day of #NFF2019! Read more below, and check out the “Time Warp” short films at 10:30am at Bennett Hall!

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NFF: Please say a little about your inspiration for the film.

RON: I'm fascinated by therapy and therapists. The power of empathy that a skilled therapist has should be an inspiration to any film director! I had a daydream about a troubled therapist who probably needs more help than his patients, though I can't say much more without spoiling some twists. My co-writer Eleanor Burke and I also took a lot of inspiration from our complicated relationships with our real-life mothers. (Love you, mom!)

NFF: Your film is in the "Time Warp" block. Are you nostalgic for the past, or hopeful for the future?

RON: Yeah, I'm a bit of a nostalgic guy. I have to admit that I love going to thrift stores and looking at old, mostly useless junk. I've got a  morbid streak too and I've thought a lot about the traces people leave behind with each other when they die, and how those traces make us fuller and amplify our instinct for connection.

NFF: What do you find the biggest advantages and challenges of making a short as opposed to a feature?

RON: Making this short was a great way for me to experiment and play with new ideas. It can still take a heck of a long time to make a longish short though, so I'm thinking for my next one I'll try to cram it all in under 5 minutes...

NFF: What are you working on currently, and/or where can we see more of your work?

RON: I'm currently developing THE THERAPIST for television.

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?

RON: I'm so excited to screen in Nantucket. Even though the therapist in my short has an experience that's a bit out of the ordinary, I hope the audiences can feel a bit of themselves in the film too.

Five Questions With... Emilie McDonald, Bruce Smolanoff, & Urvashi Pathania (CHURROS, NAAN & BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE)

We spoke with the filmmakers behind two of the shorts in the “What I’m Looking For” block, playing on Sunday, June 23 at 11:30am.

Read more with Emilie McDonald and Bruce Smolanoff of CHURROS and Urvashi Pathania of NAAN & BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE, and see the films on the 23rd!

NFF: Please say a little about your inspiration for the film.

URVASHI: 2016, the end of democracy, some say, also happened to coincide with the end of my first relationship. This film was an attempt to make sense of it all.

NFF: Your film is in the "What I'm Looking For" block. What do you think your characters are in search of?

EMILIE & BRUCE: Jo-Jo is in search of a sense of security and belonging. Maria is in search of safety and comfort for her family, seeking to see the beauty rather than the blemishes in their daily struggles. 

URVASHI: Maya is searching for her own identity. As a woman on the brink of adulthood, she is finally learning about herself, her own preferences, even if the process leads to some painful discoveries.

NFF: What do you find the biggest advantages and challenges of making a short as opposed to a feature?

EMILIE & BRUCE: The biggest advantages of making a short are that you can finish things *slightly* more quickly - the script, the shoot and the edit, although the process is still quite time-consuming. Another advantage in our case is that we have a piece of work to show our vision in trying to make the feature version of the film. The biggest challenges of making a short are that you have only a finite number of days to get everything in the can (and in our case our DP was here from out of town so we had no flexibility with timing), and must face whatever challenges come up head-on (we had locked parks where you are supposed to film, unexpected multi-day rainstorms, and more). Ultimately the challenges are part of the work and make their way into making the work more layered.

URVASHI: Shorts give you more room to experiment with form. The viewer of a short has not been conditioned to expect a three-act structure in the same way they have for a feature. Of course, they’re also cheaper and less time-consuming. I have yet to make a feature, but I look forward to having the running time to explore my characters more deeply! I also think excess is more forgivable in features. I love scenes that veer off course, but in a delicious way that adds an unexpected nuance to the story. There's rarely time for that in the short film format.

NFF: What are you working on currently, and/or where can we see more of your work?

EMILIE & BRUCE: We are working on the feature version of Churros :)

URVASHI: I’m entering the final year of my MFA at USC this fall and will be traveling to Rajasthan, India to shoot my thesis film! You can follow my journey on my website www.urvashipathania.com or on instagram @swurvashi.

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?

EMILIE & BRUCE: We are excited to screen in Nantucket for many reasons. We have heard that the festival and audiences are just incredible and we cannot wait to meet everybody. We of course are also excited to see Nantucket for the first time. We have never been there and it almost seems like a magical Shangri-la so will be nice to see the real thing in person. We hope Nantucket audiences will relate to the plight of a young boy grappling with a big decision, and will be able to put themselves in the shoes of a new immigrant trying to provide for her family.

URVASHI: This film is five minutes of densely layered half thoughts. It was the first film I made in my MFA, and I felt a sort of need to scrap together all of my ideas and emotions. I hope the audience derives some pleasure from the mixed-media format and that it inspires some creativity.

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Five Questions With... Christopher Guerrero (WHITE GUYS SOLVE SEXISM)

The Weinstein scandal causes two men to discover all of their favorite movies are now sexist in WHITE GUYS SOLVE SEXISM, playing in the “Laugh Out Loud” block of shorts on Friday, June 21 at 9:15am and Saturday, June 22 at 4:15pm.

We spoke with Writer/Director Christopher Guerrero about the film - read more, and see it next weekend!

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NFF: Please say a little about your inspiration for the film. Why (or how) do you use comedy to tell your story?

CHRISTOPHER: The idea for WHITE GUYS SOLVE SEXISM originated after a conversation with a close friend. they told me about a number of male filmmakers from a famous University coming together to mourn the ‘loss of filmmaking’ in a post-Weinstein world. These men were so blindsided and shocked that women could be treated so terribly for so long… and they… THEY DIDN’T EVEN KNOW. While Weinstein’s abuse is both shocking and horrifying, it is far from the first sign of sexism in the film industry.

WHITE GUYS SOLVE SEXISM is an expression of the absurdity of men freaking out about something incredibly obvious to everyone else in the room. It is my hope that viewers can identify the absurdity, not unlike the characters in the short.

I also wanted to make a short about self-congratulatory elements of filmmaking. If this were ever to win an Academy Award, I would have to look out upon a sea of white men, hoisting a trophy, saying ‘We did it!’. Even recognizing that this film is good is a sort of congratulating itself. Give yourself a pat on the back, white guys. Ya did it.

NFF: What do you find the biggest advantages and challenges of making a short as opposed to a feature?

CHRISTOPHER: It really depends on the project for me, this project was conceived shot and edited within about 72 hours worth of time.  Which is great because it allows you to come up with something quickly and then show it to the world. Though in other short films I've made, it was really hard to be concise, clear, and to the point. In shorts, you don't have much time have to choose wisely, which is an amazing challenge.

NFF: What are you working on currently, and/or where can we see more of your work?

CHRISTOPHER: The same day (June 21st) that WHITE GUYS SOLVE SEXISM screens in Nantucket I will be having the world premiere of my latest pilot/short film CAR STEALERS at the TCL Chinese theater for "Dances With Film" which is very exciting.  You can find out more at: https://www.carstealers.com

Currently, projects getting ready to shoot are a short film called THE CUCK. "After being fired, a Drama teacher becomes an Alt-Right fanatic writing a play about a " Cuck", but he's too naive to see that the "Cuck" is in fact himself."  Also, a short film called GIRL AFRAID with my partner Stef Estep-Gozalo which takes place in my home town of Selma, CA (near Fresno) about a young Latinx woman and how hard it is for young poor underprivileged mothers to get health care. In the realm of features, I am in pre-production and funding on a feature called THREE BULLSHIT DAYS with writer Ryan Gilmore its sort of THE BIG CHILL but about a metal band instead of college friends.

You can see more of my work at my website https://www.christopherguerrero.com, my latest finished projects will be there as well as click on my CV to view everything in chronological order.

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?

CHRISTOPHER: I've been told for many years by many close film mentors that Nantucket was by far their favorite film festival to go to; it's intimate and you get to meet amazing people. I really hope people are able to take away how absurd the "white savior complex" is and how absurd it is for "men" not to realize that sexism exists or have turned a blind eye to it for so long. I would love to make people "wake up" and realize that horrible things are happening around them.

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