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... Jim Picariello (PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE DADS)

In PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE DADS, two middle-aged dads want to spend a quiet day with their daughters at the park. When a group of teens drive by too fast and too loud, it spurs them into a self-righteous act.

Take a look at our video chat with Writer/Director Jim Picariello, and catch the film on Saturday, June 22 at 4:15pm!

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... Tyler Nilson & Michael Schwartz (THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON)

In Spotlight Film THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON, Zak runs away from his care home and teams with fugitive Tyler to go on the adventure of a lifetime. Featuring Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Zack Gottsagen, John Hawkes, Bruce Dern, and Thomas Haden Church.

We spoke to writers/directors Tyler Nilson & Michael Schwartz. Read more with them below, and see the film on Sat, June 22 at 7:30pm and Sun, June 23 at 2:45pm!

Note: Young Film Lovers between the ages of 18-30 can see this film for just $10 with code NFFYFL30 online or at the box office!


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

TYLER & MICHAEL: We wrote THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON  after a heartfelt conversation with our friend Zack.  He’s a born entertainer and had been studying acting and dance most of his life when he told us that he wanted to be a movie star.  We replied honestly that there weren’t a lot of opportunities or roles written for people with Down syndrome to star in movies and he asked, “Then why don’t you write one for me?”  

NFF: What was the casting process like, and where did you find Zack? When did you know he would be your star?

TYLER & MICHAEL: The role was written specifically for Zack, we spent a lot of time together talking about life, movies, adventure, and what he likes and doesn’t like.  A lot of the dialogue in the movie are things that he’d said to us in conversation.

Our biggest challenge wasn’t casting Zack it was keeping him in the role.  Before we landed with producers that "got it" at Bona Fide and Armory we had offers to finance the movie but only if we’d cast a known actor without a disability playing disabled.  

The rest of the cast that filled out with perfect fits.  I’m so proud of the performances given by Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Bruce Dern, John Hawkes, Thomas Haden Church, and Jon Bernthal.  Legendary wrestlers Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Mick Foley were amazing to have on set and they added depth and authenticity as well.

NFF: There's both a "buddy comedy" and "road trip" vibe to the film, although this is a uniquely original take...were you inspired by other films in those genres?

TYLER & MICHAEL: There’s a lot of movies that we love and every day we break down films and talk about what types of elements work well to make audiences feel certain ways, connect to characters, and trigger emotions.  Tonally we were influenced by HUCK FINN, STAND BY ME, MUD, etc.

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

TYLER & MICHAEL: First and foremost we’re staying as present as possible with THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON.  We want to support the movie every way we can so audiences go see the work our whole team put from producers, to actors, and crew. 

Beyond that we have a TV show that we’re developing with LuckyChap based on our experience living in an illegal tree house surrounded by raccoons and mountain lions in Los Angeles (Money was tight right before we left to shoot THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON) and a feature that we’re keeping under the radar for the time being.

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?

TYLER & MICHAEL: Everything that we’ve heard about Nantucket has been extremely positive.  We’ve always wanted to go to the island and the reputation of the festival is that a lot of the focus is on writing which is such an important part of the process and often overlooked. 

With any movie the goal is for the audience to connect, feel something, maybe identify with a character, and have an authentic experience.  When we premiered at SXSW the reactions exceeded expectations and the film took home the audience award.  In Nantucket we hope the audience is taken in by the mix of hope, heart, and drama as well in a way that might make their day, week, or life just a little bit better.

Five Questions With... Gregory Bernstein & Sara Bernstein (OFFICIAL SECRETS)

In Spotlight Film OFFICIAL SECRETS, a British intelligence officer risks everything to become a whistleblower after she learns of a plot to blackmail the UN Security Council to support the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Featuring Keira Knightley, Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, Rhys Ifans, and Ralph Fiennes.

We spoke to co-writers Gregory Bernstein and Sara Bernstein about their film. Read more, and catch it on Saturday, June 22 at 2:30pm and Sunday, June 23 at 9:30am!

NFF: Can you talk a little about how you found this story, and why you wanted to adapt it?

GREGORY & SARA: We were having lunch in LA with friends who were passing through town, journalist Marcia Mitchell and her late husband, Tom, who was a former FBI agent. The two of them wrote nonfiction espionage-related books together, and they mentioned that they had just come back from the UK, where they’d managed to coax an interview out of a very private young translator for a British intelligence agency -- and proceeded to tell us Katharine Gun’s incredible story.

Marcia and Tom had healthy debates about whistleblowing; so do Gregory and I. But all four of us have complete respect for the purity of Katharine’s motivations. She acted on instinct, and out of a sense of conscience. For writers, it’s rich material, and a subject matter that we hope the public will debate. What is a citizen supposed to do when their government is lying on a massive and consequential scale?

And, of course, we liked the David and Goliath element.

NFF: What's your writing process like as a team?

GREGORY & SARA: We started writing together in film school before we even started dating, so it’s a pretty seamless process by now. What works best for us is that one of us will take the lead, and write the first draft. We outline together, and write drafts 2-1000 together.

NFF: How involved was Katharine Gun in the making of the film? 

GREGORY & SARA: Katharine was really generous with her time and advice with all of us – the book authors, the screenwriters, the director, and the actors.

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

GREGORY & SARA: We’re heavy into research and outlining on a couple of different stories – a comedy, a limited series about the murder of Jane Stanford (the founder of Stanford University), and we have a WWII romance/spy story on the back burner. We’ll see what takes shape first. It’s a friendly race to see who gets to be the lead on our next project.

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?

GREGORY & SARA: We’ve always heard that Nantucket, like Austin, is a writers’ festival, and so have always wanted to come. As far as audience takeaways, we just hope that our film will spark discussions, not about the Iraq War, but about the best way to act ethically in an unethical environment. There’s a lot to discuss.

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... Sameh Zoabi (TEL AVIV ON FIRE)

In this irreverent satire, a middle-aged slacker fails upwards in his job on the set of a popular Palestinian soap opera only to end up fielding script notes from a disgruntled Israeli military officer. Winner: 2016 NFF Showtime Tony Cox Feature Screenplay Competition.

We spoke to Writer/Director Sameh Zoabi about TEL AVIV ON FIRE. Read more below, and see it on Thurs, June 20 at 6:00pm and Sun, June 23 at 5:30pm!

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

SAMEH: I was inspired by the reaction to my work both films and scripts - as a Palestinian filmmaker who also hold an Israeli citizenship I feel that people always read closely  into the politics of my work, there is always an interpretation that swings between the two sides.  People question both the Israeli side of the story and the Palestinian, it always feels like it is a test and I have to pass both sides somehow to survive as a filmmaker.  It’s an interesting dilemma that I find myself trapped with each time I want to make a movie… this feeling was the beginning of inspiration of TEL AVIV ON FIRE. Salam, the main character,  is a Palestinian young man that works on finding his voice as a writer on a soap opera, he is trapped between the Israeli Officers at the checkpoint and the Arab producers. He tries to please each one by giving them an end to the show that both agree with. This is for me the core of the  film, and the tone of using comedy was inspired by upbringing—humor is an essential mechanism for my people to deal with the harsh daily reality of experiencing injustice. 

NFF: You're returning to Nantucket, having been a previous Tony Cox Screenplay winner. How has the script changed since then, and/or how was that process helpful to you?

SAMEH: The Tony Cox screenplay award and then later the same year I stayed at the writer’s colony, all of this in fact lead me to the draft in which I was able to raise funding for the film.  Our first funding came a few months after the colony and working with advisors on the script.  However, given the nature of co-production with Europe, we had to go through a set of many rewrites before shooting, as the script was translated into different languages and cultures news ideas were born as a result until almost a week before shooting.  At a certain moment the script and the process started to feel similar to the film’s central dilemma-- in a good way.

NFF: Did you grow up watching soaps? How did you decide on that genre as your entry point?

SAMEH: Soap operas are a big deal in the Middle East. People watch them and are fully taken by them as well. What I find interesting is that the people who watch soaps find the acting and straightforward dialogue more realistic than the subtle acting and dialogue of feature films. The soap opera medium allowed me to explore things that I may never be able to do otherwise in cinema. For instance, the opening scene of the film, which I find quite political. The characters say very direct things, without filters, but because this scene takes place inside the movie as part of a soap opera, it provides comic relief.

When I was growing up inside Israel, disconnected from the Arab world, there were only two TV channels. The Arabic-language shows were mostly from Egypt. They had the best soap opera series, particularly in the month of Ramadan. The show I created in my film is an homage to one famous show I grew up with. Nowadays, the reality has changed. There are hundreds of Arab TV channels and many shows from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and even dubbed ones from Turkey and India. Recently, I was watching a soap with my mom. I was laughing at an emotional moment because of its over-dramatized acting and camera work, but my mom was holding a tissue, crying. This experience inspired me when writing and directing the film.  

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

SAMEH: Since I am based in the US for some time now, I feel after TEL AVIV ON FIRE I am ready for a new adventure to make a film in the US. I am in the process of developing a feature and a TV show. That said, I will still be working on films in the Middle East. I am in the process of financing a comedy set in Gaza called CATCH THE MOON.  Rebecca O’Brien from Sixteen Films in the UK is the lead producer working with my partners on TEL AVIV ON FIRE.   My previous work should be available on streaming services, except for my first feature MAN WITHOUT A CELL PHONE (2010), which we hope to have available soon.

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?

SAMEH: I am indeed excited, it is a special intimate festival with a great audience that I feel will connect with my film. So far the film has been screening in many festivals around the word, winning many audience awards thus far; it is a great feeling in general to know that the audience enjoys the film. After all we make films to share with people.  So for me, coming back to Nantucket after being there with a script before is super special. Believing in an idea that now is reality on the big screen.  The film presents a political discussion over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a comedic tone, so I hope that the audience will both laugh (enjoy) but also reflect on the issues discussed in the film. Looking forward to it! 

Five Questions With... George Pelecanos (DC NOIR)

Based on short stories written by acclaimed author and writer/producer George Pelecanos (HBO's The DeuceThe Wire), this crime anthology follows a diverse cast of characters living and dying on the fringes of society in the nation’s capital.

We spoke with George about DC NOIR, playing on Friday, June 21 at 5pm. Read more below, and see it this week!

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NFF: Can you talk a little about the adaptation process, and why/how you wanted to make these stories into film?

GEORGE: I had adapted and produced a short, THE CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANT (directed by Stephen Kinigopoulos), based on one of my short stories and I liked the experience.  I decided to do three more and make it a feature anthology film.  It was my way of initiating film production in DC, a longtime goal of mine.

NFF: What was the decision around directing for the first time? Was it something you've been thinking about for awhile?

GEORGE: If by awhile you mean since childhood, yes.  I have always wanted to direct but I like the indy vibe.  I’ve been working in television for twenty years but I never had the desire to direct episodic TV.  Now that I got my feet wet, I’m going to keep at it.

NFF: DC NOIR has been screened as separate chapters and has a complete film. How do you prefer audiences consume it?

GEORGE: As a complete film.  I made a concession to show it as a chapter one and I don’t think I’ll do that again.  It’s a disservice to the other directors, who all did good work.

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

GEORGE: I’m writing and producing the third and final season of my show, The Deuce, for HBO.  It airs in September.  I hope to get started on my next novel sometime soon.

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?

GEORGE: I just like the festival.  It’s one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in the business.  It’s well run and it’s just big enough, and it seems to be free of most of the politics you run into on the festival circuit.  I’m hoping someone will adopt me and give me a summer home in the island.

Five Questions With... Tim Wilkime (MILTON)

In MILTON, a guy makes a bad first impression when he meets his girlfriend’s family as they gather at her grandfather’s deathbed.

We spoke with Writer/Director Tim Wilkime about the film. The first screening is sold out, so catch the second in the Laugh Out Loud block on Sat, June 22 at 4:15pm!


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

TIM: Milton was based off of a personal experience I had watching my wife’s grandmother take her final breath in hospice. The family was in the room but they were catching up with each other so there were unaware of the grandmother’s passing. I had to break the news to them. It was a very surreal, uncomfortable and emotional experience but it all played out pretty normally. Years later, when I started writing shorts, I thought it would be funny to revisit that experience and write it as if it were an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” but with a meek man that keeps putting his foot in his mouth.

NFF: Why (or how) do you use comedy to tell your story?

TIM: My background is in comedy directing so comedy is naturally where I go as a storyteller. Usually I work in sketch where the jokes and performances can be pretty broad but with Milton, being a dramedy, I wanted to ground the humor as much as possible. I thought if the comedy came from a honest and relatable place the emotional moments would be more impactful.

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

TIM: One of the great things about shorts is that you can take bigger risks than with features. My short is pretty grounded in reality but I have kind of an abstracted ending that I don’t think I’d be able to get away with if this were a feature. Audiences embrace bold choices from a short because shorts don’t really have a traditional structure and set of rules that you have to follow. The biggest challenge with making a short is just putting the production together. You usually end up self-funding it and wearing a lot more hats than you’re used to. It can get discouraging at times but the key is just surrounding yourself with a team of people that believe in the project as much as you do.

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

TIM: Currently I’m writing a feature that I hope to be making in the next year. I also directed two episodes of “Adam Ruins Everything” that will be airing later this year on TruTV. You can find my work at

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?

TIM: As an audience member, there’s no better feeling than being in a theater full of people laughing. The hope is for MILTON to do that for the people of Nantucket.