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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAVID: What she said!

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

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

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

JESSE PERETZ

JESSE PERETZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHARLENE DEGUZMAN

CHARLENE DEGUZMAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

raul-castillo.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WE THE ANIMALS

WE THE ANIMALS

ATLANTIC CITY

ATLANTIC CITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket?

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

balletnow_hero.jpg

Five Questions With... Rory Kennedy, Director of TAKE EVERY WAVE: THE LIFE OF LAIRD HAMILTON

If you missed #NFF17 documentary TAKE EVERY WAVE: THE LIFE OF LAIRD HAMILTON, you're in luck - it opens in theaters this weekend!

In this breathtaking portrait, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy (Last Days in Vietnam, NFF 2014) takes on the legendary Laird Hamilton (Riding Giants, NFF 2004), a maverick who has redefined big wave surfing over the past four decades. This visually resplendent film follows the movie-star handsome Hamilton in Hawaii, as he eagerly awaits El Niño-powered waves of an unprecedented size, prompting reflection on his lifelong drive to conquer unrideable waves. Buoyed by the memories of family and friends, the charismatic surfer relates the struggles of his early life, the refuge he found in the ocean, and the fearlessness that has served as a constant source of innovation—and controversy—in his career.

Read more with Rory below, and check out local screening opportunities near you!

Rory Kennedy at #NFF17

Rory Kennedy at #NFF17

NFF: How did you first become acquainted with and interested in Laird's life and story?

Rory: I was introduced to Laird through a mutual friend who thought throwing two people together who wouldn't normally know each other might be interesting. Although I didn't know much about surfing before, I grew up on the water and have an appreciation for the water, and I grew up with surf and ski movies - and we were surrounded by sports figures - making a film about an athlete in the water was not totally an unfamiliar idea.

NFF: The film is tonally a bit different from others you've made in the past, and focuses on a single subject rather than, for example, a larger group. Was that conscious departure for you as a filmmaker?

Rory: I'm equally passionate about whatever sparks my interest. You commit over a year of your life to the making of a film, so it's hard to work on a subject you don't care about. It took a little while to wrap my head around this particular story and give myself permission to make a "fun" film - but I couldn't let the idea go. I wasn't interested in a typical surf film - I was interested in Laird and his story and his motivations; what he's accomplished on the water and how he's revolutionized the sport. I was curious to explore what makes a person the best they can be.

NFF: Shooting in and around water is notoriously challenging. Can you talk a little about that process making this film?

Rory: It of course presents a new set of challenges - how do you know when the wave is coming, for example. It took some time to understand how waves work and how best to shoot them. I watched a lot of surf films, and I do ski, so I know you can be on the steepest run and it looks flat in pictures, so there's something about the angle of shooting that shapes how it looks. In our case shooting by helicopter was the best way to keep up with Laird.

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

Rory: I think I didn't fully appreciate Laird's childhood and what he went through when he was younger. I now have a deeper appreciation for his focus and passion - his personal journey is extraordinary.

NFF: What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing the film?

Rory: I just hope people actually go to the theaters! You need to appreciate the awe and enormousness of the waves on a big screen - we made the film for that experience, so please support the film in theaters, and enjoy the ride and thrill in watching it that doesn't translate to a tv or computer screen. Check out our website for screening times and locations

take every wave: the life of laird hamilton

take every wave: the life of laird hamilton

Five Questions With... Ryan White, Director of THE KEEPERS

The second in our TV AND TALKS Series: From director Ryan White (NFF alum with The Case Against 8, Serena, Good Ol’ Freda) comes a new, riveting seven-part documentary series about the unsolved murder of a nun and the horrific secrets and pain that linger nearly five decades after her death.

Sister Cathy Cesnik, a beloved nun and Catholic high school teacher in Baltimore, went missing on November 7, 1969. In the 1990s, one of Sister Cathy’s former students – a woman only known as “Jane Doe” – came forward to reveal her own harrowing story and disturbing details about Sister Cathy's case – but the truth still remained elusive. White pieces together a larger story that goes beyond the death of a beloved schoolteacher to encompass clergy abuse, repressed memories, and allegations of an extensive cover-up. The Keepers is a Netflix Original Documentary Series.

We're thrilled to present an episode of the series followed by a conversation with Ryan White and “Jane Doe” herself.

Read more with Ryan below, and join us for the screening and conversation on Sunday, June 25 at 11:45 am!

Ryan White

Ryan White

NFF: You have a personal connection to this material, correct? Could you tell us how the story came to you?

Ryan: My aunt went to the high school that is the epicenter of The Keepers. She was Sister Cathy's student and a classmate of Jane Doe. She told me about the story a few years ago and I went to Baltimore to meet Jane Doe. That's how it all began.

NFF: The "true crime" genre is having a bit of a renaissance - do you have thoughts about why that is?

Ryan: I think Americans are interested in justice, and they get particularly angry when they watch and experience these stories about injustice. If there's any common denominator  of all these true crime series that have gained popularity, I think they are all stories of injustice and a lack of accountability.

NFF: The story here is unbelievably difficult and complicated - did you have a hard time staying objective as a filmmaker?

Ryan: I had to distance myself sometimes from the anger -- anger over what was done to the children and anger about the amount of corruption that's kept these stories buried. But I was also constantly reminding myself that I didn't have to live the pain that my subjects did -- so the least I could do was be a part of having their truths brought to light.

NFF: When you originally started working on The Keepers, did you always envision it as a multi-part show? Or was it meant to be a shorter, more contained movie, like your previous work?

Ryan: We began The Keepers before Serial, The Jinx, or Making A Murderer had come out, so there wasn't really a model yet for the episodic true crime format. But once each of those came out, we realized we might have some more dimensional ways to tell The Keepers. It was really good timing to have a true crime story that seemed to have so many layers and a distributor felt deserved a longer format.

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

Ryan: It's my fourth documentary to play here, so I'm thrilled to be back. But mostly I'm excited that Jane Doe will be joining me on stage and talking about her experience. It will be her first public appearance since the series came out last month.

Five Questions With... Oscar-nominated Gabourey Sidibe, Director of THE TALE OF FOUR

We're so thrilled to host our Afternoon Tea Talk at #NFF17 on Sunday, June 25 at 2:15pm with Oscar-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe (Empire, Precious), who will be presenting her directorial debut, THE TALE OF FOUR

This multi-layered story inspired by Nina Simone’s “Four Women” spans one day in the lives of four different women connected by their quest for love, agency and redemption. Featuring Jussie Smollett (Empire) and Ledisi.

Gabourey’s directorial debut is part of Refinery29’s Shatterbox Anthology short film series, which works to cultivate and spotlight the voices of women behind the camera, in order to provide emerging female filmmakers with the support to realize their creative vision.

We spoke with Gabourey about her film - read more below, and join us for tea, treats, a screening and conversation on Sunday!

Gabourey Sidibe

Gabourey Sidibe

NFF: What peaked your interest in directing? Was it this story specifically, or had you been thinking about it for awhile? 

Gabourey: One of my producers, Kia Perry had the idea to adapt Nina Simone's song, Four Women, into a short film and she let me hear the song and I could see the entire story unfolding as I listened. Listening to this song, is what peaked the director in me. I had never thought about directing before that moment. 

NFF: Are there directors whose style you wanted to emulate, and/or directors who inspire you?

Gabourey: I'm inspired by many of the directors I've worked with like Sanna Hamri, Victoria Mahoney and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. I'm also inspired by directors I want to work with directors who change the way people of color see themselves like Ava DuVurnay and Dee Rees.

NFF: Were you familiar with the Nina Simone song prior to the film and/or did you use it for inspiration in any way while you were preparing?

Gabourey: I'd never heard the song before the idea of turning it into a film but while prepping the film, I listened to the song over and over and googled Nina Simone performances pretty much non stop because we wanted the world of the film to feel and look as much like a world Nina Simone would fit into as possible. We wanted the film to feel the way Miss Simone's made us feel with her music. 

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

Gabourey: What surprised me is how much I loved directing. How much I loved making decisions about everything. Big decisions from how a love scene should be shot, to small decisions like the color of nail polish on a teenagers hand. They are both really important decisions to make because every decision drives the entire story forward.  

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

Gabourey: I'm so excited to show the film in Nantucket! For one, I've always wanted to visit Nantucket. Among other locations, I've planned many excursions and weekend trips to Nantucket in computer class when I was a broke teenager in high school who obviously couldn't afford to go on an actual trip at all. I've always felt drawn to the beauty and serenity of Nantucket and finally I get to visit it in the most amazing way! Through my film! Through art.  And what my art is intending to do, is to encourage audiences to walk away feeling a greater connection to the humanity, the sensitivity and the grace of the quiet struggles our neighbor shoulder.  By telling the stories of these four women Nina Simone sang about, we are honoring Nina, we honor our mothers, our communities and ourselves. We hope to encourage the audience to do the same after watching our film. 

Five Questions With... Directors Pulkit Datta, Liam Harris, and Peter Stanley-Ward, Directors of KIDS SHORTS

We have a screening for the whole family! A selection of both animated and live action films are in our KIDS SHORTS program - we spoke with directors Pulkit Datta (WISHFUL WHISKERS), Liam Harris (PERCHED), and Peter Stanley-Ward (LITTERBUGS) about their films. Read more below, and join us at the Dreamland 9:45am on Saturday, 6/24!

NFF (To all): Your film is in the "Kids Shorts" block - did you set out to make a kid-friendly film?

Pulkit: I didn’t really plan on making a children’s film. It organically turned out that way. When the idea for the story first came to me, I just wrote the script out of a burst of inspiration. But I think because the story was always from the perspective of a little girl, and there’s so much innocence and wonder in her world, it became labeled as a children’s film by people who were reading the script to give me feedback, and how it was evolving. It’s always surprising and exciting when a script starts taking its own path, so then I just embraced it as a kid-friendly film. And I’m so glad I did, because so far it’s been a hit with all the kids we’ve shown it to.

Liam: We didn’t specifically go out with the idea to make the film for a specific aged range, we intended right from the start that this would be a film for all ages. Having grown up with animated family adventures, I wanted to follow suit and give the audience the opportunity of experiencing the film with each another, no matter where you are from or how old you are.

Peter: We did and we also wanted the whole family to enjoy it. We wanted to make a live-action film with an all kid cast. This is something that was common when we were growing up but isn’t so much these days. There are lots of animations for kids now, which we love as well, but wanted to make a film with real kids in for this generation.

NFF (To Pulkit): Can you talk a little about your inspiration?

Pulkit: WISHFUL WHISKERS is a story that's close to my heart. It was inspired by the time I've spent playing with my nephew and niece. I loved experiencing their limitless imagination - they can conjure up entire worlds around them, using the most mundane objects and furniture. That, to me, was incredibly fascinating and fun. So a big part of the inspiration to write the script was from playing games and make-believe with them. 

The whole mustache angle came in because it’s such a strong and identifiable symbol, and has been over time, around the world. Mustaches signify so many things in different places. It’s a universal thing. And it’s so intertwined with gender identity. Everyone likes to have fun by pretending to have a mustache, even women. So I thought, what if in the world of the film, the little girl actually wants a mustache? It’s a way to play with gender boundaries within the context of a children’s film. And it’s fun! 

NFF (To Liam): Which shows or animators influenced you most?

Liam: I would say one of my most influential animators would be Richard Williams (Who Framed Roger Rabbit). He is one of the original pioneers of 2D animation and at the ripe old age of 84 he still animates on paper today, which is extraordinary! Not only that he has since taken on the role of tutor to thousands of up and coming animators, which is truly inspiring. His recent film ‘Prologue’ was nominated for a BAFTA and an Oscar which like I said at his age is really unbelievable, I can’t say enough how much belief that gives a young animation filmmaker like myself. I hope to still be as enthusiastic and devoted about animating when I reach his age!

NFF (To Peter): The production design is so wonderfully specific. Did you have the world in mind when you were originally conceiving the shoot?

Peter: Thank you and yes, we did have a very clear idea of what we wanted this world to look and feel like. This began with lots of preparation and included mood boards that evoked the tone and palette we wanted, and a location scout to make sure we found the right place. Marie Lana was our production designer on Litterbugs and she understood this world totally. The sets she built for us were amazing and it took our breath away every time we walked onset. We also wanted a rusty metal vibe throughout the whole movie, so very deliberately, virtually every frame has some sort of rusty metal in it.

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

Pulkit: I’ve heard great things about Nantucket Film Festival, so I was excited when WISHFUL WHISKERS was selected for the festival. I’m always fascinated by how kids react to this film because they’re always very honest. And so far, kids (and adults) have been picking up on different themes and moments of the film. So I’m looking forward to screening the film for Nantucket families to see what jumps out at them. It's a film that I hope encourages and inspires people to think beyond traditional boundaries of social norms and re-embrace their inner child. And above all that, it’s a joyful film, and for me, a successful screening is simply when the film makes the audience smile. 

Liam: I’m super excited to be showing Perched at Nantucket, I feel the location and audience there is perfectly fitting for sharing our story. With the beautiful harbors and long history of the whaling community, I believe our mariner themed story suits Nantucket just right. I hope that the families in attendance take away exciting conversations and a joint experience of laughter and fun whilst watching it. The film showcases bravery and the ability do the right thing and hopefully that message gets across and people take away a positive outlook towards their lives. (Also that seagull’s aren’t all that bad!)

Peter: It’s amazing to have our little film go to places like Nantucket. We wanted kids from around the globe to see this, but we never dreamed it would reach so many families all over the world. We are very proud of the whole film and the message against bullying and in support of friendship is universal, and it seems to mean a lot to many people. Nantucket is a great festival and it’s a real honour to be a part of this year’s line-up. We’re especially excited to be in the kid’s short section. I think if the audience can have just a taste of the wonder that the films I grew up with gave me, then everybody who made Litterbugs would be very happy with that.

Five Questions With... Geremy Jasper, Writer/Director of PATTI CAKE$ and New Voices in Screenwriting Award Recipient

First-time writer/director Geremy Jasper—a musician and past music video director—showcases his music chops in this brash and bombastic story of unlikely MC Patti “Killa P” Dombrowski. In working-class “dirty Jersey,” Patti and her best friend and music partner, Hareesh, dream of escaping their dead-end jobs and pursuing their dreams of hip-hop superstardom. When they meet reclusive Goth newcomer Basterd, he provides the missing link to elevate their sound. Breakout talent Danielle Macdonald plays Patti with the magnetism and stage presence of a seasoned recording artist, matched by the prodigious talents of Bridget Everett as Patti’s disillusioned mother, who saw her own aspirations of stardom pass by long ago.

Geremy Jasper, who will also be recognized with the New Voices in Screenwriting Award at the Screenwriters Tribute on Friday, June 23, gave us a few minutes of his time to chat about PATTI CAKE$. Take a look below, and join us for the only screening on Saturday, June 24 at 2:45pm!

NFF: How did your background in music and music videos affect or influence your use of light and sound/music in the film?

Geremy: Hmmm. The film encompasses two worlds - an objective rough & raw Jersey reality and Patti’s subjective fantasy world. These two different worlds are lit differently and sound different. One is very natural, minimal lighting and “real” sounding while the other is bold, colorful and kaleidoscopic. My DP Fede Cesca and I were not shy in pushing more color and more smoke into a fantasy scenes. My music video background gave me a love for and vivid colors and surrealism but also a handle on how to capture musical performances that feel dynamic and visceral.  It’s magic catching a song on film. 

I wrote around 25 original songs for the film, so sound was a major focus in how things were shot, edited and mixed. There a many performances that needed to feel raw and authentic and at other times take over the film almost like score.

NFF: Can you talk a little about casting, and how you found the incredible Danielle Macdonald?

Geremy: The character of Patti Dombrowski is so specific physically, emotionally, and musically that it was going to take someone incredibly special and gifted to play her. Luckily my producer Noah remembered Dani from a small role she had in a film called The East. She looked IDENTICAL to the image of Patti I had in my brain so she joined me in Utah for the Sundance Director’s Lab even though she was Australian and had never rapped before in her life. She’s so brilliant and hard working it didn't faze me so we spent the next 2 years training her to rap while developing the character. Dani carries the film on her shoulders and I think she should win every award on the planet.  

NFF: Tell us a little about your inspiration for the film. Do you have a connection to New Jersey?

Geremy: I grew up a chubby blonde, hip hop loving kid from suburban Jersey who filled secret notebooks with endless rhymes. At 23 I was stuck living in my parent’s basement working crappy jobs while nursing an unbelievable hunger to move to NYC and be a musician. I was also raised around big, sarcastic Jersey women who were always called “The Boss” as in you wanted / needed something, “Go ask the Boss.” All this got mixed up into what would become the world of PATTI CAKE$. 

NFF: Are there directors (or musicians) whose style or body of work have influenced you as a filmmaker?

Geremy: Oh yes, they all seem to be named BOB: Bob Dylan, Bob Fosse, Bob Redford, and Bobby Digital (AKA The RZA from WuTang).

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and what do you hope Nantucket audiences take away?

Geremy: Growing up in Jersey my family used to spend summer vacation at a trailer park in the Poconos (no joke) and to me the idea of “Nantucket” seemed like a mythic East Coast paradise - as well as well as a wonderful word for limericks. This’ll be my first time on the island & I couldn't be more excited. My hope is that the audience will be transported into an exotic blue collar fantasia and will be dancing in the aisles.