April 5, 2017
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The Transfiguration opens in NYC FRIDAY!

THE TRANSFIGURATION premiers this Friday 4/7/17 in NYC!
Tix on sale now!

Directed by Michael O’Shea and produced by GEP pal Susan Leber.
With Special makeup effects by Glass Eye Pals Spears and Gerner.
Featuring the requisite appearance by Fessenden.

Friday, April 7th

“Stellar performances … a great movie that explores what it means
to lose oneself in the ideas that power the horror genre”
-Gizmodo/Io9 – Evan Narcisse

“Ruffin’s incredible performance…excellent feature debut”
-Screen Anarchy – Shelagh Rowan- Legg

“tantalizing debut…sinking its teeth in all the right places
-Consequence of Sound – Michael Roffman

“a beautifully restrained coming of age tale …
a darkly affecting tale about the high and sometimes bloody cost
of self awareness and sociopathic conviction”
– Film School Rejects – Rob Hunter

“4 star…stunning debut”
-Scream Magazine – Kieran Fisher

“refreshing and moving vampire tale.. a striking cinematic experience
…deeply engaging and tragic love story…Ruffin and Levine are such a joy to watch”
– Bloody Disgusting- Ari Drew

April 5, 2017
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RogerEbert.com interview: The Past Inside the Present

SHORT FILMS IN FOCUS: “THE PAST INSIDE THE PRESENT”

James Siewert’s 13-minute short film “The Past Inside the Present” is like a Laurie Lipton drawing come to life. The stunning black-and-white imagery of humans connected to recording devices via old wiring from their brains to an old Betamax is the sort of thing Lipton would dream up for one of her insanely intricate pencil drawings. This is not to suggest Siewert’s film is derivative. On the contrary, Siewert’s vision aims more for an emotional connection between the characters (even in what appears to be the absence of emotion) whereas Lipton often revels in the absurd and grotesque.

Siewert’s project concerns a couple who, without saying a word to each other, plug themselves into recordings of their memories as their relationship appears to be dying. The tops of their heads are then removed to reveal a series of plugs and wiring that connects to an old Betamax that has tapes from their past. They are soon either watching or are recording an intimate encounter of themselves until the transmission is interrupted. It’s a visual idea that seems wrapped in absurdity until one realizes that we’ve all fallen into this trap of relating our memories and emotions through technology.

It’s the kind of short film that sucks you in just with the visual language. Siewert’s film is black-and-white and uses pen and charcoal drawings that create hypnotic images. Geoff Saba’s score is a nearly constant drone that perfectly complements the synthetic reality Siewert has on display. One moment that sums up the theme of the film is the image of the couple sitting on the bed naked while the word “DISCONNECT” can be seen on the TV screen behind them. Once they plug themselves in, the transmission takes effect and they become tuned into each other.

Both Siewert and Lipton have incredible patience when it comes to their art. Just as Lipton will spend months on a single pencil drawing, Siewert spent a couple years by himself in his garage rotoscoping 7,000 frames to put together this lovely, bizarre and confounding work (he had a small crew helping him at first). “The Past Inside the Present” is an erotic, strange and haunting film that is a constant feast for the eyes.

If I had to guess your inspiration here, I would say Philip K. Dick with a trace of Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life” and David Lynch. Is there any accuracy to that? How did this come about?

It’s hard for me to draw a straight line between any one source of inspiration and the final product. The kernel of the idea was just visualizing these bisected heads with analogue circuit boards in them.

I watched a lot of cyberpunk movies as a teenager (when I originally had the idea)—“Ghost in the Shell,” “Akira,” “The Matrix,” and “Videodrome” as well as Chris Cunningham’s video for Bjork’s “All is Full of Love”, and so all these images of bodies being transformed and fused with analogue technology were sort of buzzing around in my head. The images from these films I’m sure commingled in my mind and formed the technological iconography of the film.

The narrative arc came to me in pieces over the next several years as I navigated college. From the beginning I knew that the circuit boards in the character’s heads would allow them to mainline some kind of sexual experience, but as I disconnected from my friends from high school and home I had the idea of using the circuit boards to have the characters (try to) reconnect with the past. Then the film became much more about an imperfect degraded nostalgia, and how relationships become empty rituals through repetition.

As far as “Waking Life” and other rotoscoped films are concerned—I certainly knew it had been done. I actually haven’t seen all of “Waking Life”—I have seen all of “A Scanner Darkly”—but in all honesty I never liked the look of these films. The appeal of rotoscoped footage to me was the hypnotic flickering vibrations of the images, that I feel induces a trance-like state. The Linklater films have some of that but the animation seems so smoothed over that it feels like a lot of the 24 frames-a-second rhythmic pulsing is lost. There’s an animator who went to my college a few decades ago, Jeff Scher. He does much more aggressive rotoscoping work with a lot of bright primary colors. I would say I was more influenced by this style of rotoscoping than the ones that have been made into feature length films.

The concepts also remind me of the intricate drawings of Laurie Lipton, who often infuses human bodies with technology. I feel like you two are kindred spirits with how much time and effort you put into your pieces and the themes within them. Is there an overall statement about technology and/or relationships you want people to take away from this film?

I don’t think it’s a statement about any particular era of technology—since the beginning of language, and certainly written language we felt we have the ability to access the past through media, so it’s not new.

I guess that’s what I want the film to highlight, is that though technology can more and more accurately simulate for us the experience of the past, these simulations are just a seductive illusion and obscure the truth that we are inescapably trapped in the present. I hope the film communicates something of the melancholy of realizing you are not free to travel to the past, and can only view the world through the pinprick of the present.

I looked at some of Laurie Lipton’s work. It’s incredibly beautiful. I do draw in my free time and I feel like I’m always trying to master what these drawings do so well, which is present a world which can draw you into the finest detail and yet still hold up compositionally on a large scale. I think my drawings just tend to look like a mess from far away.

Getting back to the time consuming process of drawing over 7,000 frames, what was that process like? What kept you going?

The process was challenging in the way you might expect: it was hundreds of days of monotonous work that only changed very gradually. But it kind of suits my personality type. I do well with very gracious but steady progress, as long as I’m moving forward at a constant rate the speed doesn’t matter. In fact all things being equal I prefer to move slowly; I get overwhelmed easily so feeling like you are tackling a film one frame at a time is very comforting to me.

Rotoscoping allows you to operate on auto-pilot mentally. I listened to a lot of podcasts and audio books during the making of the film: a lot of Murakami books, all of the “Game of Thrones” books, War and Peace, etc.

I definitely did slow down in the second half—it does start to feel endless at a certain point. But I think the thing that kept me going was just how much of an asshole I would be to waste everyone’s time on the film if I didn’t finish it.

Technology geeks like me will note the Betamax player. That device could have been anything. So why Betamax?

Well, like I said—I’m a big fan of “Videodrome”and that era of technology—the idea of a circuit board bisecting people’s heads only works if you have some kind of slightly analogue technology driving the whole thing. So that narrows it down: it has to be some sort of tape-based format that goes out to RCA or component cables. In terms of the Betamax specifically I just liked the look of the tapes: they have just one circle like a cyclops. There’s a theme of circles in the film—and narratively the film depicts just one cycle in the repeating loop that the characters are continually moving in. So the single circle of the Betamax tape seemed like it reinforced this iconography of circles and loops I was trying to create.

What has the response been like at festivals?

I think the response has been mixed? You never really know because you don’t hear from people that don’t like it. But I’ve been rejected from a lot of the big American festivals, so I think it’s obviously not a complete crowd-pleaser. At least one festival gave me feedback about why they ultimately rejected—but I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about that. I think some people find it slow and a little pointless.

However, ultimately you end up having conversations with people that do connect with it. The film was screened to a mostly elderly audience as part of a lifelong learning class back in January. At the end of the screening a woman came up to me—I think she was in her late 70s—and told me that she was a writer and that she was losing her memory, she would forget words more and more frequently deeper into her old age. She said that she related to themes in the film of losing the past despite one’s best efforts to preserve it. It’s cliched to say but the moment of connection I had with that woman made me feel like making the film was all worth it. I make these things as a way to give voice to my private anxieties and fears and it’s always gratifying to know you aren’t alone.

What’s next for you?

I’ve been working as a cinematographer and visual effects artist for the past year and half or so. The first feature film I worked on as a cinematographer, “Like Me,” just premiered at SXSW a few weeks ago. It was an incredibly steep learning curve but I think the film ended up being pretty interesting. Right now our whole company is gearing up to shoot a new thriller. In between these projects I try to direct music videos or draw. But no one wants to pay me to do those things as of yet, or at least, I haven’t been able to make it work yet.

Check out the interview…

March 28, 2017
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Mickey Keating’s PSYCHOPATHS at Tribeca Film Fest: tickets on sale NOW

March 27, 2017
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Tribeca Shortlist interviews team LIKE ME

Connected Yet Disconnected: ‘Like Me’ and the Loneliness of Social Media

From ‘Taxi Driver’ to Twitter, talking influences and inspirations with the team behind the boundary-pushing indie thriller.

Facebook is a 13-year-old. YouTube is a year younger. Twitter just turned 11.

They—along with brasher little siblings like 6-year-old Instagram and preschooler Snapchat—have rewired our lives around an endless drip, drip, drip of updates, comments, favorites, shares and likes. (God, how we live for those likes!)

It’s not even a question that social media has reshaped our world (look no further than the man in the Oval Office), but those new forces are only just starting to shape our art. A generation of so-called “digital natives” has arrived, creating movies that are as influenced, in ways both obvious and subtle, by Zuckerberg as much as Spielberg. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Robert Mockler is one such director. Like Me, his debut feature, premiered earlier this month at SXSW. The film follows Kiya (Little Sister’s Addison Timlin) as she films herself committing reckless acts then posts the videos to social media, growing a massive following that spurs her on to even more transgressive behavior. Mockler paints Kiya’s drug- and junk food-fueled escapades in neon colors, with stylized edits and Tumblr-ready looping animations. Think Requiem for a Dream, if YouTube were a drug.

I got to chat with Mockler, Timlin and her co-stars Ian Nelson (The Boy Next Door) and indie horror icon Larry Fessenden (also a producer) in Austin the day after their premiere. Full disclosure: I have no objectivity when it comes to Like Me—I’ve known Fessenden for years and have been in a relationship with one of the film’s producers for even longer. (Our conversation has been edited for content and clarity.)

Outtake: How does it feel to come away from your world premiere, here at SXSW?

Addison Timlin: Surreal. I think surreal is a good word.

Robert Mockler: It is surreal, yes, that’s for sure.

Timlin: Someone asked me if I was nervous, and I said I was, in a way that I hadn’t ever been before because I felt like my stake in it was so much more, and so personal… I’m really proud of it and I think that everyone worked super hard and against the odds, you know, and in a very short period of time we like, I think, made a really fucking cool movie.

Social media is in the lifeblood of this film. In the on-screen response to Kiya’s videos, it even has its own comments section and internet troll [in the form of Ian Nelson’s character, Burt] already baked in.

Ian and Addison, as twenty-something actors with social followings, I’m sure you deal with the love and adrenaline rush that comes from that. Did your own social experiences inform your performances?

Ian Nelson: I actually remember creating, like, fake Twitter accounts and stuff…to really tweet out really vitriol-filled remarks about what was going on in the world, just to experiment. I remember feeling this, uh, adrenaline rush like the danger of posting something. Like, you weren’t really affecting anyone, but when you write those things, your body’s reacting…it’s like when you get in a fight with someone, how you’re buzzing afterwards, because like it’s not something you wanted to do but something that your body sort of took over.

Timlin: My personal social media things are mostly just…being funny?

Nelson: I literally will text Addison multiple times a week to tell her I loved her tweets. They make me laugh so hard!

Timlin: The only joy I really get out of social media is on Twitter but it’s kind of like, I play a bit of a character, I think? It’s a version of me.

A snarkier version?

Timlin: Sadder, darker, lonelier version of me. Like my pinned tweet is, “can you die from low self-esteem?” [laughter]

I never saw Kiya as being vapid, narcissistic…like viral sensationalist or anything. I feel like social media stars—and especially female stars —what we’re dealing with now is people that are like, hypersexual and like, you know, “Instagram models” or whatever the fuck that means. I think that Kiya is an artist. She’s this really sad, lonely girl who is desperately trying to connect with the world in some way.

Social media gets so much flack for being, like, “we’re all just looking at our phones like robots” but I think also it is like such an incredible tool for artists all over the world to be getting their work out there, for musicians and filmmakers and connecting with people.

I love your point about Kiya’s quest for connection. Were there outsider characters in other works that influenced your take on her in any way?

Timlin: That question’s hard for me because I feel like as a person, an actor, an artist myself, I feel like I’m constantly absorbing people and things all the time. There’s this quote I’ve always loved, “I’m the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.” And I think that that’s a part of it. Certainly that there are movies and characters and things I’ve seen that I’ve fallen in love with and they, like, weave themselves in, in a way.

The way that she looked and dressed like, we had a lot of back and forth on that, just from like how it started conceptually versus where we ended up. You know, there’s a picture of Winona Rider—that’s all I’m going to say.

Mockler: We bonded over the same picture, looking at the same thing…

Timlin: I was in between hair colors, or something, in between projects, and I could go blonde but I was like “I think it should be black like this,” and we both had the same picture, like, on our desktop or something.

Nelson: The colors are so beautiful of all your clothes, and the way your hair looks, and like the baby blue…

Mockler: Oh, that’s our fashion designer, Sam Hawkins.

Nelson: It’s really beautiful.

Timlin: She did an amazing job, too, because there’s something that’s still very like, boyish and youthful about her.

Mockler: There’s an androgyny that we talk about…

Timlin: …and there’s a dichotomy in that way of her, like, putting herself in these like sexual situations but also just being this, you know, street urchin.

Larry Fessenden: Rob’s artistry was very apparent when the script was delivered; it had hyperlinks in it and so you could go and look at some of this online art. And I immediately knew that, among other things, he was an editor and he loved juxtaposing one image to another. Like, one of my favorite scenes in the movie is when she’s calling [Fessenden’s character] Marshall on the phone and the ring is accompanied by a series of crazy and somewhat threatening images and there’s a wave…it’s like a tsunami, and a wolf mask …I just like using the medium viscerally. I feel like a lot of movies are really rather dreary and conventional in the way that they tell the story…There’s some great use of time, even though Rob will be celebrated for these fast cuts and this crazy kind of jagged stuff. Then there’s also an understanding of the power of the long take, the lock off. So it’s really just somebody who is using the medium to its full potential.

One thing Rob and I have talked about is this is a cinematic capturing of the breakdown of the mind in the social media world where you’re, sort of…there’s an impatience and a fracture. And I think it’s how he depicted these, this condition we’re all in, that makes this a real cinematic work.

Cinematic, no question, but bringing in a new vocabulary from YouTube. From Tumblr. From Snapchat. Is it fair to say that those are things that informed your work, in a way?

Mockler: I think it’s there, I can totally see it. The whole idea of GIFs is, like, this idea—picking this suspended moment of time and, like, distilling it and looping it. Larry was talking about the sense of things that are fractured. But I just do love movies, you know….

Let’s talk about some of the movies and filmmakers you grew up loving, that may have influenced or inspired aspects of Like Me…you mentioned Kubrick in the Q&A. Any specific Kubrick-inspired moments in the film?

Mockler: Nothing I want to call out specifically, but movies I loved? Taxi Driver. And that was somehow tied to [Like Me] for me in that it’s a movie about loneliness. I really like those lonely man movies, like Taxi Driver and The Conversation and The Tenant—these movies that explore loneliness. That was one of my main interests.

Fessenden: Taxi Driver! The ambition of that, given that it was a low budget movie. I mean, [Scorsese] cut a hole in the floor in the hotel so he could film the famous overhead shots. I mean that takes some cojones to say “that’s what we’re doing.” And, you know, it’s because he wanted to see the cinema change, not for his ego but because there was another way to show this. And Kubrick would create lenses! And on it goes, you know these guys really wanted to push…

Mockler: As much as, you know, saying being inspired by social media like, I feel like it’s really about looking back thirty or forty years at these things that were being done that feel so much more aggressive and transcendent, and just learning from people that are masters.

Lightning round: favorite films?

Fessenden: Well, I have a standard horror answer which is Night of the Living Dead. It was a bizarrely frightening movie. The idea of the coziness of the old horror movies suddenly translated into a 1968 shit-show. It was very scary and visceral, and very handmade so that appeals to me. I do love The Tenant, I do love Taxi Driver, I don’t want to take Rob’s ones away, but I think that there’s a commonality here — these are the “lonely man” movies that were so essential in the seventies. They really expressed a new paradigm of, like, we’re all alone in this world, we’re trying to relate. And those are important to me.

Timlin: Well, I always like to answer these questions with a gun to my head in my imagination, so like, my gun-to-my-head answer is Annie Hall. When I watch Annie Hall it reminds me of, I have the same feeling watching Annie Hall as I do falling in love. Some other good movies of mine…Taxi Driver is a huge favorite of mine and I remember watching that movie and wanting so badly to be Jodie Foster more than anything in the world. A Woman Under the Influence is a big thing for me, I love John Cassavetes—Gena Rowlands is, I think, my favorite actress of all time.

Nelson: Off the top of my head, You Can Count on Me, Kenneth Lonergan’s movie from 2000, I think it’s 2000, it’s one of my favorites. The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie, rocked my world when I first saw it and I’ve probably seen it like ten times since. Going off [Addison’s] Cassavetes, he’s probably my favorite filmmaker. Which Rob and I, we actually connected a ton before filming, and [he] introduced me to Mikey and Nicky, the Elaine May film [starring Cassavetes and Peter Falk], and like Minnie and Moskowitz…but yeah like Woman Under the Influence, but Husbands is probably my favorite Cassavettes movie.

Mockler: Always changing but right now probably 2001: A Space Odyssey, just because I love really experimenting with form. I saw that movie in 70mm recently and the attention to detail is like, mind-blowing. And I would say Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I love the script, the filmmaking style. And I think right now I’m going through an Edward Scissorhands thing.

First film you saw that made you realize you wanted to make movies someday?

Mockler: Probably Star Wars, then Requiem for a Dream. Those two.

Made you want to pick up a camera?

Mockler: Yes, well Requiem for a Dream, I saw it at the right age and was like “oh, so you can do that.” Films can be this way, and they can make you uncomfortable, and they can make you feel…you know, they can be about weird things.

Nelson: East of Eden, definitely East of Eden was the first movie I watched where I would just…I got very excited, I remember I used to watch it actually every day I had acting class when I was living in North Carolina…because I was just very excited by it.

Fessenden: I can’t answer…well…I…the first movie I remember seeing was King Kong, 1933. Remember, I’m just an old guy. [Laughs] And then, when I saw [One Flew Over the] Cuckoo’s Nest, that’s the first time I figured out how movies were made. Because Nicholson holds his hand one way in this shot and then in the reverse he’s holding it another way and I just realized, “oh my god, you mean they filmed this more than once?” so that was an entry.

Timlin: The Wizard of Oz, goddamnit. I wanted to be Judy Garland so bad!

Read full interview…

March 23, 2017
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DIG TWO GRAVES by Hunter Adams Opens Friday 24 March in Theaters and Streaming

“that rare chiller conjuring eeriness and dread… it bears a haunting ambience as agreeable as it is ephemeral.
Mr. Adams is clearly skilled with story structure, cinematography and his actors.”
NY Times

“Strong performances and atmosphere elevate an intriguing suspense tale”
Variety

“A stylish, haunting thriller…dark, original and chilling…
Ted Levine gives one of the most memorable performances of his career.”
— Chicago Sun-Times

“An inky dose of the supernatural.”
— New Orleans Film Society

“Part moody Stephen King-style thriller, part brooding family drama.” 
— Culture Crypt

“A haunting and darkly beautiful tale of revenge.”
— Horrornews.net

 

March 23, 2017
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Fessenden celebrates 54th year with Death Reel 2017

 

 

March 20, 2017
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Daily Dead talks LIKE ME with writer/director Robert Mockler

SXSW 2017 Interview: Writer / Director Robert Mockler Discusses LIKE ME

A haunting, neon-soaked fever dream that tackles the dangers of viral media and loneliness, first-time director Robert Mockler’s drama, Like Me, was unlike anything else I saw during the 2017 SXSW Film Festival, and features brilliant performances from Addison Timlin as Kiya and indie filmmaking icon Larry Fessenden as a man she kidnaps on her crime-fueled journey.

While in Austin, Daily Dead spoke with Mockler about his approach to the story of Like Me, his experiences collaborating with Timlin, how Fessenden became a mentor to him throughout the process of making his debut feature, and more.

Really great job, Robert. I would love to hear about where the genesis of this idea for the film came from. Clearly, there are a lot of issues that you tackle in this that are very relevant to what’s going on, especially with online culture these days. You took an unusual route here, and it’s incredibly fascinating.

Robert Mockler: That’s so good to hear. A fear of mine was that I know this story goes to a dark place, and I know there are moments where I’m like, Whoa, that’s kind of a walk-out moment type of situation. So this film became this whole scenario of, “Can we delicately straddle that line and not get gratuitous, but make the experience real and palpable enough to really touch a nerve without being exploitative or going overboard?”

But as far as the genesis of the idea, that came from this place where I always wanted to make a movie about loneliness. I wanted to be a filmmaker ever since I saw Star Wars, but then there were those movies that made me realize, Oh, movies can be something else, too. I saw Taxi Driver and Requiem for a Dream. That’s what really launched me on a path starting to write and doing those sorts of projects, and how I got into these “lonely man” movies, which includes Taxi Driver, The Conversation, and The Tenant.

I just saw this project as an opportunity, with this strange paradigm shift of social media, to put a magnifying glass on loneliness and filling a void. I felt that it was a great opportunity to try to do that sort of idea that I’d been thinking about for a while.

So much of this movie revolves around Addison’s performance, and she’s fantastic. She has a lot of really subtle character moments, and I was curious if those were all in the script, or did you guys workshop those together?

Robert Mockler: Most of it was in the script, but Addison also brought a lot of it just on the day, and then through conversations we would have and even through the editing process, too. I talked to her a lot because I felt like this was her character, and I wanted her to have authorship over it. The thing about Addison is that she gives you so many options that in the edit, your problem is that you have too many good takes. And it was a great problem to have, really.

She made Kiya three-dimensional, and it would have been very easy for this material, in the wrong hands, to not work at all. Addison is so delightful to watch work. It’s magical and it was a joy to watch her on set every day.

Another thing I wanted to commend you on was the casting of Larry as Marshall. He’s been a fixture in indie filmmaking for decades now, and it’s always fun when he has these cameos and smaller roles, but you give him such great material to work with here. For a big chunk of this movie, he’s just as front and center as Addison is, and I loved that.

Robert Mockler: He really is. Originally, he was just on as a producer, but I was struggling to find Marshall. And his Blu-ray box set [Scream Factory’s The Larry Fessenden Collection] had just came out, and I hadn’t seen Habit in a little while, so I watched it again. I just fell in love with his performance in that film all over again. I missed this version of Larry and I wanted to see if he was interested in going back to that. And, at first, he was reluctant. But then, when he embraced it, not only did he deliver such a sensitive and delicate performance, but he made the character all his own. Again, Marshall was a character that could have gone really wrong in the wrong hands.

But Larry was a real mentor to me throughout the entire process of making Like Me, because I’m new to this entire thing. He was someone that I could always rely on, and he was very generous with his time. If I was ever in a pinch, or was feeling insecure or I was just lost, I could talk it through with him. I love his movies, I love his ability as an actor, and he’s a great friend and a mentor.

Can you discuss how you approached the visuals in Like Me, because generally when you think of movies about loneliness, you always think of drab, cold colors. And yet, so much of this movie is very vibrant and really bold.

Robert Mockler: The idea was to reflect Kiya’s inner headspace, which is not so drab. Color is really important to me, and when I’m editing, I have to apply some sort of preliminary color grade before I can start editing, because for whatever reason, I feel like that helps me tap into the tonality of the scene. That’s a little unconventional and at times I think my producers were like, “Just find the narrative already.” I would just say to them, “But I’ve got to get the color right, first.” For whatever reason, it’s my window into the feeling of the film, and going that route helped me a lot on this.

Being an independent movie, a lot of times directors have to create these stories that take place in one location because of their budget. With this, you have multiple locations and you’re on the road for part of it, too. Was that one of the biggest challenges in terms of getting this film made, just making sure you could find these locations and be able to take the show on the road?

Robert Mockler: Absolutely. So many people would read this script and say, “Too many locations. No, you can’t do it.” And then, when I met Glass Eye Pix and I met Jenn Wexler, she thought we could do it. She helped put together a schedule that I thought was aggressive, but she was like, “I think you can do this.” And she was right. It was nerve-racking, but she figured it out. And Jessalyn [Abbott], the other producer on the project, she had this incredible ability to find amazing locations. She just found so many beautiful places, all within a close proximity, in such a short period of time. We were very, very lucky to have her.

This is your first film, which blows my mind after seeing it. And now you’re here at SXSW with Glass Eye Pix behind it, and you’ve got an amazing cast and crew all behind you. How surreal has this whole experience been for you being a first-timer and really putting yourself out there like this?

Robert Mockler: Honestly, it’s like an out-of-body experience. I don’t think I’m going to digest it until it’s over, really. SXSW is the festival we wanted to premiere at, so it’s just all been a mind-blowing experience. I came here seven years ago, and I watched the Indiana Jones trilogy on 35mm, sitting next to Robert Rodriguez. It was one of those things where I just felt connected to the fabric of filmmaking, and, as geeky as that sounds, it was so profound for me. So to be back here, with my own movie, is so cool.

READ INTERVIEW HERE

 

March 20, 2017
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We Got This Covered: LIKE ME “a bombastic feature debut”

Like Me Review [SXSW 2017]

Like Me is more than a movie title. It’s a plea made to an entire generation of social media users. Filmmaker Robert Mockler dives into murky online waters of constant approval, fame and millennial obsessions with a like-based culture, all prevalent in society’s 21st-century screen fixation. As a junkie tweaks for their next hit, social media users also calculate their next play at attention. Yesterday’s shocks are forgotten overnight, as audiences awake with a new craving daily. Please the masses, and watch the hits roll in. But even then, when will the hunger subside?

Addison Timlin stars as Kiya, a young woman searching for her next YouTube masterpiece. Kiya’s photographic artwork only garners so much attention from internet fans (food chewing videos/yoga poses), which means the ante must be raised. It’s a “harmless” stunt, where she holds a convenience store clerk at *fake* gunpoint – but the man (Jeremy Gardner) still pisses himself without knowing the difference. Kiya uploads the video, and it goes viral overnight to the tune of 2 million hits. The internet is buzzing about her stunt, some praising the humor, while others – like Burt (Ian Nelson) – condemn her sick social disease. Either way, Kiya realizes what the people want, and she aims to please. Even if it means kidnapping a motel owner named Marshall (Larry Fessenden).

Mockler’s style will challenge some viewers since it’s comparable to a luminescent art installation. From the film’s first shot – a glowing drive-thru mart – to its last beachy view, visuals are of a psychotropic nature. Characters ingest drugs and sniff paint, unlocking hallucinogenic highs like a neon-green eel slithering out of someone’s open wound. As Kiya plays arcade shooter games or gazes upon the ocean (between scenic palm trees), cinematography frames these neo-Vegas portraits with arresting beauty. It might be a bit too “freaky” for some during fast-paced montages that flash animated wolves and blinking eyes, but Mockler’s introspective vision-quest is a wild visual feast nonetheless.

Even more sickening (in a positive way) are Mockler’s metaphors, since Kiya is obsessed with (over)consumption. More than one scene features a zoom-in on her chewing, mouth wide open. It’s always junk food. Cheese balls. Pizza. Gummies. A comment on the sugary, toxic digital garbage we shovel into our souls. Hateful online communities, money-sapping “games” and pictures so heavily filtered you wouldn’t even recognize the subject in public. We idolize the unknown, only to have it be someone like Kiya – a product of pressures coming from voices behind a monitor. Audiences push because we want to see someone break (the new-age Roman gladiator arena). That’s what gets views these days, isn’t it? It’s nauseating because it should be. Mashed cereal between teeth is no less disgusting than children who re-post Instagram pictures until they achieve the most likes, because self-worth is now measured in cartoon hearts.

Timlin turns in a provocative, wounded performance as Kiya, so caught up in her journey for stardom. She’s a loner who lives out of her car and struggles with human interaction. Larry Fessenden’s “prisoner” Marshall represents Kiya’s only real friend, but even that’s because he just doesn’t want to die (his own food scene is a testament Fessenden’s legendary genre status). As Timlin swings on a hammock, wearing a white wig and shredded stocking mask, her confidence is nothing but a cover for vulnerability. Follower numbers and commenter discourse spike her dopamine levels. Ian Nelson’s scathing hypocrisy as a master troll should reduce Timlin to tears (another oh-so-nasty, meaty performance), but instead, she views each take-down as a challenge. “Some dumb bitch with an iPhone,” proclaims Nelson’s basement dweller, as he notes that Timlin’s just trying to find fame before she “shits out a kid and dies of cancer.” It’s a triangle of intertwined souls who mirror the internet’s darkest reaches: the fame slut, the vile ogre and the victim. All real, and all brilliantly realized.

Mockler’s aesthetic is strong and performances are powerful, but there’s a lesser through-line for Timlin’s fiery arc. One of the YouTube commenters jokes about Kiya’s ability to get away with these “pranks,” which raises a fair point as police intervention is never an issue. Although, that can be laughed off – unlike sequences that are visual-heavy and thinly scripted. Like Me benefits from style, glamor and pinkish coloring, but needs a bit stronger narrative to break the next level. Needless to say, few films actually DO reach the next level I’m referencing, and for a feature debut, Mockler asserts himself as a creatively-driven madman whose vision blisters with illuminated curiosity. He’s going to try things, and that’s an exciting feeling. Please, do no leash this man.

The internet can be a lonely placed filled with temptation, and Like Me is just one warning scenario. A movie like Tragedy Girls plays a bit more on the nose, but writer/director Robert Mockler goes the more fever-dreamy route. Consequence echoes as loudly as actions, tracing back intent to typed words that some random username didn’t think twice about posting. Addison Timlin plays a systemic product, born from human desires that are warped into a crippling addiction. Feast on Nightmare On Elm Street inspired rooms and car rides through a jelly-floating vortex (very Willy Wonka-ish), but don’t lose focus. This is a cry for reassessment that needs to be heard. You know, before we’re electing presidential candidates based on their Twitter followers…

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March 20, 2017
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Variety reviews MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND

SXSW Film Review: ‘Most Beautiful Island’

March 20, 2017
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SXSW Photo Round-Up!

SXSW comes to a close! We’ve gathered pics from throughout the festival, including the MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND and LIKE ME premieres and the GEP / Dogfish Pictures / Palomo Films party.

 

BuzzFeed Photo Shoot

(Check out all the BuzzFeed Candid Pics here)

 

MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND

 

 

LIKE ME

 

 

PARTY!