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Friday, August 1, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: Andrew Renzi

ANDREW RENZI Photographer: Harry Fellows
By Andrew Renzi and Joshua Handler 

Recently I've been disturbed by the amount of people who don't seek out independent films, non-English-language films, and classics.  So, I asked some of the most distinctive voices in independent and world cinema to submit responses to a few questions about why/if they think indies/non-English-language films/classics are important to view, and how those films have been influential on their careers.

The responses below are from Andrew Renzi, director of Fishtail and the upcoming drama, Franny, starring Richard Gere and Dakota Fanning.  Andrew also executive produced Antonio Campos' highly acclaimed debut, Afterschool (Cannes 2008), and Alistair Banks Griffin's Two Gates of Sleep (Cannes 2010), among many other films.

Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view independent and world cinema and why?
If you aspire to make films, you probably get some amount of pleasure out of watching films, so you shouldn't deprive yourself, and you should seek out wider and more unexpected outlets to experience that pleasure.  And if nothing else, you should see them so you don't make the same movie by accident.
Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view classics and why?
I think this goes for anything... if you want to do something well, you should at least have an understanding of what came before you.  You don't have to be a film historian, but if you aspire to be a filmmaker and you don't enjoy discovering the work of people who have done it before you, what's the point of carrying on the tradition?  You should just invent a new form of storytelling rather than expanding upon a medium you don't even enjoy.  It would be pretty exciting to have someone make a movie who has never seen a movie before, but that's more of a case study really.  Also, there's nothing worse than when someone asks you if you've seen a movie, and you haven't.  It's important to see movies so you don't have to be a liar when someone puts you on the spot.
How has viewing indies and films from around the world helped you as a filmmaker?
Watching a movie for the first time is always an experience, good or bad it evokes very specific feelings.  Knowing how certain movies have made me feel, and why, is helpful when I'm making something of my own. When I'm working on my own stuff, it's like being on the ground floor of those feelings you get when you watch a film for the first time.  
Did viewing indies/films from around the world/classics influence you when creating FISHTAIL, FRANNY, or any of your other films?
Of course.  But I think that when it comes down to execution, and communicating those influences with the people I work with, I'll probably reference something like a piece of furniture more often than I'll actually reference a movie. Because for me, it's easier to be specific. But I may have seen that piece of furniture in a movie!  
What's one American indie and one film not in English that you would recommend that film-lovers or young/aspiring filmmakers see? 
For the American film, I remember watching Ramin Bahrani's Goodbye Solo and feeling something similar to the first time I saw The Bicycle Thief.  I was happy to have a contemporary American director do that for me.
And for a non-English-language film, I remember seeing Pietro Germi's "Divorce Italian Style" and feeling both very proud and very ashamed to be Sicilian. 
From the Mouths of Filmmakers continues on Monday.

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