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Monday, October 20, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: Andrew Droz Palermo

Andrew Droz Palermo
Photo by Whitney Hayward - © 2013 Whitney Hayward, Courtesy of Sundance Institute
By Andrew Droz Palermo 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 exciting and original voices in modern 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 Droz Palermo, co-director/producer/cinematographer of Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winner RICH HILL, which he co-directed with fellow From the Mouths of Filmmakers contributor, Tracy Droz Tragos.  Palermo also shot Adam Wingard's YOU'RE NEXT, among other films, and recently directed his first narrative feature, ONE AND TWO. 

Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view independent and world cinema and why (if you don't feel it is important, please tell me why)?
I'm the kind of filmmaker that thinks all films are important - from high to low art. In some way, all of those films, and all of their choices, seep into your fabric. You watch them, talk about them, let them slosh around in your brain soup for a while, maybe even totally forget about them, and then they come back out as your own thing. 
Do you believe that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view films of the past and why (if you don't feel that it is important, please tell why)? 
I think the most important thing about watching classics is context. Once I started reading a bit about a certain film I was about to watch, or just watched, my experience with classics infinitely deepened. I think when I was younger, I was always bored by them - why are they so slow? Why do they talk like that? Where's the dang color? Now that I make them, I learn so much from older films. I'm shocked by how little has actually changed in the way a great film feels and unfolds.
How did viewing indies, films from around the world, and classics help/influence you when directing RICH HILL and ONE & TWO and shooting YOU'RE NEXT, RICH HILL, or any of the other films you've shot?
Before each movie, I think about the script (or subject) - what's it trying to say? What's underneath the words? What do these people want? Who are they? Through this process, I start to think of styles, or visual motifs that start to characterize some of those answers. I screen capture nearly every movie I watch (and often post selects to my blog), and this library has become really helpful for shooting movies. I'll pull together these references, throw in some art, and photography, and start to weave something together that fits. For ONE & TWO, the last movie I directed and the first I did not shoot myself, my director of photography, Autumn Durald, also did this for me. We compared, talked about what we liked and didn't, and then had some shoulders to stand on. Most of this gets thrown out once you start shooting, but it's so very helpful to feel like everyone is on the same page.
What's one American indie, (doc or narrative), one non-English-language film (doc or narrative), and one classic (define that one any way you wish) that you would recommend that film-lovers or young/aspiring filmmakers see?
APOCALYPSE NOW - It's not really an indie, but it has the the spirit of one. I'm sure everyone has seen it, but to me it's really the pinnacle of unbridled ambition and determination. At every stage the filmmakers charged forward. Completely owning and remixing the source material, re-writing intensely in production while staging some of the most expansive set pieces (and also some of the most intimate), and experimenting wildly in the edit.
COME AND SEE - I seem a little war-obsessed, but this film blows me away. It's so cinematic and its command of the surreal is amazing. Lately, I've been obsessed with movie reality. A reality which we, an audience, can believe, but is in no way like the one that exists outside the theater's walls. It conjures up feelings, moods, and experiences in a way that only film and dreams can do. This film does that with such control.
THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER - This has been on heavy rotation at home lately for me. The film I just directed is a tonal sister in some ways - mainly the fairy tale aspects. Criterion just put it out, so I'm [glad] people are getting a chance to revisit this gem. 
From the Mouths of Filmmakers continues on Wednesday. 

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