Q: As a US-based filmmaker, what was behind the decision to set the story of Social Butterfly in France, and to shoot there?
A: I initially thought that I would go to France for a much needed respite from the hustle and bustle of New York City, in the form of a writing retreat. When I was in the South of France developing a feature screenplay based off of my short Cigarette Candy (2009), I started to feel very distracted from all the parties that were raging around me. My French producer's sister was turning twenty years old and she threw her own huge house party. I was the only one who didn't speak French at the party, and also I am not a teenager anymore, so I just felt like the random foreigner that I am, wandering into this very French party. My producer saw that I was having trouble writing that summer, so he thought it would be ideal to shoot a short film in and around Cannes. I was having the directing itch again, so I decided to write about this bizarre experience I just had, through the lens of an outsider in France.
Q: So what were the advantages and opportunities presented by shooting a France/USA co-production, and were there any challenges you wouldn’t have faced otherwise?
A: The advantage of shooting in France with a France/USA co-production was that the French production company that I worked with, Ad Astra Films, already had an infrastructure in place to gather the crew and equipment in order to produce the film. I could shoot quickly in the South of France in late August before I was scheduled to fly out on September, 1. The major challenge of shooting for the first time in France was that I had to quickly adjust to shorter shooting days than the States.
Q: Often in your films the character’s relationships to each other seem to be deliberately ambiguous – characters are unclear of other character’s motives, and the audience is also left guessing about the true nature of the relationship. What is it about these ambiguities that appeals to you as a filmmaker?
A: I feel that relationships are ambiguous in nature. What do we really know about anyone? I try to portray these often confusing, dynamic, and ever-changing complicated relationships in my films. I am also more drawn to the kinds of complex characters who are perceived by society and the world at large as enigmatic outsiders, or characters who are largely misunderstood. These are characters who are constantly on the fringes and strangers to even themselves. I guess I am really drawn to the complicated anti-heroes in Westerns, whose moral fabric is very questionable and who are suffering deep down as they try to find themselves and their identity or place in the world. These anti-heroes act on instinct and emotion rather than any specific moral code. Don't ask me why I am so drawn to them, but I love telling these types of character stories.
Q: Your film co-directed with Christopher Radcliffe, The Strange Ones (2011, shown at the 47th Chicago Film Festival) was hugely successful and won tons of awards. What doors did that open for you? Are there things that have happened in your career that you feel might not have happened without that film?
A: We were so extremely happy about the unexpected success of the short and just ecstatic in general that people got it. It opened so many doors. I have representation now. Jim Mangold, who is a personal hero of mine, watched my films when I was in LA and showed my work to his managers at Management 360. Now, I have a lovely manager who has been very supportive and helpful in nurturing my career. Chris and I both believe that making this short film was the most rewarding experience in our film career thus far. It premiered at Sundance in 2011 and internationally premiered at Clermont-Ferrand that same year. These were both tremendously rewarding experiences that I will never forget.
Q: With three super successful shorts under your belt, what are your plans for the future?
A: To make a feature! Keep telling more stories in whatever form they may take, whether it be a novel, short film, feature film, essays, etc. Just to keep creating as much as possible and tell the stories that I feel need to be told.
Click here to view screening dates and times for Social Butterfly.