Cam Archer on “Wild Tigers I Have Known”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: Still from “Wild Tigers I Have Known,” IFC First Take, 2007]

He first appeared at Sundance as one of the festival’s legion of volunteers. A few years later, he was back as a guest and filmmaker, first with several of his shorts, and then in 2006 with his first feature, “Wild Tigers I Have Known.” A poetic, borderline experimental exploration of teenage sexuality, “Wild Tigers” follows a lonely kid named Logan (Malcolm Stumpf) as he navigates the perils of middle school bullies and a storm of hormones. An intense crush on another boy named Rodeo (Patrick White) sends Logan on a trip that’s equal parts daydream and nightmare, into woods, caves and a feminine persona named Leah.

Archer calls the 06 Sundance “a nightmare… I mean, everybody related to the film came out there to see the premiere, and it was great to have that support; at the same time, you’re already so vulnerable. It was wonderful for everyone to be so supportive, but I just felt really awful the entire time because I was really nervous.” “You know,” Archer says with a chuckle, “Sundance is kind of a big deal”

Thankfully for Archer’s nerves, the premiere was a success, and “Wild Tigers” was ultimately acquired for theatrical distribution by IFC First Take. I spoke with the director on the eve of the film’s release.

The film feels very personal. I’m guessing you get asked constantly whether or not it’s an autobiographical movie.

Yeah, just a few days ago someone asked me, “Who was Rodeo?” I don’t know why everyone is so compelled to know that. Everything we make as artists should always reflect what we’re interested in or are going through or have gone through. I think that’s the nature of personal work and “Wild Tigers” is definitely a personal work. Of course there are several liberties, but it comes from a real place and it ended up being a nice reflection of things that either I’ve gone through or really good personal friends have gone through.

You wrote, directed, produced and edited the film yourself. What was your favorite of those four roles?

I’m a big fan of editing actually. It really is the ultimate power because you’re shaping what’s going to be the movie. I’ve always believed that my films are made in the editing room, and we just try to shoot enough footage so that I can really play with it in several different ways. So I really think that’s my favorite part. Is it the part I should be doing? Probably not [laughs].

You’ve had a long collaboration with your cinematographer, Aaron Platt, who was nominated for a 2007 Spirit Award for his work on “Wild Tigers.”

Yeah, Aaron and I met at school at UC Santa Cruz in a still photography class and we just started talking about our mutual interests in filmmaking. We’d done some small projects here and there but then I think Aaron called me and said something like, “Well you should call me cause I have a lot of the gear we would need,” and so it kind of went from there.

It’s interesting; there’re so few people who are fortunate enough to meet someone they can collaborate with again and again. There’s really something to be said for this relationship that Aaron and I have formed, and we’ve definitely grown from it. It’s really difficult to think of my movies without thinking about him. We’re both really inspired by growing up with MTV and cheesy horror films and that kind of very stylized culture.

I wanted to talk about what films and filmmakers influenced you, but I have to admit the ‘cheesy horror film’ thing isn’t something I got out of your movie. I’m surprised to hear you say that.

[Laughs] Well, “Wild Tigers” is so heavily stylized. And I think that was the case with these 80s horror films. Aaron and I just watched “Labyrinth” — these movies have these characters living in very non-real worlds and the lighting is very present. Now, I’m more of a fan of still photographers and, of course, Gus Van Sant [an executive producer of the film] is great, and Kenneth Anger and Terrence Malick are also filmmakers that I think are so distinct and unique are definitely inspirations to both of us.

And now that I think about it, there are spiders and lions in “Wild Tigers,” which are sort of tinged with horror.

There are, that’s true. And I think Logan adopting his Leah persona to me that seems like something right out of a John Carpenter film. It feels ridiculously performative, and yet you can’t help but be caught up in this mystery.

[laughs] I read online that years before your films showed there, you were a volunteer at the Sundance Film Festival.

I was, I used to work outside a theater. I had a wonderful time; I can’t say anything negative about the experience. It’s funny though, people will say “Oh, that’s how you got your films into Sundance.” If only it were that simple! I never met a programmer. Ever. I never met anyone who would have even known a programmer. It was just fun to be surrounded by that filmmaking community.

As a director, is it important to you that the film receive a theatrical release or do you really just want it to be seen by as many people as possible, regardless of the format?

No, I don’t, actually — it’s weird. I’m one of the few filmmakers who would actually discourage someone from seeing my film. [laughs] I think that film will definitely have a greater life on DVD, but there’s something to seeing a film in a theater that is really pretty fucking awesome. It’s the way to see a movie you’re really interested in. And “Wild Tigers” being in theaters is just so surreal; I always just thought it would end up being on DVD-Rs that college and high school students would be passing to each other in the hallways. At least I hoped for as much.

What are you working on now?

It’s something I wrote just after we premiered “Tigers” at Sundance. It’s about a middle-aged woman who suffers from a hair pulling disorder called trichotillomania, which is an impulse control disorder similar to kleptomania or pyromania. It’s these individuals who can’t help but pull out their hair, typically one strand at a time. It really destroys these people’s lives.

Well I don’t think you’ll have too many questions about your films being autobiographical after that one.

I know! I hope people start asking me, “Oh, do you pull out your hair?”

Wild Tigers I Have Known” opens in New York on February 28th (official site).


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.