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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).

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

via GIPHY

IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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