DID YOU READ

Tribeca ’08: Tracey Hecht on “Life in Flight”

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05082008_lifeinflight1.jpgBy Stephen Saito

[For complete coverage of the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, check out IFC’s Tribeca page.]

There’s a moment late in “Life in Flight” when Will (Patrick Wilson) tells his young son, “I haven’t been paying a lot of attention lately.” It’s a difficult thing to admit for the harried husband and father, who spends most of the film kowtowing to his wife Kate (Amy Smart), who’d rather see him land a major commission for his architectural firm than have him attend their son’s biodiversity science fair. As Will finds out, such choices have left him with the life he might once have imagined for himself, but not one he wanted. Though he’s become a successful architect, the lines that have defined his life have become blurred, particularly when he meets Kate (Lynn Collins), a free-spirited designer. Writer/director Tracey Hecht knows something about those kinds of decisions, having recently broken away from a career in design to make her feature debut, which made its world premiere at Tribeca, and had time to talk about her own career path and why there’s something for everyone to take away from her first film.

How did “Life in Flight” come about? What was it about this particular story that appealed to you for your directorial debut?

To be honest, my day job was going through a boring stretch — as in really boring — so I started to get up early before work and write. I wrote the story for this film over three months and showed it to a friend who suggested I turn it into a script. Translating narrative into the discipline of a script format was a lot more work than I thought it’d be, but I love to write and the story plays with themes I think are prevalent in life today, so I enjoyed the process as well.

05082008_lifeinflight2.jpgYour director’s biography mentions that you were a founder of several small design businesses. Did that help you visualize things as a filmmaker? Also, the characters obviously come from that world, so did you want to write something relatable?

My husband teases me that I’m aesthetically cursed — that I art direct everything. It’s not that bad, but for me, writing is very visceral. As I writer, I have a clear sense of how the scene looks and feels, both in tone as well as look and styling. That’s something I probably do with all things — that sense of conceptualization on a broad scale. As for the characters being relatable, the themes in the film are very broad and universal — career, marriage, responsibility, family — I think you need real grounded characters to communicate those themes. I’m glad I was able to create them that way, but maybe more important is how well Patrick and the rest of the cast portrayed them as real and relatable.

You’ve mentioned before that you felt each of the main characters were a different facet of one person — could you elaborate on that idea and how that informed the story you were telling?

There’s this tendency in life and in movies to qualify and classify people — there are bad people, there are good people, there are nice people, there are mean people. I actually don’t believe that. I think we’re all capable of all those things, so when I wrote those four characters, I wanted to write the spectrum that we’re all capable of. I didn’t want there to be a bad guy and a good guy and I didn’t want there to be someone who was capable of greatness and someone who was capable of terrible failure. It was a real craft to try and create these four characters all dealing with similar themes, but because of where they were in their lives or different tools that they had, revealing their different capabilities around them. We all have the ability to be a Catherine and be afraid and not able to say something and we have the ability to be Josh [Will’s freewheeling friend, played by Zak Orth] and be totally free. And most of the time, most of us are Kate and Will, trying to figure it out in the middle.

05082008_lifeinflight3.jpgYou’ve said that this is a story about fear — while you were filming, do you think the fact that you were a first-time filmmaker added a resonance to that theme as you were making the film?

Ironically, once I was making the film, I felt pretty adept and comfortable. The fear for me was all the work leading up to getting the film made. You write this story and then you toss it out there to people in an industry that you know nothing about. That part was scary! But pre-production, principal photography, editing, etc., I had strong bearings and felt focused and good.

At Tribeca, the film received divergent reactions, which you cited when you said that even your husband has seen it a hundred times and likes different characters each time out. Was it your intention to get different reactions and how do you feel about the reception the film’s been getting?

It wasn’t the intention, per se, but I think it’s a byproduct of having that openness to ambiguity. Depending on your place — there was a woman who was in that Monday screening [at Tribeca] where she said, “I feel like Catherine and Catherine’s just such a bitch.” [laughs] It’s not intended to strike people differently at different times, but I think it does because I think that the emotional spots of those four characters are so representative of when you’re in a good place or a bad place that, depending on your mood, they can really speak to you differently. In all the screenings, even from people who’ve read the script and also seen the film, everyone’s reaction to the characters really evolves and changes. To me, I think that’s one of the more gratifying things about the film — it has the ability to transform itself depending who you are and what you’re going through in your life.

[Photos: “Life in Flight,” Plum Pictures, 2008]

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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…

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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. 

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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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.

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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.

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Forget Public Wifi

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

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Inter-not

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.

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Self Defense

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

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