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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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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.

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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!

via GIPHY

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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