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DID YOU READ

Dana Adam Shapiro Flirts with “Monogamy”

Dana Adam Shapiro Flirts with “Monogamy” (photo)

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Dana Adam Shapiro is a bit of a slut — artistically speaking, that is. An Oscar-nominated documentarian for “Murderball” and an acclaimed novelist (“The Every Boy”), in addition to forays into animation, music and still photography following a stint as an editor at Spin magazine, Shapiro had already achieved plenty before taking home the prize for Best New York Film at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival for his narrative debut. “Monogamy” centers on Theo (Chris Messina), a soon-to-be married photographer with a side career as a “photostalker” for hire. He’s employed by strangers to snap them when they are unaware of the camera, leading to an arousing encounter with one of his clients (Meital Dohan) in a public park, a mystery surrounding who she is and whether he could commit to a lifetime with his fiancée (Rashida Jones).

With the kicky, voyeuristic tension of DePalma’s “Blow Out” and the artistic thrills of Antonioni’s “Blow-Up,” Shapiro’s film is as titillating cerebrally as it is otherwise, giving Messina’s photographer’s descent into a hell of uncertainty the suspense of any classic cinematic potboiler. Always the multitasker, Shapiro was working on a “Studs Terkel-style” book about divorce amongst the under-40 crowd when he and “Monogamy” co-writer Evan M. Wiener decided to write something on a smaller scale that they could make independently after coming across an article in the New York Post about “photostalking.” Eleven months later, they were premiering at Tribeca and Shapiro sat down to talk to me about the perils of shooting masturbation scenes in public, why reality can be pretty instead of gritty, and why a lack of sexual tension between his leads was a good thing.

A lot of people have been focusing on your transition from documentary to narrative, but this also incorporates a lot of the other mediums you’ve worked in like still photography and music — was that by necessity or was did that emerge organically?

It grew organically out of it, but maybe I was drawn to it because of that. All the things that I love very much, I got to put in here. It wasn’t like, let’s find a story where I could put a song in, or let’s find a story about a photographer. A lot of it was, let’s write a movie that we can make.

I had a couple movies in the studio system that just take a long, long time and a lot of money and Evan, my writing partner, also had a couple that were stopping and starting, and from a career level, it was born from a certain frustration with how slow the process is and how much money it takes. So we were going to make this movie if we had to make it for $40 grand and thankfully, we didn’t, but that was the spirit behind writing it.

05052010_monogamy3.jpgIn terms of shooting the exteriors, which seem very catch-as-catch-can, was this a situation where life imitated art since you have a photographer that’s often in hiding to capture shots?

Our financial limitations actually enhanced the story, meaning this is a guy who takes guerilla-style photographs and he’s shooting people that are in real settings and real settings on a gigantic Hollywood film studio are very difficult to orchestrate. If you want to shoot a girl masturbating on a park bench in a Hollywood movie, you have to clear out Delancey Park. It’s just a very difficult thing to orchestrate. For us, we just put Meital, our actress, in the middle of the park [for a key scene in the film] and just shot her guerrilla-style and then anyone who was in the shot, we ran up to afterward and we got their releases.

It was very much like shooting a documentary. That might be a limitation on certain films, but for us, we were going for that type of authenticity, that type of New York vibe and the people that you see — like there’s a great couple kissing, there’s like a man in a Spider-Man suit doing some karate, those are the type of extras that for me, I love that stuff. The limitations actually served the form.

During that particular scene, were you getting dirty looks that may have interrupted the shot? Did anybody notice what you were doing?

That’s the downside of shooting in real locations without roping them off is that when they see the camera, they tend to look and wave. On that day, we were definitely nervous. We thought maybe she was going to get arrested for indecent exposure or something, but she was just such a trouper. And that was the first day. It was very trial by fire.

05012010_Monogamy1.jpgOn the last day of filming, your actors were forced to change in the street after being kicked out of a location. Was there ever any down time on this shoot?

We shot this movie in 24 days and… no, we never had a down day. And the actors, there was never an “I’ll be in my trailer” moment. Everybody — Chris, Rashida and Meital and Ivan [Martin] — was just so willing to work like this. We said from the beginning, we’re going to make a documentary about these people. We shot 220 hours for “Murderball” to make an 86-minute film. That ratio, of course, is just massive and doesn’t happen on feature films. But because we set up this idea, we shot a ton of footage very, very loosely with just a lot of freedom and there’s an exhaustion factor that I think actually sometimes helps the acting.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.