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Debra Granik’s “Bone” to Pick

Debra Granik’s “Bone” to Pick (photo)

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A rich and unsparing look at the indomitable survival instincts of a teenage girl in one of America’s most blighted regions, “Winter’s Bone” stunned audiences during its Sundance debut, taking home the Grand Jury Prize for drama. Part cultural study and part clannish thriller, it focuses on the week in which 17-year-old Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) searches desperately for her father, who is on the run from meth-related charges and has used the family’s home and property as bond collateral.

Working from Missourian Daniel Woodrell’s 2006 novel, director Debra Granik was determined to keep the story close to home, shooting in Missouri with a cast filled out by locals. I spoke with her about the pressure of bringing a festival favorite to audiences around the country, how genres impose themselves in the editing room, and the oddity of talking about the Ozarks in a suite at the Waldorf Astoria.

How does your excitement level for the film’s release compare to that of its Sundance debut? Is either one more nerve-wracking? How’s your stress level?

The whole thing is nerve-wracking, for sure. It’s a weird feeling — first of all, so many people collaborate to make a film, so it is very sweet for those people to see that the finished result is being recognized in the world. Then on a base level, you’re creating a product, so you want your contract to be renewed! All filmmakers want the option to make another film, to have it not always be such an uphill battle — for it to be our life, our working life. So the gnashing tension for me is more related to — people might like it critically, but then it’s on the auction block.

06112010_WintersBone2.jpgI’ve already experienced an amazing boost in my confidence by having an earlier film [“Down to the Bone”] recognized, but it didn’t have a commercial life. It’s very hard to keep showing up somewhere — the pressure had doubled. I was worried I was going to be the wallflower, like: “Nice film–“

“Thanks for coming!”

Thanks for coming — sorry we can’t do anything with it. We were just hoping someone would step up to distribute the film. And now, with the actual opening this weekend, I have that same gnashing feeling. Roadside Attractions has done a beautiful job trying to get the word out. They’ve done almost everything you can do. And yet it’s just like any other consumer process, where a customer ends up dictating, in a very tried and true way, what will happen. And that’s unnerving — even more people have invested their time and energy, not to mention financial resources, and putting out a poster, reserving theaters–

[gestures around the room] And the Waldorf Astoria!

I know! I know. I need to discuss that with them because I feel like the disparity between where some of this [publicity] stuff is happening and the nature of the film is a little weird. And yet I’ve also been told that in certain cities, facilities are willing, and set up, to do this sort of thing, it’s a system they have in place. So [the publicists] don’t have to walk a hotel through it, it’s a system that they have.

06112010_WintersBone3.jpgOh yeah, it’s totally standard.

I’ve never been inside here either. It has a very historical feeling, doesn’t it? Even some of the unappealing, lugubrious parts of it are interesting — the weight of a certain style, the heaviness that was considered the only hallmark of excellence.

After “Down to the Bone,” were you actively looking at secondary material for a subject or did you come across Daniel Woodrell’s book by chance? How did you find it?

Anne [Rosellini, Granik’s writing and producing partner] and I were searching for a story that had a female protagonist that we were not just drawn to, but one we felt had a full life, a full set of attributes — not just one thing she had to rest upon. There are so many of those, certainly in the large script circulation world. We were getting lots of stories about young women, but they were often about the things that go very wrong in life — I call them female pathologies.

It was like there’s a list: what makes women interesting on screen is if they can overcome something very bad in their past, if they escape abuse, if they overcome a very bad psychiatric condition, some kind of disorder.

06112010_wintersbone.jpgWe were feeling like, this can’t be the totality of what women’s lives are like on screen, or of women’s experiences. And so it was so refreshing to see [a character] with a certain kind of determination, and we loved how she responded to people — you couldn’t predict her responses because she related very differently to different characters.

Was there any talk of including Woodrell in the collaboration on the script?

He was very open — in retrospect, we might find it completely uncharacteristic — but he understood that when a book has its next reincarnation, that it will be different. Real locations will now be the visual evidence of something he conjured. We tried to match very vividly the kind of house Ree Dolly lived in, and we found places that felt right, where my brain would believe that this could be Ree Dolly’s house.

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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!

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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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