This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


Spike Lee Wades Back into the “Creek”

Spike Lee Wades Back into the “Creek” (photo)

Posted by on

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, two-time Oscar nominee Spike Lee (“Do the Right Thing”) ventured down to the Gulf region to investigate the pre-storm warnings, the wrenching sights of death and ruin, and the soul-crushing aftermath that might’ve been avoided had the U.S. government responded in a smart and timely manner. Featuring affecting interviews that remain potent four years after Lee’s four-hour HBO doc first aired, “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” seemed to be the definitive take on one of America’s worst catastrophes.

But the saints of New Orleans go marching on, and rebuilding a city and its lives hasn’t become any easier. In his four-hour update, “If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise,” Lee revisits some of the subjects of his first film (ex-mayor Ray Nagin, former FEMA director Michael Brown, and various residents), scrutinizes the area’s housing crisis, finds shocking comparisons to how the Haiti earthquakes were handled, and even sees collective uplift after the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl earlier this year. Perhaps most notable is the film’s furious and brilliantly argued final hour, a searing takedown of the corruptive forces responsible for the BP oil spill on April 20th. I sat down with Lee to discuss the new film, leveraging celebrity for good, how we can help as individuals, and why he now buys into “hippie, alternative” ideas.

At what point did you know your first four hours weren’t going to be the end?

Before we finished “Levees,” we knew we would like to come back. I spoke to [HBO president of documentary programming] Sheila Nevins and [HBO co-president] Richard Plepler. They said, “Let’s do it.” It was just a matter of deciding when. We wanted to come back and see what was happening five years later.

08202010_IfGodisWilling4.jpgWhy five years? Why not sooner or later?

It worked out, though, right? [laughs] The Super Bowl win, and then the whole world turned upside down April 20th. [Super Bowl XLIV] was the first day of filming. I had a NFL Films crew in Miami, and my other crew was in New Orleans filming some of the people watching, then rushed over to the French Quarter for the celebration. Do you like sports?

Not really, but I still felt that palpable sense of how important that win was to the locals.

That’s good, if you got that and you’re not even a sports guy! [laughs]

It’s noteworthy, too, that you frontload with that game since it’s the only real levity before you settle back into the harsh reality. Do you feel like that upswing momentum stayed with people?

It wears off eventually. But, yes. People were riding high. People were still floating until April 20th. That’s when the whole thing went south. People were euphoric. And then we get kicked in the stomach, hit upside the head, and pushed down a flight of stairs that leads to a window we fall out of. Then you hit the cement!

Then you get run over.

[laughs] That’s it! Then you get put in an ambulance, and the ambulance flies off the bridge! That sounds like “Salt,” where Angelina jumps from three trucks in a row on the highway. Moving.

In a project this expansive, how do you decide where to even begin?

The story reveals itself. That may sound like a bullshit answer, but it does. You have to understand, our first day of filming, we were shooting the Super Bowl. So we had the ending. We had an upbeat, positive film because spirits were uplifted. The whole city, the whole region was euphoric. Then after April 20th, we knew we were descending. We were going down. This story’s still being written.

Journalists were only shown the first and last hours of “If God Be Willing…” What do the second and third hours entail?

We deal with the housing, NOPD, we visit Sean Penn in Haiti, black-on-black crime — black men murdering other young black men. We visit a lot of people we met and love from “Levees.”

08202010_IfGodisWilling7.jpgI understand the correlation between New Orleans and Haiti, but how did that detour come about?

Well, there is a historical link. New Orleans and Port-au-Prince are sister cities. One of our links was Sean Penn, who was in “Levees.” He was in New Orleans three days after Hurricane Katrina breached the levees, and he was in Haiti three or four days after the earthquake. He now lives in Haiti. His whole mean is just trying to help his country back to its feet. Historically, it was Toussaint L’Ouverture, who kicked Napoleon in the butt, that led to the French Continental officers selling Louisiana to the United States of America. So it’s all intertwined.

Penn has been able to leverage his celebrity to achieve some humanitarian good. With this project, what advantages do you think you had as respected filmmaker Spike Lee?

I think my number one thing that I have — and I’m not trying to boastful — I think a documentary film is only as good as your interviewees. If people don’t feel at ease, if people are not going to drop their guard, they’re not going to give you what they have inside, their essence and their truth as they know it. You’re not going to have a good film if people come to my documentaries and feel they know me already because of my films. They feel that they can trust me, I’m not going to do no crazy shit with the editing and twist their words around. Therefore, it was all love.

Aside from the subject matter, what satisfaction do you get in documentary filmmaking that you don’t with your narratives?

For me, I don’t really have a delineation in my mind between making a documentary and a feature, a short film, a music video or a commercial. They’re all storytelling, so I don’t have to change hats, I don’t have to change outfits or flip switches. It’s just “tell the story.” It doesn’t trip me up. To answer your question, I get as much satisfaction in documentaries as I do narrative films.

Watch More

WTF Films

Artfully Off

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

Posted by on

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…


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.


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).


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.


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

Watch More

Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

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.


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.



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 and the IFC app.

Watch More

G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

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

Posted by on

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….


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.


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.

Watch More