Aaron Katz Comes Out From the “Cold”

Aaron Katz Comes Out From the “Cold” (photo)

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“There’s no palm trees in Portland.” It was this simple observation that changed the course of Aaron Katz’s third feature from being a family drama into a thriller and may well change the course of his career. Not that any change is necessary on Katz’s part, but “Cold Weather” represents the film that could push the conversation about the writer/director beyond the cineastes who bring up his name to impress in conversation like a well-kept secret, knowing full well that loaning the DVD double feature of his first two films “Dance Party USA” and “Quiet City” is akin to turning a friend onto some really good drugs. Whereas the director’s last films indeed felt like trips – beautifully composed and immaculately realized dramas that captured the exuberance of youth – his latest, which sees Doug and Gail, a brother and sister (Cris Lankenau and Trieste Kelly Dunn) try to solve the mystery of his missing girlfriend, takes the form of a tantalizing brain teaser.

Which is where the palm trees come in. When Katz was talking to a friend who moved into the one building in Portland with a palm tree out front, “I thought that would be a good clue,” the director says now. “I thought I should keep that in mind for something if I ever write a mystery in Portland.” Sure enough, the Rasmussen Village apartment building shows up in “Cold Weather” as part of a stakeout, just one of the many conventions Katz turns on its head. As it turns out, a detective story was a natural fit for the filmmaker, considering that his films to date have taken great pride in the accumulation of small details. Here, Katz talks about all the minutiae that went into filming “Cold Weather,” from his work with the RED digital camera that illuminate the cloudy Portland skies to the film’s vibrant and unorthodox score.

How did you get interested in doing this film?

I started writing a script that was supposed to be about a brother and sister because there’s not really a lot of films about that relationship and I thought it was a really interesting relationship. I got about 30-40 pages in and I happened to be reading a lot of detective fiction around that time and I was up late at night writing and just started putting some mystery elements in it. I wrote about 10 pages introducing the beginnings of the mystery and figured I’d wake up the next day and say, well, that was fun, but let’s get back to the script I was writing. But actually I reread it and felt really excited and wrote the rest of the script really quickly. And I was actually reading the book that the main character Doug is reading in the movie, “Raffles” by E.W. Hornung.

02052011_ColdWeather2.jpgWhen you do this kind of film, how much of the mystery do you need to solve for yourself before realizing this could make a movie?

The first draft I came up with was pretty much a mess. I think it had all the right elements in it, but I had written it not knowing what was coming next, so Brendan [McFadden] and Ben [Stambler], two of our producers, and I sat down and spent about a month probably reworking stuff in the script, especially the mystery – on notecards. We made one for the entirety of the script, including the non-mystery portion of the movie, and it changed a lot. We had a lot of different ideas about how far to take the mystery, the stakes. That was one of the toughest things because we wanted the stakes to be high enough that it felt serious – it wasn’t like a spoof or something really silly – but also keep the stakes low enough so it doesn’t take it into traditional thriller territory where it’s some big conspiracy.

We had the idea that maybe there was this whole conspiracy about the lumber industry and it wasn’t money in the case, but some kind of documents or something like that, but that really felt wrong, so we dialed it back from there and came up with the thing that’s in the movie. One thing that we came up with as we were going through various permutations of the mystery is that we kept coming back to the most important thing was the relationship between Doug and Gail, that’s the note we wanted to end the movie on. So for us, it was about finding a way to resolve enough of the mystery to our taste, at least, and then bring it back to being about Doug and Gail.

One of the most striking things to me was just how great the RED Camera made this film look. Did it allow you to play with different colors and textures than you had before?

It opened things up for us a lot. And I think that the process, working with myself and Andrew Reed, our director of photography and also our colorist Alex Bickel, who was involved even before we shot the movie and we talked a lot about how to get those colors out of the RED camera. I think what you said – textures – actually is a good way to describe it. We talked a lot about textures. For example, we wanted to get the textures of the clouds in the sky in Portland and one of the great things about RED is you have a lot of flexibility in the look of the film and post-production, but you don’t have that if you’re not real careful to make sure everything is in the exposure. In many movies, parts of the sky are a little blown out and it doesn’t read as odd or anything, it’s just that’s normal, but we really wanted to make sure that wasn’t the case in this film – that you could really see all the texture of the clouds and in the color process, we really spent a lot of time bringing that out and bringing out the texture of, say, the asphalt when they’re driving, bringing out the texture of dirt or the texture of a stucco building.

I had gotten some warnings going in from the very first generation of people to shoot on the RED saying that things can look plastic-y or things can look almost fake [or] eerily sharp beyond how life looks. I actually didn’t find any of that. I found that we had so much control over the look of the film with the RED because unlike cameras we used on the previous two films, you can shoot with any 35mm lenses, so we were able to have so much control over the look in a way that we had never had before, so it was really great.

02062011_ColdWeather3.jpg This is probably going to sound like a naïve question since Portland is your hometown, but you show a side of Portland that might be surprising to even some who live there. Was it hard keeping a sense of mystery even when you knew the locations so well yourself?

I tried to pick out places that to me evoked what I think of when I think of mysteries. For example, I’m a big Raymond Chandler fan and there’s a quote on the back of fairly recent editions of his book — I forget who the quote’s from — but the gist of the quote is that Raymond Chandler gave L.A. a sense of romance it didn’t have before and I think that’s really true. I think part of that is that he doesn’t use Los Angeles as just a convenient place to set it just because that’s where he is or whatever. It’s really specifically set in Los Angeles and so I really wanted to take that idea and apply it to Portland, to really specifically set it there. Portland has an interesting combination of having a similar look to L.A. in terms of architecture because it was built up around the same time, a lot of the buildings that were built in the teens through the ’40s, so there’s a lot of stucco and a lot of old brick buildings and I really wanted to use those.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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