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A Spirited Q & A With “Everything Strange and New” Director Frazer Bradshaw

A Spirited Q & A With “Everything Strange and New” Director Frazer Bradshaw (photo)

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As a way of celebrating this year’s nominees for the Spirit Awards in the weeks leading up to the ceremony, we reached out to as many as we could in an effort to better understand what went into their films, what they’ve gotten out of the experience, and where they’ve found their inspiration, both in regards to their work and other works of art that might’ve inspired them from the past year. Their answers will be published on a daily basis throughout February.

Frazer Bradshaw has held nearly position on a film crew imaginable, from his beginnings as an editor to a cinematographer who continues to work on other people’s films such as “Babies” and the recent Sundance entry “These Amazing Shadows.” So after creating a collection of shorts over the past decade, it was high time for the filmmaker to put it all together for “Everything Strange and New,” his first feature that has added the adjective “best” since being nominated for a Spirit Award and collected likeminded notices from the Gotham Awards and its celebrated festival run with stops in San Francisco and Munich last year.

Naturally, the film itself is also about a man (Jerry McDaniel) who is attempting to pull together disparate elements, not in art, but rather in life as he supports his wife and two children as a carpenter who unfortunately can’t apply such craftsmanship to everything around him that seems to be falling apart. Set in Oakland, Bradshaw’s film is no ordinary tale of suburban woe, especially since the consummate filmmaker constantly challenges convention with the inventive ways he shoots “Everything Strange and New” and as a film, it never succumbs to telling an audience how it should feel, instead only allowing its audience to feel as its lead character Wayne contemplates his life in voiceover and ponders the ways he can change the direction of his narrative.

What’s exciting about “Everything Strange and New” is that Bradshaw is trying to change the direction of the way films are constructed, reminding us of the elasticity of the medium with the story of someone who must walk a very fine line.

Why did you want to make this film?

There are a lot of reasons. For one, I love the craft of cinema, and the experience of watching projected light; on a very immediate level, I just like to make films for the pure joy of making and seeing the aesthetic manifestation. On a deeper level, I wanted to talk about some of the profound complexities of human cultural/emotional/spiritual experience. Essentially, I wanted to give a voice to some of my personal struggles and experiences that I think are shared by many or are universal in human life. I also wanted to make a film about a huge cross section of America whose experience is radically underrepresented in America media: the working class.

02252011_EverythingStrangeandNew2.jpgWhat was the best piece of advice you received that applied to the making of this film?

In high school, an older photographer friend/mentor told me that if I made work that was truly honest, people would understand and appreciate that work. I took that to heart, and tried to make “Everything Strange and New” as honest a film as I could.

What was the toughest thing to overcome, whether it applies to a particular scene or the film as a whole?

It seems almost too simple, but the real answer is money. I’d wanted to make a feature for almost 10 years. I suddenly found myself with the most basic financial resources to make a feature, and with that stumbling block finally out of my way, I was able to write a first draft in three weeks and go into production a few months later. Of course, it turned out that the money I had in place really wasn’t enough, and in the end, my fabulous executive producer Steve Bannatyne of Lucky Hat Entertainment signed on, along with some minor investors to give me the resources to make a film that was uncompromised.

What’s been the most memorable moment while you’ve traveled with the film, either at a festival or otherwise?

I think my favorite moments are in Q & As. The film is designed to illicit very personal reactions from it’s viewers, and it is very rare that I leave a Q & A without a new perspective on the film. Audiences bring themselves to the film in a way that often moves me, and they frequently observe things in the film that I missed in making it. In a way, I feel like the audience finishes the film for me, anew, in every screening.

In one specific case, a woman in the audience told me that she felt that the way women are represented in the film was problematic. Before I had a chance to respond, another woman on the other side of the theater responded by telling the first woman that her observation was ridiculous and that she was clearly not understanding what the film had to say. They had a short argument, back and forth across the theater, while I stood on the stage and watched.

What’s your favorite thing about your film that’s been largely uncommented upon?

I’d have to say the photography. I’m a director of photography for my living, and I shot “Everything Strange and New,” as well as directing it. Because I have the skill set of a DP, and I wasn’t working with someone else, I was able to craft the cinematography to be exacting, so that it completely integrates with the storytelling style. I intentionally made the photography both naturalistic and stylized. At the same time. It’s not showy and not “beautiful,” so it doesn’t stand out, but for me, the film and it’s cinematography are of a piece.

02252011_EverythingStrangeandNew3.jpgWhat’s been the most gratifying thing to come out of this film for you personally?

With “Everything Strange and New,” I tried to make a film that was really honest and to work from a vulnerable place. Though the narrative elements are largely not autobiographical, the film is very much true to who I am. Gratifying isn’t even an appropriate term to describe the feeling I have, knowing that people “get” what I put out there.

What’s been your favorite film, book or album from the past year?

I’d probably have to say the the film “Mundane Life” by the Korean director Jao Nok Krajok. It’s almost guaranteed not to get any distribution in the U.S. (because it’s that good), so if you happen upon it at a festival, be sure to check it out. By the way, you have to hold out for the end to see the magic.

“Everything Strange and New” is now available on DVD and will make its New York theatrical debut at the reRun Theater starting February 25th. The Spirit Awards will air on IFC on February 26th.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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…


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

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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.


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.

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