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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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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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GIFs via Giphy

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.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.