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A Spirited Q & A With “Littlerock” director Mike Ott

A Spirited Q & A With “Littlerock” director Mike Ott (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.

Honored already at the Gotham Awards as this awards cycle’s “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You,” Mike Ott’s sophomore feature will no longer bear that title after its win guaranteed a theatrical run in New York at the Cinema Village sometime in the immediate future. And as it turns out, that was merely a precursor to its win as this year’s recipient of the Acura Someone to Watch Award at a Spirit Awards ceremony held earlier, which has done a good job of spoiling the reputation of Ott’s film as one of the best kept secrets at any of the festivals it’s played since premiering in San Francisco a year ago.

As Ott describes below, the film’s success may seem as foreign to him as the plot of his film where a pair of Japanese siblings (Atsuko Okatsuka, who also co-wrote, and Rintaro Sawamoto) get stranded in the California desert town in the title on a tour of Japanese-American internment camps and observe the locals, with the two eventually splitting apart when Atsuko befriends a local boy (Cory Zacharia) and decides to stay when her brother chooses to leave. Then again, in the same way “Littlerock”‘s charms have a way of sneaking up on its audience, Ott has been steadily building a résumé of warmhearted but realistic looks at small-town life beginning with 2006’s “Analog Days.” While his characters often try to find their place in worlds that are unfamiliar, either due to age or locale or both, Ott’s ability to make connections between them and to his audience has indeed made him “someone to watch” and more importantly, someone who makes you feel.

Why did you want to make this film?

There’s always more than one reason for why you want to make a film, but I think initially I was just interested in trying to examine America through a foreigner’s eyes…Re-evaluate the things we see everyday from an outside perspective.

What was the best piece of advice you received that applied to the making of this film?

Don’t be afraid to go with an idea that’s not your own.

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

The toughest thing to overcome was just getting the courage to get started and go out and make another film. When you first begin a new project, it always seems like this unconquerable mountain from a distance, so it’s easy to lose your nerve to get going.

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

Probably our screening at AFI Fest where the screening sold out and people who didn’t get in were screaming and yelling at the door guy to let them in. Very surreal.

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

I’m really proud of Atsuko’s performance in the film. It’s so subtle and nuanced and I feel it gets over looked sometimes, since Cory is such a larger than life character. However, I think she did a fantastic job and really holds the film together.

What’s been the most gratifying thing to come out of this film for you personally?

I think just how far the film has come. The fact that I’m answering a questionnaire for the Spirit Awards is case in point. The film has surpassed all of our expectations. We were a bunch of artists running around the desert with a camera just trying not to get robbed by meth-heads. Really. I had no idea I’d be screening the film in Egypt, Greece, Iceland, Italy, etc.

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

“Attenberg” by Athina Rachel Tsangari.

“Littlerock” has no U.S. distribution yet, but continues to play the international festival circuit. The Spirit Awards will air on IFC on February 26th.

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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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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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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.

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It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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