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.


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…


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. 


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


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


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.