DID YOU READ

A Spirited Q & A With “Lovely, Still” Director Nik Fackler

A Spirited Q & A With “Lovely, Still” Director Nik Fackler (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.

Nik Fackler is just full of surprises. As a 23-year-old directing for the first time, one could’ve easily expected a romance about what it’s like to be young and foolish and wildly in love from Fackler. That last one applies to “Lovely, Still,” but in penning a love story of two people closing in on their eighties, the writer/director proved canny beyond his years, attracting Oscar winners Ellen Burstyn and Martin Landau to be in his first feature with meaty roles they rarely get to play these days and crafting a spry, tender tale around them as a pair of senior citizens going out on their first date in the days leading up to Christmas.

As the old Hollywood maxim goes, “90 percent of filmmaking is good casting,” and indeed, “Lovely, Still” benefits greatly from being in the company of such seasoned pros as Burstyn and Landau, not to mention nice supporting turns from Elizabeth Banks and Adam Scott. However, Fackler’s secret weapon is his screenplay, a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by the Spirit Awards since he’s been nominated for Best First Screenplay, a recognition of what was on the page as much as what was left off. Hailing from Omaha, Fackler turned down film school to hone his craft making music videos for Midwestern bands like Azure Ray and Bright Eyes where the only dialogue allowed is the lyrics and it’s a quality that permeates “Lovely, Still” as the quiet moments permit what lines there are to really sing.

It’s actually more of a waltz between Landau’s Robert and Burstyn’s Mary, with the former only feeling comfortable when in the presence the latter, anxious about social interaction in general and so nervous about impressing his new neighbor that he asks everyone around from his manager (Scott) to his mail carrier about what transpires on date nowadays. The vocabulary is as eloquent visually as it is verbally, bringing an otherworldly quality to Robert’s dreams and a warmth to such moments as when Robert learns his feelings for Mary are mutual and sees the red, green and gold lights from across the street light up in unison with the glow radiating from the woman standing in front of him. Although it’s troubling to learn that our questionnaire led Fackler to believe he has “confidence issues,” it’s clear from his first film that he doesn’t have any when it comes to a command behind the camera.

Why did you want to make this film?

The answer to this questions changes so often. As I have grown nine years older from the beginnings of writing this story, each year the film takes on a new meaning. The initial flame of inspiration came from being a teenager in love. Trying hard to understand and control the feelings that seemed to transform my perception. As I look back now on the film, I also see a desperate plea for optimism that I, having lost love, will always have the ability to rediscover it again with others. The concept of casting an older couple was a way for me to understand my own experiences and somehow manifest what I want my future, finding love again, to be. Plus, I would have learned nothing making a film about teenagers. I need a challenge to measure and discover myself.

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

Every day, Martin would tell me “It’s your movie.” He kept really pushing that on me. It was more and more helpful each time he said it. He could understand the pressure of being a 23-year-old directing a feature. The constant proving grounds you’re standing on. I had to remember it was my film. In the end, after all the fighting and long hours have ended, when I’m an old man, it’s still my film. So I better make it exactly how I want it to be. No regrets. It’s your movie. It gave me the confidence to stand up to people when I needed to and I’m sure I will be repeating it over and over on my next projects as well.

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

The hardest part of the process was the end of post. The perfection and trust needed in saying “I’m finished, let’s move on.” To direct means to create your love and then to constantly judge it, pick apart every aspect of it. It ended up sending me into a really dark place toward the end. But learning to let go was important.

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

The most memorable moment was when the film started working for audiences. The first test screenings – temp score/first cut – we’re hard on me. You get lots of notes and it’s difficult to hear them sometimes. But, after a year of struggle, there was finally a moment where I could see the audiences reacting the way I wanted them to. Really responding to the emotions. It was like the moment when you finally learn to do something and it just clicks. You get it. From that moment forward, I felt confident in my work and we finished up.

I wouldn’t start traveling to festivals unsure of what I was showing. I wanted to finish post-production thinking, “Regardless of what happens with the film, regardless of its success, I have spent nine years on something that is just how I want it to be.” It’s the best feeling in the world.

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

The dreams. Me and my DP Sean Kirby spent so much time creating the look of the dreams. I’m interested in experimentation. I like using film as a way to create new visual experiences. Trying out new things – unsure of what the results will be – not relying on CG.

A lot of times you fail, but the glass/dream experiments worked out amazingly. The process came from seeing the photographs of Alan Jarras. Inspired, Sean and I worked with a glass blower in Omaha, NE to create warped pieces of glass. We removed the lens of the camera and used the warped glass instead. We then shot bright multi-colored light through the glass and rolled camera at a high speed. We developed the film and were amazed by the results. It really looks like some beautiful multi-colored universe? Or the inside of a mind? It’s really up to the audience’s perception.

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

Being nominated for a Spirit Award. This nomination has truly inspired me and my output has really shot through the roof because of it. Having recognition for something you’ve worked so hard on, only makes you work harder. After answering all these questions, I’m realizing I have confidence issues. But it’s hard to expose yourself and not begin to slowly go insane.

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

Film: I saw a beautiful old Claymation film recently by Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby. It was called “Mandala.” Really beautiful Gumby-style animations of psychedelic vortexes, tribal masks and alien worlds. It ends with Art Clokey and his wife meditating in a field of flowers. So weird and cool and it’s the Gumby guy!

Book: I read a book called “Primal Myths: Creation Myths Around the World” by Barbara C. Sproul. I’ve been really obsessing over creation myths recently. We’re all so used to Adam and Eve that it’s great to see what other creative cultures through history have come up with for why we are here. They all share a common explosion of creativity that really inspires me. I want to write my own.

Record: I can’t stop listening to Beach House’s record “Teen Dream.” I had lost a great great love of my life and this record was all I listened too. It has to be some of the most emotionally charged music to have been created in the last 10 years. It’s so simple and elegant. I’m gonna go listen to it now.

“Lovely, Still” is now available on DVD, iTunes and Netflix instant. The Spirit Awards will air on IFC on February 26th.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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