This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.

DID YOU READ

Carla Gugino and Sebastian Gutierrez’s Life of “Luxx”-ury

Carla Gugino and Sebastian Gutierrez’s Life of “Luxx”-ury (photo)

Posted by on

There are many filmmakers who sound nothing like the films they make. Sebastian Gutierrez is not one of them. Within seconds of opening his mouth, a flood of words escape in all directions, all hurdling towards some greater point. This has served the writer/director well on two fronts – the first being his recent run of films, beginning with 2009’s “Women in Trouble” and eventually its sequel “Elektra Luxx,” that sprint on the colorful flourishes of its aesthetic and banter, if not the wild tonal shifts from slapstick comedy to musical numbers to melodrama that make the fact that their main characters are porn stars seem tame by comparison. Gutierrez’s way with words also helped him out of a jam when a projection problem at last year’s SXSW premiere of “Elektra Luxx” resulted in one of the most memorable moments I’ve ever experienced at a film festival after he commandeered the stage and entertained a rapt audience of over a thousand with stories from the set, his newfound facility with digital cameras and advance word of his next film “Girl Walks Into a Bar,” which, to show there are no hard feelings, will premiere at SXSW on Friday simultaneously with its debut on YouTube.

Yet even as Gutierrez is using new technology to bring his work to the masses, he is relying on the oldest of engines to power his films – interesting characters and even more interesting actors to bring them to life. Which is where Carla Gugino, Gutierrez’s leading lady both onscreen and off, comes in. As the titular heroine of “Elektra Luxx,” Gugino is asked to do just about everything one can in her performance as an adult film star who leaves the industry when she becomes pregnant and life becomes even more complex when a flight attendant (Marley Shelton) who finds the lyrics of the baby’s deceased rock star father asks for an unusual favor of Luxx as a finder’s fee. While the criminally underrated actress has demonstrated such versatility over the years, she and a cast that includes Adrianne Palicki, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Marley Shelton, among others, clearly relish the opportunity to show off a different side. With that in mind, I recently spoke to both sides of this creative team separately to talk about “Elektra Luxx,” why patience is not a virtue and breaking other rules.

Since you’ve collaborated with Sebastian so often, have you started getting involved in the creative process earlier?

Carla Gugino: It’s interesting because definitely I think there is a real collaboration. [Sebastian] is the vision behind all of these pieces and that’s something that I actually champion and love. There may be a story someday that I feel like maybe only I can tell, but at this point, I really love being an interpreter. I’m really amazed at people who come up with something out of nothing — writers. I find it to be an incredible talent. But what’s been really nice is because we have worked together so many times and have a real trust in each other, it’s always an exciting moment when hot off the presses, I get the next script of his. And he’s always really receptive.

Generally I’m the first person to read the ones that I’m in and it’s become an interesting process because I might say “Oh, is this clear? Is this not clear? Why don’t you explain this?” And he’ll say, “No, I didn’t do that because of this but that’s a good idea” – so it’s a nice, natural building upon each other. I also think it is wonderful to be a muse of someone who’s very talented and yet because I think we both have been doing this for so long and I love acting so much, it certainly has become a co-created affair.

03102011_ElektraLuxx2.jpgYou and Sebastian have made no secret of casting friends of yours in these films, but instead of being some indulgence, they’ve really shown off things in these actors that you haven’t had a chance to see. Has that been really gratifying?

CG: It’s really wonderful and that’s the thing is I’ve always felt from the start is I would never want a friend to recommend me for a job because I’m a friend, nor would I ever recommend a friend for a job because of that. But because we are surrounded by incredibly talented actors who I appreciate and love both so much as human beings and I love their work, the idea that we get to go and create together is just about as good as it gets.

Also, I think something worth noting is I think Sebastian is a perfectionist, as am I, and I think all the people involved in these movies have a very high standard for themselves. In that way, I think a lot of times when people think low-budget or a short shooting time, it’s this idea that it’s sort of haphazard and improvised and you’re grabbing the camera [when in actuality] these are actually really little condensed versions of a big movie that are shot with care, written with care, acted with care. That’s something that’s very exciting because young filmmakers can know that you can actually make a really good quality movie in a very brief period of time with very limited funds as long as you have the material, the actors and the director.

You can feel that, but at the same time, these films have also retained a kind of “tossed off” energy. Where does that come from?

CG: I think that comes out of a lack of pretense and a lack of preciousness because of the time. This particular kind of way of filming in terms of timeframe and structure really was started as just a fun experiment. And I think that’s the nature we always want to keep them — it’s never worth it if you don’t make a good movie. That’s obviously the reason to do it. But in the midst of it, the nature of it has been this great creative experience and experiment and I feel like if we can maintain that, that’s an important thing and you feel it.

03102011_ElektraLuxx3.jpgIn “Elektra Luxx,” you have a scene with your twin sister where you’re playing both parts, a musical number and plenty of other emotional highs and lows. Is it a challenge to keep the tone when you’re doing so many things?

CG: Yes, it is. It is. I think that’s also why people tend to want to separate things by genre and go, “Well, is this a musical or is this funny or is this serious?” One of the things we wanted to do with this while hearkening back to old screwball elements of 1940s when women were the box office draw and also a bit of a good ol’ fashioned sort of melodrama [was to have] those kinds of elements ultimately keep a heart to the film that’s very unencumbered, but stylistically be able to touch on a lot of different styles.

Everyone compliments Sebastian on how well he’s able to write women, and just like so many of those 1940s films you mentioned, it’s in the service of a character that’s been marginalized by society, updated here as a porn star. Have you found that to be an interesting thing to play?

CG: Yeah, a lot of judgment. It has been. And I was going to say also because I realized I kind of didn’t answer the question in terms of tone from a performance standpoint because yes, it is tricky because you’re dealing with a movie where it’s screwball enough that you’re accepting the fact she’s going to sleep with a guy [Timothy Olyphant] who’s the fiancé of this flight attendant [Marley Shelton] because she owes it to her. So there’s already an element of heightened reality to take into play. And you can justify it because she’s a pornstar, etc. But what was always very key was never did it become a caricature and I think that’s in reference to the pornstar question too, which is the fact that that’s her profession reflects itself in a couple of different ways, but mostly, she’s done everything for herself. She’s been on her own, she’s made a good living at this and she’s never actually been able to see herself through what might be her daughter’s eyes and when she sees that, she realizes she may have to make a change and what comes along with that. To me, that was the compelling notion of the movie.

Watch More
SistersWeekend_103_MPX-1920×1080

WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

Posted by on

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_Comedy-Crib_Sisters-Weekend-Series-Image

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.

SistersWeekend_101_MPX-1920x1080

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_Comedy-Crib_Sisters-Weekend_About-Image

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.

SistersWeekend_102_MPX-1920x1080

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

Watch More
IFC_BVSS_203_birthday-song-celebration

Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

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.

via GIPHY

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.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

via GIPHY

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 IFC.com and the IFC app.

Watch More
IFC_NYTVF_EColi-High_blog

G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

Posted by on

Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

E.coli-class-

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

ecoli-computer

IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

Watch More