Catherine Hardwicke Rides Into SXSW

Catherine Hardwicke Rides Into SXSW (photo)

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One of the great elements of Catherine Hardwicke’s films throughout the years has been a sense of place and community, whether it was the loose-knit family of orphaned Southern California skaters in “Lords of Dogtown,” the tenuous, hard-won relationship between the warm-hearted vampire clan of the Cullens and the occasionally chilly human population of Forks, Washington in “Twilight” or even in her latest film “Red Riding Hood,” where Amanda Seyfried’s titular character goes from beloved daughter and belle of the town to an outcast whose societal freefall after her encounter with the big bad wolf feels particularly cruel given how strongly the director sets up the world around her.

So there’s little surprise that Hardwicke’s “Director’s Workshop” Saturday afternoon at SXSW, which is fast becoming a home away from home for the helmer who went to the University of Texas’ School of Architecture after growing up in the Texas bordertown of McAllen, had a most unusual vibe for an established filmmaker addressing a crowd of aspirants — one that felt as though we’re all in this together.

This was evident from the moment when the scrappy filmmaker in Hardwicke asked the crowd “Who had the best scam?” before moderator Hollywood Reporter‘s Jay A. Fernandez could calm all the hands that were about to be raised. It was the kind of panel where “Twilight” was oddly only mentioned once near the end, and Hardwicke felt obligated to detail the geography of the scene of Bella and Edward flying caroming from tree to tree, but where her first film “Thirteen” was celebrated and treated as a master class on shooting economically.

As Hardwicke demonstrated through a fast-forwarded version of the entire film, she demonstrated the very deliberate and gradual shift in colors from dull to vibrant to reflect her main protagonist’s increasingly wild life and then brought out floor plans of the house she used in the film, a form of preparation that was born out of her pre-directorial career as a production designer on such films as “Vanilla Sky” and “The Newton Boys,” and showed how every camera move utilized the angles available to her at that particular home.

Although she was a pro at figuring out landscapes early on, Hardwicke admitted when she first started she knew her way around an actor’s process far less, telling the crowd, “All the films I was a production designer, I didn’t realize I should respect the actors more.” With her “Red Riding Star” star Shiloh Fernandez sitting next to her on the panel, this led to a discussion of how Hardwicke took improv classes herself to realize what kind of space actors actually need, why she wants her actors to understand and personally connect to every line they say (Fernandez said the process gave him a personal way into the material), and in a moment of levity, how she navigates the “nipple zones” (what areas Hardwicke is respectful of while shooting during intimate scenes).

Afterwards, Hardwicke was kind enough to speak to me about taking on the role of mentor, something that she’s not only did with the panel, but as an executive producer on Janet Grillo’s drama “Fly Away,” which is making its premiere at the festival, what effect being the “Director of ‘Twilight'” has had on her, and why SXSW was a welcome distraction this particular weekend.

How did you feel being amongst all those aspiring filmmakers at the panel?

Wasn’t it wild? It was fascinating. It was a big, interesting crowd of people in there. Whatever happens, if I can get one or two people inspired, give them a good idea of the way I do it, they can change it and maybe they can do it better than me, but at least it shows them hey, this is one technique you can use.

Amanda Seyfried has talked about the extensively designed books you created as a resource that really sold her on making “Red Riding Hood” – is it something from your background as a production designer to plan in such a way?

On “Red Riding Hood,” it was a really big deal. Everything…we had to design all those sets from scratch. We’re trying to visualize a whole world. What could it look like? Nobody knows what it’ll look like and you have to do a sketch and you have to get a budget and how much will it cost to build that thing? So the studio has to get some clue if we can afford this project and how big does the set need to be and can a horse fit around there?

As a marketing device, it’s great, but as director of varied interests, how has it been to have “From the director of ‘Twilight’ appear on the poster?

It’s good and bad. I said, “Could I have ‘Lords of Dogtown’ on there and ‘Thirteen’ too?” And like “Nobody knows those movies.” [laughs] I was like…[shrugs shoulders] No, I said, does it only have to be that? But I don’t really get to choose what they put on the poster. I would’ve rather have some other movies too, but I think it’s good and bad when you say “Twilight.” Some people love it and a lot of people love to hate it.

The one connection the two films have is some very strong chemistry between the leads and one of your stars Shiloh Fernandez mentioned during the panel that you were very keen on asking the actors about what every line means to them personally. Do interesting things come out of that process?

Oh yeah, because sometimes I think it means something – that line – and they might’ve interpreted it in a different way and maybe we need to change it or shade it different. Or maybe it’s too serious and we need to give it a little spin and make it a little lighter.

I’ve never been able to talk to a director of such a big movie on an opening weekend – I know you’ve been able to distract yourself with SXSW, but is it a nerveracking experience?

It’s pretty nerveracking, but really at that point, you can’t do anything. The baby’s out there. Maybe you could run nude through New York City to get some free publicity, but besides that, it’s kind of like it’s done, so to me, I love Austin and I love this festival, so I was just trying to think of any excuse to come. I said to Janet [Pierson, the festival chief], “Can I do a panel or speak?” just to have an excuse to come. [laughs]

You also had another excuse as an executive producer on Janet Grillo’s film, “Fly Away,” which is here at the festival. Is being a mentor a role you embrace?

It’s kind of a nice privilege. I think Janet made a movie that is very much from her heart. It’s very intense and it’s very much about her life and it’s important for a lot of people to see that film, so I’m happy to support her in a little small way.

What’s up next for you? You’ve been attached to many things the past few years.

There’s “Maximum Ride,” “Maze Runner,” and “Hamlet” – I don’t know which one will go. I’m not trying to be coy. You just don’t know what the studio will decide. I thought a different project was going to go at Summit. I was doing “If I Stay” and then all of a sudden, they didn’t say yes and Warner Brothers said “yes” and you’re like, okay. So you’ve got to have a few things cooking and then maybe none of the ones you thought were going to go might go and suddenly another one will come from outer space. Or maybe I’ll make a little no budget movie. I don’t know.

“Red Riding Hood” is now open wide.


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.