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.

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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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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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