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Tribeca 2011: Massy Tadjedin Can Finally Look Past “Last Night”

Tribeca 2011: Massy Tadjedin Can Finally Look Past “Last Night” (photo)

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The irony doesn’t seem lost on Massy Tadjedin that it’s taken over two years to release her directorial debut that takes place over the course of an evening, though if she has her way, the conversation about “Last Night” will outlast both. A prisoner of Miramax’s slate of films that were orphaned when ownership of the company changed hands, the drama stars Sam Worthington and Keira Knightley as Michael and Joanna, a married couple that begin to have their doubts about each other when they’re separated by a business trip where Michael finds himself tempted by a co-worker (Eva Mendes) and Joanna bumps into a former flame (Guillaume Canet).

No stranger to mysteries having previously penned the 2005 Knightley-Adrien Brody thriller “The Jacket” and currently supervising the writing on an adaptation of “Tell No One” author Harlan Coben’s “Long Lost,” Tadjedin finds one with no pat conclusions in “Last Night,” which made it all the more intriguing for the writer/director who creates a story where each part of the love quadrangle reveal themselves not to be what they appear as at first and not every romantic entanglement seems to be resolved before the end credits.

However, there is at least one loose end being tied up with this evening’s premiere of the film at the Tribeca Film Festival, since in addition to presenting the film in New York, the festival’s nascent distribution arm will also bring “Last Night” to theaters around the country on May 6th as well as making it available on VOD now, presumably to torment couples with the same issues as Michael and Joanna right where they live — and ultimately come out as satisfied as Tadjedin is with the final result. With the uncertainty of seeing it released now long behind her, Tadjedin spoke about what led her to become a filmmaker, making the jump from writing to directing, and the limits she placed on herself and more importantly, the ones she didn’t.

Has it been a tough time waiting for this to be released?

When something like this happens, you wonder what the lesson in it is. It’s been a long time because we finished shooting it at the end of ’08. I finished making it in August ’09 by the time we were done with post and then Miramax kind of came apart. Then it was for sale and the selling process was so long, but we finally found a home, which is nice, and if there’s a lesson in it, I suppose you really do just make the film to make the film and then you just trust that it finds its audience. You can’t get hung up on how and when it comes up. You just have to trust that it will.

LastNightKnightleyWorthington_04232011.jpgHow did you get into filmmaking?

I’ve wanted to make films since I was 12, probably because I had immigrant parents and their idea of everything being okay would be if we were just home, so I was allowed to watch anything I wanted as long as I wasn’t going out too much. They didn’t actually censor what I watched, which was great because I would go to the video store and rent pretty much all kinds of things I shouldn’t have been seeing at the age I was watching them at.

But I remember very early on seeing the names at the beginning or the end of the film and thinking, who are those people and how do they get to do that? That seems so fun to me. So I studied English literature and then I began writing – I always wanted to direct, but it took several years of writing to get the credibility to be able to have people trust you enough to direct. Then with “Last Night,” it was a great first film for me because it was really contained and it was manageable for the money that we had. It’s not like I’m blowing up anything.

I remember your producer Nick Wechsler once said it was obvious you were going to be a director. What do you think it was that made it so evident?

It’s never that I wanted to direct out of a sense of frustration as a writer. I always wanted to direct from the beginning and I think that’s so nice what Nick said — I remember the meeting when he told me [that] because I also think very visually in terms of how to execute the story. Also, I think that some of the things that I write are also really specific. Like “Last Night,” if you look at it from afar, it doesn’t even look like a script that would even interest another director. It’s very specific. It has a certain tone, it has a certain feel, has a certain execution. If I could, I would probably do so much more on the film. If I could write music, I would probably want to do that. If I could shoot, I’d probably want to be the cinematographer. I love all of it.

LastNightKnightleyCanet_04232011.jpgWhat is it like getting those new tools when making the jump from writer to director and discovering how to use visuals to do what things words can’t?

When you’re writing, the burden of all the expression for the script stage is on you and on what you can communicate and what you can convey on the page. And obviously, the learning curve on your first film is so steep, but what’s so interesting is that every stage of the making of the film, you see how much of it can be shorthanded by what your collaborators bring to it, especially the actors because it’s like I’ll write two lines of description to try to communicate and convey how a certain look is. Then I’ll follow it up with two lines of dialogue in case the look wasn’t expressed adequately in the script — when you’re shooting it, you just catch it in a millisecond and you have it.

Oftentimes, it’s very different from exactly what you had scripted, but it is what feels truthful to the scene and that’s the kind of stuff you can’t anticipate when you’re writing, but the stuff that makes directing so invigorating because it’s alive. It’s living. When you’re writing, there’s a certain joy, and it is a joy because everything is doable when you’re writing. When you’re directing your options are much more limited, but they’re much more interesting because you just can’t expect or predict all of them.

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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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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.

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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.

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Forget Public Wifi

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

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Inter-not

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.

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Self Defense

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

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