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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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

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

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

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

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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….

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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.

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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.

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