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WonderCon 2012: Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij talk “Sound of My Voice” and “The East”

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Fox Searchlight’s “Sound of My Voice” kicked off the movies portion of WonderCon. The panel started with the same 12 minutes of footage, released last month, that end with Brit Marling‘s character Maggie telling the newest members of their cult that she is from the future.

Following that, two members of “Sound of My Voice’s” “cult” encouraged fans to visit their booth in the WonderCon exhibit hall. Then director/co-writer Zal Batmanglij and star/co-writer Brit Marling took to the stage to introduce a new trailer for the movie (that ends up being a lot more foreboding than the footage released already) and chatted about the origins of the film.

After the panel, IFC had a chance to catch up with Batmanglij and Marling (almost exactly one year after we talked to them at SXSW) to chat about bringing “Sound of My Voice” to WonderCon, their journey with the movie and their upcoming film, “The East.”

IFC: This is your first experience at a fan convention. What’s your response?

ZAL BATMANGLIJ: Well, we’re sort of straddling the line. We’re more of a festival film, and so it’s fun to be at something like this. We feel so honored.

BRIT MARLING: It’s awesome to be in a room, any time you’re in a room filled with enthusiasts and lovers of film, and in particular lovers of sci-fi because we love that genre so much, and most of the things we dream about and think of fall in that space. It’s cool. It’s cool to watch the first 12 minutes with an audience like that.

ZB: But I just want to go be a fan. I want to go see the “Prometheus” trailer. Can we do the interview there?

IFC: On paper, “Sound of My Voice” might not seem to have genre aspects, but it does have them. Can you talk a bit about the sci-fi elements of this film?

ZB: It’s a film about someone who claims to be from the future, and the question is, is she or isn’t she? And that’s basically the conceit of the film. And so there’s a lot of elements about the future that she talks about. She talks about what she imagines the future will be like. And so, with the whole genre element of time travel, and it’s something that’s interested us from the beginning. We always wanted to do sci-fi.

BM: Yeah, and I guess also sci-fi that feels in part more grounded in reality. There’s something really exciting about watching something where the sci-fi, you really want to believe that it’s real, not that you’re just being seduced by special effects and spectacle. Sci-fi where the spectacle is in the imagination, that is appealing.

ZB: And I love a lot of smaller sci-fi films like “Primer.” “Donnie Darko,” one of my favorite films. And I think that “Sound of My Voice” falls into one of those types, like “Primer,” “Donnie Darko,” what else?

BM: “Primer” was so confusing, though. The thing about “Sound of My Voice” is that it’s also just such a —

ZB: It’s a thrill ride.

BM: It’s a thrill ride, you’re like following Peter, he’s this skeptic. He and his girlfriend are making this documentary, trying to unravel this thing they’re infiltrating. They’re really like undercover spies telling these lies trying to get closer and closer, and as they get more into the center of this group, their relationship is tested, their film is tested, what they believe or don’t believe is tested. So in that sense, it has more of a classic thriller thrust.

IFC: It is interesting that you say that Peter is such a skeptic, whereas Maggie is so invested in this. Where do you think you guys lie? Are you more a skeptic or willing to believe?

ZB: I think I’m more a skeptic. And the skeptic is the person who wants to believe more than anything.

BM: But needs the best proof, and is in search.

ZB: Yeah, he doesn’t want to be let down, or she doesn’t want to be let down, and I think that’s sort of the thing is like, they’re such believers, but it’s like falling in love. Some people just, their heart’s been broken and they never want to feel that again. The fear of another heartbreak keeps them from loving. And I think the fear of the heartbreak, that things are not magical, keeps a lot of people from believing in the unknown and in powers that we can’t see or quantify.

BM: I think I’m more inclined to believe.

ZB: But she’s also Maggie.

BM: [laughs] But I’m also Maggie. And, you know, if you act for a living, you’re probably super inclined to just believe. And that was very easy for me.

ZB: But I think there’s a real lack of belief in the world these days. Like, people want to believe really desperately, but it’s getting harder and harder for people to believe.

IFC: Does the film have a definitive ending, or is it up for interpretation?

ZB and BM at the same time: There’s a definitive ending.

ZB: But you the audience brings a lot to the table. I mean, that’s why it’s a smaller film. We don’t spoon feed you everything. You have to bring things to the table.

IFC: Can you talk a little bit about the viral marketing campaign, like all the Los Angeles-based cult meetings?

ZB: I think [Fox] Searchlight and us were really into the idea that this was sort of an earthy movie, how do you have an earthy campaign for it? Like, it’s a small film, why take a small film and do something really slick with it? Why not do something that’s interactive and engaging with its audience. And I love that.

BM: And the story so lends itself to that, because it asks questions and it’s asking questions of you, and also I think just that it being about a cult, you know, it kind of asks if you want to come in and join it, and so we’ve been having fun with that.

IFC: Have you guys gotten a good response to it, because it’s been sort of under the radar?

ZB: We want everything to be under the radar, because it’s so cool for things to be discoverable. Like, what a pleasure to like stumble upon something on the Internet. If you go next week, and your readership has no idea that this exists, and you can sort of share it with them and, like, we’re not shoving it down anyone’s throat. A journalist came a couple weeks ago and was like, “Oh well, I can’t believe you guys are all doing this for marketing.” And I was like, “Trust me, the like 10 people that are coming to these meetings aren’t swaying the marketing for us.” It’s fun.

BM: I mean, we are just doing the things that we want to see done. Like, I want to go to the theater or hear about a film coming out and like get involved in the narrative. I want it to be interactive. I think we’re at a space now where a lot of people are watching movies but we’re also iChatting at the same time and responding to emails and texting, and so there’s this ability to branch out, and we felt like it’s cool if we can take the story into the real space. If there’s like a way in which you can become part of the experience rather than just it beginning and ending in the theater.

ZB: And that’s what’s cool about making your first film or when you’re an actor that isn’t that recognizable is that you can do these things. These guys haven’t even seen “Prometheus,” it’s not even based on anything, and they’re so excited.

IFC: When we spoke last, I believe you guys were still shooting “The East,” which you have since wrapped. So what did you guys learn from “Sound of My Voice” that you feel you brought to “The East”?

ZB: You learn to trust yourself more. I think that’s the thing. When you’re making “Sound of My Voice,” you’re like, “Oh, I’m making this just to make it,” and then, two years later, I still have to live with it, so you’re saying it might as well be something that you really are proud of, and so you say, “Okay, I’m going to fly my freak flag loud and proud. I’m going to make the movie that I want to make.” I think that’s important.

BM: I think the thing that we always learn again and again is, whatever the ideas are behind it, they have to be really sustaining again. They have to sustain you through the writing period, the research period, the rewriting period, the trying-to-get-financing period, the making of it —

ZB: The publicity period [laughs].

BM: — and then talking about it for a year afterwards. So that’s like a huge trajectory.

ZB: The DVD release!

BM: The DVD release [laughs]. We’ll be talking about this years from now! So it better be a good idea, you know, because you’re going to be living with it for a while. And it better keep intriguing you and keep asking you to ask yourself hard questions. And I think we really found that in “Sound of My Voice” and “The East,” which is exciting.

ZB: Yeah, projects have their own fuel cells, and we just hitch our wagons to them and go along for the ride. Seriously, that’s what it feels like.

“Sound of My Voice” hits theaters April 27.

Do you agree with Marling and Batmanglij’s assessment of what makes a movie work? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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.

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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

Shopping

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.

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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.

Booger

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.

Ogre

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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