“Beasts of the Southern Wild” director Benh Zeitlin on the score, his young star and creating the Bath Tub


Posted by on

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” is already this year’s little indie that could. It won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, the Caméra D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and most recently the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival. And for good reason. The movie is a spectacular hat tip to the resilience of those who live in Louisiana as well as being a grander folk tale told through the eyes of a six-year-old.

IFC got the chance to catch up with director Benh Zeitlin when he was in Los Angeles to promote the movie before its premiere at the LA Film Festival. We chatted about everything from the movie’s fantastic young lead, Quvenzhane Wallis, to the impressive score he and his best friend Dan Romer wrote in their Brooklyn basement, and everything in between.

IFC: How did you construct a fantasy location that felt as real as the Bath Tub?

BEN ZEITLIN: It’s all built out of real things. It’s not like an imagined place. It’s a series of things that don’t necessarily co-exist at once, but which all exist within the region. I sort of think of it as the island of Louisiana that encompasses New Orleans culture, Creole culture, Cajun culture, and sort of combines a rural mentality and a city mentality in a way that doesn’t exist but all those places have this sort of commonality in their fearlessness, and so certain things about it just made me feel like they could blend.

But there are places, at least 40 years ago. The island where we shot, Isle de Jean Charles, was this completely self-sufficient [community]. Fishing, farming, raising livestock, totally French-speaking, own educational system, just totally off the grid, and it’s shot there, and I think the difference is just that that was a Native American population with a very specific culture that this film isn’t about, it’s about a certain kind of culture, but certainly it’s inspired by those people and people all facing kind of the extinction of their land and their place.

The reason it feels real is because it’s all built with real stuff. We don’t paint things to look like bricks. We put the bricks there.

IFC: And yet at the same time it is this fable, in a way. What about you as a filmmaker made you interested in this blend of fantasy and firmly rooted reality?

BZ: Well I started in animation, so I think that’s part of it. I think I’ve always been interested in telling sort of these like epic folk tales or myths, so that’s probably the way my head works a bit. My parents are folklorists, they probably filled my head with a bunch of nonsense. I’m interested in mythology and big stories that take on huge questions that can kind of speak universally. I don’t want things to be rooted in kind of the specifics of politics or the specifics of anything. I want to sort of talk broadly and tell kind of Bible stories, or something like that.

The reality and fantasy in this movie, to me, is actually all really just about it’s a film from the reality of a six-year-old. It’s from a time when you don’t really parse out what’s in your imagination and what’s happening, so I just wanted to make a film that respected that. I love kids and I think that they’re smarter than adults 80 or 90 percent of the time, so I wanted to make a film that respected that reality and that perspective and didn’t question, oh, she’s just imagining that or that’s not real. Just give her the movie.

IFC: Speaking of which, Quvenzhane is a little powerhouse in this movie and it’s the first time that she’s acted, so how did you find her and how were you able to draw that performance out of her?

BZ: We just looked real hard. We looked at 4000 kids across eight parishes, tried to see every kid in Louisiana basically, but it’s in her. The very first time I saw her, she was like fierce and defiant and wise beyond her years. She was five years old when she came in and she had this focus that we hadn’t seen from kids twice her age. She’s some sort of supernatural creature that came to us. The performance is like a real collaboration. You don’t have to sort of talk down to her like a kid or trick her into feeling things. She can act and we have a sort of like brother/sister relationship which it’s unclear who’s the older brother and who’s the younger one, but you can take her aside.

You always have to play on set, you’ve got to sort of defy the stress of a movie set and make it fun but you can, when things are going wrong, take her aside and say, here’s what your character’s thinking, here’s where what they’re thinking changes, when you look over here, I want you to squint your eyes because and feel like the sun’s in them — she can do all that stuff. She’s incredible. No one in the film had ever acted before at all, and she, yeah, I don’t know, she’s born to do this.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

Posted by on

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.

Posted by on
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.

Posted by on
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.