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Daniel Gillies and Rachael Leigh Cook premiere independent filmmaking documentary “Kingdom Come”

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It took five years, but finally filmmaker Daniel Gillies completed his first feature, “Broken Kingdom.” Gillies is no stranger to the Hollywood scene, having appeared in major roles in “Spider-Man 2,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “Bride & Prejudice.” But he was new to independent filmmaking, and he decided he would chronicle his experience trying to create “Broken Kingdom” in a documentary called “Kingdom Come.”

In addition to showing the struggles he had finding financing for his passion project and the way it affected those closest to him, Gillies called upon fellow filmmakers like Don Cheadle, Mark Ruffalo and Joe and Anthony Russo to discuss their own experiences in independent filmmaking. The movie premiered in Los Angeles on October 2 and IFC was on hand to talk to Gillies about finally showing “Kingdom Come” to the world.

“It’s weird. Somebody just asked me, ‘Should I be nervous?’ and I’m like, ‘I’d be nervous if I knew what to be nervous about.’ It’s just sort of surreal,” he said. “We’re just launching two movies, it’s amazing.”

Alongside him was his wife and co-star, “She’s All That” actress Rachael Leigh Cook. Cook supported him in the creation of “Broken Kingdom” from the beginning and saw the toll making the movie took on him. As is detailed in “Kingdom Come,” it wasn’t an easy journey for either of them.

“It’s been incredible what I’ve seen my husband accomplish. I knew he was a strong person, but I don’t know anyone as tough as him and I’m just so proud,” she said. “That solidified for me that I would have no idea to do what Daniel has done, and nor do I necessarily suggest that anyone should attempt it, and that’s why I think this movie is a very necessary and cautionary tale to young filmmakers.”

Their friend and fellow filmmaker John Murphy decided to help Gillies with “Broken Kingdom” from the get-go, and the process of trying to bring the movie — a story telling parallel narratives about a school teacher with a secret and an American writer in Colombia — sent him into credit card debt and made him lose his apartment. Because of that difficult journey (he’s now living in Gillies’ guest house and is out of major debt), premiering “Kingdom Come” was cathartic for him.

“Daniel and I started together as a sort of mechanism to explore this topic that we hadn’t seen a documentary about before, and with the changing landscape of independent film, it seemed like it might be a good idea,” he explained.

Many of their friends from around Hollywood showed up at the premiere to help support Gillies and Cook. Creating “Broken Kingdom” and “Kingdom Come” was a process they all saw their friends going through, and those actors in attendance expressed pride that Gillies was able to make his dream project.

“My very, very good friends Daniel and Rachael have obviously been behind it for a long time. The film is a great dream of theirs and all of us have seen them work so hard on something that means so much to them,” “Inception” star Dileep Rao said. “I just couldn’t be prouder. In this business, there’s a lot of things that get made just because they have a venality and a utility and that’s part of making a business, you know? It’s very rare that people take the time out of their careers, really take the time to make something they care about, and I admire Daniel so much for doing that and his heart that he put into that.”

“The Royal Today” actress Caroline Carver has known both Cook and Gillies since they shot a movie together called “My First Wedding,” and they’ve been close ever since. She’s seen the toll “Broken Kingdom” took on Gillies, and credits him for sticking with the project.

“I’ve been on this whole epic adventure with them and it’s been absolutely amazing and I’ve got so much respect for them because it’s really brilliant what they’ve done,” she said. “I’ve kind of seen all the blood and sweat. I’ve seen Daniel going through the whole financing and then the traveling and the nuts and bolts of getting a film, made, which is the most difficult thing in the world, especially when you’re actors and you’re used to being on the other side. … For me, the kind of behind-the-scenes has been an incredible journey, really.”

Producer Cindy Cowan, most recently behind the Cillian Murphy film “Red Lights,” said that she thinks independent filmmaking is going to come to the forefront as the Hollywood landscape continues to change.

“I think the business is changing a lot right now. Studios are all about these big Marvel comics and these tentpole movies and so the entire business is changing,” she explained. “I think we’re going to see a lot more Video On Demand, digital, TV’s getting better and better, but the business is changing. It really is.”

In addition to creating the documentary to chronicle his process making “Broken Kingdom,” Gillies also took another gamble and decided to offer his feature and “Kingdom Come” online for $5 a piece or $8 for both. He allowed fans to buy tickets that would allow them to livestream the red carpet and watch both films from their computers at home so they could feel like a part of the entire experience.

“I’m happy that we’re doing it. It’s sort of unprecedented,” he said. “I kind of like the idea of the democratization of cinema. I like the idea that anyone can be involved.
We’re the little guy. We’re Rocky, and I like the fact that we’re Rocky and I want to celebrate that kind of cause.”

Murphy added, ” We saw what Louis [C.K.] did and we saw what Aziz Ansari then did. … Theaters don’t want little indie films for the most part. It just seemed like [distributing online is] something everybody’s going to be doing in a couple of years, and we decided that we wanted to be out in front of that and be a grand experiment and hopefully make something good happen.”

Even though “Kingdom Come” shows how difficult, stressful and life-changing a process creating his first feature film was, Gillies ended the documentary by saying he’s ready to create his next film. He reaffirmed those sentiments to IFC.

“It’s all I think about,” he said with a laugh, adding about his next film’s tone, “It’s not going to be a date movie, let’s just put it like that. It’s not going to get dark, it’s going to begin and it’s going to get blacker before the dawn.”

Producer and “Goodfellas” actress Illeana Douglas said she understands where he’s coming from.

“Making independent movies is like a drug. You want to quit, but it’s so hard, but very rewarding,” she told IFC.

“Broken Kingdom” and “Kingdom Come” are available online through their official website.

What have been your experiences with independent filmmaking? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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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