A Look at “The Mirror” with Filmmaker William Dickerson

Last week, I linked up with Los Angeles-based filmmaker William Dickerson about his latest feature, The Mirror. Check out the trailer here:

Who is “Taylor?” Blurring the lines of what is real with what is “reel,” William (as himself) tries to answer this question in this metafictional satire about a lifestreamer. “Taylor” is seemingly an open book who effortlessly draws others into his world, a world where public and private life are one and the same. As Dickerson pushes Taylor to delve deeper into his past, the story takes an unexpectedly dangerous turn.

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themirror

After screening the film, I sat down with some questions for William; here are some bits from our conversation.

ILC: This film starts with your declaring the loss of your passion for film? I am more interested in where that passion started?

WD: When I was in 6th Grade I chose to direct a film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians in lieu of writing a book report.  It was a big hit.  From that point on, I filmed everything I possibly could.

ILC: This film talks a lot about the world of social media and its impact on getting your message out there. One area of social media that has helped aspiring filmmakers are crowd sourcing resources, such as Kickstarter. How much of an impact do you feel vehicles like these are to anyone trying to break into the business?

WD: I think crowd-funding is a terrific stepping stone for new filmmakers.  But, you still have to hustle.  It’s the same as writing letters to your friends and family in an effort to raise money for your movie, just on a wider scale.  I think it’s rare when a crowd-funding campaign goes viral; filmmakers are still depending on their network of supporters, and potentially the networks of that network, for funding.  But I still think it’s a good thing and a step in the right direction.

ILC: Last month, you had the World Premier screening at the Yonkers Film Festival, as an Official Selection. Overall, what has been the response/reaction to this film thus far?

The response has been great.  We opened the festival and the reaction was really great.  Some loved it, there were some who didn’t; but that’s what this movie is: it’s polarizing.  Is it real, or is it staged?  Does it matter?  I want the film to be tough to wrap one’s head around; I think the majority of movies these days are missing that “element” that makes the audience think.

ILC: This film comes off the heels of your first feature, Detour, which I know was a labor of love, time and treasure. Beyond the monetary, has Detour gained the attention from the majors or independent film circuit?

WD: DETOUR was well-received critically and the attention it garnered has definitely helped my career.  I was just hired to direct another feature, on the strength of DETOUR, which I begin shooting in December!  

ILC: Just how cynical are you about the movie making process in general and Hollywood’s “business of show?” Did making this film alter your perspective in any way?

WD: It has certainly made me see clearer.  Making a movie is often like controlling chaos.  It’s never been an easy thing to do, but making “indie” films used to be infinitely easier; there used to be studio money funding them.  Not so anymore.  The “indies” of the early 90’s have now become “microbudget” films that filmmakers literally make themselves for peanuts in the hopes of getting the final product picked up by a production company or studio for distribution.  

ILC: Do you have any new or upcoming projects in the pipeline?

WD: In addition to the film I was just hired to direct — a psychological thriller — I have another project with Neil Hopkins (DETOUR) looming and other projects in the pipeline with Taylor McCluskey.

ILC: Lastly, what is Taylor up to nowadays?
WD:
In a sense, Taylor is still lifestreaming.  His persona is out there in the electronic world: he’s vining, he’s youtubing, he’s tweeting, he’s auditioning for movies, getting ready to produce his own movies, he’s playing music with his band, The MFIC’s, and all while surfing the waves of the internet on his cyberboard.

The Mirror premiered in October and is available for OnDemand streaming:

VIMEO ON DEMAND: www.vimeo.com/ondemand/themirror; also be sure to check out Will’s web, Facebook and Twitter pages.

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THE MIRROR

FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/themirrormovie

TWITTER: www.twitter.com/TheMirrorMovie

Interview with “Vivien Leigh” Author Kendra Bean

TCM’s book of the Month for October 2013 is first time author Kendra Bean’s Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait.

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Author Kendra Bean

Kendra Bean she received a BA in Film and Media Studies from the University of California (Irvine) in 2006 and holds an MA (with distinction) in Film Studies from King’s College London, where her focus was on British cinema; her dissertation, a “star study” of Vivien Leigh. In 2007, Kendra founded VivAndLarry.com, a site dedicated to preserving the memories of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. The forthcoming Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait (Running Press) is a self-described “labor of love,” over five years in the making. This project has provided Kendra the opportunity to combine her passions for history, film, and photography – the end result being a lavishly illustrated and well-researched retrospective of Ms. Leigh’s life and times.

Recently, Kendra graciously agreed to answer a few questions for me in the run up to the release of her book, available October 8th.

 

What drew you to the life story and career of Vivien Leigh?
I’ve been interested in Vivien’s story for years. Having been obsessed with cinema since childhood, I always feel compelled to learn as much as I can about films that really grab hold of me. This was the case with Gone With the Wind, which I saw for the first time as a teenager. Reading stories about the production of David O. Selznick’s epic and its stars, Vivien stood out as the most interesting figure. Sometimes I read biographies about actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood and feel that my curiosity has been satisfied. With Vivien, it seemed that the more I read, the more I wanted to know
 
To me, Vivien is such a fascinating and inspirational woman. She had no real interest in film stardom and was much more concerned with being considered a great stage actress, so she starred in the biggest box office hit of all time and then left Hollywood. Compared to many of her contemporaries, her screen appearances were few and often times far between. She made only 19 films in 30 years, and yet she won two Oscars and is still considered one of the greatest cinematic luminaries of her generation. Unafraid of taking risks, she threw herself into a variety of different projects in order to gain as much experience as possible. This resulted in a Tony, a BAFTA, and several other awards. And to think, she managed to achieve all of these things while battling both mental and chronic physical illness. It had to have been extremely difficult to balance a high profile career while facing such personal adversity, and there was a heavy tragic element to her story, but what I find so admirable is that she didn’t let these trials and tribulations beat her down. Her popularity with audiences never really waned and she rode that wave until the very end. It’s quite extraordinary. Talk about perseverance!

 

In your research (and at the risk of possibly providing some ‘exclusive’ insight into your book), what was the most fascinating thing you found out about Vivien Leigh?
This is a tough question because I find so many facets of Vivien’s life and career to be fascinating. During my research I read through many personal letters that Vivien wrote, and which were written about her. It was if a curtain was pulled back and I got an intimate glimpse into her inner world. One of my favorite examples were the letters she sent to Olivier during the war, a few of which are quoted in the book.
 
In 1943, Olivier was in Ireland shooting Henry V, which would be a great triumph for both him as a director, and for British cinema. Vivien was still tied to her seven-year contract to David O. Selznick, and the producer forbade her from accepting the role of Princess Catherine in Olivier’s film. So, she joined the Old Vic Spring Party and spent that summer entertaining British and American troops in North Africa. It was a real treat to read about her personal experiences during this time. The letters really capture the zeitgeist of the time, revealing her unwavering patriotism during a very volatile period in world politics. She described performing for and meeting King George VI, members of the backstage crew being suspected of espionage, and the feeling of purpose in bringing joy to men who had seen nothing but combat for months. Throughout it all, she missed Olivier and there was a real feeling of urgency in her wish to be reunited with him.
 
In addition to your study of Leigh, you also have a website is titled Viv and Larry – how much does their relationship factor into your story?
While the book covers Vivien’s life before and after Olivier, he was a hugely influential figure to her, both personally and professionally. They were together for nearly 25 years and although they divorced, she never really got over him, so he plays a large role in that context. There has been much written about their relationship, with varying opinions and varying degrees of sensationalism. I really tried to be objective about their life together, and I think this was greatly helped by the materials in the Olivier Archive, which had been inaccessible to previous Vivien biographers (all of the significant biographies were written while Olivier was still alive, and he refused to be interviewed).

 

vivien coverNow that you have tackled this project, what’s next on the horizon for you?
I’d really like to explore Vivien a bit more than the format of this book (illustrated biography) allowed, and would also like to explore the lives of other classic film stars. I’ve got a few ideas for future projects, but that’s all I can say about it right now!

 
Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait is available for pre-order on Amazon (US & UK), Barnes & Noble and Waterstones.

Also be sure the follow Kendra on twitter (@kendrajbean) and Facebook (@kendrabeandotcom).

Q&A with the New York City International Film Festival (NYCIFF)

Last month, I had the privilege of attending a couple of events in conjunction with the New York City International Film Festival. As the event drew to a close, I was able to carve out some time to shoot off a series of rapid-fire questions with Loyi Mamabolo, the festival’s Press & Media Director.

nyciff on water

How long has the festival been around?
The festival was founded in the summer of 2010, this upcoming year (2014) will be our 5 year anniversary.
nyciff logoWhat is your organization’s mission?
The mission of the NEW YORK CITY INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (NYCIFF) is to help up and coming talent in film to reach the best possible audience for their work.
In a city littered with festivals year round how do you carve out a unique position?
We are a very unique film festival in that we are absolutely drenched in international culture and art. Every year, filmmakers from all around the world come to celebrate their films. It has been incredible throughout the years to watch extreme opposite cultures collide during our events and create great relationships and even friendships. We are concentrated in bringing the world together through the art of filmmaking and exposing the message these artist reveal through their films.
It may be too early for 2014 discussion but do you have preliminary plans in the works?
– Yes! The most exciting thing about the festival is every year being able to start the plans again and correct any mistakes we have made in the past. Afterall, we wish to grow into a bigger and better opportunity for filmmakers. There are many new things in the works and we are very enthusiastic about next years events. What I look forward to the most is getting to watch this year’s submissions, see how previous filmmakers have grown and meet new filmmakers.
How would you sum up this years experience?
This year was incredible. The enthusiasm of people was astounding, I believe the moment where you could sense it the most was during awards night. It was truly a moving moment when each winner came up to the podium to accept their awards. Their words of struggling for years and to finally feel appreciated for this art that they .spend every living moment on. These actors and filmmakers went back to their native countries being received with honor and pride as their country watched them carrying their award. That is what we’re here for, to show the word these hidden talents that deserve to be seen!
Photo Source: NYCIFF