Your new movie Graffito
- in a few words, what is it about?
It's about an artist struggling to find his voice in a world that is
increasingly digitized and apathetic.
How did the project
come together in the first place?
This film came out of a
series of discussions I had with John Sutton and Heather Dingo in late 2013. It was
very much a reaction to our most previous projects. I was frustrated by
the assumed necessity of hiding light stands, making sure the boom mic
wasn't in the shot, everything well lit, filmed in HD, etc. All of this
technical shit seems to command a greater respect on a film set than the
performance of the actors and the essential energy of a scene. We wanted
to find a more pure process, one that emphasized character, story, and
movement over strict technical tradition. For us, the ideas were
paramount. We were also very frustrated by the lack of vision in many
films. We believed that film needed to be extremely personal and come from
a deep need to tell a story or explore a concept rather than a vehicle for
digital trickery or to feed a narcissism.
What can you tell us
writers Heather Mingo and John Sutton, what was your collaboration like,
and how closely did you stick to their script, how much of your movie was
The script evolved very organically. I had an
overall vision for the film and pages and pages of notes on details and
scene fragments. John and Heather took all of that and put together the
first act and a brief skeleton of the third act. From this outline we
began filming and improvising and writing as we went along. After we had
the first 20 minutes of the film shot and edited, we held a cast/crew
screening after which we discussed how to finish the film and what things
needed to be punched harder and also how to fit in more of the
ridiculousness that would allow the film to really take off.
David and Heather Mingo
What can you tell us about your directorial
approach to the story at hand, and the look and feel of your movie?
I was really interested in this project being a true
collaboration, rather than coming to set with all of the answers in
my little note pad. Each actor was given the opportunity to not only
help write dialogue and develop the script, but also to come up with
new business on set and to follow a tangent as far as it would go.
This film for me was an exercise in accepting whatever came my way
during the shooting and trying to adapt it into the film. If we got
kicked out of a location by the police, we almost always ended up
with something better. If an actor was struggling with something
specific that I wanted, we worked together and came up with
something that was always better than my original idea. I felt very
supported and I hope that all of our talent felt that their voices
were really listened to.
The actual look and feel of the film was an attempt to connect our
current social conditions in Chicago in 2014 to those of the past. To
give ourselves a sense of being part of art history. We seem to
romanticize the past as we see it through that particular era's art. The
internet and facebook has had the unintended effect of isolating people
and making us feel disconnected. I wanted to invoke the spirit of the
French New Wave, the New York No Wave, LA New Hollywood, German New
Wave, etc. and give us a sense of our own significance within this
context. I wanted to announce a new movement here in Chicago.
Antonio Brunetti, Brittany Ellis
pays hommage to Chicago's art scene as a whole - so do talk about that
scene for a bit, and how supportive where artists whatever genre to your
Chicago has a real sense of community in the art
scene. I am always overwhelmed with the amount of support I get on each
film. Here it isn't about money, or fame, or polish. We have the best
actors in the world. Everyone I know is an actor AND a musician AND a
writer AND a director AND a great cook. These people are too talented for
LA and too poor for NY. The struggles depicted in the film are all pulled
directly from our experiences as artists in this city. There is a huge
value placed on truth in art and if our film had come from a place of
dishonesty, people would have seen right through it. I hope that what they
feel when they watch this film is recognition and that we are celebrating
What can you tell us about your cast, and why
exactly these people?
All Chicago people of course and
almost entirely drawn from our vibrant theater scene. Most of the people
that worked on the film are old friends that have appeared in numerous
other projects. But I was also able to work with some other actors for the
first time and really expand our scope. The concept for the film was that
we each played a slightly exaggerated version of ourselves. I'm the
egomaniacal director that values his vision over all else. Antonio
Brunetti is the
fierce romantic and brilliant artist that sometimes loses sight of the big
picture. Michelle M Oliver is the underexperienced and difficult to work with
ingenue. Jill Oliver is the actress that shows up on set hoping to get a bigger
part in the film. I also finally felt confident enough on this project to
approach the great Nicole Wiesner to play a version of herself in this
film. I based her character off of my impressions of her 6 years ago when
we first met. She was this huge personality in my mind, mysterious,
powerful, terrifyingly intimidating. She has a big voice, gorgeous piles
of hair, and is known for playing the biggest baddest characters on
Chicago stage. The joke that we make in the film is that she is really
bald and never leaves her apartment and spends her days brooding over her
broken heart and fiercely protecting herself emotionally. She was such a
good sport to go along with this! She is also the sweetest, most patient,
most talented actor I have ever worked with. Nothing like the Nicole in
the film! Nicole is just my favorite example, but every character in the
film has a similar backstory in terms of drawing from real life and
embellishing to the point of absurdity our own personalities.
You of course just have to talk
about your rather eccentric musical score for a bit!
was all John Sutton: our composer, co-writer, actor, boom operator, jazz
bassist. John is pretty deep into the jazz scene in Chicago (and around
the world) and his vision for the score was to pay homage to classic
French New Wave sounds while also pushing the form into something more
experimental, impulsive, and contemporary. As with the film, everything
was recorded in one or two takes live, with John's dream team jazz
ensemble. We also brought in some members of my band, The Garvey Train, to
record the grungier acid rock style for the rabbit hole section in the
second act of the film. This was the first time we have been able to get
all of the musicians together in one room and record the score live over
the edited film. It gives it such a raw expressionistic quality.
can you tell us about critical and audience reception of your movie so
Well your review was great! Audience reception has
been great! Right now it's a matter of getting the film in front of as
many people as possible.
The $64-question of course: When and where will the
film be released to the general public?
We have a series of
seven screenings planned throughout August and September in Chicago. We
hope to raise enough money at these screenings to fund a Graffito
run in the fall and spring.
projects you'd like to share?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
We have a ton of stuff ready
to go! Our next feature film is about the housing crisis, biocentrism, and
reality. We also have a feature length anthology about three marginalized
urban workers that we hope to begin filming soon.
Your/your movie's website,
Facebook, whatever else?
Anything else you are dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
If you need us,
we'll be in Chicago sitting behind a camera, bleeding.
Thank you for your support!