By Vadim Rizov
Kentucker Audley (real name: Andrew Nenninger) first began making waves when Filmmaker Magazine identified him during Summer 2007 as one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film. While fellow list alum Azazel Jacobs's Momma's Man hits theaters, Audley's first feature Team Picture - spotted in a handful of regional festivals and screened during last summer's much-discussed IFC Center series The New Talkies: Generation DIY (the birthplace of a thousand mumblecore think-pieces) - arrives on DVD from Benten Films this Tuesday. At an impossibly modest 62 minutes, it's a film that aspires to do little other than hang out with its Memphis-based slacker characters (Audley himself takes the lead) and achieves it admirably; comic leavening is frequent and welcome, not least in the anti-folk songs Audley performs.
The DVD comes with two more conventionally dramatic short films - a nasty epilogue, Ginger Sand, which changes everything, and and he just comes around and dances with you. Audley's commentary track (recorded with co-star Timothy Morton) is an evasive, beers-and-burping affair that clarifies little. So I spoke on the phone with Audley, who gamely attempted to answer every question fully; questions went off on tangents sometimes, but every question brought three good answers, bridged by frequent disclaimers.
What order did the films come in?
We actually did Team Picture first, and shortly after - it wasn't done, we had just filmed it - I was asked by a friend in Chicago to direct something that he was working on, with the intention of several different people directing several different shorts. I think that [and he just comes around and dances with you] was the only one that got done, but it was based on his idea and script. So I came up there for a week and did what we could with that.
Did you shoot Ginger Sand after Team Picture?
Yeah, we shot that a year and a half after - this winter, actually, in February.
I just ask because the shorts don't feel like the same person who made Team Picture. They're a lot more menacing and uncomfortable.
[laughs] What we wanted for Team Picture was to make a film where nothing was dramatic. That's what I'm more comfortable doing, because I can work from the idea that we're not heightening anything. In the shorts, I feel a little more experimental about being more conventional as far as conflict and drama and tense things happening. That seems easier to watch and less of a challenge to make interesting. The idea was to explore something we weren't exploring so much in Team Picture, just to see what comes out. I think I'm more comfortable going towards something more like Team Picture for the next film, because that's a newer idea in my brain as far as where films are going.
The new film?
That'll probably be ready in a couple of months. I think it's definitely a big step up and goes some different places. One of the things with Team Picture is that it's not much. It's a short easy, little thing, it's not saying anything, and that was the idea. I'm still not trying to make a point or politicize anything - that's not that interesting to me - but I think maybe you will get a little bit of that. I'm interested in trying to reference a culture at large for the next one - not to make any point about it, but to place the characters in a situation somewhere, not just have them floating nowhere. A little bit more of a heavy, dark sense of being in America and being our age; there's a sense of a life and a world outside the characters I don't think was in Team Picture, intentionally. This next film starts with the character getting an economic stimulus check from Bush, and then he goes on the road with that money, sort of ironically - or maybe not, really - defending the idea that he loves the stimulus check even though it's very accepted among his friends and my friends that it's meaningless. Even getting that money, it's not like it's coming from a good place or it's a problem-solver.
It's weird that you say you don't feel like Team Picture is set anywhere, because to me it's very obvious that it's filmed in Memphis and has a strong regional feel.
I don't think this is necessarily anything to write about, because I don't necessarily want to give off this impression, but there's not really a community in Memphis that I'm thrilled to be around day-to-day as far as film. There's some music in the community I'm excited about, but as far as filmmakers, I certainly don't feel part of a family or making art together or helping each other out. I guess the question is, why am I living in Memphis and why do I feel like I want to continue to live in Memphis? And I do want to continue to live in Memphis. Logistically, I don't pay rent and don't have to pay for an office space. And I just like the ease of living, not feeling like everyone is constantly trying to be exceptional or stand out in any direct way or get ahead or really make their mark. I'm inspired by being in a place where people aren't really worked up about anything in particular except for making it day-to-day.
You've mentioned watching Mutual Appreciation before making Team Picture, but when did you first move towards making films at all?
I come from a background where I'm constantly doing something, doing things, and I also come from a background of not being able to focus on different things. Once I figured out I had a camera, I started to mess around - I don't want to be obsessive, because I don't feel like... the connotation of "obsession" is not exactly what I mean by "obsession." What I mean by "obsession" is that I wasn't able to put any energy or focus into anything other than making things, because that was where I was headed, that was the path, so to focus on anything else was going against the energy. I only have a certain amount of energy and time, so it was kind of an arbitrary decision.
Was music your drive before?
I just started playing music for Team Picture. The idea was that the main character would be a musician, and was originally a guy in a garage rock band. Which completely changed once I imagined that it would be me playing the guy, and the way that I can imagine playing music has nothing to do with a louder, aggressive sound or spirit. Before that I had no musical background. I knew I was never a musical person and would never play music, and it was always something that I accepted. Then at a certain point I realized it was something I could figure out.
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