In some regards, Kissing on the Mouth and LOL are quite diametrical to each other. Whereas both films are about communication to some extent, Kissing on the Mouth is full of people sharing thoughts, ideas and secrets. Technology is non-existent, which is the exact opposite of LOL, which finds technology hindering actual face-to-face communication. Which do you believe to be the more accurate portrait?
LOL, for sure. With Kissing on the Mouth, I was a bit hesitant to incorporate technology into it. But by the time I made LOL, I felt it was my duty to include it because this is exactly what's going on with the people around me. Initially, I was worried that the technology would quickly date the film. I toyed with the idea of having the cell phones and the computers change throughout - a mixture of old and new models. But then Kevin wrote me from Berlin and explained that what will date the film is not the outward appearance of the items, but rather the way people interact with them. That hadn't occurred to me.
The characters you play in both Kissing on the Mouth and Young American Bodies are critical, or at least suspect, of individuals who want to be artists. There's the photographer in Kissing on the Mouth who you actively hate and the musician in Young American Bodies whose motivation you question. Do you feel some people are entering the arts for the wrong reason?
Yes, absolutely. Film school exposed me to people who really don't care - who aren't willing to put in the time to create good art. I'm not claiming I've made good art, but at least I care about it. The reason I comment on it in the films, and why I'm so willing to make these people look like idiots is that there's such a glut of it now. It's so easy to record a CD, or make a film, and the result is that there's a lot of crap out there. In Young American Bodies, I wanted to emphasize how the marketing is more important than the art itself - having a MySpace page and a T-shirt is enough to proclaim, "I'm in a band."
The ease in which a person can make a feature film these days is both a blessing and a curse. At the very least, it's certainly helped redefine what we consider to be "independent" cinema. What are your thoughts on the current state of independent cinema, and where do you think it's going?
I'm more excited than I have ever been. The position of where the gatekeeper stands is different now than it was some years ago. They used to stand in front of the production office - you'd have to get through them before you could even make your film. Now, the production part is simple. It's film festival selection committees and distributors who are the new gatekeepers. At the same time, there are other avenues of distribution - the Internet, for example. For me personally, it's important to pass through those gates - I want my films to play at festivals and in theaters. I think that's how my work will best find its audience. I don't feel we're at the point where people are willing to shell out $20 to download a film they've not heard of.
You've cast other young directors in your films. Is there a sense of camaraderie between you all, or is it rather more competitive?
If it's competitive, it's the healthy sort. There's certainly camaraderie, and the Internet has made it easy to maintain ongoing discussions with each other about our work. In fact, it's reached the point where we've begun to critique each other's work within our own films. Kris [Williams, collaborator and fiancée] and I saw Funny Ha Ha before we made Kissing on the Mouth, and there's an aspect of it that's a direct critique of the film, and of the things that didn't appeal to us. I didn't know Andrew [Bujalski] at the time, but I do now, and we have a wonderful relationship.
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