SXSW 2015 Review – Night Owls

March 19, 2015 by  
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Starring: Adam Pally, Rosa Salazar, Rob Huebel
Directed by: Charles Hood (“Freezer Burn”)
Written by: Charles Hood (“Freezer Burn”) and Seth Goldsmith (debut)

After being taken home for a drunken one-night-stand, college football video coordinator Kevin (Adam Pally) realizes that he isn’t in the home of a new stranger, but rather that of his boss and mentor, Coach Will Campbell. To make matters worse, the girl he has slept with, Madeline (Rosa Salazar), has taken an entire bottle of Xanax in a suicide attempt. After discovering that Madeline has been having an affair with Coach Campbell, Kevin must fight to keep Madeline from falling asleep in order to keep her alive until more help can arrive.

Taking place almost exclusively on a single set, “Night Owls” is minimalistic and dialogue heavy. The script from Seth Goldsmith and Charles Hood is free flowing and the banter between Pally and Salazar is the best feature of the film, building chemistry while increasing the complexity of their relationship with every scene that takes place. It is extremely naturalistic in its portrayal of two strangers getting to know each other, and often times delightful to see them test each others conversational limits.

If there’s a reason above all else to see “Night Owls,” it is for the performance of Salazar. As someone who is under the influence nearly the entire film, Salazar takes this acting challenge head on and delivers a fantastic performance filled with humor, vulnerability and nuance that is certain to turn heads. The way in which she is able to balance the abrasiveness of the character with her intense likeability is brilliant, with her character building eventually taking precedence over her intoxication. If there is any justice in the cinematic world, Salazar’s phone should be ringing off the hook for future roles. That isn’t to say that Pally isn’t impressive in his own right. He’s able to step aside and play the straight-man to Salazar’s frequently off-the-wall character while at the same time, balancing dramatic chops, physical comedy and one-liner flare when needed.

There are a lot of thematic elements at play here including hero-worshipping, and the need to protect those we admire through any circumstances. Above all else, however, “Night Owls” is about two people coming together and going through years worth of drama in a single night. It’s a symbiotic relationship that thrives as Kevin is fighting to keep Madeline awake, and Madeline trying to awaken something in him. The script tends to shrink a bit in the bigger moments, including an ending that isn’t 100% satisfying, but “Night Owls” is a small scale dramatic comedy that works on the sheer talent of its two leads and is boosted even further by an admirable performance from Salazar.

For more coverage of SXSW 2015, click here.

Colin Hanks and Sean Stuart – All Things Must Pass – SXSW 2015

March 18, 2015 by  
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As the age of digital media continues to reign supreme, music and film stores and physical media production begin to shrink in size. Along with that, many institutions have found themselves disappearing. In the world of music, nothing was bigger than Tower Records. With “All Things Must Pass,” actor Colin Hanks makes his directorial debut telling the story of founder Russ Solomon and the rise and fall of Tower Records. Along with producing partner Sean Stuart, Hanks sat down with at the SXSW Film Festival following their world premiere where they discussed their Kickstarter campaign, the personal connection people have to Tower Records, the future of physical media and much more.

You guys just came from your premiere and this is kind of the perfect place to show this particular film. How did everything go?

Colin Hanks: Great!

Sean Stuart: We were delightfully surprised at the reaction in some of the places in the movie where we weren’t expecting large laughs and audience excitement. It seemed to go really well.

CH: I think in one regard, I’m really surprised by just how much the audience enjoyed it, and that’s coming from the perspective of…we’ve been working on this movie so long and it’s so nice to hear that. Yet at the same time, the audiences here, they are film fanatics. They are into it. They really love films, love documentaries and they are vocal. It’s always a rowdy crowd. When you combine the music elements of our film it made for a very special moment for us.

I am always interested to hear people’s Kickstarter stories, especially because the Internet being what it is, there can be a lot of negativity surrounding it. People don’t always embrace it, especially when it’s coming from someone who is established in some way. Did you encounter any of that and why was Kickstarter the way to go for you on this project?

CH: Kickstarter was sort of our last option. We had filmed a small portion of the film, put together a sizzle reel, and went around in 2008 trying to get financiers through the normal route and every politely said “No, there are much more important companies that are going bankrupt right now.” Keep in mind, this is when the economy went down. Everyone sort of said, “I don’t think anyone is really going to care about a company that went bankrupt 2 years ago.” That was a hard thing to hear and the film was on the shelf for a while. Like a lot of things, when you make a film over the course of 7 years, landscapes change, technology changes and this thing called Kickstarter came around. I was doing the Nerdist podcast with Chris Hardwick and he said “What about Kickstarter?” and I said, “I’m thinking about it.” It ended up really saving our film. People have a lot of misconceptions as to what my reality is like and that’s fine to a degree. But really what I focused on was that Kickstarter proved our theory that there were a great many people that cared about Tower Records and would put money towards seeing a film. Initially I always thought they’d just pay for a ticket but now they helped make it. It saved our film. It is not the only source of financing we had. We secured initial funds afterwards, but it is definitely a huge component of our film. Without that experience, this probably would have been a different journey for us.

SS: I think we quickly realized after we got that money from Kickstarter and started to use it and started to dig further into the story, we immediately knew that what we had in hand wasn’t going to service such an important story that needed more resources put towards it. That was when we stopped after the first Kickstarter campaign and decided that we really needed to focus in on getting enough money to bring this story to life the way it needed to be told.

I grew up in San Antonio, where we didn’t have Tower Records. I’m curious to know what your personal experiences were with Tower Records before heading into the film and if you have that connection that so many people seem to. 

CH: I wouldn’t have made a documentary about it if I didn’t. I have very vivid memories of buying cassettes and CD’s at Tower and spending time in the store. I bought concert tickets at Tower Records, I hung out in the parking lot of Tower Records. It was very much part of growing up as a music fanatic but also as a kid in Sacramento. For me, it is personal insomuch as music is an incredibly personal thing to people and going into Tower Records and buying a record and meeting people there and connecting with people there, the residue of that is you then have a personal connection to the store. “I remember there I bought this record” or “I remember where I bought that one.”

SS: One of the really unifying things we grew to find out about this company was once we were in the public eye of making this movie, the majority of the people we bumped into would turn to us and go “Oh my god, my Tower Records story is this. My hometown store is this.” It became this unifying theme of most people have some connectivity to this store and it affected their lives in a positive way. It became pretty clear to us that there’s an audience out there and there’s an awareness and interest in this company and what it did and how it achieved it.

There was also connectivity within the people who worked there. Everyone started off as a clerk and moved up the ranks to being executives. Was that something you uncovered as you started filming or how much did you know about that kind of thing going in.

CH: I didn’t know that much about that going in. The initial seed was really just the journey. Once I found out about the drug store, I went “That’s a pretty incredibly journey from there until the end.” That got us to look into Russ (Solomon, founder of Tower Records) and to reach out to him, but as soon as we sat down with him, he said, “You guys gotta talk with this other people. These are the kids that came up and really helped make tower special.” At that point, as documentaries have the tendency to do, they morph. They change. They evolve. It wasn’t even at a film at that point, but the themes then ended up becoming family, coming together, doing something special, doing something unique, creating those bonds and then it having to end. All good times have to end. “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” That kind of thing.

SS: It was funny too, there’s a moment in the movie where Russ talks about everyone thinking he is crazy for opening this store in San Francisco that’s going to be just records in this huge space. And the number of times that Russ turned to Colin and I in this process and said “You guys are crazy. What you’re trying to do is crazy.” There’s this funny parallel of him and his beginning and our beginning of this documentary. He was such a great, willing participant and gave us everyone we needed to talk to and told us who the people were who were most important.

One of the things I found so interesting was that there’s a lot of great stuff that is said about Russ, but also you’re showing some things that backfired or didn’t work so well. Was it important to you to be able to show two sides of that? To show that he was an amazing forward thinking guy, but occasionally that forward thinking could get him into trouble.

CH: Yeah, obviously there’s certain things he says in the film that you could take what he says and turn it around at him in the late 90’s and say, “You didn’t change. You didn’t come up with ideas. You didn’t grow. You didn’t do the very thing you had done prior.” I hope that audiences are able to make that connection. But really the main thing for us was we were wanted to be able to pop the public misconception that the Internet was killed Tower, because that really is not accurate. It was a part of it, for sure, but it wasn’t the factor. There were a lot of other factors involved. I think that combined with the family aspects and the rise of the store, we really wanted to tell the story that not many people know and that’s not just the history but also really why it ended.

SS: Robert Rodriguez, who spoke at the filmmakers opening day lunch of this festival talked a lot about not being afraid to fail and getting out there and trying things and learning from those mistakes. You often learn more from the mistakes than you learn from the victories. I think Russ is a great example of that as it relates to that conversation we all listened to on Friday afternoon. He really was a guy that was not afraid to put himself out there and just go for it. I think that’s part of what’s in the DNA of this company. I think the way that the end of the film unravels, for viewers will be very interesting to watch. Because there’s so much happening and there’s so many factors at play. I think it’s a pretty delightful thing to witness and informative as well.

You were talking about the many things that culminated in Tower Records ultimately going out of business. You’re seeing music stores altogether slowly disappear and even stores who got involved in price wars like the film mentions, like Best Buy is down to one rack of CD’s. Do you feel like there’s any hope left for physical media or is everyone going to fall into this thing that Tower went through?

CH: No, because Tower was simply too big. I think that’s the big thing. I think there will be room for physical media. There are a lot of really great, big record stores. There’s Waterloo here in Austin, there’s Amoeba in Los Angeles, Rough Trade in Brooklyn. Those big stores offer a similar that Tower did. But it can’t exist on that huge scale anymore. Everything’s gonna be niche cultures now. I think one big store, that’s a lot easier to run than 192. I think its just downsizing. Those interactions still happen it’s just not as prevalent as it once was because now there’s too many other things, too many other distractions.

Do you feel like everything that happened was a perfect storm for Tower after you conducted these interviews?

CH: Oh yeah.

Had things gone differently, could they have survived the advent of mp3’s or these stores who were engaging in price wars; all of the factors that led into them shutting down?

SS: We talk quiet often about how if Tower had somehow found a way to scale themselves back down to the Broadway store in New York, the Sunset store in Los Angeles, and the Columbus and Bay in San Francisco, and kept a smaller footprint of physical stores, that they could totally exist today. It’s just hard to go backwards like that now with what’s happened. One of the things that’s not lost on me is when they first started, they sold used records. That was the first thing that they did and at the end, they didn’t do that. That’s a tough place to be in. Places like Amoeba really do exist pretty heavily on the trading and selling and buying of used merchandise. That’s a little bit of what the music industry looks like that for the physical collector or the physical music lover.

CH: I met a guy who’s in the music industry now, in distribution. He came up to me because he used to work at the Watt Avenue store in Sacramento and he knew I was making the documentary. I was talking with him a few weeks ago and he says “Man, if Tower just hung around for 2 more years and just scaled back, they would still be here.” I think that’s the thing that sticks in my craw is that if they had obviously adapted a little bit, started selling used records, closed some stores but kept some big mainstays open, they could have maybe rode it out. But they refused to change and they tried to keep all the stores open and that’s what ended up doing it. Obviously, other people came in but it is most definitely a perfect storm.

SS: Yes. Absolutely. That’s a good way to put it.

The most powerful section of the film is towards the end when you see people starting to be laid off, often times fired by their close friends. Can you talk about the importance of those scenes and whether there was any difficulty in getting the subjects to open up about this really difficult thing?

CH: It’s never easy to talk about parts of your life that you don’t want to talk about. Everyone was very open to speaking with us in honor of Russ. Russ told them straight up “Tell them the truth. Tell them what you want. Don’t pull any punches.” Once we tapped in and once they realized that we understood what is was that they went through and how hard it was for them, I think they became a little bit more at ease with the idea of talking about it. There were reactions that I was not expecting, but that’s that heart of the film. If we can get people into their shoes of, you work with your friends for 30 years and then you all have to fire each other, that’s a big thing. Also, Jim Urie’s story sort of foreshadows what happens to everyone else. All those things are done with reason. Our editor Dan Roberts is fantastic. That was the real heart, for me, because that’s what the store closing meant to the people at Tower. That’s what they went through. That’s a huge chapter in their lives that came to an end.

SS: It’s very identifiable. I think when you look at the themes we explore in this film, you can strip the music away from what they were going through and there’s a real identifiable thing that I think every audience can watch this movie and take something away from it. Whether they are a music a fan or if they don’t know anything about music whatsoever. There’s a human element in what those people went through and what corporate America and the average person working in the world looks like.

There’s a really great and powerful final scene in the film and you have a lot of great interview subjects who speak to what Tower Records meant to them and speak of it very fondly. How do you think the music industry would be different had it not been for Tower Records?  

CH: That’s a good question, but a hard question to answer. It was so integral to the west coast music scene in the 60’s and 70’s. It really was. When (record executive) David Geffen says he would go there 3-4 times a week, everybody in the music industry went 3-4 times a week. It was truly the place. It’s hard to imagine a music industry without Tower. There would still be a music industry, it just would have been very different. Tower really represented the merchandising business very well and helped come up with certain things that were revolutionary. At the same time, they represented all of music. I like to think of them as some of the best aspects of the music merchandising business because there was something there for everybody.

SS: I don’t think that you could put your finger on any other corporations that were as big as Tower were and look at them and think of them as a worldwide “mom and pop.” Every story was a “mom and pop” and it’s almost counter-intuitive to say something like that, but they truly were and that was unique and special.

For more coverage of SXSW 2015, click here.

SXSW 2015 Review – One & Two

March 16, 2015 by  
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Starring: Kiernan Shipka, Timothée Chalamet, Elizabeth Reaser
Directed by: Andrew Droz Palmero (“Rich Hill”)
Written by: Andrew Droz Palmero (debut) and Neima Shahdadi (debut)

Around 20 minutes into Andrew Droz Palmero’s narrative feature length debut, the film hints towards something entirely different than its initial moments. The audience doesn’t know the cause, reasoning, or consequences behind it, but it is an intriguing mystery that brings up a lot of curiosity and an equal amount of questions. Unfortunately, like many other pieces of story throughout the film, it is never fully paid off, which is a common theme in the visually impressive and narratively frustrating “One & Two.”

Walled off from other civilization, siblings Zac (Timothée Chalamet) and Ava (Kiernan Shipka) find themselves with unexplainable special abilities. With an ailing mother who encourages these abilities and an overbearing father who forbids them, Zac and Ava feel trapped and isolated and begin to wonder about life outside the confines of their farm.

Palmero, who after spending years as a cinematographer burst onto the scene as a director with last year’s acclaimed documentary “Rich Hill,” makes his mark in his narrative feature film debut with a keen visual eye and a strong ability for tone. Evoking filmmakers such as Jeff Nichols, Palmero is able to cultivate a quiet and unsettling atmosphere, matching the teenage angst and family frustration of his characters. There is also some solid, albeit slightly repetitive usage of special effects, with which Palmero is able to show restraint, doling them out sparingly without sacrificing effectiveness.

The faults of “One & Two” come at the hands of its storytelling and its refusal to answer many of the questions that come up. Palmero keeps his mysteries close to the vest, which is not inherently a bad thing, but so little is divulged throughout the course of the film and as a result, the conclusion or any of the events leading up to it lack any true satisfaction. The difficulty of latching onto anything in the narrative also leads to a collateral effect of blunting the brother/sister relationship and some of the thematic elements.

There’s a lot to admire about “One & Two,” and more specifically, about Palmero’s future as a filmmaker. He has an incredible ability to develop mood and atmosphere that should give him a prosperous career and make him a unique voice. On a micro level, however, “One & Two” never delivers on the potential of its set up. Palmero is clearly more interested in the journey than the destination. Consequently, this makes for a an unbalanced cinematic experience. As the minutes tick by and little of consequence is happening, interest beings to wane and one can’t help but feel like there should be more to it all.

For more coverage of SXSW 2015, click here.

SXSW 2015 Review – Twinsters

March 15, 2015 by  
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Starring: Samantha Futerman, Anaïs Bordier
Directed by: Samantha Futerman (debut) and Ryan Miyamoto (debut)

Many people may joke about seeing someone else’s (or their own) doppelganger walking down the street or in a public place, but have you ever seen someone who you truly felt could be your twin? In a random online message, Los Angeles based actress Samantha Futerman was contacted by a French girl who claimed to look exactly like her. With similar adoption stories and a burgeoning personal relationship, Futerman and her look-alike, Anaïs Bordier, investigate whether their bond extends deeper than superficial in “Twinsters.”

The film spans from when Samantha was first contacted up until after the two are able to meet in person, which allows for events to take place over real time with real reactions from everyone involved. As the two begin to bond over text, the pair uses Skype to communicate across Oceans, which is where their relationship really starts to take shape. They form a true long-distance relationship as they do daily tasks such as sit each other at the end of their dinner table on a laptop, introduce them to friends and family, and countless other things. As they contemplate whether they could be separated twins, the two have no problems staying up late and talking for hours, developing their own inside jokes and being insanely goofy the only way truly close friends or family can. The film does a great job of giving backstories and context for each of the girls to show what life was like for their first 25 years and how different their journeys have been thus far.

A strong suit of “Twinsters” is its ability to show how technology contributed not only to the discovery of each other, but the means by which people in this digital age communicate with each other around the world. With similar music and visual representations of Facebook and other technological services, the film version of “Catfish” is an apt comparison for the films stylistic sensibilities, which is a good thing.

It is entirely lighthearted and sweet and nearly impossible to not be wildly charmed by “Twinsters.” Moments such as when Samantha and Anais meet for the first time and adorably giggle uncontrollably while inspecting every facial feature of each other shows the surrealism of the experience through the eyes of its subjects. Though the audience finds out the truth about their relationship (and perhaps a smidge too early in the film), one gets the sense that it truly doesn’t matter if they are twins who were separated at birth or not. As we see the two walk through England holding hands and virtually inseparable, it is abundantly clear that Samantha and Anaïs are bonded for life. It is an absolute pleasure to watch their relationship blossom as “Twinsters’” giant, beating heart mirrors that of its subjects.

For more coverage of SXSW 2015, click here.

Adam Pally and Rosa Salazar – Night Owls – SXSW 2015

March 15, 2015 by  
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In “Night Owls,” actors Adam Pally (TV’s “The Mindy Project” and “Happy Endings”) and Rosa Salazar (TV’s “Parenthood”) are presented with unique acting challenges. In each of their first leading roles in feature films, Adam’s character Kevin must keep Rosa’s character Madeline from falling asleep after she has downed an entire bottle of Xanax in a suicide attempt. In an interview during the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX, Adam and Rosa sat down with me to discuss the shift to leading roles, balancing comedy and serious subject matter, what it was like to beat up on each other and Adam’s epic one-night stint as guest host of “The Late Late Show.”

If I am not mistaken, this is the first lead role in a feature film for either of you. What was that experience like and how do you compare it to the roles that you’ve done in the past?

Adam Pally: I think for me it was nice be given the chance to do something that wasn’t what I’m standardly given, which is the wacky friend. It was nice to be able to play the romantic dude.

Rosa Salazar: I’m really excited for people to see this movie because Adam is almost funny to a fault because he’s funny and everyone wants him to be funny in their projects. He’s such a good dramatic actor. He studied at The Actors Studio. He has chops that he’s never got to show anyone.

AP: She’s not lying.

RS: I’m not! I’m really not. He’s being self deprecating but he knows it’s true. I want more people to see the film so they can see Adam do these really different extraordinary things.

AP: That’s very eloquently put.

RS: And this movie is really just a stepping stone for me. (laughs)

AP: Rosa’s career is in such a good place she really doesn’t need this.

RS: I’m just kidding!

AP: Daddy needs this.

RS: This is probably the most important film for me as an artist and a person. Madeline was such a caustic character to play and it really comes from my younger self. So that’s really what informed that performance. It was very cathartic. Again, I never got to do a leading role. To carry a movie with someone and be the only two people in a movie is pretty damn cool and a tall order.

AP: People don’t give me that opportunity on a small or big movie so it was really nice to be able to do it.

RS: A lot of the time when you’re doing more of this stuff it’s because you have your champions in this business. 3 of my biggest ones are sitting there and the 4th is sitting right here (points to Adam).

AP: And my team left. (laughs)

But you have them, right? You have your champions.

AP: I used to. I’m looking for new ones now.

RS: I feel like I switched a paradigm.

AP: I’d definitely take a meeting.

RS: This movie is important for me because Adam is someone that I’ve always wanted to work with. I worked on “Search Party” and that’s where I met him. I was like if I got to work with this guy it would be a dream come true. And then I did and it was miserable. No! I did and it totally came to fruition and the one of the good parts of being an actor is you do make these connections with people that are like minded and they have similar taste and they just want to make good art together with you. That’s been something I’m learning more and more and it’s very important to me. This movie was one of those major blossomings.

AP: A lot of it is luck. You sign on for a movie like this that is just two actors and it could go horribly wrong or it could go really well. We just kind of clicked when we first met and we were able to keep clicking. I think it shows on screen.

RS: Two people talking in a house over the course of a night…it only works if it works. There was this big pressure there, but there (also) wasn’t. We never felt that.

AP: It just felt like a good script that we were lucky enough to be cast in.

The script is, like you were saying, kind of minimalistic in a sense that it’s just you two in a house talking to each other. Is that something that attracted you to the part…just to be able to have these conversations and build that relationship?

RS: Absolutely. I’m such a big fan of the “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset,” “Before Midnight” movies that I really like when two people are actually exchanging emotions and ideas and it’s real. We’ve all had that experience where we are like “I just stayed up all night with this guy talking and it was mind blowing because we were really exchanging human to human.” And I love that. These two characters evolve so much over the course of a night. That’s why it’s so interesting to watch.

AP: I think that I was really attracted to, when I read the script, the fact that even though its two people, it felt like a thriller. Information was being trickled out at a very slow rate. When you don’t have all the information up front about two characters and they are learning it with the audience, I felt like it was really smartly and well done and I was interested in doing something like that.

RS: And I was just interested in working with Adam. There’s no other person that I could have done this movie with.

AP: And our first choice was Casey Affleck. He said “no.” So then we were like “Rosa’s got it.” But he’s a talent. Casey’s a talent.

RS: (laughs) Casey’s a talent. You don’t know him!

AP: Never once met him.

RS: But he is a talent.

There’s some darker themes in the film but there’s also a lot of comedic moments. How do you find the balance between tackling these darker themes and staying comedic?

RS: Well, first of all every comedian is the most depressed person.

AP: I think we’re both pretty dark comedic personalities. But also, I think it’s pretty true to life. Any time you’re devastated in life and you’re crushed in life or something horrible happens, inevitably, there’s that moment where someone does something or you feel a certain way. Something makes you laugh through it and things kind of change. This script had all that within an hour and a half.

RS: My grandfather’s funeral was a riot to me. It really was. It was something you can’t explain. It’s this weird line of emotions that is this grey area that sways back and forth. They’re burying my grandfather and I was cracking up. It was the funniest thing to me, for no reason. That’s a more extreme level of this. But I feel like if you’re in a fight with your boyfriend and you’re like “You know what? You’re a piece of shit!” and you stub your toe, you both want to laugh. You’re both so charged that it’s right there. You could.

AP: This movie had a lot of those moments so it was easy to do.

RS: Like when I was mad at you and I threw a spoon at you.

AP: Was that a spoon?

RS: It was a spatula or something.

AP: It felt bigger than a spoon. I don’t think a spoon leaves that kind of mark.

RS: I ruined Adam Pally’s body on this movie.

AP: I am now like 70-year-old Chevy Chase. I’ve got real coke dementia and I need two knee replacements.

RS: (laughs) It’s really hard for me to work for a cardboard cutout of a human.

You guys beat up on each other constantly throughout this movie. Did it ever get to a point where it got…

RS: Sexy? No I’m just kidding.

Too far? Or sexy.

AP: No, I don’t think so.

RS: Even when he broke my rib it didn’t.

AP: There was one moment that wasn’t when I broke your rib, but when I did get nervous was when we were doing the scene where I first find her and she’s overdosed and Charles (Hood, the director) was like “You really have to wake her up and slap her in the face. You can’t movie slap her.” We did like, 3 takes and I really slapped you like 3 times and by the third take…

RS: I had like a hand on my face.

AP: …her face was kind of swollen and I had beat her up. It felt really bad.

RS: I was just like “give it to me!” And he was like, “No!”

AP: She was into it and I was like, “This is not how I thought this was gonna go.”

RS: I’m in my panties and a hoodie and I’m having the time of my life. And Adam is…he always wants to be very protective of me. He’s so supportive and he’s so protective. The first scene out of the gate, he’s slapping me in the face and manhandling me and showing everyone my ass in panties and stuff. It’s actually kudos to him for staying it cause he could have easily been like “No, I don’t want to beat her up anymore.”

AP: Well, it felt hard. It felt hard to beat someone up like that.

RS: I got my dues. I beat the shit out of you.

AP: Totally. I would come home fucked up. Black and blue all over my back.

RS: I think the scene that almost got close to going too far wasn’t a physical scene at all. It’s when we’re breaking up, basically. We’re yelling at each other in the kitchen. It felt so awful. I can’t explain to you because it was one of those things where we shot that movie in an incubator and it felt like one long night. That moment where it’s daytime finally and it’s the light of day and we had changed as real people and our characters were changing so it was life imitating art. I’m yelling at his face and spitting at him.

AP: We had gotten close. We didn’t know each other that well and then you get really close when you’re in a house working like that. That was the 2nd or last day of the movie. It is, in a sense, a break up because you’re going back to your regular life and the movie is over and all of those emotions were thrown into this really hard scene. I remember leaving work that day kind of nauseous. We really just hurt each other.

RS: You know when you’re crying and it’s really hard to talk and every…line…(fake sobbing). That happened to me and that’s the first time that’s happened. I’ve done explosive scenes and crying scenes and stuff like that but this was the first time that it was so visceral that I was nauseous that day.

AP: I think it was because of the way we shot it and that Rosa and now have a special bond that we don’t find that much.

Rosa, your performance is especially impressive because you’re having this intimate relationship with him but also, you are under the influence almost the entire movie. Talk about that as an acting challenge. Having to remember that you’ve taken a bunch of Xanax.

RS: It was really helpful for Adam to be giving me illicit drugs all the time. No, it was helpful because Adam and Charles really helped me with the “How fucked up am I right now?” We shot basically in chronological order, but not really. We did the first, second and third parts of the movie in that order but not the first of these scenes and then the second part of those scenes in that order. So they helped me. Also, we were living there. We were inhabiting these roles so well that it sort of fell into place. The more fucked up was the easier part obviously cause you can be more out of it but at the same time, I had to be more in it even though you’re tricking your mind into thinking that you want to go to sleep. So every time we cut, I would be the one bouncing off the walls and I would be the one sleeping. It was a challenge and the part that got really hard was…when does that shift happen and what prompts the shift into more soberness? I think the first shift into soberness was when she’s trying to smoke a cigarette and he’s insulting her and taking her cigarette and pissing her off and he’s like “You took me home.” It’s such a jab that she’s like…you know when you get mad and you’re like “Now I’m sober.” Or something scares you and you’re like “Whoa, I’m completely sober now.” Or you’re high and your mom walks into your room and you’re like “I’m completely sober right now.”

AP: When you get the keys and drive away, that’s when you start to get more sober.

RS: It wasn’t just a gradual progression into soberness it was just a storied high and it was difficult but these guys…there’s no ego so I could just be like “How fucked up am I?”

At a certain point the film becomes not about her taking the medication, it becomes about these two people coming together. How did you feel about that taking a back seat in order to really see these two interact?

AP: I felt it to be natural. I felt that often times when you’re in a situation like that with someone…it may not be an exact mimic of an overdose of Xanax but when you’re in the shit with someone and something bad has happened and the two of you have to figure it out…usually, in the calm moments, you go deep and into it with them because you’re now bonded over something. I think it’s only natural in a situation like this while we’re both stuck in this house to get into it with each other. To really see what the other is about. Rosa was saying last night that it’s like a date in reverse. They come home and fuck and it’s kind of passionate and crazy. Then they get to know each other. There’s a certain level of comfortability that’s already there that is what makes it really interesting.

RS: It does move very naturally. It’s very seamless in the shifts and I think that’s a testament to our performances but mostly Charles’ writing and directing. He’s not one of those directors that’s like “My way or the highway!” He’s so collaborative, he has such a good bedside manner with actors. We’re his friend. He has the ability to give us notes without anything else being attached to it. It’s just a note from your friend who is the director. It’s really a testament to all 3 of us trying to make the best movie we can.

AP: I agree.

Last question doesn’t have anything to do with the film, but Adam I have to ask about your stint as host of The Late Late Show.

RS: Yeah!!!!

I think I’ve probably watched it 3 or 4 times.

AP: Oh no, no. Sorry.

RS: It’s so good, dude.

It’s so great. First of all, how much preparation went into what you wanted to try to accomplish with the show and also, your reaction to how people reacted to it and how it was picked up on comedy blogs and Reddit and became popular overnight.

RS: Everything you do, by the way, is like that.

AP: I was shocked that people watched it and liked it, because I was really doing it on a whim. I filled in last second and I realized that and took my shot and did whatever I wanted and this kind of worked out. I wish I could say there was a ton more thought that went to it and that there was a ton of planning but I basically was like…”If they’re giving me no money and no audience, I’m just going to do whatever I want.”

RS: You are obviously really good at…we stayed pretty close to the script of “Night Owls.” It wasn’t very improvised. You knocked it out of the park and I think that you could be given no information and do a way better job than if someone was like “Hey, let me plan out this comedy for you. Here’s what you’re gonna do.”

AP: Thank you, I think that’s what I was trying to do. I think that sometimes if I had planned a lot more bits and stuff it would have felt a little hamfisted and I wanted it to feel like a podcast.

RS: Your man on the street stuff is out of this world funny.

AP: Oh, thanks. That was my buddy that works for NBC Golf, Sam Goldberg, that I stole and made him do my comedy bits. But yeah, it was a blast and I’m so glad that I never have to do it again.

RS: When you went and got frozen yogurt with those people, I died.

AP: With that Jewish family?

RS: You were like “You wanna get frozen yogurt now?” And they were like “What?” and then it cuts to you with them getting froyo and you’re talking to them.

AP: I ate all that frozen yogurt. They were like, “You wanna go?” And I was like “I’ll be there in a second.”

For more coverage of SXSW 2015, click here.

SXSW 2015 Review – For Grace

March 15, 2015 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Starring: Curtis Duffy, Michael Moser
Directed by: Mark Helenowski (debut) and Kevin Pang (debut)

As the lives of chefs and restaurants continue to grow in the world of narratives, it was only a matter of time before personal profiles of world-renowned chefs began to surface in the world of documentaries. “For Grace” delves into the life of Chef Curtis Duffy, showing his culinary journey through personal tragedy and the tedious and stressful process of achieving his dream of building his own restaurant from the ground up.

If you’ve ever wanted to see the painstaking process involved in building a multi-million dollar restaurant, this is the film for you. Everything from kitchen design to ordering $90,000 worth of chairs is shown, as Duffy and his business partner Michael Muser put together the restaurant of their dreams. It can occasionally be a little dull, but these finer details will definitely pique the curiosity of those interested in the restaurant business.

The photography in “For Grace” is impressive, but mostly through the pure artistry and beauty of Duffy’s perfectly and artistically composed dishes. Every plate of food that comes out of Duffy’s kitchen is beautiful and creative, with each ingredient serving its exact purpose within the dish. Similar to how “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” showed how several dishes were made, “For Grace” uses close ups of the precise placement of objects within the plate that are not only mouth watering but a work of art when completed.

It is also great to see Duffy and Muser’s respect for each other and their staff as all of them all but kiss away their personal and family lives to work on the restaurant, often putting in 14-hour days. Centered in a cutthroat business, “For Grace” also explores the drive to be the best and the need for chefs to distance themselves from mentors to branch out and reach their shared goal of opening their own restaurant,

If a complaint could be levied against “For Grace” it is that it waits far too long to hone its focus on its subject. The audience learns about his culinary career, the famous chefs he worked under and the difficulties in leaving a restaurant and opening a new one, but it takes a while to finally get into Duffy himself. There’s a turning point where Duffy opens up and talks about a tragic story involving his parents where the film immediately becomes more accessible. Even with that insight, it still seems there is so much about Duffy that remains uncovered.

It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, “For Grace” has on the interest in fine dining experiences to the general public. At $205 a person for the tasting menu, it is hard to imagine fans of the film rushing out to Duffy’s Grace restaurant for a taste of the chef’s world renowned cooking. Though the world of fine dining may be off-putting and hard to crack to the average eater, “For Grace” just skates by on its look into the inner workings of building a restaurant and the sacrifices chefs make to be the best in the world.

For more coverage of SXSW 2015, click here.

SXSW 2015 Review – The Little Death

March 14, 2015 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Starring: Josh Lawson, Bojana Nokavic, Damon Herriman
Directed by: Josh Lawson (debut)
Written by: Josh Lawson (debut)

For his feature length directorial debut, Josh Lawson (TV’s “House of Lies”) takes 4 loosely related stories of sexual fetishes and intertwines them for a film with decidedly mixed messages. Between rape fantasies and not being able to get off unless their partner is crying or sleeping, Lawson tackles the more eccentric side of sexual fetishism, but with a comedic twist that never quite lands.

“The Little Death” is extremely uneven all around, with 3 of the stories leading to total disaster and a message of, essentially, keeping your sexual fetishes to yourself. The fourth story, however, is an extremely sweet, albeit dirty story of a deaf man using a sign language translator over video chat to call a phone sex line. It is not only thematically different than the other tales in the film, but it is an extremely charming hint of Lawson’s capabilities as it plays as a separate vignette almost entirely saved for the final segment. While Lawson should be applauded broaching some pretty provocative subject matter, “The Little Death” stays relatively tepid and never makes a lasting impact comedically or otherwise.

For more coverage of SXSW 2015, click here.

SXSW 2015 Film Coverage

March 14, 2015 by  
Filed under CineBlog


Night Owls | by Cody Vilafana
One & Two
| by Cody Villafana
| by Cody Villafana
For Grace
| by Cody Villafana
The Little Death | by Cody Villafana


Colin Hanks & Sean Stuart – All Things Must Pass | by Cody Villafana
Adam Pally & Rosa Salazar – Night Owls
| by Cody Villafana

This page will be updated daily throughout the festival. Please check back regularly for more coverage.