Five Things We Learned - April 28, 2017

Newport Beach Film Festival - Day Seven: Five Things We Learned
by Marshall
Marshall
by Marshall hmv London, Bio Word monkey, nerd, film guy, gamer

Newport Beach Film Festival - Day Seven: Five Things We Learned

Longer, better, faster, stronger, more fascinating, fragrant, fun and fabulous than most other festivals, the NBFF is just a day away from wrapping. What a week it’s been! Sitting in the dark, watching movies, talking movies, meeting movie folk and writing movie blogs while outside, we’re told, the sun was shining and Newport Beach was busy being its usual fabulous self. We’ll have to come back.

Welcome to Day Seven at the Newport Beach Film Festival!

 

Don’t worry, be happy.

Christy O’Donnell is enjoying the latest in a long and happy line of lovely days. From the moment he won a leading role in Moon Dogs, a glorious new road movie that’s not only his first feature, but actually his first professional acting credit, Christy transformed from optionless busker to the happiest lad on the planet. A 22 year-old Scot who projects joy and enthusiasm and, boy, it’s so obvious that he’s going to be a star, Christy’s mile-wide smile and unbound enthusiasm disarmed everyone at the festival who now adore him as much as they do his film.

“While I was making the film, every day I’d wake up feeling euphoric,” Christy told us. “I couldn’t believe I was doing it. It was the most amazing thing. I was so excited all the time. I couldn’t hide it!

“I still feel like that. Here at the festival, everyone’s so cool and friendly. I’m talking to everyone, and they’re really looking after us. I’m loving it!”

 

Don’t let’s ask for the stars. We have the moon.

Warring stepbrothers compete for the affections of a worldly Irish singer on the road from Shetland to Glasgow in Moon Dogs, a fearlessly funny, bold and beautiful drama with tremendous energy and personality. Sexy, cool, anarchic and honest with a finely tuned screenplay and a trio of incredibly present, charismatic young actors (Christy O’Donnell, Jack Parry-Jones and Tara Lee), it’s a film destined for greatness and we’re not just talking about glowing reviews, strong box office and shelves of awards. It’s a film we believe will stand the test of time. A film that, years from now, folks will feel a Commitments-level of affection for.

Recalling the best of Bill Forsyth, the legendary Scottish director of Gregory’s Girl, and certainly the brief inclusion of Local Hero’s Dennis Lawson reinforces that connection, Moon Dogs feels like something special. From the gorgeous scenic visuals to Anton Newcombe’s mellifluous score, with every element perfectly balanced by director Phillip John, it’s a film that draws you in with raucous laughter but gently, almost imperceptibly deepens your relationship with the characters so that you really come to care for them, and earnestly want things to work out for them.

We’d be hard pressed to name a film we liked more at the festival than Moon Dogs.

 

Pushing the envelope.

It’s tough keeping positive when you’re HIV, but difficult as you might think it would be to make light of such a dark subject, Pushing Dead pulls off this singular feat with grace and style, balancing irreverence with humanity.

Written and directed by Tom E. Brown, who scored a top spot on our list of favourite festival folk after taking us out for pizza at 1am, the film tells the unexpectedly funny tale of a struggling writer who, after depositing a $100 birthday cheque from his mum, is dropped by his health plan for earning too much. HIV positive for more than 20 years, suddenly he’s unable to afford his AIDS meds, and though this doesn’t sound like the set-up to a funny film, and certainly it’s not a conventional comedy, Pushing Dead somehow manages to deliver sizeable laughs without sacrificing character, compassion or authenticity.

Between shots and pizza slices we remembered we were working and hit director Tom E. Brown with our five festival questions.

 

Who’s your movie idol?

“I'm going with Bill Murray. Loved him on SNL in the late Seventies, when I was just a young hooligan. Grew up watching him in films like Meatballs and Stripes. Love him even more in dramatic pictures like Lost in Translation. I'd love to make a movie with him. Maybe I'll play the AIDS card. A make-a-wish kind of thing. Am I too old for that?”

 

What’s your go-to comfort film?

“Babe. Because it's awesome. ‘Christmas is carnage!’”

 

From the initial thought, to the final press event, what’s your favourite part of the movie making process?

“Production. I love working with the crew and the actors. It's exhausting, but if you do it right, and surround yourself with good people, it's really fun.”

 

What would you like people to know about your new film?

“It's an AIDS comedy.”

 

What’s the question that, during interviews, you’re surprised you’re not asked more? Maybe it’s a question you’ve never been asked, but would love to answer. Please then answer it!

“What was it like working with Danny Glover in Pushing Dead? I was so honoured to work with him. I loved it. He is one of my heroes. He is so talented and works harder and more than anyone I know. Danny and I frequently spend weekends paddle-boating in Golden Gate Park together, just relaxing and talking about life. All of that is true, except the stuff about the paddle boats and talking to each other.”

 

Meanwhile, in the not-too-distant future…

From the mind behind Dead Herring and Herpes Boy comes Domain, a wicked cool sci fi thriller with future retro stylings about the survivors of an apocalyptic virus who, holed up in solo, self-sustaining bunkers, one by one, begin to vanish. We caught up with the film’s writer/director, Nathaniel Atcheson, who happily tackled our pre-apocalyptic ‘Five Questions’ challenge.

 

Who’s your movie idol?

“I love David Fincher. He usually makes original movies and almost always goes at them in a way that’s unexpected. I don’t think all of his films are perfect, but his best works are amazing, cultural watersheds. I admire that he’s managed to carve his own niche making commercial films, as most people who make movies like him don’t have the audience he does.”

What’s your go-to comfort film?

“It’s actually tied to my previous answer. It’s Alien 3, oddly enough. Alien was my original favourite film, but Alien 3 came out when I was about 13, which was the perfect age to see it. I was so excited! Even though a lot of people hated it, I was young enough not to be bothered by any expectations of what the movie should have been. Of course, it was David Fincher’s first movie too. I was blown away by how bleak it was. Not only did it inspire me, and shape the way I approach things now, but also it’s the movie that, to this day, I still love watching. I love being in that world. It’s the movie I rewatch the most.”

 

From the initial thought, to the final press event, what’s your favourite part of the movie making process?

Directing is really rewarding. Getting to see the actors’ take on your screenplay is super great.”

 

What would you like people to know about your new film?

"I feel it’s a film that genre fans will enjoy, but even if you’re not usually into thrillers or sci fi, it’s a thought-provoking film that will stay with you, so give it a chance.”

 

What’s the question that, during interviews, you’re surprised you’re not asked more? Maybe it’s a question you’ve never been asked, but would love to answer. Please then answer it!

“The movie is very specific in its location. I’m surprised when people don’t ask about how we filmed it. What the situation was on set and what the actual dynamic was, like how many bunkers we actually built. To me, logistically, that’s one of the most interesting things about the production.”

Giancarlo Esposito in Stuck
Giancarlo Esposito in Stuck
James Roday and Danny Glover in Pushing Dead
James Roday and Danny Glover in Pushing Dead

Five Questions With…

Finally today, we jumped at the chance to interview veteran actor Giancarlo Esposito, who recently voiced the wolf Akela in Disney’s live action Jungle Book, and is probably best known for playing buttoned-down drug lord Gustavo 'Gus' Fring in Breaking Bad and its prequel, Better Call Saul. Giancarlo’s festival film is Stuck. A favourite here at Newport Beach, it’s a clever, cool pop musical about six strangers trapped on a New York City subway. We loved it and you will too. It’s going to be huge!

 

Who’s your movie idol?

“Sidney Poitier. He paved the way for a dignified portrayal of human beings regardless of the colour line that existed in his time. He also portrayed characters with dignity, charisma and grace.” 

 

What’s your go-to comfort film?

“The Best Years of our Lives. It is a film about family that embodies hope, discovery and perseverance.”

 

From the initial thought, to the final press event, what’s your favourite part of the movie making process?

“My favourite part of the movie making experience is the discovery period. The rehearsal period. Whether it be the read-through of the script and the few days of rehearsal beforehand, or the work I do on my own creating the ideas behind the character, this is the time where listening happens. When the channelling of the writers intention and the connection to the material and characters gets solidified. 

“I call this PLAY TIME! The channelling of the truth. The beginning of the organic process.”

 

What would you like people to know about your new film?

“Our new film Stuck Is about human connection. It is about the loneliness that we may experience in a world full of people. You may ask, ‘How is that possible?’ Our film shows you how we may live in fear of each other. How we may miss connections just due to the fact that we are unable to get out of our own way. Our film is a grand melody of life and love of life.”

 

What’s the question that, during interviews, you’re surprised you’re not asked more? Maybe it’s a question you’ve never been asked, but would love to answer. Please then answer it!

“Why? Why live a life in the creative arts? Why do what I do? Glory? Fame? Fulfilment? 

“I feel that the arts have the ability to heal the world of fear, anxiousness and hate. We have a passionate reason to connect with each other. That reason is humanity, love, light and understanding that which may seem foreign to us but is, in actuality, a mirror of our own existence.” 

More Articles

View All