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SXSW '05 Interview: 'Shooting Livien' Director Rebecca Cook

by Scott Weinberg

The 'Shooting Livien' Pitch: A dark psychological drama, Shooting Livien explores the inner psyche of John Livien, a disillusioned New York musician who deals with a childhood trauma by claiming an alter ego. His band on the brink of success, fantasy becomes dangerously blurred with reality as Livien struggles with his identity crisis. At the peak of his insanity Livien decides to take his dementia to the furthest reaches.…

"Pyschological demons consume a man possessed with the spirit of Lennon."

Will this be your first time at SXSW? Any other film festival experience?
This is my first time at SXSW and also my first big festival experience. I went to the Philadelphia First Glance Festival in LA years ago with a film and Coven of the Arts in NYC with my short. I have attended a few but this will be my virgin tour of the festival world, for all intents and purposes.

When you were 14 years old, if someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, what would your answer have been?
A writer.

How did you get started in filmmaking?
I wrote my first movie and filmed it at twelve -- about a dying dancer who wanted to make it to Paris with her dance partner. Oh, you mean for real? I got started with an internship at Touchstone Pictures in 1995.

How have things changed for you since your film was accepted into the festival?
I have barely slept. Getting the film ready, preparing for press and marketing, organizing our trip to SXSW, worrying about all the details. Well, there has been the upside in that distribtuors have been calling as well!

When you were shooting the film, did you have SXSW (or film festivals in general) in mind?
Absolutely. I have been dreaming about SXSW for ten years, back when I wrote my first script I heard about SXSW and the prestige of attending and hoped that some day I’d make that dream come ture.

How did you get your film started? How did you go from script to finished product?
Well, that’s a hefty two-parter. The script started when I was shooting my last film and finished when I was in sound design for it, only to then be rewritten for another year. We began fundraising in 2002. Should I be brief? Because this is a long story! We raised money through the fall of 2003 -- and are still at it, with new costs that loom on the horizon! We hired our esteemed casting director Christine Sheaks in 2003 as well, and began searching for our leads. When the final checks came for production we were fianlly cast and ready to go November of that same year - and then finally completed post in November of 2004. My fundraising partners have worked hard!

What’s the one glaring lesson you learned while making this film?
Writing, directing and producing is overwhelming. Delegate, delegate, delegate, the people you are working with are there for a reason. Make sure everyone on your team is informed and on the same page. Also, don’t budget only 18 days for a feature with numerous locations and extensive art design. It's sheer insanity and you will add days. Don’t forget the people you love in the process, and love them back, even though it seems like you have no time. I can’t help having so many answers- there are always many glaring lessons to be learned!

When you were in pre-production, did you find yourself watching other great movies in preparation?
Definitely. In my particular case, I referred often to old Beatles videos in addition to films i was inspired by aesthetically. (Did I spell that right?)

If a studio said ‘we love this, we love you, you can remake anything in our back catalogue for $40m’ – what film, if any, would you want to remake?
Grease. Don’t shoot me. The classics are too good to touch and I love musicals. If only I could be Baz Luhrman.

Two parter – name an actor you'd KILL to work with, and then name an actor in your own film that you really think is destined for great things.
A) Cate Blanchett, Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Sandra Bullock, Ewan Mcgregor- oh, wait, did you say name one?
B) Pleeease don’t make me choose, they are all so talented! Well alright- Jason Behr is amazing in this film, his reach is far, and his ability to immerse himself in the character’s most valuable, most important aspects, is not only dedicated, but exciting to witness. Great things are in store for an actor who plays a character so intensely that you can love and disdain him at once.

The festival circuit: what could be improved? What's been your favorite part of the ride?
The ride has only just begun, ask me again in a few months!

Have you ‘made it’ yet? If not, at what point will you be able to say ‘yes’?
Good god, no. When somebody hands me a budget and tells me they believe in my vision and would like to see more from me, and then actually follows through before the end of the next millenium and makes a movie with me that gets wide exposure to the public and press- then perhaps then I will say I have made it! --- but that is an ever changing definition relative to each experience and each new goal. I made it to SXSW, so on one level I already have! At the end of the day, I think “making it” in this industry means getting to do what you love. It's a bonus and a real miracle if you are paid to do it!

A film is made by many people, including the director (of course), but you'll often see movies that open with a credit that says “a film by…” – Did you use that credit in your film? If so, defend yourself! If not, what do you think of those who do?
I did not use the credit. One of my producing partners who I founded Velveteen with schooled me on the ramifications of being self-indulgent early on—relative to the concept inherent in your question - that a film is collaborative. That being said, I can see how there are circumstances which warrant it- if you are multi-committed and have given life to something that takes flight and exists because of your many hats and your particular style, the credit makes sense. I also believe in the credit when a producer is working with a director who is known specifically for their style - who brings people to the theater because of their previous work, like PT Anderson. The big directors are often hired because they can deliver the goods- they can help the producers and studios deliver a well-received film because of their relationships with talent and their vision and ability to get a film made and seen. Take Quentin Tarantino - I would never begrudge him a “film by” credit. Or Steven Soderbergh or Robert Rodriquez or Nicole Holefcener. But again, there are those directors whose names we’ve never heard of- who have done everything, who have fought every step of the way, who have worn many hats to get their films made. I wouldn’t begrudge them either!


Shooting Livien, starring Jason Behr, Sarah Wynter, Dominic Monaghan, Joshua Leonard, and Ally Sheedy, will premiere at the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival. Click here for more information, and be sure to check out the official Shooting Livien website!.

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=1357
originally posted: 02/16/05 23:09:23
last updated: 02/16/05 23:31:43
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