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SXSW '05 Interview: 'Southern Belles' Directors Paul S. Myers & Brennan Shroff

by Scott Weinberg

The 'Southern Belles' Pitch: Living in the rural Georgian town of Johnson's Mark, two best friends, Bell and Belle, have grown weary of small town life. The solution seems simple: pack up and move to Atlanta Đ but for our heroines, it is not so simple. Matters become complicated when Bell falls for a police officer and Belle struggles to keep a job.

Will this be your first time at SXSW? Any other film festival experience?
Paul: Yes, this will be my first time at SXSW. It is supposed to be a pretty fun festival so I can't wait. I've only been to one festival before. I had a short, PUTNAM, play in Vegas a couple years ago.
Brennan: On top of that we were finalists in the NYC midnight movie making madness festival, for which we made two short films, one in two weeks, one in 24 hours.

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?
B: Something where I could get a lot of chicks…I was 14.
P: A guy who makes movies. I wouldn't have said something like filmmaker at 14.

How did you get started in filmmaking?
B: We both attended film school at NYU.
P: The first movies I ever made were in high school. I made one that we used for the final project in about for classes that was making fun of esoteric art films called, "Libenferbendung." A girl started crying when the fat guy started jumping up and down in his underwear. I thought that was pretty funny.

How have things changed for you since your film was accepted into the festival?
B: Well, we were able to put the pedal to the medal and get our film finished, which is pretty amazing. On top of that, not much, yet…hopefully the film will play well and things will start to pick up from there.
P: Not really, except it put us on the fast track to finishing the movie really quickly, but I think that was good. It gave us a real kick in the ass in the right direction.

When you were shooting the film, did you have SXSW (or film festivals in general) in mind?
B: Not really, we didn’t make the movie targeting one specific festival. I think we had an audience in mind, but not necessarily one particular film festival. We set out to make a good, funny movie that would play to a large audience.
P: Not really. There was so much stuff going on that I was just focusing on making the best film. After we were finished we started looking toward the festivals. Cinetic really helped on that front, looking for the best route to take the movie.

How did you get your film started? How did you go from script to finished product?
P: Actually, Brennan and I were sitting around thinking of what a movie most people don't see that often. We came up with a buddy comedy for girls. After that it was mostly the producers, Jen, Craig, Zack, and Jon that set things in motion. Brennan and I sat back and watched the wheels turn as we tried to develope the best movie that would do their hard work justice.
B: We began by putting together a great group of people from a cross section of the business and film world. Then our Casting Director/Producer Jennifer McNamara began putting together our wonderful cast while at the same time, she and our other producers, Craig Cohen, Zack Sanders and Jon Right, began raising financing. It all came together around June 2004 and we began production in August.

What’s the one glaring lesson you learned while making this film?
P: It is all about who you know.
B: Movies are a business as much as an artform. In order to be successful there are so many logistical, financial and other considerations that must be taken as seriously by a director as the artistic direction of the film. Also, that the actual process of making the film is an important element to what you will finish with. If people are having fun making the movie, it will show up on screen.

When you were in pre-production, did you find yourself watching other great movies in preparation?
B: Sure, I think that is a huge part of the process. We reference a wide variety of movies looking at how other directors have dealt with subject, design and execution. It was especially helpful in starting a conversation with everyone who worked on the film. We were able to give context, and movies are so contextual to begin with.
P: Yes. Brennan, Eric Haase (the cinematographer), and I watched Election, Rushmore, Gone with the Wind, Kill Bill and Thelma and Louise.

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?
P: I can't say specifically. There are so many bad remakes coming out these days I would probably try to find something that was so good, and change it completely, using the basic plot, but mixing up the charatcters or motivation like The Good Thief did for Bob Le Flambuer.
B: That’s a tough question. I would probably look through their catalog and try to find a movie that had a good idea with poor execution. I have a hard time understanding why you would really want to remake something that was great in the first place.

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.
P: Probably Paul Newman. I would really push him to get all his products in the craft service truck. As for the second part, I think the whole cast is phenominal. As for the fast track Anna Faris is really going places soon. I think she is coming out in about four movies this year. So is Judah. Fred Weller and Heather Goldenhersh are too of the funnyist people I know so their future is wide open. Then there is Laura. I guess she is the shooting star in the movie because she was so great and this is her first starring role.
B: There are a ton of actors I would kill to work with, it depends on the project. As for our film, I really think they are all destined for great things. Anna Faris is a tremendous actress who is just beginning to show what she can really do. She started in the Scary Movie series, but is coming out in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. She is a true talent.

Laura Breckenridge the other female lead really shines on the screen, and I think there will be a lot of people who see this movie who ask “who is that girl?” There will be a lot of interest.

Justin Chambers has appeared in numerous big projects and is in the new ABC show Grey’s Anatomy. I think people would love to watch him, and I am very excited to see where he will go. I think he could be a huge star.

Fred Weller is an extremely accomplished actor who is starring on Broadway this season in the highly anticipated revival of Glengarry GlenRoss. I think you see a side of Fred in this movie, a comedic range that maybe people haven’t seen before. He is one of the most gifted actors I have ever seen.

Judah Friedlander, what can you say, he is hilarious. I think you see a comedic character actor here who is going to really blow up. He is starring opposite David Schwimmer in the upcoming Duane Hopwood.

Heather Goldenhersh is amazing. She takes the small part of Margery and knocks it out of the park. She is really talented.

I think they all are destined for great things. The cast is what makes our movie work.

The festival circuit: what could be improved? What's been your favorite part of the ride?
P: This is the first one, so I'll see where it takes me.
B: Well SXSW is the first one we are attending, so get back to me in a couple of months.

Have you ‘made it’ yet? If not, at what point will you be able to say ‘yes’?
P: No. Brennan and I have always said that we will have made it when were sitting in the Grotto.
B: No. When I am supporting myself writing and directing. When I don’t have to work as a production accountant anymore.

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?
B: We used it at the end. I think it’s ok to say that. We wrote and directed the film, the film is a product of everyone who touches the movie from start to finish, but credits are a tricky thing and a part of the business…I think it’s ok.
P: We did use this film. I guess it is a business thing. That's what people expect to see, so that's what we gave them.


Southern Belles, starring Anna Faris, Laura Breckenridge, Justin Chambers, Fred Weller & Judah Friedlander, will premiere at the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival. Click here for more information!

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originally posted: 03/07/05 14:19:50
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