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SXSW '07 Interview: "Audience of One" Director Michael Jacobs

by Eric D. Snider

The "Audience of One" pitch: "A Pentecostal minister receives a vision from God to create an epic science-fiction movie based on the bible story of Joseph, sending him and his followers on a journey of extreme faith."

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
My Godness

Is this your first trip to SXSW? Got any other film festival experience? If you're a festival veteran, let us know your favorite and least-favorite parts of the ride.
Yes, I am a SXSW newbie. I made a short doc, SAFAR a few years back that played at some festivals around the country. I went to the Boston International Film Festival which was great. They treated filmmakers with a lot of love, but I think it was new fest and you could tell they were still working out the kinks so in the end, I felt disoriented about what exactly I was doing there.

When you were a little kid and people asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, what was your answer?
A transformer.

Not including your backyard and your Dad's Handycam, how did you get your real "start" in filmmaking?
In college, I interned for a summer at Warren Miller Films, which is an action sports production company, and I saw people loving their jobs, being creative and making a living at it.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it's on "the festival circuit?"
Yes, it brings validation for sure. More importantly, it means that strangers, friends, relatives, may actually have a chance to see my flick in a theater which is very exciting. This is especially good since I think a lot of my friends were assuming I was just talking about making a film for the past 2 years. In addition to making the film, I sure did talk about making it a lot more.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?
If you took Animal and crossed him with Bert, that's about me. Wait, is Bert a Muppet?

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
Every day.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.
I read an article in a local publication about a Paster who had a Church production company, and was going to make a biblical science fiction movie that would redefine the Hollywood epic. So I went to Church like a good Jew and found myself sucked right into this bazaar yet addictive world of Pentecostal filmmaking. I was granted access to record their world and I never looked back. Until I had to edit 130 hours of material. 18 months, 4 test screenings, 6 arguments with my editor, and 100 rally bad nights of sleep later and I had an 88 minute documentary that reflected the vision I had for the doc on my first day at Church. Last night was another terrible night sleep but that's a different story.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?
Don't be afraid to run into yourself in the process.

Tell us something personal about yourself that you think your film reflects -- your personality, your beliefs, your philosophy, your tastes, etc.
My belief in reality which for me is filled with funny sadness.

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition?
The Maysles have been huge for me as far as participant observation and loving your subjects. GIMME SHELTER introduced me to them. I find GREY GARDENS filled with that funny sadness mentioned above. And I find Wes Anderson's RUSHMORE damn near perfect. And that Spike Jonez, and Gondry and ...

Say you landed a big studio contract tomorrow, and they offered you a semi-huge budget to remake, adapt, or sequelize something. What projects would you tackle?
Has anyone done a remake on Beverly Hills Ninja?

Name an actor in your film that's absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.
Rocki Star Gazowksy is the Pastor's eldest daughter and an extremely talented individual. If there were ever a Christian American Idol she would dominate.

If you weren't a filmmaker, what would you be doing for a living? Or, if filmmaking isn't paying the bills full-time yet, what's your day job?
While making this film I sold Jazz tickets, worked for a guy who claimed he invented the golf putter (he fired me), did PR work for a non-profit, was a bartender (also fired), worked for the prolific producer Henry S. Rosenthal (who has the world's largest collection of two-headed cows), and finally started to find production work thanks to Current TV and one corporate video client in Framingham, MA.

Who's an actor you'd kill a small dog to work with? (Don't worry; nobody would know.)
My great grandmother was a Vaudeville performer named Haddie Darling, and I did kick her dog once when I was ten and she was ninety at her apartment in Chicago in 1988. She was not impressed.

Have you "made it" yet? If not, what would have to happen for you to be able to say "Yes, wow. I have totally made it!"
Do you mean like 'made it' with a girl? Well then no, not exactly, but I did get married last summer.

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
Extremely important. But everybody's a critic.

You're told that your next movie must have one "product placement" on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?
My friend Dave Banks makes these T-shirts, white one's with a sharpie design on them. His line is called Venom Thunder.

You're contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated film to your producers. The MPAA says you have to delete a sex scene that's absolutely integral to the film or you're getting an NC-17. How do you handle it?
Have you seen FX lately. It's like a porn.

What's your take on the whole "a film by DIRECTOR" issue? Do you feel it's tacky, because hundreds (or at least dozens) of people collaborate to make a film -- or do you think it's cool, because ultimately the director is the final word on pretty much everything?
I am all about the Director as God thing. Just remind me at the Q&A to say, "filmmaking is a collaborative process"

In closing, we ask you to convince the average movie-watcher to choose your film instead of the trillion other options they have. How do you do it?
Tell em that there is absolutely no way they have ever seen anything like this.

* * *

Michael Jacobs' "Audience of One" will have its world premiere at the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival. For more information, visit here. And check out BSide.com for even more info!

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=2079
originally posted: 02/16/07 00:35:15
last updated: 03/06/07 17:42:54
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