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SXSW '07 Interview: "Imprint" Director Michael Linn

by William Goss

The "Imprint" Pitch: "A contemporary Native American dramatic supernatural thriller that tells the story of Shayla Stonefeather, a prominent Native American attorney who has turned away from her people and the dreams of her youth."

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
Spooky and spiritual.

Is this your first trip to SXSW? Got any other film festival experience?
This is my first trip to any major film festival.

Back when you were a little kid, and you were asked that inevitable question, your answer would always be "When I grow up, I want to be a..." what?
I thought for a while that I wanted to be a doctor, but the movie-making bug bit pretty early on.

Not including your backyard and your dad's Handycam, how did you get your real "start" in filmmaking?
I made a couple of feature-length movies in high school that garnered some acclaim, but those were shot with a Handycam, so do they count? My first real film I sold was a study on faith and tragedy called “Into His Arms.”

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it's on "the festival circuit?"
Maybe I feel a little more confident that getting a distributor won’t be as much of an uphill battle. But my feelings for the film remain unchanged.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?
Definitely Kermit. I can actually do a pretty good Kermit impression. 'Hi ho! Kermit the frog here!' (How was that?)

During production, did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
I just try and tell a story that I believe in and then hope that the film will connect with an audience. Of course, every filmmaker wants good reviews, and the biggest fear is that you make something that no one wants to see.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.
"Imprint" has an interesting history in that it started off as an idea for a ghost story revolving around a white family on a rural South Dakota farm, and then evolved into a Native American supernatural film taking place on Pine Ridge. Chris Eyre ("Smoke Signals") has been a friend for years and he started suggesting we do a film together. Around this time, Misty Upham, who starred in Chris’ film, "Edge of America," wrote a piece that asked the question, “Why aren’t there more contemporary roles for Indians in all genres of film?” It’s a good question, seeing as the roles for indigenous people are usually reserved for political films or historical pieces (leathers and feathers as they’re jokingly referred to.) So I, along with my screenwriting partner Keith Davenport, began to re-tool the story to take place on Pine Ridge with an almost exclusively Native cast. What we found was that the story became richer and fuller in that environment. We found an amazing cast to fill the roles and shot the movie in just over 3 weeks with some additional pick-ups to deal with the two giant snowstorms we had during shooting. The movie was in post for about a year while we all went back to our regular jobs at our video production company, editing whenever time allowed. SXSW is the first festival we sent our locked picture to and we are absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to screen it there.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?
Don’t schedule a film shoot in South Dakota during the winter! Actually, a bigger lesson for me was learning how to relax and enjoy the process of making the film, and not let the stresses of the production turn me into a monster!

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition?
I wanted to make movies the day I saw "E.T." That film had such an impact on me, I felt that, if I could make movies, I could make real magic.

Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell "This! I want something JUST like this, only different."?
I actually try not to watch too many movies while in pre-production. There’s a real fear that I’ll end up doing something derivative without even realizing it.

What actor would you cast as a live-action Homer Simpson?
Woody Harrelson.

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?
I’ve always loved the Shannara books. They would make great movies.

Name an actor in your film that's absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.
Tonantzin Carmelo brings such strength to her role as Shayla Stonefeather, that I feel people are going to notice. She’s in almost every frame of the film, which is unusual, and for her to maintain a connection with the audience throughout the course of the movie requires that special 'something' that I feel she’s got.

Finish this sentence: If I weren't a filmmaker, I'd almost definitely be...
A Muppet. Probably Kermit.

Who's an actor you'd kill a small dog to work with? (Don't worry; nobody would know.)
I would love to work with Cate Blatchett. Is there anything she’s not amazing in?

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!"?
I will finally feel that I’ve “made it” once I can make a living at this!

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
I usually check to see what the critics are saying before I’ll go to a film. Life is too short!

You're told that your next movie must have one product placement on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?
A new Lexus!

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?
You never have to delete a whole scene. Plus, we live in a time of digital wonderment! Look at what they did with "Eyes Wide Shut." Just digitally 'hide' what you need to get the rating!

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 actually think people give the director too much credit. Films are absolutely a huge collaboration, and too often not enough credit is given to the screenwriter, the cinematographer, and others. That being said, the director does guide the picture and ultimately makes it what it is, good or bad.

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?
"Imprint" is a thrilling Native American supernatural ghost story that will startle and scare you without insulting your intelligence.


Michael Linn's Imprint will play as part of the 2007 South By Southwest's "Special Screenings" slate. For more information, click here. And check out BSide.com for even more info!

link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=2090
originally posted: 02/20/07 14:40:02
last updated: 03/06/07 17:32:45
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