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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

I was able to sit down for a couple of years and pump out a book. It’s got little to do with movies. Download and read “Thank You, Goodnight” right HERE for free.

And now, you can follow me on TWITTER under the name: Stipp

Item #1

john-hughes-01I would remiss if I didn’t mention the untimely passing of John Hughes.

You will obviously seeing a lot of short articles about the ma’s impact on many of the thirty-somethings in Internet movie journalism and I would have to be included in that bunch.

FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF was an anthem, really, to suburbanite kids like me who understood Hughes’ aesthetic on the adolescent desire to just take some time out for yourself. SIXTEEN CANDLES was a movie that I am thankful for seeing in the theater as a young kid. I knew it was a funny then and I know it’s a funny movie now. I even remember having my father taking my brother and I to see PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES. All three of these cinematic experiences were a delight and stood in stark contrast to the critical reception his films received at the hands of critics who would eat their words so many years after they realized what John Hughes was doing with his movies.

I know it sounds like a plug, and if it was online to read to free I would share it here, but if you happen to see Geek Monthly’s August issue with Seth Green on the cover I delve in deeper to John’s movies as I chart the course of some documentary filmmakers who made their own film, DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME, which uses new interviews with the film’s cast and creators to tell how they were inspired by John’s work.

He may have been gone for decades but that hasn’t made his passing any less easy to those of us who could quote endlessly from his films. There’s a reason why we’re able to do that and it doesn’t have anything to do with their accessibility; he was a gifted writer and filmmaker who was able to distill the experiences of teenage life and, eventually, older age.

He will be missed.

Item #2

rippedoffmadoffdvd-nsBernie Madoff.

There is a moment on the DVD of Ripped Off: Madoff and the Scamming of America where Bernie is talking to a class full of business hopefuls how he feels about governmental regulation and, essentially, how he feels about finance in general. Not only is it hilarious but it’s a fascinating snapshot into the mind of a man who no doubt knew what he was doing at the time he was guiding the minds of those eager to plunder the riches found in high paying financial jobs. The man, who would get convicted of stealing billions upon billions of dollars, is the perfect model upon which this documentary is set against and thankfully so.

The world of economics, especially to people like me who are allergic to the point needing an EpiPen when opening the Business section of my local newspaper, is one shrouded in highfalutin linguistics that purposely confuse rubes like me who have to surrender to the “expert” guidance of those who are entrusted with doing the right thing. Regulation couldn’t help those who Bernie Madoff swindled and honestly this documentary puts everything into a perspective that helps to show how even those who are already smarter than a lot of us got taken as well.

Ripped Off should be one that everyone who wants to understand this economic crisis from an angle divested from the talking heads who want to blame one party or the other. I didn’t get robbed of any money and this program spoke to me in a language that even I could grasp. I’m not afraid to admit that I need my information served to me in ways that helped me understand credit issues in MAXED OUT or the obesity problem in SUPER SIZE ME.

There is something delicious to Madoff being sentenced to 150 years in prison after you see the wide swath of destruction left in his paper trail. Ripped Off proves why 150 years isn’t punishment enough for this confidence man.

PAPER HEART - Interview
pageimage-350945-1551604-paper_heart_poster_virbThose looking for love won’t ever find it and those who don’t believe it exists never had a child who dotes on them. It’s a slippery thing, love, when you think about the way it finds some and the way it ignores others. Growing up, I was enchanted by films like ONE CRAZY SUMMER and BETTER OFF DEAD by director Savage Steve Holland or the suite of films from John Hughes where characters were placed into every embarrassing situation as it pertains to the courting rituals of the modern American teen. As you head into older age, it would follow, should “love” be as elusive as it was during the awkward years of prepubescence you would start developing the jagged edges of those burnt-out on bad relationships while developing an acute distaste for all things sweet and lovey-dovey.

In steps Charlyne Yi and Nick Jasenovec.

Their film, PAPER HEART, looks to take the stance that love needs some defining in an age where over 50% of marriages end in divorce and where hearts are broken at breakneck speed every minute of the day across this land of ours. The documentary blurs the lines of fiction and truth but with an emotion that is as bizarre and weirdly nebulous as love the structure of the film is wonderfully suited to best strip down this most basic of emotions.

Charlyne Yi and Nick Jasenovec stopped in Phoenix to talk about their film and to discuss the construction of the best docu-fiction motion picture you’ll see all year.

CHRISTOPHER STIPP: Looking at the film’s promotional poster and reading previous interviews where the idea of the movie crew being in the movie wasn’t always factored in…was it a conscious choice to blur the line between documentary and fiction?

NICK JASENOVEC: Well we did know. We were shooting with two cameras and shooting spontaneously and shooting in that manner you knew that occasionally you were going to capture a crew on camera and people that weren’t necessarily part of the scene. So we knew that we would have it but we didn’t want to make them an integral part of the story line. We didn’t want to rely on that. We had scenes in the outline where the camera crew kind of gets in the way of things and sort of effects the relationship but we didn’t want it to be a main focus but then when we got to the editing room and saw the footage, it was the most clear conflict in the movie. Because we didn’t make a traditional film so there’s not a—Charlene cheats on Mike and Mike find out and they break up but then she comes back to him. So there was no sort of fake plot points, so it was really kind of an easy going film from start to finish so when we found conflict in the editing room we decided to jump on that and make that the focus.

CS: How did you come up with the treatment?

NICK JASENOVEC: It started with Charlene.

CHARLYNE YI: Originally I wanted to make a traditional – I keep wanting to say “straight” documentary but that seems sexual.

(Laughs)

I wanted to make a traditional documentary about love inspired by people I’ve met in my life that opened up to me about their love stories. Most movies to have a sort of love relationship in the film and why not make one about real stories and there’s so much more meaning to them because they are real. So I came to Nick with that idea and Allison was kind of skeptical about love at the time and from there he said, “You should go on camera.” I didn’t know about that.

paperheart2009sundanceportraitsessionholaw6bjga5lJASENOVEC: It made sense because she performs all around Los Angeles and is comfortable on stage and everything. She’s really funny and charming and she has a unique comedic voice so it just made sense. A lot of our favorite documentaries always feature the document writer on camera in the primary role and once I found out how she felt about love I thought the audience should really experience the journey through her eyes. Because she had these specific feelings and that’s what drives the film. So once we decided that we started working on the idea and came up with the sort of scripted story line to tie everything together and give the story some sort of arch for Charlene and just for story line.

CS: Exactly…and that leads into the question about how it started with just a few pages. I read that an hour before shooting you would huddle together and started hammering things out. Did you notice an evolution of what was happening as each shoot – an hour before shooting – any trends? Or was it literally as random as it appears?

JASENOVEC: It was. Sometimes we’d beat it out and start shooting and someone would say, it’s not working.

YI: Yea, and then we’d have to have another meeting.

(Laughs)

JASENOVEC: But then other times you would have no idea and have to wing it and then it would turn out great.

YI: And you find that through improvising it worked.

JASENOVEC: The movie itself has to feel – both halves of the movie have to feel equal. The have to feel of the same cloth. So like all the scenes where Charlene or Michael or Jake are acting have to feel they were captured just like the documentary. So, improve was just the obvious choice just to keep things fresh.

YI: And organic.

JASENOVEC: Unscripted. Doesn’t feel like they were reading lines from something. It was always different. I don’t remember patterns really but there were times where – I remember a scene in the film where they were driving out to Joshua Tree on the drive out to Palm Springs. That was just supposed to be one of the many dates. But instead it just naturally came out, Michael had the idea that I don’t think my character would be very excited about bring the cooler along. So that became the focus of the scene. So there were tons of surprises.

YI: And then in the editing room it became the focus of the movie how – a relevant scene that would help the arch.

JASENOVEC: I can’t remember what interview we talked about what.

CS: Everyone is trying to be different.

JASENOVEC: These are different questions.

YI: The questions are relevant.

JASENOVEC: Yeah, but I’m just trying to remember what we said in which one. Like, oh shoot, did we cover that in this one.

CS: “What lie did we tell?”

(Laughs)

JASENOVEC: Yeah, we have to keep all our lies straight.

(Laugh)

paperheart2009sundanceportraitsession0ojbnz8tpi-lCS: Now that begs the question, when you had about 300 hours footage and you said, “OK, we have 300 hours and we need to make a movie that’s 90 minutes and change.” Where do you start? Obviously you start with your story.

JASENOVEC: The first thing we put together was no documentary stuff just Charlene setting out to make the movie, meeting Michael, starting the relationship, whatever happens happens. The relationship story line. That’s an easier way to put it. And that alone without any documentary stuff I think was over 2 hours. So we knew that that wasn’t going to work.

(Laughs)

We knew it had to be half and half and then had to get it down to about 45 minutes. So think from there, we definitely had a lot of stuff, but that was where the conflict of the cameras impeding the relationship really stood out, so we made that the focus. We restructured and got it down to about an hour and then started cutting the documentaries interviews together and started putting them in place and looking at which interviews would fit in which parts of the movie and it was just all different too. Because you would think that you would want to put an interview in a scene to comment on that scene, but when we showed it to people, not only did they not catch it but it felt like everything was in the wrong place. So a lot of the scenes, to me, the documentary interviews feel like some of them should more obviously be closer to the scenes but they aren’t. Oh like the puppet stuff, the recreations. Remember we took the themes of the four and this was the first meeting, the early part of the relationship and it didn’t work at all.

YI: Yes. It’s hard to pinpoint why it didn’t work. It’s like the energy of the scene and then…

JASENOVEC: There’s probably 100 different versions of this movie. It’s just like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Especially with the documentary stuff. The story line, once you figure that out, that’s going to stay the same but where do you put the documentary stuff. What interviews go where? It was interesting.

CS: Who decided to make the cut and who didn’t, especially when you are trying to select the best pieces?

JASENOVEC: Almost everyone made the cut. Some were shorter than others just based on what the relevant information was or maybe how interesting the information was. We definitely had favorites and least favorites. Not to say that it’s a personal film but just in terms of how it works in the movie. There’s a couple that didn’t make it in. And then the ones that did, yea. Each interview is probably an hour, an hour and a half long so we had to boil that down to what was the core idea of each interview and tie it into the story line.

YI: We had a set of general and specific questions applying to the scientist.

JASENOVEC: And also certain interviews were approached based on where – different interviews were approached in different ways. For this interview, let’s do this one where Charlene and Michael have been together for a little while so there’s a comfort there and can talk about that relationship in this interview.

YI: And hopefully give advice.

JASENOVEC: Yeah, and then another interview she would just be approaching it from where she is at the beginning of the film so that also dictated some of the order. If we chose to use anything that was specific.

YI: Yeah.

JASENOVEC: Just thinking back on it…

YI: Gives me a headache

(Laughs)

JASENOVEC: It was a pretty miserable time. I remember the first time we lost our first cut we were like, what have we made? This is never going to make it.

YI: We were so depressed. We were just sad eating.

(Laughs)

paper-776369CS: Does it help that you guys did this independently?

YI: Most definitely. I think if people saw the 300 hours of footage people wouldn’t understand what we made.

JASENOVEC: Because we would just keep the cameras rolling. We would try things that didn’t work a lot of the times. We didn’t have to show footage to anybody. No one was looking over our shoulders. We did have a weekly budget and we had a bond company. So as long as we stayed in budget and were getting the footage that we thought we needed, we were OK. No one from the financiers saw the movie until we were finished with it.

YI: I can’t imagine if we did get input. That would have destroyed the film.

JASENOVEC: It was confusing enough trying to figure it out on your own but if you have other outside people telling you what to do, I don’t think we would have discovered anything we discovered.

YI: And there’s already so much pressure. Like us being on the road running constantly trying to nail shots, getting kicked out of places because we don’t have permits…so it was difficult.

JASENOVEC: We were really lucky.

CS: Your and Michael’s chemistry on the screen was really great. Did you find that your two comedy styles. Well, I shouldn’t say styles but Michael came into this and you guys had to make it work. I don’t want to ask a stupid question like, “Was it easy to do?”

(Laughs)

But did you find that you two complement each other?

YI: I think we all have the same sense of humor. You [Nick], me, Jake and Michael.

JASENOVEC: We are all friends so we’re all comfortable around each other so that helps. So there was no bad idea.

YI: There was no, “Let’s do it my way.” We were, “Yeah, let’s do that. Let’s try it.”

JASENOVEC: And I think that Charlene and Michel both love twisting realities and playing with the audience’s perceptions and stuff. When we came up with the idea of the movie we knew that Mike was perfect. He loves doing stuff like this. And knew that we would all be on the same page. There were very few disagreements.

YI: The only disagreement was when he was complaining that he didn’t have enough raisins.

JASENOVEC: Which was often. Every day.

YI: Every hour.

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