Every day through the end of the Sundance Film Festival, including weekends, indieWIRE will be publishing two interviews with Sundance ’06 competition filmmakers. Sixty filmmakers were given the opportunity to participate in an email interview and each was sent the same questions.
Henriette Mantel and Stephen Skrovan directed “An Unreasonable Man,” screening in the Independent Film Competition: Documentary at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Mantel and Skrovan, a former writer and producer for TV series “Everybody Loves Raymond,” are making their directorial debut with this movie. Mantel answered the questions below.
Please tell us about yourself …
I grew up in Vermont. I have had every job under the sun. I was a ski instructor, tree surgeon and waitress. When I was 21, I was office manager to Ralph Nader. I am now 105. After working for Ralph, I went on to become a stand-up comedian, actress, writer on such shows as “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” Michael Moore’s “The Awful Truth” and a producer on “The Osbournes.” I also just wrote a book with Teri Garr entitled “Speedbumps.” Go buy it.
What were the circumstances that led you to become a filmmaker? What other creative outlets do you explore?
I was so sick of people (mostly whiny Democrats) yelling at me about Ralph without having all the information. When discussing him, I too was conflicted. But most of all I wanted to tell the story of Ralph Nader’s entire life and career so at least when people judged him, they would understand more about this American icon. My other hobbies include quilting, drawing, writing “Midge and Buck,” an animated show about my cats, on icebox.com and acting.
Did you go to film school? How did you finance your own film?
I’m lucky I graduated eighth grade in Vermont. In terms of finances, I am fortunate enough to have a writing/director partner who saved all his television comedy-writing pennies and invested his time and money in this film.
Where did the initial idea for your film come from?
The extreme need to tell the story of Ralph Nader.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making the movie?
Collaborating — because I know I’m always right. And paying the parking tickets I always get outside the edit room.
Tell us about the moment you found out that you were accepted into Sundance.
I was home eating bonbons and reading “The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists.”
What do you hope to get out of the festival, what are your own goals for the experience?
To steal at least 2.7 percent of the audience from “An Inconvenient Truth” [one of the movies screening in this year’s Sundance Spectrum program].
What is your definition of “independent film”?
Low budget. People are driven to tell a story and don’t have much money to do it. The drive is bigger than the lack of money.
What are a few other films you’re hoping to see at Sundance and why?
“Stay,” because I love the director Bobcat Goldthwait and the actress Morgan Murphy.
Who are a few people that you would you most like to meet at Sundance?
The PAs that worked on the movies because they usually know the truth about filmmaking more than anyone else.
If you were given $10 million to be used for moviemaking, how would you spend it?
I sure wouldn’t spend it to license footage from all the scoundrels who overcharge you. I would use it to travel and film stories that I want to tell.
What are some of your favorite films?
“Trip to Bountiful,” “Mary Poppins,” “The Deer Hunter” and “Bride of Chucky.”