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 e-mail interview, and each was sent the same questions.
Max Makowski directed “One Last Dance,” screening in the World Cinema Competition: Dramatic section. In the film, a mysterious hitman known as “T,” who wants to retire from the criminal world, is summoned to take care of a man who has betrayed the gangster code. Sundance describes the film as “a cinematic riddle that’s as fun to figure out as to watch.” Makowski’s “The Pigeon Egg Strategy” previously screened at the Sundance Film Festival.
Please tell us about yourself. How old are you? Where did you grow up? What jobs have you had? Where do you live?
[Age]Thirty five and a half. I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I grew up in Brazil, England, Philippines, Peru, Bahrain, Hong Kong, USA, Cuba, and Germany. And my home now is in Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong everyone does a bit of everything so the borders defining one’s profession are quite blurred. I shoot, edit, production design, compose but I guess I primarily write and direct. I have also been a professional windsurfer, an engineer at a pineapple factory, a marketing executive for a car manufacturer, a professor of business, a helicopter pilot, and an EMT.
What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?
I hate to admit it but I fall into that gaggle of directors who picked up a super-8 camera when they were eleven and fell in love with the process of making movies. I also sculpt. And I spend a lot of time trying to make gadgets. Unfortunately, most of them fail.
How did you learn about filmmaking? Did you go to film school?
I didn’t go to film school opting instead to learn the ropes by being a PA during my summer holidays. After graduating from university, I moved back to Hong Kong and got a job at Golden Harvest Studios. From there, I went to work for NBC and CNBC Asia.
How did you finance your own film?
“One Last Dance” was financed by Singapore-based Mediacorp Raintree Studios with additional capital coming from a couple of pre-sells – GaGa bought Japan and A-Films bought Benelux – Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg – as well as France. GaGa and A-Films were introduced to the project by Cinetic Media.
Where did the initial idea for your film come from?
I wrote the screenplay over ten years ago. Back then remnants of my college education still found there way into my thoughts. One specific idea that often came to me was the concept of causation. Primarily the way Hume and Kant talked about it. I was floored by how our relationship with reality was so dependant on our ability to link cause and effect. I decided to write a movie that played with this.
Another factor at play was my desire to write a script that combined Eastern and Western sensibilities. I decided if I were able to blur the lines between different film genres I would then be able to build a platform on which to attempt this cultural fusion.
What are your biggest creative influences?
At the risk of sounding horribly pretentious – Samuel Beckett, Borges, New Scientist, American Scientist, and Scientific American.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making the movie?
I insisted on making the movie in Cantonese. Unfortunately, the Hong Kong film industry had just collapsed and anything coming out of the territory that wasn’t Wong Kar Wai, Johnny To, or Jackie Chan was considered poison. The fact that I speak only a mouthful of Cantonese didn’t help matters any.
Tell us about the moment you found out that you were accepted into Sundance?
I was actually in Singapore working overnight re-editing some scenes of the movie. I checked my e-mail and there was a message from Sundance asking me either to call or give them my number. I phoned and spoke to Trevor.
What do you hope to get out of the festival, what are your own goals for the experience?
I hope people enjoy the film. I want to be able to leave Park City knowing those who saw “One Last Dance” had fun watching it. That’s it. No joke.
What is your definition of independent film?
A true indie is a movie made by a motley crew of filmmakers armed with nothing more than a script, a camera, passion, and a lot of peanut butter sandwiches.
What are a few other films you are hoping to see and Sundance and why?
In no particular order –
“Wordplay,” “Black Gold,” “13 Tzameti,” “Right at Your Door,” “Wristcutters – A Love Story,” “An Unreasonable Man,” “Iraq in Fragments,” “The World According to Sesame Street,” “TV Junkie,” “Flannel Pajamas,” “The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros,” “Eve and The Fire Horse,” “The House of Sand” and “Little Red Flowers” and “No. 2.”
They all sound interesting. Some have particular value to me either because I lived where they were shot or they hit a chord with my own sensibilities.
Who are a few people that you would you most like to meet at Sundance?
Tom Stoppard. And Monica.
If you were given $10 million to be used for moviemaking, how would you spend it?
Take four to make another two features and use the rest to fund Cliff, Trey, and Dan. Three amazingly talented filmmakers who I am certain, if given the chance, would make great movies.
What are some of your favorite films, and why? What is your top ten list for 2005?
I’m stumped. I like so many different films for so many different reasons.
What are one or two of your New Years resolutions?
Learn el Silbo Gomero.
If you took President Bush’s job, who would you hire/fire and why?
Constitutional constraints prevent me from becoming President, but I’d take this opportunity to put Jerry Brown in the White House and have him deal with cleaning shop.