Paul Dinello‘s “Strangers with Candy” had its origins as a television series on Comedy Central. Starring Amy Sedaris, the series and movie (a prequel to the television show) is a comedy about a 47 year-old ex-junkie and con who returns home after 32 years as a runaway and enrolls in high school after she discovers that her father had slipped into a coma after skipping home. She hopes that by picking up where she left off, her father will return to lucidity. The film had its debut at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival where it was picked up by Warner Independent Pictures, only to drop it soon after. ThinkFilm later acquired “Strangers with Candy” and began rolling the film out on screens Wednesday. Dinello succinclty discussed with iW about his background, the film, and its windy road to theatrical release.
Please tell us a bit about your background…
[I am a] writer/director/occasional actor and vegetable gardener. I grew up on the West side of Chicago, [and I now] live in NYC and Upstate NY but not simultaneously.
What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker? What other creative outlets do you explore?
It was the best and most obvious way to both see my ideas through and maintain some control. I play guitar and of course my vegetable garden
How did you learn about filmmaking?
I learned about filmmaking from my uncle (Dan Dinello) who is an independent filmmaker in Chicago. He also teaches at Columbia College.
Where did the initial idea for your film come from?
It was based on our TV show, “Strangers With Candy.”
What are your biggest creative influences?
Filmmakers: Buster Keaton, Phillip Jenuet, Terry Gilliam, Fellini.
Photographers, Arbus and Mary Ellen Mark.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making and securing distribution for the movie?
Developing the film was simple. The money was in place before I started on the script. Of course after I finished the script all the money had vanished. After some initial panic World Wide Pants (David Letterman) stepped up at the last minute and funded the film.
Because I was lucky enough to get into Sundance distribution was easy because Warner Independent [Pictures] picked up the film, [but] five months later they dropped out for mysterious reasons. After much more initial panic ThinkFilm picked up the film. I guess it just goes to show you, it’s never easy getting an independent film made and distributed — even when it’s easy.
What are some of your all-time favorite films, and why? What are some of your recent favorite films?
“The General,” “Nights of Cabiria,” “The Graduate,” “Midnight Cowboy,” “Brazil,” “Delicatessen,” “Dead Man.”
What are your interests outside of film?
How do you define success as a filmmaker, and what are your personal goals as a filmmaker?
Any filmmaker who has translated some personal vision into a film that actually gets shot and distributed is wildly successful. Congratulations! Anything after that is gravy.