Writer/director Mike White‘s drama “Year of the Dog” centers on happy-go-lucky secretary Peggy who lives with her beloved dog. Pencil, however, unexpectedly dies and Peggy must embark on a journey of personal transformation… White is a veteran actor, writer and producer, winning best screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards in 2003 for “The Good Girl.” He also won a Spirit Award for “Chuck & Buck” in 2001 for Best Feature for under $500,000 (shared with director Miguel Arteta and producer Matthew Greenfield), and also won the Best Male Performance prize for “Chuck & Buck” at the 2000 Deauville Film Festival. “Year of the Dog” is White’s first directorial effort, and in this interview with iW, he succinctly shares with us his thoughts on bringing the project together and his admiration for Paramount’s Brad Grey… Paramount Vantage releases “Year of the Dog” in limited release beginning Friday, April 13.
What attracted you to filmmaking, and how has that interest evolved during your career?
I came to LA from college writing screenplays. I always wanted to be a writer but I didn’t know if I was going to be in this industry. I was initially going to NY but the weather was too cold so I came back to LA.
Are there other aspects of filmmaking that you would still like to explore?
On the creative side I’d like to explore acting and producing, and on the industry side I’d like to explore being a boom operator and grip.
Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film, including your influences as well as your overall goals for the projects…
Brad Grey is a mentor and supporter and when the script headed over to Paramount other people were hesitant… But Brad Grey said let’s do it.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing “Year of the Dog?”
The biggest challenges were the post process, final mixing of the movie and sound design which are all areas I never worked on before. These areas took a lot of time and energy.
How did the financing and casting for the film come together?
This all came together because Brad Grey loved the script… We formed a relationship after “Nacho Libre” and he is a great mentor and supporter.
Who are some of the creative influences that have had the biggest impact on you?
Woody Allen, Hal Ashby, Jim Brooks, Coen Brothers and Kristen Cavelleri
What other genres or stories would you like to explore as a filmmaker?
Thriller or conspiracy theory projects.
What is your definition of “independent film,” and has that changed at all since you first started working?
To me Indie Films are more about idiosyncratic as opposed to a polished product that works with all quadrants… People assume Indies relate to budgets but it’s the spirit of the film that describes Indies.
What are some of you all-time favorite films, and what are some of your recent favorite films?
My all time favorite movies are “Harold and Maud,” “Tootsie” and “Annie Hall.” “Tootsie” is a classic and “Annie” is a comedy with inventive film making, very personal. I like “Harold and Maud” because the movie blends humor, the point-of-view is original and it’s a great script.
What are your interests outside of film?
I’m interested in racket sports, water sports and basketball. I like to hike. My favorite reality TV shows are “The Hills” and “Survivor.”
What general advice would you impart to emerging filmmakers?
My advice to emerging filmmakers is to make things you are the most passionate about. If you are successful making what you love then that’s success.
Please share achievement from your career you are most proud of so far…
I am most proud of being able to appeal to so many different people. I am proud of my diverse resume and success in different movies, and I’m proud of all the kids we worked with in “School of Rock.”