Director Jeremiah Zagar’s doc “In a Dream” is described as a “a stunning portrait of love and betrayal and the strength of family bonds.” a son sets out to make a portrait of his eccentric father but instead ends up exposing the secrets of his entire family. Fixtures in the South Philadelphia art scene, artist Isaiah Zagar and his muse and gallerist wife Julia have enlivened the city with their stunning work for decades. Their home and other properties around the city are covered in elaborate mosaics of tile and mirror fragments, documenting Isaiah’s love for Julia and for his two sons, Zeke and filmmaker Jeremiah. But the fantasy world Isaiah constructs through his murals cannot completely hide the darker reality that threatens his relationship, sanity, and family… ”
“In a Dream” opens Friday, April 10 in New York City at Cinema Village from IndiePix and International Film Circuit in association with HBO Documentary Films. The film goes on to open on April 17 in San Francisco at The Roxie Theater and in Philadelphia at the Landmark Ritz at the Bourse; and on April 24 in Los Angeles at Laemmle’s Music Hall followed by more cities. The film will premiere on the HBO service in the summer.
Introduce yourself and share what initially attracted you to filmmaking and how that interest evolved during your career…
My name is Jeremiah Zagar. I was born in South Philadelphia in 1981. The first film I saw in the theater was Mel Brooks’ “Life Stinks.” I loved it and have subsequently loved nearly every movie I’ve seen in a theater since.
As a child “the movies” were my refuge and my religion. And they still are. At 15, I got my first job in film as a telemarketer in the mail order section of TLA Video’s gay porn division. They fired me after two weeks because I misspelled one too many customers names due to my flagrant dyslexia. It was not all for naught, because they left me with a free unlimited membership to TLA. That summer I watched at least three movies a night. Films by the greatest directors, one by one until I’d seen them all. It was heaven.
How did “In A Dream” come about?
The initial idea for “In A Dream” was my mother’s. She asked me to film my father and because I trust her more then anyone, I did. Seven years later we finished the film and now a year after that, it’*s finally coming out thanks to IndiePix, International Film Circuit and HBO.
Talk about your approach to making the film…
Stylistically, the intent of “In A Dream” was to make a documentary that could marry hyperreal verite digital filmmaking with the more surreal beauty of 35mm lyrical recreations. It took years in the editing room to get the balance right, but I think we eventually figured it out. The film, like my father’s work, is in many ways a mosaic of different visual formats in time. It’s my belief that the way in which we see the world is influenced more and more by the different cameras the media uses to capture the world. In other words, we see the 1930s in black and white, the ’70s in saturated super-8, the ’80s in muddy Betacam and so on.
Whether we know it or not, our memories and dreams begin to assimilate these formats and translate them into a new vision of reality. “In A Dream” is in many ways an exploration of this idea.
What other genres or stories would like to explore as a filmmaker, and what is your next project?
There are so many projects we want to do now. The joy of making one film is the possibility of making another. My producer Jeremy Yaches and Executive Producers Ross Kauffman, Geralyn White Dreyfous and I are working on a documentary called “Wait For Me” about a young man who disappeared twenty years ago and the mother who waits for him still. Jeremy and I are also trying to go back to India where we made our first doc about the largest clinic and orphanage for untouchables in Delhi. We made that movie in college and it was 12 minutes. There’s a much larger story there, something epic and fascinating and now that we have one movie under our belt, we think we’re ready to tell the full story.
How do you define “independent film,” and has that changed at all since you first started working?
I think independent film is an idea more then anything. It’s a belief that one can make a film with friends and energy instead of millions of dollars and giant studios. And it’s happening more and more.
What are some of your all-time favorite and recent favorite films?
I love so many films, but some of the ones that have stuck with me most are Errol Morris’ “Mr. Death,” Lynne Ramsey’s “Ratcatcher,” Ken Loach’s “My Name is Joe” and Jonathan Caouette’s “Tarnation.”
What general advice would you give to upcoming filmmakers?
My advice for emerging filmmakers is stick with your movie until it’s right, whether it takes you one year or seven years. The most important thing is that you’re proud of what you’ve done and that you have made it as good as it can possibly be.