In his documentary, "Alice Neel" – available in its entirety at the bottom of this page courtesy of SnagFilms – filmmaker Andrew Neel chronicles the life of artist Alice Neel.
Director: Andrew Neel
Subject: Alice Neel
The full film, "Alice Neel" is available free on SnagFilms (and at the end of this article). This interview with Andrew is part of a series of SnagFilm filmmaker profiles that will be featured weekly on Indiewire.
The really short synopsis of the film?
It's a biographical film about the life and art of Alice Neel.
Okay, a little bit more?
Its about being an artist and how it affects those around you.
Tell us about your background? Why did you want to make movies?
I saw M by Fritz Lang in a film class in college and decided filmmaking was what I wanted to do. I was a philosophy major and I took a lot of photos…so i decided with filmmaking I could bring the two together. Also I have a lot of 'observations' about stuff…and I like to share those observations…so I guess film is also a good medium for that…Sort of like HEY LOOK AT THIS with moving images. In its most interesting form film is an aggressive medium. You can force people to confront themselves and their conceptions about the world in a very direct way…and that's exciting.
What inspired you to make this movie?
Alice and her life.
What were the big challenges in developing and producing the project?
Biography. The medium itself. Its boring in many ways…so you need to give it something more…I was always fighting with myself about the film. Here is a transcript of what I often say before the film screens:
The film was intended not as a comprehensive art-historical or biographical narrative, but instead as a highly subjective investigation of the life, and subsequently the wake (as in the wake of a boat) left by this enigmatic painter. (i didnt actually read this one – i read the following quote)
The biographical documentary genre with all of its dry conventions was not a cinematic style for which I had a great deal of reverence. For that reason making this film was a painful creative exercise fraught with my own violent attempts to subvert the form to which I inevitably needed to adhere.
What do you think SnagFilms audiences will respond to most in your movie?
Alice is inspirational…so you cant help but root for her. And hey…she wins in the end (along with a lot of fucked up baggage). Thats the most anyone can hope for…Being an artist is extremely rigorous and difficult. I think Alice's story can be comforting and inspiring for a lot of artists…and so it should be. Artists can use a little bit of good news once in a while…because most of it is rejection, sacrifice, and mental warfare…
Working on any future projects?
I just finished my first feature film that premiered at SXSW. It's called "King Kelly." Im shooting another fictional film summer / fall.