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TIFF Women Directors: Meet Laura Nix – ‘The Yes Men Are Revolting’

TIFF Women Directors: Meet Laura Nix - 'The Yes Men Are Revolting'

Laura Nix is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles.
She has over seventy production
credits and has directed the feature
film The Politics of Fur (2002) and two
feature documentaries, The Light in
Her Eyes
(2011) and The Yes Men Are
Revolting
(2014). 

Revolting is the sequel to the hit 2003 documentary The Yes Men, and it follows activist-pranksters Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonnano as they pull the rug out from under mega-corporations, government officials and a complacent media in a series of outrageous stunts designed to draw awareness to the issue of climate change. (TIFF official site)

The Yes Men Are Revolting will play at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 5, 7, and 12.
                
WAH: Please give us your description of the film playing.

LN: The Yes Men Are Revolting is about these two guys, Mike and Andy [who comprise the Yes Men], who have collaborated for almost 20 years to fight injustice through their very own unique form of activism – they impersonate people at business and government events to make a political point. In this film, the third documentary about the Yes Men, they find themselves confronting the biggest challenge the planet has faced, global warming, while their partnership is also going through a huge shift.

WAH: What drew you to this story?

LN: I’ve known the Yes Men for a long time, and on this film I wanted to pull the curtain back farther, and not be restricted to what the public already knows about them. The previous two films focused on the stunts, which are amazing. But I also wanted to give the audience a sense about who these guys are, where they came from, and why it became challenging for them to keep pulling off stunts after nearly two decades. I think their ability to get back on track in spite of the obstacles can be inspiring to anyone who wants to see change in the world.

WAH: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

LN: All the usual challenges of making an independent documentary were true for this one: raising money, keeping the project on track over a number of years. But for me, personally, the challenge was to balance reason with bravado. The Yes Men did have ideas sometimes that were best left in the brainstorm pile (like wearing Rambo outfits for their trip to Uganda – long story). But it was also not wise to always say, “No, that’s crazy” – I had to try to be as fearless as they are.

In the midst of action, I was always ready to think, It’s over, this is never going to fly. We’re going to get kicked out of here, or worse, spend the night in jail. But the Yes Men always have confidence that it will work; they’ve done it dozens of times. I had to learn to have faith and jump off the cliff.

WAH: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theatre?

LN: I hope people will leave the theater believing that whatever little bit they can do to help change our world will make a difference – what matters is speaking up. The powers that be want us to think we don’t have that strength, and whatever we do won’t have an impact. In this film, the Yes Men even begin to question their own effectiveness. But by the end, they realize that continuing the fight is what matters, and joining up with other people is what gives you the energy to keep going. That’s what I hope the audience feels too.

WAH: What advice do you have for other female directors?

LN: It’s not that different from advice I would give any director, which is to work with people you believe in. From production assistants to executive producers, you need to have a team that has faith in you, and you need to have faith in them. I also think you have to finish what you start. Maybe that feature needs to become a short, but you need to finish it. I’ll add two tips: B12 vitamins and sunscreen.

WAH: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?

LN: I’m not sure there’s a particular perception to challenge. But I will say that the work I’ve made in my career has been driven by what I get obsessed about, and it’s a wide path. My first feature was a fictional comedic melodrama, my most recent documentary was about a Qur’an school for girls in Syria, and this one is about activism and climate change. My next documentary will be about middle-aged people discovering ballroom dancing.

I do think it’s important to claim your definition of the word success. For me that’s getting to spend time on a subject and in a world that I find fascinating. I don’t think there’s a greater pleasure.

WAH: How did you get your film funded?

LN: Our film, like many independent docs these days, is a hybrid of funding. We raised money on Kickstarter, made a few pre-sales, and received a number of grants from foundations like the Bertha Foundation, BritDoc, the Danish Film Institute, and the Sundance Documentary Fund. We also received a few significant donations from passionate individuals who believed in the project.

WAH: Name your favorite women directed film and why.

LN: I always find this to be a tough question. Today, it would be a combination of a film made by Ulrike Ottinger and Kim Longinotto.

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