“Tig” follows comedian Tig Notaro, who famously announced in front of a stunned audience back in 2012, “Good evening, I have cancer. Everyone having a good time? I have cancer.” In just 30 minutes, Notaro not only revealed her grave prognosis, she delivered the news with a disarming mixture of humor and vulnerability. The set became a media sensation and critical smash overnight and, as Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York’s new documentary reveals, helped push the beloved comedian past a series of devastating setbacks. Having just recovered from a life-threatening infection and still in mourning over her mother’s sudden passing, Notaro’s subsequent discovery of bilateral breast cancer left her no choice but to turn profound pain into an ongoing punch line, both on and off the stage. The result is an alternately poignant and playful window into a comedian’s process turning her worst fears and anxieties into pure comic gold. [Synopsis courtesy of Sundance Institute.]
What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?
Tig is a film about the very funny and lovely Tig Notaro.
Now what’s it REALLY about?
Tell us briefly about yourself.
Biggest challenge in completing this film?
Keeping up with Tig and knowing when to stop filming! Tig lives an incredibly rich and varied life and we were completely enamored by both her professional and personal lives and wanted to spend as much time documenting her journey as possible. We had our first production meeting with her on a Saturday in early 2013 to talk about the possibility of making a documentary, and we decided to dive right in and began shooting two days later at a photoshoot she had scheduled with Elle Magazine. From that point forward, we were shooting multiple days a week with Tig as she bounced all around Los Angeles working on various productions and developing new stand-up material.
What do you want Sundance audience to take away from your film?
Tig represents everything that is tragic and wonderful about the human experience and condition. Working alongside her was and is an inspiration to confront challenges in new and interesting ways and to find the truth in the difficult times.
Any films inspire you?
“Harlan County, USA,” “Paris Is Burning,” “Fast Food Women,” “Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien,” “Hands on a Hard Body: The Documentary,” “Sweetgrass,” “Detropia,” “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present.”
Ashley: I’m developing a mix of fiction, non-fiction, and hybrid projects. I’m interested in work that embodies moving storytelling techniques and powerful stories about an abundant array of issues and points of view. I’m currently making So Help You God, a cross-platform documentary about six teenagers from her hometown in rural Kentucky who are in prison for murder; and developing a feature length documentary that examines a cultural history of the American hillbilly icon. I’m thinking about content that highlights the culture and traditions of Appalachia and Appalachian American people as well as social issue media projects that go beyond traditional screens and across media platforms, from video games, social networks, and apps. I’m intrigued by the interactive documentary movement and exploring the relationship of audience as co-creator and collaborator.
What cameras did you shoot on?
We shot Tig’s key interview and the bulk of the vérité using the C300. For Tig’s anniversary show at Largo, we took a multi-cam approach and used four Sony’s F3s. We also used a slew of other cameras along the way, including Canon’s 60d, 5d and 7d.
Did you crowdfund?
If not, why?
While we considered crowdfunding as a method of fundraising, we did not need to because we were in the fortunate position to meet with a number of financiers and producers early on in our development who were as intrigued by Tig’s story as we were and who wanted to partner with us in making the film. We ultimately formalized a deal with Beachside Films, an independent film production company and the west coast affiliate of Big Beach Films (“Little Miss Sunshine,” “Our Idiot Brother,” “Safety Not Guaranteed”), who came on as financier, and also as our producing partner. We were so grateful to team up with an incredibly talented, capable, smart and kind group of producers to work alongside to execute our vision. Along the way, we also talked with so many fellow filmmakers who graciously offered their guidance and expertise to us as we navigated the process of financing our very first feature documentary. We were also fortunate and so grateful to receive a Catapult Film Fund grant early on in our development. This grant provides development funding to documentary filmmakers who have a compelling story to tell, have secured access to their story, and are ready to shoot and edit a piece for production fundraising purposes. This fund was vital to us because it enabled us to develop our reel and treatment to a point where we could talk seriously with financiers.
Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.