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7 Questions with Rick Alverson, Director of ‘Entertainment’

7 Questions with Rick Alverson, Director of 'Entertainment'

Uncompromising, complex and unexpected are the adjectives that best describe Rick Alverson’s films. His vision is not influenced by trends or the need to simplistically label the stories he wants to tell. Instead, Alverson makes sharp observations about modern society via his characters and challenge us to experience the bold and provocative ideas he is exploring.  

His latest work, “Entertainment,” starring Gregg Turkington, John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan and Michael Cera , premiered in Los Angeles as August as part of NEXT FEST. The film was followed by a musical performance from Sharon Van Etten.

Entertainment” opens in L.A. and NYC on November 13th

Here are our 7 questions with filmmaker Rick Alverson.

Films that play in NEXT FEST are characterized by their wildly inventive approach to storytelling. What would you say is your personal approach to storytelling?

Rick Alverson: I’ve never been very interested in literary narrative in movies, it always seems an obligatory trait and the least interesting of all the things film can do. It forces us to look through the thing instead of at it, it teaches us to ignore our senses and look for meaning outside the immediate world of our experience. That isn’t where it’s found. I like to think traditional narrative can be subverted by an experiential narrative, by an immersion in the temporal event of the film and a a play with our expectations of that.

As a filmmaker working on the digital age, what are some of the major challenges you have experienced that you think filmmakers before you didn’t have to confront?

Rick Alverson: First and foremost it would be the noise of culture and information, that glut of self that we’re constantly engineering today, the personal terms we fortify in every digital interaction. Discovery is no longer accidental, it’s rarely even discovery any longer. It’s mostly a shoring up of the stuff of self now. That’s a new and real obstacle to anything but the most conventional craft.

Do you think theatrical distribution is still the ultimate goal for filmmakers today? After all, cinema was meant to be experienced on the big screen right?

Rick Alverson: It’s still a validation of the merit of the thing. The economics always necessitated an editorial or curatorial voice, which isn’t a bad thing. I think we all, at times, feel a little lost and would prefer something other than algorithms steering our choices. That having been said, I grew up watching movies on television and computer screens. They affected me just as powerfully in the small private space. I think it’s largely a question of receptivity.

What do you think the role of festivals like Sundance in Park City or NEXT FEST is in terms of helping filmmakers reach their audience?

Rick Alverson: They increasingly take on the responsibility of that absent editorial voice. It’s a heavy burden, I imagine, but one that can be essential, particularly when it’s independent of solely commercial interests. There is something like a kind of cultural stewardship that is at work in festival programming. I have the view that we all, myself included, choose increasingly limited and limiting experiences if left entirely to our own volition, we see it everyday, especially in a world where services constantly “satisfy” the individual with refractions of themselves.

What do you think is a crucial quality filmmakers must have today to survive all the obstacles and get their films made and seen?

Rick Alverson: Curiosity and a healthy amount of desperation.

What are your thoughts on the musical act or speaker that will accompany your film? How do you think this extra feature will enhance the audience’s experience?

Rick Alverson: I think it’s a reminder how an experience can be framed or reframed by the events before and after it. I like the idea of the occasion that it creates and how it differs from the environment of our homes. Excited to see Sharon Van Etten again.

What are some films that you’ve loved this year so far or that you are excited to see when they come out?

Rick Alverson: “Heaven Knows What” by Josh and Benny Safdie.

“Entertainment” opens in L.A. and NYC on November 13th

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