A Conversation with David Arquette and Finn Taylor of "Dream with the Fishes", Part I
by John Bernstein
David Arquette is trouble. Just ask him. At 24, the youngest member of
"Clan Arquette" is stirring things up on-screen, and occasionally off.
Arquette will soon star opposite Stanley Tucci in "Life During Wartime",
and will reprise his role as Deputy Dewey Riley in "Scream Again". Now,
the busy actor can be seen as Terry, a troubled young soul searching for
a way out of a meaningless life in "Dream with the Fishes".
A dark and funny seventies-esque buddy pic (which Arquette also
co-produces), the film marks the directorial debut of Finn Taylor.
Best-known as a screenwriter (and for his work with the San Francisco
theater company Intersection For The Arts), Taylor sees his
partly-autobiographical tale as an affirmation of life and rebirth. As
"Dream with the Fishes" makes its way across the country's crowded movie
market place, the affable filmmaker and easygoing, colorfully
retro-garbed actor kicked-back with indieWIRE to chat about voyeurism,
insecurity, and all things indie.
indieWIRE: Sundance '97 must have been like every first-time director's
dream scenario, right? Paramount, Goldwyn, October, First Look, and Live
Entertainment were all after "Dream with the Fishes", and Paramount
actually offered you more money than Sony did.
Finn Taylor: Actually, there were more companies than that.
David Arquette: It was a feeding frenzy!
iW: Did they feed off each other? Did that interest drive the bids up?
Taylor: Yes, and the funny thing is I was the cautious one. We had a
screening at the library, and I knew Roger Ebert and some other major
critics were going to be there. I was worried that, for whatever reason,
some of these critics might walk out during the screening and that would
kill my chances of getting a deal. So, I decided to make a handshake
deal for the domestic rights just before the screening. During the
screening, people kept coming up to me, tapping me on the shoulder, and
upping the bids because the laughs were so big. But, I had already made
the deal by that point, and I stuck with it.
The whole experience was crazy. The first time I went to Sundance, I saw
some films, went to some parties, and taught myself to ski. It was very
relaxed. Not this time. It was an even more intense experience than
making the film was. I slept less than two hours a night. We had
midnight screenings just for executives. I lived on the telephone. I
spent full days in restaurants doing business, but only would have a
glass of orange juice the whole time. I probably lost 10 pounds at
Sundance. One time, we were in a hotel lobby with 3 or 4 different
companies at once, and I kept running back and forth from table to
table, taking the different bids. I felt really rude.
iW: But even with that feeding frenzy atmosphere, there really didn't
seem to be very much buzz over the film with Sundance audiences, did
Taylor: According to Geoff Gilmore [Sundance Festival Director], Sundance
has changed a lot over the last couple of years. He thought he was
giving us a primo spot so that buzz could build. He scheduled our first
screening on the first Saturday night of the festival, but unfortunately
a lot of people were at the Golden Globes that night. Our second
screening was at ten in the morning at the Yarrow 2. It seemed like the
only people who turned out for that screening were the film buyers.
There was buzz going on with the buyers, but not with the rest of the
Sundance crowd. I think that changed at the Sunday screening at the
library. It was way-oversold, and afterwards a lot of people came up and
said they thought the film was the best thing they saw at Sundance, but
unfortunately, that was the very last day of the festival.
iW: David, you were at Sundance twice before--last year with JOHNS, and
in 1995 with FALL TIME. What's your take on the festival?
Arquette: I love Sundance. I feel right at home there.
iW: What do you like about it? The films? The parties?
Arquette: Yeah, I guess went to some parties, but I really didn't indulge in
the films. I have a weird opinion about films.
iW: What do you mean?
Arquette: I sort of have this "film thing." When I'm acting, I just don't like
to see actors. Other actors rub off on me and influence my acting.
Frankly, I'd rather just watch people. I get more from watching people
in movie theaters than actually watching the movies. I'm also really
into shows like "Cops". That show is actually great research for me. I
don't know, I guess it's weird. But as for Sundance--well, it was a
iW: Finn, screening "Dream with the Fishes" at the San Francisco Film
Festival must have been great, since that's where you shot the film.
Taylor: Yeah, David was there, too. It was really nice to come home. We also
had a great sold-out screening at my favorite theater in the
country--the Castro Theater. San Francisco audiences can be tough. They
have a certain snob factor, but they really embraced the film. The
response we got was really wonderful. As you make a film, you think what
you're doing is funny, but you never know. You just have to rely on your
sense of humor. But when you see your film with a big audience and the
laughter is really huge, it's an amazing feeling.
iW: What role do film festivals other than Sundance play in the life of
a film like this one?
Taylor: Well, word-of-mouth can be a very strong pull for a film. When you
play a festival, you usually get the core group of film-goers for that
city. They in turn, can spread the message about your film. That's very
valuable for an independent film. Beyond my film, festivals obviously
give you a chance to see films you're not going to see
otherwise--documentaries, foreign films, and other works that are never
going to get distributed and aren't going to make it to market. Sundance
has become so popular that it is really hard to get a film in there
anymore. I think that because of that, the other festivals are going to
become more important.
John Bernstein's conversation with Finn Taylor and David Arquette continues.