EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of a collection of interviews with the filmmakers from Outfest 2009's "Four In Focus" selection, which features work from four first time directors
We Are The Mods, directed by E.E. Cassidy
As described by the festival: "Naive high school student Sadie sees the world through her 35mm camera. When she becomes infatuated with eccentric mod chick Nico, Sadie finds inspiration in Nico's world and emerges as part of the mod scene, both documenting and embracing the subculture's natty fashion, vintage scooters and soul music. Writer-director E.E. Cassidy playfully pays homage to Antonioni and Godard, and sensitively captures complicated female friendship and budding identity in her unique debut feature film.."
Please introduce yourself...
Hello my name is E. E. Cassidy and my film is We Are the Mods. I grew up the youngest of five in a small town in California called Reedley, Fruit Basket of the World. I live in Echo Park with my pregnant wife and two pit bulls. I own two vintage scooters, a 1960 series II Lambretta and Vespa P200.
How did you become interested in filmmaking? How has this interest evolved throughout your career?
I studied photography in High School at the University of California, Santa Cruz where I made a documentary for my senior thesis. During my undergraduate life I experimented with many things; sex, drugs, and club life. Many of my pre conceived notions about who I was and what I planned to do with my life imploded and I realized for the first time I could do anything I wanted. I was a DJ at the college radio station and I loved photography and wanted to put them together. I wanted to make films, well really, music videos. After graduation, I moved to New York City, worked in film production and made several short films. I decided to apply to graduate school and moved to Los Angeles. I attended the directing program at The American Film Institute. I then went on to produce and direct in television while I continued to write and make short films.
How the idea for your film come about? What were you trying to express with it?
As soon as I moved back to California and began film school, I bought and restored a Lambretta scooter and spent most of my time at Brit Pop and Mod Soul dance clubs. Los Angeles has always had a lot of anglophiles and kids who embrace the morphing of mod-influenced decades. There are the brit pop mods of the mid to late 90’s & 00’s who look back at the mod revival of the 80’s that is looking back at the original mods from the 60’s. Revisiting this celebratory scene inspired me to make this film.
While writing, I realized that I could create tension by setting a story in a subculture that is quite homophobic, yet favors an androgynous look and style. I believed this conflicted air would make for a kind of dissidence we haven’t seen in teen films before.
I have always loved the teen film genre but really wanted my film to be authentic in its depiction of how kids are. Some ways of getting at this reality was not just by being accurate with the mod scene but by having actors who are actually in High School. I also wanted to make a film about the pursuit of pleasure and how this can form one’s identity as an artist. I was interested in depicting the validation one feels by following one’s passion. Living the life of an artist really is a revolutionary act in the United States.
What were the biggest challenges? Artistically? Financially?
I think the only way you can make a film like the way we made We Are the Mods is to act naïve about the process or at least be in denial.
If I had analyzed all the challenges that one faces trying to make a feature film, I wouldn’t have made the film. Making a good film is challenging, but so is making a bad film. You just have to find a way to do it.
What were some of your influences?
Some of my film influences, like Antonioni’s Blow-Up and William Klein’s Qui est-vous, Polly Maggio?, are directly referenced in the film. I love Le Corbusier’s la villa savoye and I find designer/artists, Verner Panton and Vasarely, extremely inspirational. Also intergal to my process is Soul, R&B, 60’s ska music plus bands like the Small Faces, and the Jam. For me, these films, artists, and music all fall under the mod aesthetic umbrella.
But when it comes to story, cult films are a big influence, especially one’s that deal with teen angst such as Quadrophenia, Kes, Penelope Pherris’ Suburbia, and the Outsiders. I think I’ve seen almost every teen angst film ever made.
What do you feel are some significant challenges that face filmmakers today? Specifically those working with LGBT content?
Money is the biggest challenge facing any indie filmmaker today. I made my film with no real budget. Without the generous help of family, friends, and strangers it wouldn’t have been made. I am not sure you can repeat such an endeavor without real monetary support. I think I’ve used all my favors up.
In regards to gay content, that is a tough one. I’ve had LGBT programmers say that my film is not gay enough. I am not quite sure what that means because I made a film that is true to my perspective and last time I checked I was gay. I guess the challenge is not getting pigeon holed either way, as too gay or not gay enough and make film that you want to see and hopefully others will too.
What are you most looking forward to at Outfest?
The program, “The Young and Evil”, a collection of short films curated by a group of artists.
And of course, my screening at the DGA theater. We shot on super 16 but finished on hdcam and this screening will be the first time we exhibit the hdcam version