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LAFF '08 INTERVIEW | "Finishing Heaven" Director Mark Mann, "Big City Heart" Director Ben Rodkin, an

By Indiewire | Indiewire June 25, 2008 at 4:00AM

[EDITOR'S NOTE: indieWIRE is profiling the Narrative and Documentary Competition filmmakers who are screening their films at the Los Angeles Film Festival as world premieres.]
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[EDITOR'S NOTE: indieWIRE is profiling the Narrative and Documentary Competition filmmakers who are screening their films at the Los Angeles Film Festival as world premieres.]

In this installment spotlighting emerging filmmakers from the Los Angeles Film Festival, indieWIRE received remarks from "Finishing Heaven" director Mark Mann, about his documentary that focuses on Robert Feinberg and Ruby Lynn Renyner 's quest to finish Feinberg's 1970 student film, Ben Rodkin, whose narrative film, "Big City Heart" is about an a recent parloee in industrial Los Angeles, and Lori Petty, director of "The Poker House," about a teenager girl facing grim circumstances.

Finishing Heaven

What initially attracted you to filmmaking?

My desire to make films stemmed from a desire to communicate, to be understood. Sometimes the thoughts get so complicated that you need more than just words to describe them. Filmmaking is, to me, the only language vast enough to express a state of mind, and to follow that state of mind through all its transitions and evolutions over the passage of time.

What was the inspiration for this film?

I think, at its core, this film was inspired by my desire to help people I found inspiring to do something that was important to them.

Also, in terms of personal challenges, the chance to help Robert and Ruby finish their film, after all their years of trying, and simultaneously direct a documentary about their process was the most enticing one I could imagine.

Please elaborate on your approach to making the film...

The process of making "Finishing Heaven" was dictated by the various stages of finishing Robert and Ruby's film. Basically, as a need arose to them and their film, a documentary shoot was organized around solving the problem and then used as a launching pad for digging deeper into exploring their lives.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in making the film?

The biggest challenge of making the film was navigating the emotional rollercoasters of the artistic process, both Robert and Ruby's as well as those of the documentary team. The act of making a film is an argument that must be resolved. And the act of making a film about people making a film creates a level of hysteria that can only be considered madness.


What are your goals for the Los Angeles Film Festival?

I am most excited to meet the other filmmakers. This is my first festival as a feature film director and I'm psyched to connect with other people who are living the same dream as me. And to present Robert and Ruby to the world.


Big City Heart

What initially attracted you to filmmaking?

I have a fine arts background. I first made films and videos that were mostly gallery-based, and fairly conceptual. I then very gradually developed a desire to tell stories dramatically, and started cultivating those skills by writing a lot, and working with actors, and doing some theater.

What was the inspiration for this film?

I'm not exactly sure where "Big City Heart" came from, in terms of story. Like a lot of my work, the idea began with a single image, more an aesthetic pursuit than anything else.

I was spending a lot of time at the horse races, which is a place that is so rich with interesting compositions, and sounds, and pretty extreme personalities, and out of that I began writing a story. It was sort of reverse engineering.

Please elaborate on your approach to making the film...

I wanted to shoot on film, as opposed to video, and began to embrace the prohibitive costs/limitations of doing so. So we raised a tiny budget, and everyone really responded to the script, and it was fairly easy to get very talented people to work for nothing or much less than they are worth, and to garner film stock donations, and equipment donations, and free locations, etc.

We shot the whole film in twelve days, which was possible because a) We had very capable actors and an ingenious DP/crew, and b) We shot the whole film hand-held, with almost no lights.

This was followed by seven months of sound design and post production, which can to a close very recently.

In the end, The whole film cost less than a decent Honda.

But, the technique was freeing for both cast and crew. We could work quickly, and instinctually, and use 360 degrees of the space.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in making the film?

Every challenge was a result of dealing with prohibitive costs. Making a movie in Los Angeles on pennies, and finishing it, is completely miraculous.

What are your goals for the Los Angeles Film Festival?

To be seen, to cause dialogue, to challenge, to entertain.


A scene from Lori Petty's "The Poker House." Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Film Festival.


The Poker House

What initially attracted you to filmmaking?

When I was about six years old, I saw the Jackson 5 cartoon and decided that I wanted to live in the TV.

What was the inspiration for this film?

The film is based on a day in my life when I was 14 years old. It's about persevering, overcoming, and loving your way through what could kill ya, but doesn't have to.

Please elaborate on your approach to making the film...

I shot the film on 35mm in 20 days with a cast of 44 and a crew of underpaid Chicagoans. We had a tornado and some hail, the camera broke one day and as a vegan, I survived on vitamins and Guinness. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in making the film?

My only challenges were time and money. Next time, I'm adding some zero's to the check.

What are your goals for the Los Angeles Film Festival?

To win, baby!

Get the latest from the Los Angeles Film Festival in indieWIRE's special section.

This article is related to: Features, Interviews





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