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Meet the 2014 Tribeca Filmmakers #26: Sheila Canavan and Michael Chandler Dig Deep into the Life of Gay Congressman Barney Frank in 'Compared to What? The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank'

By Ziyad Saadi | Indiewire April 15, 2014 at 11:56AM

Congressman Barney Frank was best known for his significant status as the first openly gay U.S. Congressman, but he was also known for his quick wit and sharp tongue. Infusing his political influence with his own unique personality, directors Sheila Canavan and Michael Chandler's documentary "Compared to What? The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank" manage to get some insight into the complexities behind this politically groundbreaking man.
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"Compared to What? The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank"
"Compared to What? The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank"

Congressman Barney Frank was best known for his significant status as the first openly gay U.S. Congressman, but he was also known for his quick wit and sharp tongue. Infusing his political influence with his own unique personality, directors Sheila Canavan and Michael Chandler's documentary "Compared to What? The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank" manage to get some insight into the complexities behind this politically groundbreaking man.

Tell us about yourselves. Sheila Canavan was born and raised in Boston. Mike Chandler was raised in Portland, Maine. Sheila produced, and Mike directed the award-winning "Knee Deep." Together, we directed and produced "Compared to What." "Compared to What" is Sheila's directorial debut. Mike has produced, written and directed numerous documentaries and edited features including "Amadeus," "Never Cry Wolf" and "Mishima." Sheila’s other film work includes "Yosemite: The Fate of Heaven" and "Waldo Salt: A Screenwriter’s Journey."

What was your biggest challenge in completing this project? Barney Frank has said that he “came out” to integrate his [personal and professional] lives. As filmmakers, we felt that it was important not to separate them again. Mr. Frank is a lion of the Congress and a man of historic importance but he is also a man very much in love with his husband Jim Ready. Striking the right balance was the greatest challenge.

What do you have in the works? Film narrative story of a young teenager obsessed with Finnish film director Aki Kaurismaki.

Did you crowdfund? If so, via which platform? And if not, why? No, but we wish that we had had the time. Filmmakers who have done successful Kickstarters advised us that you need 3 or 4 months almost full-time to devote to a campaign. We wanted to film Mr. Frank serving his last year in Congress and just had to dive in. We intend to do one soon with Kickstarter.

What camera did you shoot on? Sony EX3.

Did you go to film school? If so, which one? As an undergrad, Mike studied under experimental filmmaker Stan Lauder, director Michael Roemer and director/cinematographer Nick Doob in what was lovingly referred to as Yale’s “non-existent film department.” He got a Masters in Film & Communication at Stanford.

What films have inspired you? "Ordinary People," "Harlan County USA," "Taking Off" (Milos Forman), "Hoop Dreams," "A Single Man" (Tom Ford), "Fire on the Water" (Robert Hillman), "Nebraska," "Inside Job."

Indiewire invited Tribeca 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 2014 festival. Go HERE to read all the entries.

This article is related to: Meet the 2014 Tribeca Filmmakers , 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, Festivals





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