We asked that directors at SXSW: If there is one person in the world you could get to watch your film, who would it be and why? Some picked their filmmaking heroes, some picked people who are actually going be in Austin this week, some picked subjects from their documentaries, and some picked loved ones no longer with us. What started off as playful question resulted in some of the best insights we've gotten into this year's films and the directors who made them.
Musa Syeed, "A Stray": I hear President Obama will be at SXSW, so I’ll save him a ticket.
Simon Rumley, "Johnny Frank Garrett's Last Word": I have to say I think Megan Ellison has constantly produced some of the coolest and most intelligent films of the last few years and worked with some of the coolest directors so I'll go with her.
Joshua Locy, "Hunter Gatherer": It would be cool if Aki Kaurismaki watched "Hunter Gatherer." His films have been a big part of my life for quite some time now and they were a constant source of inspiration throughout the writing and filmmaking process. He gives me confidence that the visual language of film is powerful enough on it's own and that it's okay to find simple ways to tell your story.
Matt Johnson, "Operation Avalanche": Living: Oliver Stone because we stole basically everything in this movie from "JFK." Dead: Orson Welles because we stole basically everything in this movie from "F for Fake."
Marina Zenovich, "Fantastic Lies": The President of Duke University. He didn't want to be in "Fantastic Lies," but I assume he will watch it. Or maybe he won't.
Jesse Moss, "The Bandit": I’d like Burt Reynolds to watch the film. Fortunately, he's coming to our premiere at SXSW. I'd like [legendary stuntman] Hal Needham to watch the film, unfortunately he passed away in 2013. Hal's widow Ellyn told me that Hal hated documentaries, because he found them boring. After she told me that I set out to make a documentary that I thought Hal Needham would enjoy. He liked action comedies, and I think "The Bandit" is an action comedy. It's fast, funny and has a lot of heart. It's also a buddy movie - about Hal and Burt.
Clay Liford, "Slash": I make comedies that don't always read as comedies from the get go. As such, I hugely (and obviously) worship at the alter of Todd Solondz. Beyond that great, great man, I owe my entire comedic identity to both Albert Brooks and John Waters. I would instantly "joy-stroke-out" if any member of this holy trinity merely laid eyes upon my unworthy work.
Jamie Adams, "Black Mountain Poet": Immediately I'd want to say Woody Allen or Judd Apatow because I love those filmmakers and would ideally have a similar career, but it would probably be more productive for someone like The Duplass Brothers or Joe Swanberg to see it as they are the true champions of indie cinema right now.
Emma Rozanski, "Papagajka": Christine Vachon. For a long time I've been an admirer of her career and taste and what she has done for independent director-driven cinema and I'd love to work with her some day.
Alex Lehmann, "Asperger's Are Us": Mike Birbiglia. His comedy has a sweetness that is so genuine and he is a captivating storyteller. I'll never come close to being as funny as he is, but I want to tell stories the way he does.
Matt Ornstein, "Accidental Courtesy": President Obama, get at us please. I'll bring the Junior Mints.
John Carchietta, "Teenage Cocktail": Paul Thomas Anderson because for me he's probably the most consistently inspiring filmmaker working today and has unknowingly been my professor for quite some time now without giving me a single grade.
Don Coscarelli, "Phantasm - Remastered": Buster Keaton! In addition to being one of the screen's great actors of all time, Keaton was a genius filmmaker. The grand scale of some of his gags - from a locomotive plummeting off a bridge to an entire house wall falling on top of himself - have never been out done! I'd like to think Buster would enjoy some of the effects and gags in "Phantasm" and especially how we pulled them off.
Josh Bishop, "The Dwarvenaut": Well I think I’d like to show the film to someone who was one step away from giving up on their dreams or on life itself. I really think that Stefan’s story could help that person to maybe not throw in the towel so quickly.
Kate Trumbull-LaValle, Ovarian Psycos: There is not one person, but really a group of people that I hope get to see our film, and that's women who feel disenfranchised, disenchanted, or isolated. I hope the film reaches women who might not see themselves or their stories reflected accurately or honestly, the women who feel isolated or alone, women who are struggling with the traumas of violence , or women who are yearning to see something bold and radical, yet strangely ordinary and basic at the same time. I'm excited to see how our film, and the work of the Ovas, might contribute to the larger conversation about feminism, racial equality, and stretch and re-define our understanding of what gender equality is and means.
Lisa Robinson, "Claire in Motion": Jane Campion, she was always such an inspiration with the way she gets inside the minds of her characters. Seeing "The Piano" as a young filmmaker left me stunned. I would be nervous about it, but would love to hear her thoughts on our film.
Annie J. Howell, "Claire in Motion": I like Lisa’s idea. If Jane Campion watched and wanted us to work on a new TV show like "Top of the Lake,” er, we would be there in a flash.
Bobby Miller, "The Master Cleanse": Joe Cornish. I saw “Attack the Block” when it premiered at SXSW and it was kind of a religious experience. I think it’s one of the great films of the last decade and one of the most original creature films ever.
Greg Kwedar, "Transpecos": Her name is Juanita. In college I started a non-profit that worked with children in an orphanage in Nuevo Laredo (a city in Mexico along the border). She was a precocious six year old with a fiery temper and a laugh that would stop you in your tracks and remind you of every private joy of childhood. Her family was broken by the border conflict and one night her unstable mother took her out of the orphanage and ran away to another city. This orphanage was privately run and thus, if the child had legal guardians they could be taken back without a moment’s notice, despite whether it was safe for the child. I knew this. Yet, was not prepared for when it finally happened. In a daze of rage and wild abandon my friend and I began to drive toward the town she had been taken to. We were going to take her back. It wasn’t until about an hour into the journey that we pulled to the side of the road, our senses coming back to us, and the realization dawning that we had truly lost her. On that car ride back to the orphanage I committed to one day making a movie that could bring the human faces caught in limbo on our border to light. I haven't seen or heard from Juanita in over ten years, but this movie is for her.
Sean Brosnan, "My Father Die": [Producer] Beau St. Clair. She was a dear friend, and had a sardonic sense of humor and a rapacious appetite for cinema and quality. She saw a rough cut but died a month before the final print was done. Beau helped me immensely. At one point I was going to change the title of my film, but Beau being Beau said, "Are you crazy? That title is "bleeping" fantastic!” Beau was a fantastic producer, a great mentor and a dear friend. This film is in memory of her.
Simon Atkinson and Adam Townley, "Shovel Buddies": The biggest fans of our work are our kids, they can’t wait to see it. Sadly they are aged between five and seven years old. They may have to wait a few years.
Brett A. Schwartz, "Insatiable: The Homaro Cantu Story": I’d love Anthony Bourdain to see my film. He's a larger than life foodie personality, but like "Insatiable: The Homaro Cantu Story," he is not entirely about film or the culinary world. He represents the intersection of food and broader culture. I hope he has the chance to screen it at SXSW this year! That would be amazing.
Mike Flanagan, "Hush": For me it is always Stephen King. I own every book he's ever written, and he's influenced my work since I first began making films as a kid - in fact, one of the first little VHS movies I made in the backyard was my 6th-grade adaptation of "It." When he saw and enjoyed "Oculus," it was a huge moment for me. He's a hero of mine, and it would be amazing to discuss this movie with him.
Marco Del Fiol, "The Space in Between - Marina Abramovic and Brazil": David Lynch! Just because.
Gabe Spitzer & David Terry Fine, "Hit It Hard": Danny McBride because he should dye his hair blond and play John Daly in the untitled and unfunded feature version of our documentary.
Julia Hart, "Miss Stevens": I would love to be able to show the movie to Elaine May. She is one of my film idols. "The Heartbreak Kid" and "A New Leaf" in particular. To think that she was making the kinds of movies she was making when she was making them is amazing to me. They are funny and unique and timeless. I think about how hard it is for female filmmakers now, and I can’t imagine what it was like in the 70's. I would love to show her the movie and say, "You inspired me to do this. Thank you." And if anyone who works at Criterion is reading this, you REALLY need to do a box set of her films already.
Matthew Conboy, "Goodnight Brooklyn – The Story of Death By Audio": A lonely 15-year-old kid in the middle of nowhere. Hopefully he or she would be inspired to start a band or become an artist and realize they can be apart of something great. If they went out and started a community of their own - that would be the best possible scenario.
Alex Taylor, "Spaceship": Maybe this doesn't count because he's not alive now, but my grandad. We had an unspoken bond of friendship that I never really recognized until he was gone. I think art is about souls speaking to one another, and I'd like to have spoken to him through this film. Maybe it still can.
Editor’s Note: A surprisingly high number of filmmakers wrote very touching and personal stories about a grandparent. We obviously couldn’t publish all of them, but thank you for sharing.