INTERVIEW: Daniel Minahan Shoots to Kill; "Series 7" Launches
by Anthony Kaufman/indieWIRE
Dan Minahan, writer and
(indieWIRE/ 03.01.01) — “The thing about these shows,” says Daniel Minahan, referring to the craze of reality TV programming, “is they seem like office politics played out on a grand scale.” Minahan should know. His writing-directing debut “Series 7” recreates the camp and convention of such shows with exacting precision. Captivated by programs like “Cops,” “Rescue 911,” and “The Real World” and a former producer of news magazine spots for the likes of BBC, Fox News, and MTV, Minahan came up with the idea of “Series 7” — which chronicles contestants on a reality TV show called “The Contenders” who must kill off their competitors to win, not to mention, survive — before “Survivor,” “Big Brother,” “The Mole” or “Temptation Island” ever existed. Minahan’s background in satire goes back to co-writing the script for Mary Harron‘s “I Shot Andy Warhol.” Since then, “Series 7” was developed at the Sundance Writers and Directors Lab and evolved from a film “about” a television show to a film that “is” a television show — a no-holds barred, ironic reproduction of tabloid TV.
Produced by Killer Films and Open City Film‘s digital division, Blow Up Pictures, the film was shot in digiBetacam, first showed at a New York distributors screening in late July, and was acquired just one week after by USA Films. The movie premiered publicly in January at the Sundance Film Festival. indieWIRE spoke with the 37-year-old writer-director prior to and after his festival experiences about satire and sentimentality, TV verses film, and shooting, scoring and editing a mock television show.
indieWIRE: You’ve just come off screenings at Sundance and Berlin. Did you feel like you learned anything about the film from audiences?
Daniel Minahan: This is my first film and I think it’s kind of merciless; it’s kind of relentless. I think on my next film I’ll be much more sensitive to the audience. This is a film that’s not necessarily nice to the audience. It’s very biting; it dares you to laugh at things that are not perceived as funny. It’s tricky, because what I’m sending up is the way these things are represented, so there’s this really guilty, uncomfortable laughter. It really challenges audiences. But I do find that people rise to the occasion. I always hoped it was a kind of a film that people left the theater arguing about it.
iW: You’ve spoken about how the show was originally apart of a larger film, but then you took the brackets off and made it completely like a reality TV show. What sort of things do you feel you were losing or gaining in making the story in the television format?
Minahan: I think the choices that we made strengthened the story. The things that were hard in the original version of the script — with the TV show within it — was being able to be critical of it, to be able to step outside of the story, which we never allowed ourselves to do. For example, the use of dramatic recreation. It really throws into question the truth of that kind of storytelling. The hardest thing was stepping outside of it and being critical of it, and the way that I think that I did achieve that was through exaggeration and through satire.
iW: Yes, through irony. There’s certainly a comment there on the world that you’ve created. And it’s funny. Things like the wrap-around teasers