Every day through the end of the Sundance Film Festival, including weekends, indieWIRE will be publishing two interviews with Sundance ’06 competition filmmakers. Sixty filmmakers were given the opportunity to participate in an e-mail interview, and each was sent the same questions.
Michael Cain co-directed “TV Junkie,” which is screening in the Independent Film Competition: Documentary section. The film follows Rick Kirkham, who received his first video camera at age 14 and, from that point, he began documenting every facet of his life. “A self-imposed The Truman Show with a dark twist,” according to Sundance, “TV Junkie transcends one man’s tragic story and becomes a harrowing reflection on a generation obsessed with celebrity and technology.”
Please tell us about yourself. How old are you? What jobs have you had? Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Where do you live?
45. Executive Director of the non-profit Organization Deep Ellum Film, Music, Arts and Noise (DEFMAN), which produces the Deep Ellum Film Festival and various Outdoor screening events including the Lone Star Drive-In in Dallas and Addison, the Pasadena Cinema in the Park and the Santa Monica Drive-In at the Pier. Commercial producer with over 50 commercials and music videos in my credits. Born in Longview, Texas and grew up in Garland/Dallas, Texas as well as Albemarle, North Carolina. I live in Dallas, Texas.
What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?
I worked in Commercial Real Estate for 5 years in my 20’s and was lucky enough to lose everything at 26 in the big S and L scandal that crippled Texas. I had always loved film and after I lost my house and BMW found myself loading potato chip trucks at the Borden Factory in Dallas. One night while driving home I stopped into a 7/11 and saw Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd on the cover of a new magazine “Premiere Magazine”. I read it front to back and immediately understood that it wasn’t 200 people out in LA who made every film. Shortly after a girlfriend invited the head of the SMU Film School Don Pasquala who suggested that I apply to AFI. I was initially turned down but was later informed a week before school began that I was accepted as an alternate and one week later was living on a near stranger’s floor attending AFI. 2 Years later I had my Master’s degree and was Commencement Speaker. That series of almost unrelated events lead me to today and my first directing efforts film being accepted into Sundance.
Did you go to film school? Or how did you learn about filmmaking? How did you finance your own film?
AFI. See above. Most of what I learned about filmmaking was spent late at night watching TV, or in dark theaters, or the drive-in. AFI allowed me to interact with filmmakers and understand that all great stories begin and end with passion, whether in the story or in the team that makes the film. I am lucky enough to run the Deep Ellum Film Festival in Dallas and I was able to watch thousands of shorts, docs and features. Most of what I applied toward making TVJ came from the lessons I learned from the other filmmakers who applied to Deep Ellum.
We financed the film with Independent Dallas money through connections made through the festival. Our mission has always been to take bad events and turn them somehow positive. After years of trying to raise the funds we re-explored the subjects desire to create an education program similar to what Super Size Me had done. That did the trick. We met someone who felt strongly about their children not following the path Rick had and that began the fundraising journey of the project. Last January we began the process of logging and cataloging the collection of 3200 hours of video, 5000 photos and 16 cases of magazine articles and such. We purchased 5 Avid DV Editing systems and hired interns to log the footage. We created an online filmmaker pro system that allowed us access to their findings regularly. The team boiled down the footage to just over 175 hours of selects. Editing began on August 1st and we had a first cut October 1. We are still editing today.
Where did the initial idea for your film come from?
A friend of Ricks asked a local Post House if they knew of someone who could do something with the over 3200 hours of footage they had. I had just completed the fist Deep Ellum film festival so I was known by many in Dallas. I saw the first 30 minutes of raw footage and I was hooked. It took 6 years to bring the film to today. Only one year of that was actually producing/directing the film.
What are your biggest creative influences?
Steven Soderbergh, Alex Gibney, Errol Morris, Pedro Aldomovar, Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock…
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making the movie?
When we began in 2000 documentaries were not hot. The sheer volume of material, over 3200 hours of footage, often ran people away. The first company who owned the rights to the film went bankrupt only 2 months after they brought me in.
Tell us about the moment you found out that you were accepted into Sundance, where were you?
I was standing in a hotel room with Director/Writer Roger Donaldson and his wife on the last day of 05 Deep Ellum Film Festival. They had come to Dallas to receive the Pioneer Filmmaker Award and for us to show The World’s Fastest Indian’ I was showing Roger how my new Blackberry worked and in came an email from Trevor Groth. I was proud to share the moment with a filmmaker I respect.
What do you hope to get out of the festival, what are your own goals for the experience?
I’d like to see Rick and his story get the impact it deserves. He did the hard part shooting for almost 40 years. Often I feel Matt Radecki and I are like Dj’s mixing someone else’s music. If Rick had not shot it we could not have created what we did. I’d like to see the Educational Project affect a lot of lives and I’d like to have another chance to tell an incredible story. I have two projects in the works, one set in 1986 Dallas called “Starck” that chronicles the final days of Ecstasy being legal and “Come Back, Africa” which is the true of story of Lionel Rogosin and his successful quest to film the very first anti-apartheid story in South Africa in 1957.
What is your definition of “independent film”?
Independent film is not restricted by what will be accepted but what must be felt.
What are a few other films you’re hoping to see at Sundance and why?
All the other docs, they sound incredible.
Who are a few people that you would you most like to meet at Sundance?
Bob Berney, Robert Redford the other filmmakers both in and out of the festival.
If you were given $10 million to be used for moviemaking, how would you spend it?
On “Starck” (above).
What are some of your favorite films, and why?
The Bicycle Thief, Brazil, E Tu Mama Tambien, North by Northwest, Traffic, Blue Velvet all created by unique voices.
What are one or two of your New Years resolutions?
Love my family more, spend more time my new wife.