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TORONTO ’06 DISCOVERY INTERVIEW: Ed Stone: “I became a filmmaker because I failed at everything else

TORONTO '06 DISCOVERY INTERVIEW: Ed Stone: "I became a filmmaker because I failed at everything else

Every day through the end of the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, indieWIRE will be publishing interviews with filmmakers in the Discovery section of the festival, which TIFF describes as “provocative feature films by new and emerging directors.”

Nineteen filmmakers were given the opportunity to participate in an e-mail interview, and each was sent the same questions. Director Ed Stone is at Toronto with his feature film, “Griffin & Phoenix.” In the film, a recently divorced man discovers he has terminal cancer and resigned to his fate, suddenly finds himself reawoken when he meets a beautiful young woman.

How old are you? Where did you grow up? Where do you live now? What jobs have you had? Where are you working now?

45 years old, day job – writer. former jobs include = radio disc jockey, ranch hand, farm hand, airplane fueler, PA in film and television, dog walker, house sitter, waiter, assistant teacher at court reporters school, construction worker, actor in film, television, and theatre, bellhop, bartender, herbal-life salesman, home health equipment salesman/service, fast food employee (several chains)

I was born in Kansas City, MO. Grew up in New Mexico and Texas. I now live in Los Angeles.

What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?

I became a filmmaker because I failed at everything else I ever tried. I started writing scripts as a place to put my creative anger. I had written five brilliant scripts (an opinion that no else one shared) When a friend and I decided to make our own film. Since no one else thought we were talented we would make a movie and prove them right… damnnit. We raised our own funding and made “Happy, Texas” – which was at the Sundance and Toronto film festivals in 1999. i have made a living as a writer ever since. (Everyone knock wood.) The only other creative outlet i explore is my wife.

Did you go to film school? How did you learn about filmmaking?

I did not go to film school. i have a B.A. in theatre from New Mexico State University (a real hot bed of Broadway and Hollywood talent.) I learned about filmmaking by getting my ass on sets. I worked production assistant and intern jobs and was fascinated by every detail. (i still am.) I paid attention and kept asking questions from anyone i could find that would put up with me. When i first moved to Los Angeles I appeared as an actor in around 40 USC graduate student films. and learned along with them. i’m still learning and ask anyone i’ve worked with… I still have a bunch to learn.

What are your goals for the Toronto International Film Festival?

I love film festivals and I want to drink the whole time in. (That’s the selfish goal, and i didn’t say “drink the whole time.”)

I would love for (and be willing to make love to) a distribution company to pick up the film and put it in theaters. I would also hope that through the festival I could somehow interest someone into letting me make another film.

How/where did the initial idea for your film come from?

The film is a re-make of a film from 1974.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making and securing distribution for the movie?

The biggest challenge for most independent films I think is raising financing. Over a four year period we had several companies swear their support and then disappear. Finally we found two companies who co-financed the film. We still don’t have distribution.

What are your creative influences?

Since we are talking about film – I’ll keep the influence list to filmmakers.
Richard Curtis, Joel and Ethan Coen, Bob Fosse, Buster Keaton, Billy Wilder.

What are some of your all-time favorite films, and why? What are some of your recent favorite films?

By far may most favorite recent film is “The Girl in the Cafe” – from the performances to the script to the subject matter and how it was handled to how it was shot. I love that friggin’ film and I wish i had made it. Other films I wish I had made but thank God someone did are, in no order– “Shall We Dance” (Japanese version), “Searching For Bobby Fisher,” “All That Jazz,” “The General,” “Amelie,” Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Truly Madly Deeply,” — Okay, I am stopping here.

What are your interests outside of film?

Outside of film? What’s that? does theatre count? I guess what interests me most outside of film… are my wife and my friends.

How do you define success as a filmmaker? What are your personal goals as a filmmaker?

Of course I want my films to be seen by people, that seems like success (I mean that is why we put film in the camera) otherwise the set is just ‘home game night’ with seventy people. I guess for me success is being lucky/blessed enough to keep working, to keep sharing the experience with wonderful talented people (in front of and behind the camera) and to be able to pay the rent along the way (and take my wife out to dinner) I think that would make a for pretty fierce life.

What are your future projects?

I am finishing a second draft of an animated script for Sony called ”Enchanted Forest” – my script “Learning Italian” with Kevin Reyonlds directing is being set up with financing. and I am looking for an idea or script to try and make myself. I am also thinking about taking a nap.

[Get the latest from the Toronto International Film Festival throughout the day in indieWIRE’s special Toronto ’06 section.]

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