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ND/NF ’08 INTERVIEW | “Wonderful Town” Director Aditya Assarat and “The Toe Tactic Director Emily Hu

ND/NF '08 INTERVIEW | "Wonderful Town" Director Aditya Assarat and "The Toe Tactic Director Emily Hu

In the second round of interviews spotlighting emerging filmmakers being spotlighted in the New Directors/New Films series in New York, indieWIRE received short responses from “Wonderful Town” director Aditya Assarat and “The Toe Tactic” director Emily Hubley. “Wonderful Town” tells the story of loneliness against the backdrop of a town ravaged by a tsunami, while “The Toe Tactic” focuses on a woman facing life after the death of her father and her wallet… Both films are screening in ND/NF, co-hosted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art through April 6.

“Wonderful Town”

With an unerring feeling for lives on hold, director Aditya Assarat creates an atmosphere of guardedness, uneasiness, and mystery to highlight the story of two lonely people attempting a fragile emotional connection. The film’s saturated colors reinforce the lifelessness of a location that suffered immensely during the tsunami three years ago. An architect from Bangkok pulls up to a motel in a near-ghost town of deserted streets and beaches. His obscured past finds symmetry in the repressed history of the girl he meets and pursues. Each is trying to discover how to give way and function in the present. This quiet narrative of suggestion and hushed emotions has an unexpected denouement that is as shocking as it is earned. (Description provided by the Film Society of Lincoln Center).

Responses by “Wonderful Town” director Aditya Assarat

What initially attracted you to filmmaking?

Like most people I just liked to watch movies ever since I was a kid. And I was always comfortable as a writer. So one day I bought a how-to-write-a-script book and started writing. Then, selfishly probably, I didn’t want anyone else making the movie, so I thought I’d better learn how to direct too.

What was the inspiration for “Wonderful Town?”

I always wanted to make a love story. Then one day I got a chance to visit the town of Takua Pa where the tsunami of 2004 happened. It’s an old quiet town, very pretty but also kind of sad. And I just thought it would be a wonderful place for two strangers to meet and fall in love. So that was it…

“Wonderful Town” director Aditya Assarat. Image courtesy of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film…

I didn’t really have one that’s worth speaking about. For me, the movie kind of came to me naturally while I was writing the script and I think it was best just to draw those pictures on a paper and then go and shoot them — not to change anything too much. I think your brain often gets in the way of your instinct.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in making and completing the film?

Many things. I can say now that it’s over, looking back, I really had no idea what I was doing. It really is like learning how to swim and there’s no approach because you’re more trying not to drown basically. I had the movie in my head and I tried to stay focused on that. But it didn’t always work out.

What are your goals for the New Directors/New Films?

I hope that people find the film interesting.

“The Toe Tactic”

Mona Peek is a young woman engulfed by loss. Her father has passed away, her wallet disappears, and those around her are on their own. Through the nimble creativity of animator Emily Hubley, we discover a layered world of live action and illustrated images. Mona’s life, her grieving and searching, and the lives of those in her neighborhood are manipulated by four capricious dogs playing a game of cards. Winsome newcomer Lily Rabe, joined by the voices of Eli Wallach, Marian Seldes, Andrea Martin and David Cross, melds with the animated forms that push, pull and caress the film’s flesh-and-blood cohabitants through a journey of renewal. The unique kinetic flow of Hubley’s remarkable feature debut is enhanced by the music of the equally innovative band, Yo La Tengo. (Description provided by the Film Society of Lincoln Center).

Responses by “The Toe Tactic director Emily Hubley

What initially attracted you to filmmaking?

Growing up, I saw a lot of films — my parents were filmmakers and avid moviegoers. The family had film screenings in the living room (freebies from the distribution catalogues their films were in) and we traveled to many international animation festivals. But I always thought I was more of a writer than a filmmaker. Then, when I was at Hampshire College, filmmaker Tom Joslin was encouraging students to investigate the language of personal narrative film and this related to the essays I was writing at the time. Of course I had no idea I’d continue at it for this long, but the business of combining words and images in layers as I do, has become a habit that’s hard to break.

What was the inspiration for “The Toe Tactic?”

“The Toe Tactic” has so many roots. One answer: When I met with John Cameron Mitchell to talk about the animation for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” one of the first things he asked was if I’d ever animated a story not based in my own biographical material. And it was fun and liberating to extend the kind of inner portraits I’d done in my shorts to a complex fictional character. I became intrigued by the idea of conveying a world where imagination is given equal footing with our more reasoned and subjective view of human experience. Another answer to your inspiration question is: the composite art of images and poetry by William Blake.

Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film…

It began with the writing. The script took a very long time to develop and I had enormous support from an army of advisors through the Sundance Institute Screenwriters’ and Filmmakers’ Labs. Then I made the animated poetic interludes in the film. Each one was a little instinctive investigation into the themes of the story and with the help of beautiful meditative music by Yo La Tengo, these provided the emotional tone which underscores the more narrative elements of the film. Once the script and selected animated segments were solid, I never doubted that the film would get made. Finding the people willing to invest time and money in something this novel and personal really came down to each individual’s response to the script (and to some degree, my previous work). “The Toe Tactic” had a way of finding its friends including producer Jen Small and our diverse cast and crew (some of whom I’m lucky to have in my family).

My approach to the circus of shooting, the delirious/exhausting process of animation and the intense mindmeld of post production — all with brilliant collaborators — was to trust the elements of the film to converge, to be grateful and to enjoy.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in making and completing the film?

Weather, time and cranky computers.

What are your goals for the New Directors/New Films?

It’s an honor to be included. My goal is to introduce the film to the community here in a way which allows for its serious, thoughtful aspects to be appreciated along with its humor and fun.

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