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LAFF ’08 INTERVIEW | “Largo” Co-Director Andrew van Baal

LAFF '08 INTERVIEW | "Largo" Co-Director Andrew van Baal

[EDITOR’S NOTE: indieWIRE is profiling the Narrative and Documentary Competition filmmakers who are screening their films at the Los Angeles Film Festival as world premieres.]

Screening in the Documentary Competition at the Los Angeles Film Festival, Andrew van Baal and Mark Flanagan‘s “Largo” looks at the Hollywood club of the same name, which had a reputation among both performers and fans as “a place where what’s on stage truly matters.” Featuring interviews with Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, Sarah Silverman, E from the Eels, Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, and Jon Brion, “Largo” takes an intimate look at a club and its performers. Co-director van Baal talked to indieWIRE about the film and its premiere at LAFF.

What initially attracted you to filmmaking?

My first involvement with filmmaking was running around my house and suburban neighborhood in western Michigan as a boy with an early-80’s video camera cabled to a VCR. I think what appealed to me about it then was the aspect of creating an adventure for myself, that somehow an activity like exploring my basement or the weeds behind my house was more exciting and imaginative if it had a purpose, if I was making something tangible out of it. To this day my attraction to filmmaking is pretty much the same, but also deeper, more varied. The possibilities of cinema continue to develop and expand for me as I get older, so I’ve been able to maintain my passion for it over the years.

What was the inspiration for this film?

The inspiration for this film was more Flanagan’s than mine (Flanagan is the co-director and owner/impresario of Largo the club). He asked me to shoot some performance clips for the club’s website in late 2005, came in and watched some of the footage and felt it was something that could be interesting and worthwhile as a movie. I think he was also encouraged in that regard by Paul Thomas Anderson, who saw a DVD of some early shots/edits and felt that it should be a movie as opposed to clips on a website or a TV show or whatever. I was more than happy to go along with that and felt honored to be the one doing it, not only because I was/am such a fan of the performers, but also because the club had a strict no-photography policy and I knew that, despite a few aborted projects, nobody had really been documenting it over the years.

Please elaborate on your approach to making the film…

Making this film was like Flanagan and I having a secret that we gradually revealed to people. The secret was: we’ve been making a movie right under your noses. By that I mean the shooting was very inconspicuous – just me with a little DV camera in a dark corner of the club. Flanagan wanted to do it with a single camera so the artists weren’t self-conscious about being filmed, and also to enforce a simple aesthetic upon it. And then the editing was just the two of us in my little editing room in Los Feliz. So even though there are a lot of people in the film, in many ways the making of it was very insular.

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

For me the biggest challenge was the single camera restriction. Though I do think it was very effective in translating the intimacy and singular focus the audience has on the stage at Largo, it made some of the editing pretty difficult in terms of having to fake the coverage from time to time. On the flipside though it also made some of the editing very easy, for the performances that play out in their entirety as a single shot. It was also a challenge to structure a movie that doesn’t have a narrative, that’s essentially a really long montage. We thought and talked a lot about the importance of having a structural arc that would maintain interest/keep the momentum going from one performance to the next. Hopefully it’s successful in that regard.

What are your goals for the Los Angeles Film Festival?

To celebrate the community of Largo, expose the secret of our movie to LA and the world, and hopefully get some people in a dark room to laugh and cry and get excited together, which to me should be the highest goal of any movie.

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