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David Russo, “The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle”: Shakespeare, Mixed Media, and “Tommy”

David Russo, "The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle": Shakespeare, Mixed Media, and "Tommy"

EDITORS NOTE: This is part of a series of interviews, conducted via email, profiling dramatic and documentary competition and American Spectrum directors who have films screening at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

From the Sundance catalog: “Dory, a computer programmer experiencing a crisis of faith, is laid off from his suit-and-tie job and must resort to cleaning toilets with a brown-collar band of janitorial misfits. Unbeknownst to him, he is made the subject of a bizarre experiment involving deliciously addictive cookies that simulate ‘oven freshness’ by warming in your mouth when eaten. It turns out that the cookies cause spectacular visions, wild mood swings, and quasi-pregnancies in the male janitors. The men must pull together to become midwives for one another as each gives birth to a small, beautiful, immaculately conceived blue fish.”

The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle
Director: David Russo
Screenwriter: David Russo
Executive Producer: Michael Seiwerath
Producer: Peggy Case
Cinematographers: Neil Holcomb, Benjamin F. Kasulke, David Russo
Editor: Billy McMillin
Composer: “Awesome”
Sound Designer: Tom Hambleton
Cast: Marshall Allman, Natasha Lyonne, Tania Raymonde, Tygh Runyan, Matt Smith, Vince Vieluf
U.S.A., 2009, 98 mins., color

Please introduce yourself…

I’m a professional independent Artist; medium: 35mm motion picture film. I used to be a janitor and Science Educator & Demonstrator. Born in San Francisco; grew up and live in Seattle.

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

My Dad took me to see “Tommy” when I was in the 3rd grade. It seemed so wrong and so NOT Tommy as I knew the album. I knew immediately after that that I wanted to make films that were better than that.

What other creative outlets do you explore?

My short art-films always utilize a variety of disciplines, so I get to indulge in all manner of things: music, painting, sculpture, industrial design & fabrication, poetry, dance, photography, and now stories.

Did you go to film school, or how did you learn filmmaking?

No, I didn’t go to film school! I never went to art school either. In the words of one of the characters in my feature, “You don’t need band practice to play the fuckin’ wind chimes.” I was a janitor who made film art and videos on my own, in my own way, and scorned showing them completely for over a decade. It was simply how I digested my crazy emotions and thoughts and tried to stay sane. I do like performing Shakespeare outside (outdoors only!). I learned a lot from starting a company with fellow janitors and acting and directing Shakespeare year after year. The company is Greenstage and I was the founding Artistic Director.

“The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle” director David Russo. Image courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

How or what prompted the idea for your film and how did it evolve?

When I first became a janitor, I found a miscarriage in one of the women’s room toilets. It changed me.

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

I’ve always liked going to the Movies (capital M!), but my greatest influences are mostly in American poetry and literature: Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau, Dickenson, Frost, and Miller.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?

Finding funding among generally anal retentive people, for a film that derives its power from the opposite tendency, was a feature film’s worth of comedy in and of itself. Finding distribution is shaping up to be equally hilarious.

What are some of your favorite films and creative influences?

Kubrick, Gilliam, Lean, Ashby, and Ridley Scott.

How do you define success as a filmmaker?

If, when it’s time to die, you are prepared to die, you won. Other than this, I think success is impossible to define; it doesn’t matter what the vocation.

What are your future projects?

Recently I have been very interested in learning to become a Dental Hygienist. Now that the feature is over, I’m hoping to have the time to seriously pursue it. Film-wise, someday, somehow it would be great to remake “Tommy” (and right one of the great cinematic wrongs).

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