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Tribeca ’09 Interview: “Accidents Happen” Director Andrew Lancaster

Tribeca '09 Interview: "Accidents Happen" Director Andrew Lancaster

Editor’s Note: This is one of several interviews, conducted via email, with directors whose films are screening at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.

“Accidents Happen”
Director: Andrew Lancaster
Screenwriter: Brian Carbee
Primary Cast: Geena Davis, Harrison Gilbertson, Joel Tobeck, Harry Cook, Sebastian Gregory
Synopsis: Set in a 1980s New England suburb, director Andrew Lancaster’s stunning debut is a bittersweet drama revolving around a dysfunctional family coping with the consequences of a tragedy. Since he was a young child, Billy Conway has inexplicably been a witness to terrible accidents. When one such accident claims the life of one Conway child and leaves another severely brain-damaged, the weight of holding the family together falls on Billy’s shoulders. Dad has moved out, leaving Billy with his difficult brother and bitter mother. Billy, always the good child, begins to stray when he becomes friends with the neighborhood troublemaker, but this surprising bad behavior may lead his family to move on from the past.

Please introduce yourself.

I’ve generally been a fulltime musician and a part-time filmmaker and I’m hoping to inverse that.

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

My dad had one of the early betamax portable video cameras that required a backpack for the recorder and my brother and I would always muck around with it. I went to film school as a sound student, but also had the opportunity to direct my own short film. The film, “Palace Café,” was an experiment in sound and music – unexpectedly it was invited to numerous festivals, which inspired me to do it again.

What prompted the idea for your film and what excited you to make you undertake it?

In 1997, I saw Brian Carbee (the writer) perform a one man show, “In Search of Mike.” I was immediately drawn to the character of the mother (based on Brian’s own mother), after the show I approached Brian about potentially turning his show into a short film. After that Brian wrote a novel of which became the basis for “Accidents Happen.”

Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making your film.

I lent on Brian to understand the character and get inside their heads. I did a huge amount of technical preparation so that I that when we were shooting I could really just focus on performance, especially since I was working with inexperienced actors (except Geena of course!).

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

I guess the biggest challenge was making sure that the teenagers, who were between 14 and 17 – and quite inexperienced, could carry the film. Thankfully Geena Davis was incredibly generous and supportive to the kids, and this really helped them pull it off.

How do you define success as a filmmaker, and what are your personal goals as a filmmaker?

I think success comes when you are finally with an audience and you can feel them engaging with the film. I always aim to make films that are playful and subversive, whilst still having true emotion and heart.

What are your future projects?

I’ve got a film called “Valve,” a mystery thriller about a man who discovers he can hear subsonic sound, produced by Vincent Sheehan of Porchlight films

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