After screenings at Newfest, Frameline and Outfest, David Kittredge’s “Pornography: A Thriller” opens at the Cinema Village in New York this weekend. The film depicts a gay porn star’s mysterious disappearance, which becomes an obsession for both a writer and another adult film star, leading them into dark supernatural corners. In his review for Reverse Shot, Michael Koresky described it as “a male-oriented reboot of ‘Mulholland Drive.”
Kittridge’s feature film debut, he spoke to indieWIRE about “Pornography,” how he approached making it, and his challenges in getting it out there.
Please introduce yourself…
My name is Dave Kittredge, and I’ve wanted to be a filmmaker since I can remember.
When I was 9, I remember drawing storyboards and setting up fake 3-camera TV shows. When I was 11 I loved the distortion of anamorphic movies on video during their credits; when I was 12 I made a 30 minute movie based on the short story ‘The Most Dangerous Game,’ which we shot over four successive weekends. I also saw ‘The Shining’ when I was 12 and learned that cinema had the power to really get under your skin.
How or what prompted the idea for your film and how did it evolve?
I had been writing a comedy script, but I wasn’t really feeling it. I was depressed about it, and my partner Rob McClary and my best friend Melissa Ray (an NYC-based artist) demanded over a couple of bottles of wine at dinner that I tell them the movie I’d rather be making. I said “I could tell you, but you’d think I was crazy. It’s a three-part movie with three different protagonists, one or more of them may be a dream and it’s called ‘Pornography.'” They made me a deal: I had to write one draft of the movie before I finished writing the comedy. But after I wrote the draft, I couldn’t back away from it. I was totally hooked – I felt like this movie *needed* to get made.
Elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film…
In the writing and directing of ‘Pornography,’ I started from a very real, very deep place and worked hard not to analyze it too much as I was writing it. The way the script developed, during the preproduction and the rehearsal process, the themes got more fleshed out. I’d say out of the first draft, about 70% of it stayed but that last 30% was written and rewritten a whole lot.
We wanted to replicate the dream logic of a nightmare. So even though we don’t spell everything out for the audience, the film is still a complete whole and has its own fully formed arc that’s hopefully a satisfying whole.
What were your biggest challenges in developing the project?
Well, it was a tough sell: It’s a gay, somewhat explicit, non-linear, disturbing film called ‘Pornography.’ Not exactly going to open on 7000 screens. I can’t even begin to count how many times I had to explain that there was no real pornography in the movie. Who would name an actual pornographic film ‘Pornography’? I don’t get that. But still, there was a lot of explaining; that the film isn’t pornographic, even though it’s called pornography and even though it’s about a missing porn star.
How do you think audiences will take to the film?
We’ve gotten a lot of positive reactions from audiences, but some negative reactions too. The word I keep hearing is “polarizing”, which for me means that the film succeeds at getting under people’s skin. I love it when a movie can challenge your expectations, and make you engaged enough to put pieces together. I can’t stand it when I’m steps ahead of a movie I’m watching. And I think people like that will totally love our movie, because like it or not, the last thing our movie is is predictable.
Are there any films that you consider inspirational to you as you made your film? If so, how so?
Many. I could list them for hours. “Psycho,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Shining,” “Lost Highway,” “Videodrome,” “Dressed To Kill,” Hitchcock movies, the Powell & Pressburger movies (especially “A Matter of Life and Death”).
What are your future projects in the pipeline?
I’m writing a thriller I hope to be starting up in a few months. There are also a couple of other projects brewing – we shall see!