Eli (James Mercer) traverses Portland, Oregon, working a series of minimum-wage temp jobs in order to pay off a loan so that he can finish school. Dog shelter staffer Katrina (former Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein) films a video diary intended as a reality show audition tape. Camille (Renee Roman Nose) is employed sorting donations at what looks like the largest thrift store on the planet.
If this trio of stranded characters seems to be competing for first prize in a Saddest Job in the World contest, that’s because writer-director Matt McCormick insists on portraying the unavoidable reality of work, rebutting the popular image of Portland as a paradise for under-achieving hipsters. With its fleeting moments of poignancy and everyday absurdities, “Some Days Are Better Than Others” is a gentle look at the melancholy of the mundane—light years away from the creative self-involvement of the Mumblecore movement and its ilk. [Synopsis provided by New Directors/New Films]
[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the 40th edition of New Directors/New Films to submit responses in their own words about their films. To prompt the discussion, indieWIRE asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]
“Some Days Are Better Than Others”
Director: Matt McCormick
Writers: Matt McCormick
Producers: David Allen Cress, Neil Kopp
Associate Producer: Ime Etuk
Artistic Director: Garret Chirstensen
Cinematogapher: Greg Schmitt
Production Designer: Ryan Smith
Original Score by: Matthew Cooper, Matt McCormick
Cast: Carrie Brownstein, James Mercer and Renee Roman Nose
Responses courtesy of “Some Days Are Better Than Others” director Matt McCormick.
Filmmaking as an excuse to delay growing up…
I became interested in film largely due to the fact that I couldn’t really figure out what i wanted to do with my life. As a young adult I was very interested in photography and journalism, but also art and music. Filmmaking seemed like a direction that could incorporate all of those things, and in a sense allow me to not have to make the decision of what i wanted to be when i grew up.
Making films in Portland…with Van Sant and the like…
While “Some Days” is my first feature film, I have been making short experimental films and video-art installations for several years and simply felt like it was time for a new challenge. I had had several small stories swirling around in my head that I was interested in exploring cinematically, but instead of continuing doing the shorts I decided to wrap them all together and make a feature. I wrote the screenplay over the course of about a year, and then handed it off to fellow Portland filmmaker Gus Van Sant, who read it and liked it and suggested I share it with Neil Kopp and David Cress (who had just finished producing his film “Paranoid Park”). From there Neil, David and I began the arduous haul of fund-raising, and after nearly a year of searching for funding scrapped together enough to make the film.
Settings, landscapes, environments, and a “valentine to losers” on film…
My work tends to focus on setting and landscape, and with “Some Days” I was very interested in creating a batch of characters who were all struggling with environments that they were deeply intertwined with. With all my work I strive to look for metaphors, and abandoned objects I find make great metaphors. An old house left to rot is more than just withering architecture – it’s the abandonment of an idea or plan – it’s a visual reminder of some sort of failure. Abandoned objects are the end of some tragic story where the beginning and middle are obscured; literally a tragic mystery. But there is also a strange hope in abandoned objects and spaces; they open up new possibilities, like a new frontier open to be explored and reclaimed. They can also offer comfort, in simply reminding us that we are not alone in our own failures. With “Some Days” I look at various abandoned elements; dogs at the shelter, personal items at the thrift store donation center, abandoned possessions, houses and buildings, and juxtapose them with human elements such as a jilted girlfriend, a widower, a lonely heart and an unemployed daydreamer. The idea was to create this atmosphere of failure, but to do so in a sympathetic tone. The movie is sort of a valentine to losers I guess.
Inspiration behind real-life soap-bubble movie-makers…
The character Otis, who is the older gentleman in the film who makes the soap-bubble movies, is based on a real-life folk artist here in Oregon named George Andrus. George is a 95 year old folk-artist and inventor who lives in a small town outside of Portland who I met back when I was the director of the PDX Film Festival who makes these beautifully cute ‘soap films.’ He video tapes soap bubbles in extreme close-up, creates music with his Wurlitzer organ, records a narration, and then edits it all together to make these darling little movies. George was initially going to play the role of Otis, but at his age he just couldn’t remember the lines so he suggested getting an actor to play the part but he would still create all the soap films and let us shoot in his house. George is an amazing human being, and has set up a website for his soap films that I highly recommend checking out.
Up next…recreating a 1958 road trip…
I am actually just completing another feature length project, but this one is an experimental documentary based on the re-creation of a 3,200 mile road-trip made in 1958 by four Seattle women who thoroughly documented their journey in an elaborate scrapbook. I found that scrapbook in a thrift store last fall set out on the road and followed their route as closely as I could try to find every stop the ladies had documented. I just completed it as an installation and photo-exhibit and am now finishing up a theatrical version. A clip of the project is up on my website here.