Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Indiewire’s new Springboard column will profile an up-and-comer in the indie world who made a mark that deserves your attention. Select profiles will include photography by Daniel Bergeron, exclusive to Indiewire. Up first is actor/filmmaker Peter Vack.
Before Peter Vack came to SXSW Film Festival, he was best known for the now-defunct MTV comedy-drama “I Just Want My Pants Back.” By the time he left, he’d seen the premiere of his first short film “Send,” which he wrote and directed (it stars indie ‘it girl’ Julia Garner); starred in the coming-of-age drama “I Believe in Unicorns;” and appeared in the Grand Jury Prize winner “Fort Tilden.” And, minutes before his Indiewire interview, he learned that his Amazon Prime show, “Mozart in the Jungle,” was picked up for a full season. Read on for his takes on sex on film, getting his start on CBS’s soap opera “As the World Turns,” and more.
I’ve never made a film before. I’d always sort of walked around with this idea that I wanted to make films. I wrote scripts. I’ve been writing since I was in high school. Fiction and then screenplays. And then there comes that moment where you have to put your proverbial money where your mouth is and make something.
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I’m from New York originally. I was living in LA. In May I flew back home, launched my Kickstarter campaign then started pre-production the same day. Something I wouldn’t recommend. I would never do it again. I was pretty blind. I had no one attached a month-and-a-half before shooting.
There used to be a time where if you liked someone, you’d just call them up and have a discussion, make a plan to meet to talk. Now we have to sift through a Tweet or a text, so we’re getting these bits of information, but we have to now judge somewhat profound interpersonal moments based on very minor bits of information. I think there’s something dramatic in that.
The idea of the ‘selfie’ is sort of interesting to me. It’s part of throwaway joke culture, but I also think there’s something profound in it. We as humans have this desire to affirm our own existence and now we have these devices on us all the time where we can do that. Just snap a picture of yourself, and yes, you exist.
I like working with friends because it’s nice not having to get over that ‘getting to know you’ phase. You start the work on a more complete level of intimacy.
There’s a whole wide spectrum of sex on camera. Sometimes I’m seeing sex on camera that I think is really evocative, and sometimes all I’m aware of is the anxiety of the actors, and the actors trying to hide their modesty. Or the director working around the director’s modesty. What I hoped that these moments would have would be a rawness.
People have sex. Teens have sex. People are passionate. It always bothers me in a film when two characters are supposed to be in love, and I see modesty.
As a New Yorker, I feel so blessed I got to be a part of the soap world before it deteriorated. That will be an interesting relic for generations to come and to look back on soap culture ’cause it will seem very antiquated to them. “As the World Turns” was on since 1957, which is when my father was born. I do have a theater background, and it reminded me more of theater than television. They’re only concerned with getting it technically once.
Acting is an interpretative art. There’s something beautiful about that, but I felt like I wanted a creative outlet that was all coming from me. And there really is no experience quite like being the sole author of a work. It’s a thrill.
I’ve been an actor since I was seven. This has been my life’s ambition. If this is a high moment, that’s great. I just hope to be doing this in my 90s.
Sometimes your best creative work comes when no one’s looking at you, when no one’s giving a shit. That can be a moment of great inspiration.