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Andrew Renzi brings his first feature, “Franny,” to Tribeca alongside a cast featuring Richard Gere, Theo James and Dakota Fanning.
Richard Gere delivers a bravura performance as the title character, a rich eccentric who worms his way into the lives of a deceased friend’s young daughter (Dakota Fanning) and her new husband (Theo James). The narrative feature debut of writer-director Andrew Renzi, Franny is a warm and winsome drama about the pangs of the past, and the families we choose.
What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?
Now what’s it REALLY about?
When Franny unwittingly causes the deaths of his two best friends, his entire sense of self crumbles. Unable to escape that tragic day, Franny becomes hermetic, spending his days festering in an upscale hotel room, replacing his co-dependence on his friends with a morphine dependency.
Five years later, Olivia, the daughter of his deceased friends, calls, telling Franny that she is newly married and pregnant, and needs his help. This surges Franny with a renewed sense of purpose, and he catapults from his hibernation in hopes that he will emerge as the man he once was. Upon Olivia’s return, Franny desperately tries to atone for his guilt with excessive attention and gift-giving in an effort to recreate a sense of self and a past which he has never truly left behind.
Tell us briefly about yourself.
My first job in the film business was working for Wes Anderson when I was 19 doing things like blending mango lasses and organizing rooms filled with Criterion collection dvds. One day I was organizing his bookshelf and I came across a copy of JD Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey.” That book already happened to be one of my favorites, and there was something written on the inside cover that really inspired me to start making my own films. The title of my film is I guess a call back to that important moment in my young life. Much like that book, my film is about the disparity between outward extravagance and inner emptiness.
I lost my dad in my early twenties, and each of the characters in my film represents a specific part of my inner experience throughout the aftermath of losing my father. Franny flounders through life with reckless disregard for his own well-being and a misguided sense of purpose and human connection, Olivia bottles up her issues and despite her age wants so desperately to start a family of her own in the midst of loss, and Luke is caught in between these two extremes, trying to avoid handouts and forge his own path in life while being pulled in two very opposing directions. Through this film and these characters, I was able to make the mistakes that I no longer wanted to continue making in real life. It has become as much an exploration in storytelling and filmmaking as it has been a necessary source of catharsis for me.
Biggest challenge in completing this film?
What do you want the Tribeca audience to take away from your film?
I guess I’m hoping that audiences can walk away from my film having experienced something a little outside of the current landscape of indie dramas, something a little more reminiscent of the studio dramas of the ’80s and ’90s, like Scent of a Woman or Rain Man, with decadently warm tones and an operatic energy swirling around throughout. A drama that still feels like an event, because the world is big and the characters are flamboyant, even if the story is simple. Also, Richard Gere really does something wildly different in this film than anything we’ve ever seen from him before, so I hope audiences walk away feeling like they were able to see an icon flex his acting muscles by doing something bold and new.
Any films inspire you?
“Divorce Italian Style,” “The Leopard,” “The Great Beauty,” “Cable Guy,” and my producer Kevin Turen turned me onto the film “The Ruling Class” before we shot, which really inspired me.
Right now I’m working with Producer, Jay Schuminsky, writing a true crime story about a gun dealer in ’80s and ’90s New York City.
What cameras did you shoot on?
We shot the film on Kodak 35mm film with a Panavision camera system.
Did you crowdfund?
If so, via what platform. If not, why?
We didn’t crowdfund, only because we had investors that were willing to provide enough funding to complete the film.
Did you go to film school? If so, which one?
I didn’t go to film school, but the first films I worked on were with guys that all went to film school, so I just stole from them.
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.