Director Andrew Renzi is a two-time Sundance shorts veteran and a Tribeca alumni, having premiered his documentary “Fishtail” at last year’s festival. In his Tribeca return, Renzi has assembled a very promising cast headed by Richard Gere, who plays an aging hedonistic man ingratiating himself into the lives of a newlywed couple, played by Dakota Fanning and Theo James. Renzi has described the film as “part ‘Scent of a Woman,’ part ‘Leaving Las Vegas,’ part ‘Cable Guy.'” Needless to say, we’re intrigued.
What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?
Franny “Francis” Watts is rich, he’s handsome, and he’s single, so what’s the problem? The problem is he’s sixty, and he’s not sure what he has to show for it. 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.
Now what’s it REALLY about?
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
Tell us briefly about yourself.
Prior to “Franny,” I recently completed a feature documentary, “Fishtail,” which premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, and won the artistic vision award at the Big Sky Film Festival. The film was recently acquired and will be available on Netflix in June 2015. My first short film, “The Fort,” premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. My second short film, “Karaoke!” premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and was the recipient of the Panavision Future Filmmaker Award presented by CO3 and won the 2013 year’s best audience award on Short of the Week. I recently co-wrote the Janis Joplin biopic, “Janis,” with director Sean Durkin. In addition to writing and directing, I worked in various producing capacities on the films Sympathy for Delicious (Sundance ’10), Afterschool (Cannes ’08), and Two Gates of Sleep (Cannes Fortnight ’10). I went to Brown University where I studied Literary Arts, focusing on playwriting and screenwriting.
Post production was challenging on this film. Franny’s physicality changes throughout the film, and to achieve that, we shot the film in two installments, separated by about 6 months. That made the editorial process difficult, because we were cutting an incomplete film for half a year. So, when we finally shot the second installment, it felt almost as though we were starting over in the edit room, which was pretty exhausting.
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?
I’m inspired by all sorts of films, but among the ones I already mentioned, for “Franny,” I was inspired by “The Great Beauty,” “The Leopard,” “Cable Guy,” and “Divorce Italian Style.”
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.