Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Road to Sundance 2013: KARAOKE! (short), directed by Andrew Renzi

Andrew Renzi
KARAOKE! Production Still

KARAOKE! Production Still

Tell us about your film.

The film I have playing at Sundance this year is a short film called, KARAOKE!, and it is playing in the Shorts Competition.

What inspired you to make it?

KARAOKE! was built from a deeply personal experience of losing my father to cancer 5 years ago.  When he was diagnosed with multiple-myeloma, he was told that he had no more than one month to live if he was lucky.  Then, defying the odds, he ended up living for three more years.  The film is a fictional representation of that three year time period, my anxieties associated with potentially missing the "big moment", and somehow being unavailable when the time were to finally come when he could no longer fight.  I spent much of my early 20s battling my responsibilities to my family, while also falling into traps of denial, and escapist behavior that would allow me to avoid the inevitable moment when I would lose my father…my best friend.  For me, KARAOKE! explores that denial and the anxiety associated with having something cloudy and omnipresent in your mind that you just don't always want to deal with or confront.  Fortunately, the experience of my father's passing was serene, peaceful, and I was blessed to be beside him in bed the entire time, but creating this film so many years after the fact has allowed me to explore those issues of denial and avoidance that I dealt with, and that I feel are universal in all of our lives.    

What do you love about your film?

I suppose I am most proud of the fact that we were able to make a personal film that was not simply executed as if its sole purpose was to "tell a personal story."  Shooting widescreen anamorphic, with lenses from the 1960s, and embracing flares and long steadicam shots, allows the film to exist beyond the framework of just a simple family drama, and makes it a cinematic event.  Working with such an insanely talented crew like my DP Joe Anderson, and my producers Garrett Fennelly, McCabe Walsh, and Borderline Films, allowed me to justify telling a personal story, while pushing it to an extremely lush, cinematic, and at times even slightly fantastical place.  

How long did it take you to make your film?

It took a little over 2 days to shoot the film. 

How did you finance your film?

Support from vendors, personal credit cards, and producers who are willing to work as hard as they possibly can to get you the tools no matter what budgetary constraints may exist.

What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process and how did you overcome it?

The most challenging part of the process for me was making the decision to truly personalize the film.  I think the idea of a young person avoiding his problems is something that we can all relate to, but in order for the film to actually mean something more to me, I had to be unabashed about making it a love letter to my father.  That was a difficult and daunting decision, because I absolutely didn't want to make something that would appear to exist only on some sort of self-serving level, but at the same time, I had the overwhelming urge to honor him in this way, at this precise moment.  Once I shed that fear, the filmmaking process opened up quite a bit more for me.  My father is not in the film, there is no actor playing him, but in the end of the film a picture comes on screen, and that is the way I want to remember him.  Through the picture of my father, at my age…28...brushing his teeth.  

Tell us about your experience getting into Sundance. 

Throughout 2012, I had also been writing a feature film that I knew I wanted to apply to the Sundance Labs with, so I actually sent my short film to the Sundance Film selection committee, and my feature film to the Lab selection committee at the same time.  So, when I found out my short film got into the festival, I was overjoyed, and couldn't help but feel as though making this personal film on such a whim was not for nothing, it really made me feel like it meant something more than that to whoever had watched it.  Then, when I heard I got into the Screenwriter's Lab as well, I pretty quickly stopped thinking about all that sappy personal junk, and just celebrated like any normal person would.

If you had to make the film all over again, would you do anything different?

Yes.  I would've paid my crew as if they were working on Transformers 3, because they all deserved it.

What’s next for your film? Do you have distribution? If so, when and how can people see it and if not, what are your hopes for the film?

I hope to have a nice festival run with this film, that's most important for me.  I'd like to put this film out there to as many places as possible while I prepare to shoot my feature.  

Can you provide any advice to other filmmakers who dream of getting their films made and into Sundance?

Align yourself with other artists. My collaborators on this film are my family…Josh Mond, Antonio Campos, Sean Durkin, Brady Corbet, Garrett Fennelly, McCabe Walsh….and so many others in NYC that didn't work on this particular project…and without them, I would just be treading water.

Watch the teaser for KARAOKE! here:

KARAOKE! Teaser from ActZero Films on Vimeo.

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