American Writer/ Director Jeff Lipsky's debut feature "Childhood's End" was presented at the Montreal World Film Festival back in 1997. Mr. Lipsky is back in Montreal to present his latest film "Twelve Thirty" which is being featured in the Competition category. Here are some excerpts of my interview with this accomplished filmmaker.
Orcasoud: Tell us about your background and how you got into filmmaking?
Jeff: I wanted to make movies from the age of 10. I worked in a movie theater when I was 16 and then became a film critic for my college newspaper at 18. My life changed at the age of 17 when I went to see John Cassavetes' film "Husbands." I think anybody who reveres film, there's probably one that they can point to that changed their lives. For me, it was "Husbands." When I was in college, I got to meet John and corresponded as friends for the next year and a half. There was no independent distribution at that time. I distributed "Under The Influence" with him. I thought if I spent time around John, it would accelerate the process by which I could make my own movies. I did not realize it would take another twenty years but that was film school for me. I was a successful distributor and got to represent some of the greatest films and some of the greatest filmmakers in history. That too became my film school. I started a film distribution company in the States called October films which was very successful. In 1995, I had written a script and saved money and felt ready to make my first movie "Childhood's End," which premiered at the Montreal Film festival. I went back to distribution for a while and started another company and basically did the same thing. I saved up money and made "Flannel Pajamas," which premiered in 2006 at Sundance, went back to distribution then got hired to direct "Once More With Feeling." That also had its world premiered at Sundance. In 2009, I had breakfast with a lawyer that I knew for a couple of years. I told him I was finishing up a script and he suggested we do the film in Iowa. He raised the money and produced it. Four months later we were filming. That was miraculous and now here I am with the film. It has been selected in competition in Montreal and I could not be more excited.
Orcasound: What inspired you to write Twelve Thirty?
Jeff: The first thing I think about when I start a new script are professions for characters. What profession might make a character interesting. The movie is not going to be about that but I need to know what somebody does to survive before I know anything about that character. I decided that I wanted to be politically incorrect and have a mature woman sell furs. I don't like those "terrorists" at PETA anyway. I am a member of PETA actually…People Who Eat Tasty Animals. I thought it would be interesting for her to have an ex-husband and he can do just the opposite and that's why they got divorced. He can have a green job. Another inspiration was a Russian film that I distributed about fifteen years ago called "Adam's Rib." It was adapted from a book called "The House of Women." It talks about relationships, loves and romances of three generations of women. I loved the concept but I thought I'd do it completely differently. I will do a story about three women who live under the same roof and barely know each other.
Orcasound: Were there any challenges that you encountered during the filmmaking process?
Jeff: There are always challenges in making any movie, but I have to say that this was my shortest filming schedule. We shot the film in 18 days and this was the best filming experience of my four so far. My other films were shot mostly around New York and there are major hurdles to overcome there but in Iowa, there is such a welcoming community to visiting filmmakers and films. We had real estate agents fighting to give us locations. This just doesn't happen anywhere else. The biggest problem we had was weather related. I usually tell my producer that we should do intimate scenes on the second day but because of the weather, we had to change that. I was nervous about it but it went smoothly. My cinematographer accidentally kicked me in the ribs and I had to go to an emergency clinic. I was fine. The star of the movie Jonathan Groff totalled his car on his day off with his co-star Portia Rieners in the car but they were fine. My second assistant camera person is a skydiver. She took four of my crew members skydiving and that made me very nervous. But that was fine. Maybe I shouldn't go back to Iowa. It's too dangerous.
Orcasound: What are you hoping that the viewers will take away from the film?
Jeff: All of my films have something in common. They are all human explorations of the human condition. They are all love stories and are about family and about sexuality. Those all the only three things that everybody on this planet has in common. It doesn't matter what the culture is, whether they are men or women. Everybody has that in common. I believe that if I have done a good job writing the script and my actors have done a good job conveying what I've written, even if somebody cannot identify with the story, there will always be a character or a scene, a situation or a resolution that anybody will be able to identify with. I think that is a rare thing most of the time when you go to the movies.