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AN INTERVIEW WITH John Angell Grant, DIRECTOR
As a filmmaker, please introduce yourself.
My name is John Angell Grant. I live in Palo Alto, California. I've made about 100 short films. I’ve also written 12 fully-produced stage plays. Currently, my short film “Two Stoners” is an official selection of several film festivals.
Why you became a filmmaker, as a director ?
I always wanted to work in the movies. But my life got distracted into different directions and I went this way and that way. Now finally,
I'm getting to the movies. It's a lot of fun. As a teenage college undergrad in New York, I used to go to non-mainstream movie theaters
and watch French and Italian New Wave films. Jean-Luc Godard's movie “Breathless.” Fellini's movie “La Dolce Vita.” I love those movies.
More recently I'm a big fan of James Cameron’s “Terminator 2.” That film combines action filmmaking,
interwoven with big human relationship dilemma issues. It's a great movie.
Give some more information about yourself and the films you have made so far, about your experience?
I've made about 100 short films. My latest, “Two Stoners,” has been accepted by several film festivals.
This is the first time I've tried substantively to enter anything in film festivals. Earlier, I worked for the better
part of one decade as video producer for a nonprofit in San Francisco, called the Holocaust Oral History Project.
There we collected lengthy, detailed video interviews with Holocaust survivors, witnesses, and liberators. From those interviews,
I produced a local cable television series called “Holocaust Survivor Interviews.” In terms of video technology, it was rather low end.
But I learned the power of people telling stories about their lives. And how dramatic that is. I'm also a playwright.
I've written 12 stageplays that have been fully mounted in fringe theaters here and there. That has taught me the craft of writing dialogue;
and awareness of the structure of script writing (creating conflict, reversals, resolution, etc.).
What are the films or people that had impacts on you and deeply inspired you to become a filmmaker?
As I mentioned above, as a teenager, going to school in New York, I spent time in theaters that showed French New Wave movies
and became fascinated by Jean-Luc Godard's film “Breathless.” I watched it a dozen or more times.
I also love the black-and-white Italian New Wave films of the 1950s and early 1960s.
Particularly Fellini's movie “La Dolce Vita” stands out for me. It’s a movie about the dance of human social illusion and beauty,
in the surroundings of demolished, postwar Italy, a crumbled, physical environment in many ways. It's a great movie.
More recently I appreciate movies such as “Terminator 2,” in which James Cameron manages to use the traditional action
elements of blockbuster filmmaking, but interweaving them with human stories about deep conflicts in human relationships and family relationships–taking characters to a point where they must make difficult choices, sometimes impossible choices. He's a great filmmaker.
You made your film “Two Stoners,” which got an official selection in the
"American Golden Picture International Film Festival".
As a filmmaker, tell us why you decided to make it?
I made this film as my final project in a recent class at Stanford University on how to make 3-minute fiction films.
I came of age at a time when many people I know fell into drugs and alcohol, and in “Two Stoners” I wanted to create a story about that,
and what some of its difficulties and confrontations are.
What were some of the challenges you faced in making this specific film?
I had almost no budget for the film. So I was faced with the challenge of conceiving a project that I could manage
on a relatively simple technical level; but still have it be a meaningful cinema story for general viewers. Because of the low budget,
I couldn't have car chases; or UFOs landing; or people leaping off cliffs into the ocean. So I had to come up with a story that was “small” in a technical sense, but “big” in a human sense. So that was some of the thinking process that I went through in making this film.
Tell us more about your experience in this film?
I prepared, and prepared, and prepared, and over-prepared. That’s the way I do things. And so the actual production day went very smoothly.
To my surprise. We shot it rather quickly. The actors were great. We did multiple takes of different scenes.
One of my actors had some experience from her days earlier in school doing some acting. The other actor had no acting experience at all.
He’s a music producer. It was fun to work with them, and help them figure out ways to create resonant characters on the screen.
What was it like to work with your team?
My team was great. Just plain great.
For you, what was the biggest lesson you had to learn after making this film?
Coverage. Get coverage.
What keeps you inspired to continue filmmaking?
I like writing stories, and telling stories. And trying to write stories about situations that matter; that are worth people’s time to consider,
give attention to, and listen to. Stories that invite us to consider the joys we experience as human beings;
as members of a large living community of self and others on this planet; and what that might mean, socially, as we move forward,
and do our best to survive in this current extraordinary transition time we are going through.
What are your filmmaking goals?
Well, for me it's one day at a time. I have a couple of scripts that I'm working on for the immediate future.
These are short films again. Ideas constantly come into my head for films. As of this moment, I've written down 40 ideas for short movies.
Some of them I'll probably get to, some of them I probably won't. It’s one day at a time. And it’s important for me to enjoy the process.
Don't let anxiety–caused by the complexity of filmmaking–squash that joy of doing the process, creating fun projects,
and working with fun people.
What is your next project?
My next project is a short film about a woman who worked earlier in her life as an escort, to make money.
She does not do that any longer, and she is now reflecting back on what it all meant.
GOOD LUCK John,
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