Elevated Films, the enterprising non-profit charity that supports film and local youth arts programs throughout Chicago by hosting film screenings at innovative venues, will hold its first screening of the year this Thursday, February 9: a FREE screening of Frank V. Ross’s seminal suburban-relationship drama TIGER TAIL IN BLUE (2012) will take place at Interior Define, a Chicago custom-sofa showroom in the heart of Lincoln Park from 7-9:30pm. Join filmmaker/actor Ross, and his co-star Rebecca Spence for a Q/A following the feature, along with beer from Half Acre Brewery, and snacks from Berco’s Popcorn and Dough Dough Bird Baking Company. Seating is limited but free tickets can be obtained in advance through eventbrite here. I recently interviewed Ross about the film for the occasion of this screening.
MGS: I love that your films have always been more character-driven than plot-driven. Was this a conscious decision when you started out or is it more the case that you’re just constructing movies in the only way you know how?
FVR: The way I learned how, is more like it. I try not to make many conscious decisions, most of the good ones have already been made. The only way to find something new is to rely on the unpredictability of people and just let that shape the story. I think of it like a furthering of the Marx Brothers structure, like yeah there’s an unfolding story in there… But who gives a shit? It’s the least important element of the film to me and I think most people. You don’t watch a Marx Brothers movie or ROCKY over and over ’cause you love the plot. It’s the little human things, the jokes, the songs that bring you back.
MGS: Your films are also very much about work and TIGER TAIL is no exception: there is great emphasis on Chris’ job as a waiter and Melody’s job as a schoolteacher. Why is it important for you to depict the work lives of your characters?
FVR: ‘Cause work is where we spend most of our time. We always need to be somewhere else. Ya gotta go to work almost every freakin’ day. It’s work. It’s in the way of your life and it’s your livelihood. It’s how we keep pace with the world, but all our complaints about it stem from there. I try not to focus on big moments in life ’cause they’re few, far between and well documented. Punching a clock and makin’ a poop are the things that shape a day.
MGS: All of your films are about relationships but TIGER TAIL IN BLUE is the first one to tackle marriage. What was compelling to you about the dynamic of a married couple struggling to find time to see one another?
FVR: That goes back to work, doesn’t it? The big moment, the titular moment, is a married couple stealing some time and having a donut together. It’s a personal thing for sure. My wife and I worked contradicting schedules more than ten years and it was a strain. I thought it was a good structure for a lower-middle class love story. They are best friends, they are crazy about each other but work is in the way. Now that I’m thinking about, it’s about values too, isn’t it?
MGS: Rebecca Spence is phenomenal in this movie in an unusual dual role as Melody, Chris’ wife, and Brandy, his co-worker. What was the logic behind casting her as two different characters in a film otherwise characterized by its realism? Would the same actress have played both roles if you hadn’t cast Spence?
FVR: One, she’s phenomenal sunrise to sunset. Two’s there’s a bit of a catch. I wrote it for her. She was in one scene of my previous film and months later we bumped into each other, literally. The idea came to me then and there almost fully formed. (Cinematographer Mike) Gibisser came up with the color shift between the two stories and we treated the whole one actress/two roles thing like a joke. A set up and punch joke, not some huge revelation. It’s best not to be too precious with cleverness. Rebecca playing both roles ends up emphasizing a certain type of attention guys need that isn’t sexual. Weird, right? I dunno, maybe it’s something different to other people.