I was recently interviewed by Annalise Kiser of the Strasburg Film Festival about RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO, which won the Best Comedy award at Strasburg one year ago this month (a condensed version of the interview appears on the SFF site). Check out this spoiler-free Q&A ahead of the film’s streaming premiere next week:
AK: What made you first begin pursuing film? Do you have a favorite movie?
MGS: I grew up in the ’80s and my childhood coincided with the VHS boom. I fell in love with movies at an early age and educated myself on film history at the video store – the films of Alfred Hitchcock and Sergio Leone were formative for me. My favorite movie now is Edward Yang’s A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY. It’s a four-hour epic about juvenile delinquents living in Taipei in the 1950s – think a Taiwanese REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE.
AK: RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO follows the beginning, middle, and ending of romantic relationships. Was there a reason for the choice of which character set was for each segment? Especially the first segment, with the rather unscrupulous couple being the start of a relationship?
MGS: Lots of relationships have dubious beginnings! I thought of the film as depicting the arc of a single relationship – but using three different couples to explore each relationship “phase.” I thought that would be kind of a novel way to structure a movie.
AK: Was there a reason for the first couple’s conversation to be explicitly about men approaching women in bars and “negging” them?
MGS: Yes! I wanted to explore gender dynamics in the Me-Too era in a comedic way in this opening segment. I thought it would be funny to have a guy who thinks he’s slick offer to buy a woman a drink but insist he doesn’t want to sleep with her. All the while he’s trying to pretend he knows more about literature (her area of expertise) than he actually does. She calls him on his bullshit by challenging him to a game of “Strip Literary Trivia.”
AK: The second couple talk in a lot of non sequiturs about Chicago and how it is a place they love very much. The other two skits hardly mention being in Chicago; why in the center?
MGS: The second story was the last one that I wrote and I wanted it to serve as a bridge between the other two stories. I knew that the first and last stories would deal with heterosexual couples and take place primarily indoors – so I thought it would be a refreshing change of pace if the second story focused on a gay couple and took place entirely outdoors. We shot that scene in my neighborhood, Rogers Park, so I know those streets and that beach very well. It seemed logical to me that those characters would talk about their love of the neighborhood and the city.
AK: The second couple discuss how indoor cats watch the world go by from their perches, but don’t interact directly. Would that be a metaphor for film?
MGS: That’s exactly right. As film viewers, we are all “indoor cats” looking out the window. Hitchcock uses the same metaphor in REAR WINDOW.
AK: When Julie begins to address the audience, I wonder if you had something specific in mind you were saying with it?
MGS: I think voyeurism is an interesting subject in film because sight is the primary sense we use to experience movies. Any time you make a film about someone “spying” it automatically becomes a multi-layered experience because the character is a surrogate for the viewer. Voyeurism is a theme in all three of the RENDEZVOUS vignettes but I decided to make it explicit in the third one. I thought it would be funny if a character in the story started to fall in love with the viewer.
AK: What was set life like, working with the actors and crew?
MGS: We had a great cast and great crew. We shot the whole thing in 8 days, which is very fast for a feature film, so pre-production and rehearsal were very important. The film was produced by a female filmmaking collective, Women of the Now, and the crew was mostly female. There was a very lovely, cooperative energy on set.
AK: What makes you want to make a certain movie?
MGS: I just accumulate ideas over time and, once enough of those ideas start to connect up with each other in my brain, I start writing.
AK: Do you know where you want to head with your career? Indie movies, hollywood ones, television, something else, etc?
MGS: I love Chicago and I imagine that I will stay where I am and continue to make films independently.
AK: What sort of reactions do you hope for from your audience?
MGS: I want RENDEZVOUS to provoke laughter but also cause people to think about their own lives and relationships. In the past year, the film has screened publicly 28 times in 9 states and I have been very happy with the audience response.
AK: What is a question you haven’t been asked but wish someone would ask you?
MGS: Why does the Pentagon have five sides?