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Tag Archives: Frank V. Ross

Filmmaker Interview: Frank V. Ross

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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.

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The Third Annual Oakton Pop-Up Film Festival

I am excited to announce that, after the success of the last two Oakton Pop-Up Film Festivals in 2014 and 2015, I have programmed and will be hosting P.U.F.F. again. The screenings of this year’s four acclaimed independent American films, spanning various genres and styles, will all take place at Oakton Community College’s Footlik Theater (room 1344) in Des Plaines, Illinois, from Tuesday, November 1 through Friday, November 4. The first three screenings will be followed by Q&A sessions with the filmmakers, moderated by various Oakton Humanities professors, including yours truly. The screenings are all FREE and open to the public. Any of my students who attend a screening will receive extra credit points towards his or her final grade (see the extra credit page of your course website for more information). Don’t you dare miss it!

The full schedule:

Thao’s Library (Elizabeth Van Meter, 2015, 88 minutes)
Tuesday, November 1 at 2:00pm

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Winner of the Audience hoice Award at Geena Davis’ inaugural Bentonville Film Festival, this extraordinary movie depicts the unlikely friendship between two women: NYC-based actress Elizabeth Van Meter, grieving in the wake of the suicide of her younger sister (famed child aviator Vicki Van Meter), and Thanh Thao Huynh, a Vietnamese woman whose body has been ravaged by exposure to Agent Orange. One day, Van Meter saw a photograph of Thao by chance and learned that this young woman had created a makeshift library for the children in her small village. Van Meter reached out to Thao, and the two set out to build a permanent library, the journey of which is documented in this poignant, poetic and ultimately cathartic debut feature. Co-sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies program.
Followed by a live Q&A with director Elizabeth Van Meter conducted by Kathleen Carot.

Bloomin Mud Shuffle (Frank V. Ross, 2015, 75 minutes)
Wednesday, November 2 at 12:30pm

James Ransone (The Wire) and Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black) star in this bittersweet “anti-romantic comedy” about aimless 30-somethings living in the suburbs of Chicago. Lonnie’s life hasn’t changed much in the 16 years since he graduated high school. Still painting houses, still drinking too much, still hanging out with the same old friends. As far as he can see, his only hope for the future lies in taking his physical relationship with coworker Monica to the next level. Written and directed by “mumblecore” veteran Ross (Audrey the Trainwreck). “Ross is so in tune with his characters that they never seem written or contrived… Ross’ directorial adroitness suggests a mature auteurism that is extremely rare in American lo-fi, micro-budget cinema.” – Don Simpson, Smells Like Screen Spirit
Followed by a live Q&A with director Frank V. Ross conducted by Michael Smith.

A F**kload of Scotch Tape (Julian Grant, 2012, 94 minutes)
Thursday, November 3 at 2:00pm

A musical neo-noir drama where a patsy is set up to take the fall for a kidnapping that leads to murder. When the money he is paid is stolen, he embarks on a rampage of revenge. Things go from bad to perverse as Benji (Graham Jenkins) must fight his way through father figures, hookers with no hearts, marauding men and the hopelessly lost. All singing, all-fighting – FLOST is a throwback to the crime films of yesteryear mixed with the music of Kevin Quain. Based on the writings of pulp-fiction writer Jed Ayres, FLOST mashes up film noir, musical drama and hard-hitting social injustice. Not for the faint of heart or humor. “Truly one-of-a-kind, a film that is destined to generate a substantial amount of buzz with indie film fanatics looking for something original, something outside of the proverbial box.” – Todd Rigney, Beyond Hollywood
Followed by a live Q&A with director Julian Grant conducted by Therese Grisham.

Buzzard (Joel Potrykus, 2014, 97 minutes)
Friday, November 4 at 12:30pm

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This pitch-black comedy from regional Michigan filmmaker Joel Potrykus (The Alchemist Cookbook) has been accurately described as “Office Space on Crack” (Indiewire). Paranoia forces small-time scam artist Marty Jackitansky (Joshua Burge) to flee his hometown and hide out in a dangerous Detroit. With nothing but a pocket full of bogus checks, his Power Glove, and a bad temper, the horror metal slacker lashes out. “Potrykus has fashioned a vigorous and strangely compelling character study, a sustained burst of punk-rock ferocity, and one of the most original American films to emerge in some time.”- Calum Marsh, Village Voice

This film festival is sponsored by the Oakton Community College Educational Foundation and its generous donors.


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