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The Filmmakers

Photo by Debra DiPaoloNAME: DORSAY ALAVI

MOVIE: Sweet Underground

AGE: Early 30s

PLACE OF BIRTH: Tehran, Iran

HOW DO YOU PAY THE RENT? I directed music videos a while back, and my husband works as an actor.

WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? Burbank. I've gotta get out of here.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE HANGOUT? Since I've been a mom, it's changed. I was pregnant when I was shooting, so you can imagine -- the hormones were raging.

Related Links: A Look at the Films

WHEN DID YOU START MAKING FILMS? In film school, at the University of San Diego. I started making experimental films, documentary. In my last year, I took a risk and made a narrative film, and from then on I knew what I wanted to do -- features.

WHO DID YOU STUDY WITH? J-P Gorin, who worked with Godard. Babette Mangolte. David and Eleanor Antin. Standish Lawder.

HOW DID YOU START MAKING MUSIC VIDEOS? I did it as a spec for a band I knew from Australia. Epic Records signed the band based on the video. The guy from Epic flew in from London and said, "You have to do this." So I did another one, and that played on MTV, and I got signed. Then I realized I just had to go out and make my feature. I had written a screenplay called A Page of Madness that had gotten a lot of attention. It never got made, but David Lynch had become the executive producer and CAA kind of got involved. But no one would give me the money to direct it, because I didn't have feature experience.

 

NAME: KERRI LEE GREEN

MOVIE: Bellyfruit

AGE: 32

PLACE OF BIRTH: New Jersey

HOW DO YOU PAY THE RENT? I was an actress as a child, so that had been paying my rent. I was in Lucas, Goonies. Now I would say God pays my rent.

DO PEOPLE RECOGNIZE YOU? Half of the time it's "You're the girl from . . . " The other half of the time it's "Did I go to high school with you?"

NAME THREE MOVIE HEROES. Steven Spielberg. This is where I wish I went to film school so I could say something impressive, like Godard or Bertolucci. Truffaut -- that will make me seem smart. [Laughs.] And the people I worked with -- Carl Reiner, John Candy, David Seltzer -- because they were the ones who taught me, even though they didn't know it.

HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT MAKING YOUR MOVIE? Bonnie Dickenson and I founded Independent Women Artists, decided to do a benefit as our first project, and the benefit became Bellyfruit, the play. The benefit was for Gramercy Group Homes, which is a home for teen mothers. We got this incredible, overwhelming response and turned it into a movie so it could be seen everywhere.

HOW DID YOU RAISE YOUR PRODUCTION MONEY? Grants and five or six MasterCards.

ANY GUARDIAN ANGELS? Nancy Daly Riordan. She has an executive-producer credit.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO SHOOT? It was a three-week shoot with 50 locations, 58 speaking roles, 11 babies.

HOW MUCH DID BELLYFRUIT COST? Not allowed to say.

 

NAME: CHRIS LIVINGSTON

MOVIE: Hit and Runway

AGE: I'll just put it this way, I'm in my early 30s. If someone is not going to give me a job because I'm a little older than they think, why should I actually say my age?

PLACE OF BIRTH: Los Angeles

HOW DO YOU PAY THE RENT? I scored a cartoon series with my songwriting partner. We did a cartoon series, a one-hour animated special. I had a song used on Northern Exposure. I had some money that my family left me to help me get through. In the last year, it's been really tough.

NAME THREE MOVIE HEROES. Billy Wilder, Woody Allen, Robert Zemeckis.

ANY GUARDIAN ANGELS? My writing partner, Jaffe [Cohen] -- and vice versa.

WHEN DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN MAKING MOVIES? My dad wrote a book called Ronnie Finckelhof Superstar -- my dad was president of Capitol Records back in the '60s, he signed the Beatles, the Beach Boys -- it got published and was optioned. It was about a nerd in high school who becomes the number-one rock star in the country. Which was probably my fantasy. [Laughs.] I started writing songs for the film, then I heard about film school and sort of put two and two together. I'm going to direct that some day.

HOW MUCH MONEY DID YOUR MOVIE COST? I can't say.

WORST PRODUCTION EXPERIENCE? Every day.

BEST? At the end of each day, I knew what we were doing was really good.

 

NAME: JON REISS

MOVIE: Better Living Through Circuitry

AGE: 32

PLACE OF BIRTH: Philadelphia

WHAT DID YOU SHOOT ON? Sony VX1000, which is a digital video camera. You can throw it in your backpack, walk into a rave and start shooting.

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP? Silicon Valley

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN HIGH SCHOOL. Captain of the debate team -- rebel geek.

HOW DO YOU PAY THE RENT? I had money saved up from a bunch of music videos that I did, and then I got a big music video in between my two films.

NAME THREE MOVIE HEROES. Fritz Lang, Buñuel and -- it depends on what day you catch me on -- Sirk.

WHEN DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN MAKING MOVIES? My senior year in college. That's when I was so swamped -- about going to graduate school, taking econometrics courses. "Oh my God, is this what I want to do?" That's when I started working [in San Francisco] with Target Video and Survival Research Laboratories. Out of UCLA Film School, I produced a feature, was writing scripts, then fell into music videos. Trent's [Reznor] publicist called up Film Threat and asked if they knew any directors who hadn't done music videos before. Nine Inch Nails' Happiness in Slavery was my first video.

WHAT DOES YOUR FAMILY THINK OF YOU BEING A MOVIE DIRECTOR? When I gave up my full-paid scholarship to Stanford to sell popcorn in the Strand Theater in San Francisco while I was doing underground documentaries, they wondered what had happened to my mind. [Laughs.] But now they're really proud.

 

NAME: BEN ROCK

MOVIE: The Meeting

AGE: 27

PLACE OF BIRTH: Miami

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN HIGH SCHOOL. Class clown.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF NOW. Temporary worker.

HOW DO YOU PAY THE RENT? By being a temporary worker.

NAME THREE MOVIE HEROES. Sam Raimi, Terry Gilliam and the Coen Brothers.

WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A FILMMAKER? When I saw Clash of the Titans.

IS THIS YOUR FIRST FILM? This is my third short, and I've done a bunch of commercial-type things. I've done some public-service announcements, a documentary for a hospital. The hospital wanted something that was tear-jerking, which they were going to show at a banquet to raise money for cancer research. I cried -- I don't know about everyone else.

WORST PRODUCTION EXPERIENCE? I could tell you one, but I don't want people to read it and go, "Hmm, let's not hire him."

BEST PRODUCTION EXPERIENCE? My absolute best production experience ever was being the production designer on The Blair Witch Project. That was not at all like making a movie. It was like playing army men in the woods at three in the morning.

HOW MUCH MONEY DID YOUR MOVIE COST? It cost about $3,000 to shoot, then another $4,000 to finish.

DOES IT ANNOY YOU THAT PEOPLE SOMETIMES THINK OF SHORT FILMS AS ONLY RéSUMé FILMS? They sort of are. It's easier to get executives to watch a short film than a feature.

WHAT DOES YOUR FAMILY THINK OF YOU BEING A MOVIE DIRECTOR? I think they're pretty proud of me for moving out here. In Orlando, it's really not a job, it's a hobby.

 

NAME: ROB SCHMIDT

MOVIE: Saturn

AGE: 33. I'm out as someone in my 30s.

PLACE OF BIRTH: Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

HOW DO YOU PAY THE RENT? I've done a few Japanese music videos. I've worked as a technician, a photographer. I was a gaffer on The Doom Generation.

NAME THREE MOVIE HEROES. Kurosawa, John Huston, Francis Ford Coppola.

WHEN DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN MAKING MOVIES? My parents were socialists, and I thought I was going to be a labor organizer. But I foresaw myself as an alcoholic with an ulcer who was fighting this battle that would never be won. I decided it would be better to have a life in art.

HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT MAKING YOUR MOVIE? It kind of sat for years, then my lawyer found some money for it with a client who wanted to do a film. We got to do it, and coincidentally [producer] Christine Vachon was setting up the movie I'm doing now, Crime and Punishment in High School. We start production in seven weeks.

HOW MUCH MONEY DID SATURN COST? Five dollars.

IS FILM DEAD? Not to me.

WHAT DOES YOUR FAMILY THINK OF YOU BEING A MOVIE DIRECTOR? Two or three years ago I considered doing the application for the LAPD, which was unrealistic since I have a record for possession of burglar's tools and auto theft, third degree. My mother said that I'd worked so long to do this that it would be a shame to not do it. She wasn't embarrassed that I wasn't making any money.


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