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SXSW '05 Interview: 'The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico' Director Michael Mabbott

by Scott Weinberg

The 'Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico' Pitch: A faux documentary about the rise and fall of fictional country/western singer Guy Terrifico, featuring some legendary real-life balladeers.

"You'll laugh, cry and pee your pants."

Will this be your first time at SXSW? Any other film festival experience?
First festival ever. Very excited, a little scared.

When you were 14 years old, if someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, what would your answer have been?
I've always wanted to be a writer so I probably would have asked for an extension and then procrastinated for a few weeks before I came up with an answer.

How did you get started in filmmaking?
I started writing screenplays.

How have things changed for you since your film was accepted into the festival?
Ever since I heard we got in to the festival all of my dreams have been about BBQ ribs.

When you were shooting the film, did you have SXSW (or film festivals in general) in mind?
Very much so. The film is about country singer/songwriters in the early 1970's. A disproportionate amount of the good songwriters either came from Austin or were embraced by Austin. We recorded some of the soundtrack here at the Hit Shack with Stephen Bruton aswell. So ya, SXSW and Austin was in my mind and my heart and soul when we were making this.

How did you get your film started? How did you go from script to finished product?
Like most things - it started with Bob Dylan.

What’s the one glaring lesson you learned while making this film?
That most things start with Bob Dylan.

When you were in pre-production, did you find yourself watching other great movies in preparation?
I watched Gimme Shelter a lot. A lot. About 2 weeks before we stared shooting Matt Murphy gave me a copy of Heartworn Highways - which totally blew me away. It's a doc from the '70's about Texas songwriters - Townes, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle etc. It's a beautiful and brillant film. Both of the films were really helpful for us to get the look of 16mm film from the 1970's right.

If a studio said ‘we love this, we love you, you can remake anything in our back catalogue for $40m’ – what film, if any, would you want to remake?
I'd remake A Star is Born - sort of. I'd take the Kristofferson / Streisand version and digitally remove Babs and replace her with Janice Joplin. Imagine that.

Two parter – name an actor you'd KILL to work with, and then name an actor in your own film that you really think is destined for great things.
Bill Murray. Matt Murphy.

The festival circuit: what could be improved? What's been your favorite part of the ride?
So far - the BBQ dreams are my favorite.

Have you ‘made it’ yet? If not, at what point will you be able to say ‘yes’?
I'm writing this from an internet cafe down the street from my place because my internet got cut off due to an unpaid bill. So I don't think I've made it yet but as soon as I pay the bill then I guess I'll have made it.

A film is made by many people, including the director (of course), but you'll often see movies that open with a credit that says “a film by…” – Did you use that credit in your film? If so, defend yourself! If not, what do you think of those who do?
No - I didn't use that credit. There were so many talented people around me contributing to this film that even taking a writing and directing credit was questionable. I'm not being modest - that's the way it went down. Other people's experiences are different so I won't say anything bad about those egomaniacal monsters who do use that credit.


The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico, starring Kris Kristofferson, Matt Murphy, Natalie Radford, Phil Kaufman, Rob Bowman & Donny Fritts, will premiere at the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival. Click here for more information.

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originally posted: 03/11/05 04:58:43
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