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SXSW '06 Interview: 'Air Guitar Nation' Director Alexandra Lipsitz

by Scott Weinberg

The 'Air Guitar Nation' Pitch: A feature-length documentary about the year that air guitar swept America. From New York to Los Angeles all the way to northern Finland, Air Guitar Nation chronicles the rise of the US Air Guitar Championships through the eyes of former world champions, fans and media, and through the personal journeys of our top competitors

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
Air Guitar Nation is the official story of America’s unofficial pastime.

Is this your first trip to SXSW? Got any other film festival experience? If you’re a festival veteran, let us know your favorite and least-favorite parts of the ride.
This is my first trip to SXSW, Never been in a festival before. I am a first time director.

Back when you were a little kid, and you were asked that inevitable question, your answer would always be “When I grow up I want to be a …” what?
I wanted to create a circus on a sailboat and travel the world.

Not including your backyard and your Dad’s Handycam, how did you get your real “start” in filmmaking?
I studied with Andrzej Kostenko in Poland on a documentary about the underground Rock scene in Poland during the Socialist Regime. It was a joint effort between the BBC and Interpol.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it’s on “the festival circuit?”
I don’t know, this is the world premiere. I am just ecstatic that it is going to be shared with people. Air Guitar needs to be shared.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
Not really, I was just trying to focus on getting the story. I think the producers were thinking about that.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.
Air Guitar Nation started as a pitch for a TV show. VH1 had it for a hot second, then passed. We had already started to produce the US Air Guitar Championships event. So we all moved forward. I ended up going with a skeleton crew to Finland, where Cedric Devitt introduced me to my inner Air Guitar. After that experience I was in. The people I met in the world of Air Guitar were so amazing and rich as a filmmaker I could not ignore them. I spent the next 2 years following their stories. We began Cutting in Dec of 2004 and we shipped to SXSW on March 3rd , 2006 it has been an amazing ride.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?
Too many lessons learned, to really pick one, but here is a fresh one close to the heart: In FCP do not log tapes like you do in an Avid- especially tapes with TC breaks.

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition? Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell “This! I want something JUST like this …only different.”?
Anything DA Pennebaker and Chris Hedgedus, Stop Making Sense by Johnathan Demme, Easy Rider by Dennis Hopper.

What actor would you cast as a live-action Homer Simpson?
Todd Glass.

Say you landed a big studio contract tomorrow, and they offered you a semi-huge budget to remake, adapt, or sequelize something. What projects would you tackle?
I would do the sequel for this film.

Name an actor in your film that’s absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.
David Jung and Dan Crane- they are 2 amazing men who deserve everything they dream of.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t a filmmaker, I’d almost definitely be...
An artist.

Who’s an actor you’d kill a small dog to work with? (Don’t worry; nobody would know.)
I wouldn’t kill a small dog to work with anyone. You people are sick.

Have you “made it” yet? If not, what would have to happen for you to be able to say “Yes, wow. I have totally made it!”
Can you define making it?

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
I check to see what critics say, but if I want to see the film I go to see it anyway even if they do not like it.

You’re told that your next movie must have one “product placement” on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?
Do I get to keep it afterwards? I’d say a Toyota FJ Cruiser and maybe some Schick Razors since they are sponsoring our party.

You’re contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated film to your producers. The MPAA says you have to delete a sex scene that’s absolutely integral to the film or you’re getting an NC-17. How do you handle it?
Blur it.

What’s your take on the whole “a film by DIRECTOR” issue? Do you feel it’s tacky, because hundreds (or at least dozens) of people collaborate to make a film – or do you think it’s cool, because ultimately the director is the final word on pretty much everything?
In what world does the director have the final say in everthing – maybe back in the 70s. I feel film is a collaboration – if I wanted the final word I stay at home and paint.

In closing, we ask you to convince the average movie-watcher to choose your film instead of the trillion other options they have. How do you do it?
To quote a master “It is time to take Air Guitar out of the bedroom and on to the world stage..” See this movie you will never think the same way about rocking out in you bedroom again. Please enjoy- and thanks – Alexandra aka “the airess”


Air Guitar Nation, directed by Alexandra Lipsitz, will premiere at the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival. Click here for festival & film information.

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originally posted: 03/10/06 19:22:58
last updated: 03/10/06 19:23:44
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