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SXSW '07 Interview: "Pretty in the Face" Director Nate Meyer

by Scott Weinberg

The "Pretty in the Face" Pitch: "United through anxiety, 26-year-old Maggie and 14-year-old Daniel help each other recognize the ways in which they sabotage their potential, either through sexual exploration or weight concerns."

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
Sexual curiosity clashes with personal integrity.

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.
I've got some lined up later in the year but this is my first feature and I've never made a short (since film school) so I am wildly honored to lose my festival virginity to SXSW.

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?
Quarterback for the Miami Dolphins - still do.

Not including your backyard and your Dad’s Handycam, how did you get your real “start” in filmmaking?

On day one at the North Carolina School of the Arts School of Filmmaking.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it’s on “the festival circuit?”
I am more confident of my original instinct that people might actually respond to the movie.

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

For some strange reason I always related more to the human hosts.

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
Actually, as I was editing there came a time when I started thinking the film might actually work. At that moment I started to worry that something this personally affecting is unlikely to connect with anyone else.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.
I was frustrated in New York City with bigger projects that kept getting stalled because of financing and figured it was time to make a film even if I had to pay for it with my pocket change. So my wife and I moved to Portland, Maine to live for a couple of years and make the movie gradually. I got a job at the regional theater there - Portland Stage Company - which was the perfect way to jump right into the thick of what is a pretty great arts and culture scene. I worked a full-time during every part of the process but never put any timetable on its completion. When I finished post, we moved back to NYC and started submitting to festivals.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?
The only difference between being a filmmaker and not being a filmmaker is making a film.

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition?
This film is inspired by other dramas like Heavy, You Can Count On Me, Celebration, Breaking the Waves and everything Mike Leigh has ever done. In terms of specific composition, most of my choices actually spawned from what I did not want to do. I resisted the temptation for anything pretty or "movie shots" in order to maintain a more natural sensibility. I had a wonderfully picturesque environment in Portland, Maine but I didn't want to utilize the distinctive architecture or coastline because I wanted the film to feel like it could be taking place anywhere.

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

It should only be played by Dan Castellaneta - live-action or animated.

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?
Shouldn't there be a Weekend at Bernie's III by now?

Name an actor in your film that’s absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.
The lead actress, Meagan Moses, is astonishing. I fear that this film doesn't even showcase her enough because she can do such a wide variety of things - a chameleon like Meryl Streep. I met her when we were in acting school together and my first thought watching her onstage was, "That's not really fair." We decided immediately that we wanted to work together. She is the ideal actress in that she inherently makes all the other actors she works with better.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t a filmmaker, I’d almost definitely be...
Still putting off getting a real job while pursuing filmmaking.

Who’s an actor you’d kill a small dog to work with? (Don’t worry; nobody would know.)
William Hurt

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!”

I am ambivalent. The typical part of me wants to refer to my bank account and say no, I haven't made it yet. But the optimist in me wants to acknowledge the the fact that I made a film I am proud of.

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
I'll answer that one after I get some reviews.

You’re told that your next movie must have one “product placement” on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?

Crystal Pepsi

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?
Re-shoot it exactly the same way only using the marionettes from Team America: World Police.

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?
I think it depends on the situation - for the most part it seems to me it's for marketing or self-promotion. I remember a few years ago when regular movie ads on tv would end with the voiceover of something like "A film by Brett Ratner" or whomever. And I was thinking, "Who the hell outside moviedom knows who Brett Ratner is? And even if they know who he is, is that going to send them rushing into the theater?" I guess it's in a contract somewhere.

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?
Only see "pretty in the face" if you like movies.

--

Nate Meyer's Pretty in the Face will premiere at the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival. Click here for more info. And check out BSide.com for even more info!


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=2076
originally posted: 02/15/07 15:34:07
last updated: 03/07/07 09:46:26
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