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SXSW '07 Interview: "Sisters" Director Douglas Buck

by Scott Weinberg

The "Sisters" Pitch: Sisters is a retelling of the 1973 Brian De Palma movie of the same name, centering on Angelique, a young woman (played here by Lou Doillon) who leads a disturbingly sheltered existence at the hand of her controlling psychiatrist (Stephen Rea). A nosey reporter (Chloe Sevigny), suspicious of the doctor's motives, gets involved, and with the unintentional help of Angelique's new love interest, Dr. Dylan Wallace (Dallas Roberts) ends up witnessing a brutal murder.

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
A love story.

Is this your first trip to SXSW? Got any other film festival experience?
Sitges in Spain, Gerardmer in France and Nouveau Cinema in Montreal. This will be the first test in the US. It's been an interesting voyage so far. We'll see what happens now.

If you're a festival veteran, let us know your favorite and least-favorite parts of the ride.
I certainly love partying and talking movies nonstop for days. It always feels like a bit of a reward for making the film in the first place. It can get a bit tiring by the end. But you usually don't realize that until it's about time to get back on the plane home.

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?
Beats the shit out of me what I answered.

Not including your backyard and your Dad's Handycam, how did you get your real "start" in filmmaking?
One day, almost out of the blue, I decided to write a script for a short film and shoot it. Then I shot a few more. I was hooked pretty quickly.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it's on "the festival circuit?"

Not particularly. I'm not even sure I understand the question.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?
I can remember Kermit, Miss Piggy and the two old guys up on the balcony at the end of each episode. I really liked the old guys but I can't imagine I ever wished I was one of them.

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
Production is probably the one time during the entire filmmaking process when you are absolutely not concerned with anything else in the world other than the immediate needs of your film. If you would have asked "during writing, pre-production or post-production," I would have given a very different answer.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.
About 8 years ago, I heard Ed Pressman was looking to remake Sisters. After 4 years of trying, I managed to get into his office and meet him. He liked my short film compilation "Family Portraits," and what I wanted to do with Sisters. We made the movie.

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition?
Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky are my film gods. They are lifelong loves as well as inspirations for specific scene compositions (especially in Bergman's case). Also, many of the influential directors of 70's Hollywood, like Polanski, Scorsese, Friedkin, Coppola are my favorites. After the 70's, my favorite has to be David Cronenberg.

Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell "This! I want something JUST like this ... only different."?

I did tailor the opening credits sequence after that done in Tarkovsky's Solaris. Other than that, not really. Though afterwards, I often noticed shots in the film reminded me of those out of Polanski or Cronenberg films. But the process was more organic than conscious.

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?
The projects Iím attracted to are usually smaller, more intimate. I was always a huge fan of the Hellblazer comic (the one Constantine was based on). If I could have done Constantine, I would have told the studio to throw away about 3/4 of the budget and just let me make a small, dark, moody film about a very troubled character. Of course, most likely, the studio would have ended the contract right there.

Name an actor in your film that's absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.
ChloŽ Sevigny and Stephen Rea certainly already have reached a certain level. Are they big time? I donít know. I love Dallas Roberts and Lou Doillon and feel they deliver nuanced and interesting performances in Sisters. Also, Lou is fascinating to look at. Iím positive both will keep working and carving a path because of their commitment and talent. Whether that means the big-timeÖWhat do I know?

Finish this sentence: If I weren't a filmmaker, I'd almost definitely be...
Not a filmmaker. I guess.

Who's an actor you'd kill a small dog to work with? (Don't worry; nobody would know.)
None. While I have no problems breaking many different laws to get a film together, Iíd never hurt an animal.

Have you "made it" yet?

I have no idea.

If not, what would have to happen for you to be able to say "Yes, wow. I have totally made it!"
Possibly a sudden onslaught of a bipolar disorder.

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?

They are important when they follow their job description (providing thoughtful critical analysis of a film based upon a thorough knowledge of cinema). They arenít when their analysis is on the par with the average man on the street. Nothing against the average man on the street, itís just that film critics should be teachers. They should educate, enlighten, not just provide a forum for puns and cuteness. Read J. Hoberman in the Village Voice. Heís important.

You're told that your next movie must have one "product placement" on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?
An invisible product. I despise product placement.

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?
The latter. I donít think it is tacky at all. Everyone should get their due credit, but it is the directorís film. At least thatís how I feel about my movies so far. Though I didnít get the 'Film by' credit on Sisters. If I would have thought about it earlier, I would have fought for it.

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?

I provide a poster and an ad campaign I feel properly and truly reflects the film, and hope the audience who will appreciate it finds it.

---

Douglas Buck's Sisters will have its U.S. premiere at the 2007 South by Southwest Film Festival. And check out BSide.com for even more info!


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=2092
originally posted: 02/21/07 17:44:59
last updated: 03/07/07 09:30:59
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